Internal Communication Channels - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Stuart Sinclair - January 14, 2019
Internal Communications

Not sure which internal communication channels you should be using in 2019? Read our comprehensive list of channels including their good, bad and ugly aspects so you can make the right decision.

Internal communication is an essential part of any business. It not only provides business updates and organisational announcements, but it works to systematically influence the knowledge, attitudes & behaviours of all employees. With this in mind, choosing the right internal communication channels that can effectively influence, engage and inform is essential.

With so many traditional and innovative communication channels available, it is important to assess them carefully for their merits and drawbacks. Here are some of the main internal communication channels that you may consider using alongside their pros and cons.

Not sure which internal communication channels are the best fit for your  business? Our ‘Engage for Success’ toolkit can help.

Print

Although many businesses strive for a paperless workplace, newsletters, memos and posters are able to be dispersed quickly throughout an organisation.

The good: With the right branding, messages will always be clear, consistent and in line with the company style guide. It offers reading material during breaks and gives staff a rest from screen time.

The bad: It is not easy to manage version control of print communication and information can date quickly. Remote workers may find it difficult to access the communication while some employees may struggle to engage with print (especially heavy text).

The ugly: Print does not readily invite feedback and engagement. This means print communication could be read the wrong way, employees may not understand the message, and it can shut down discussion.

Intranet

A company intranet offers a one-stop place to see updates and access files and for office-based workers is an easy way to access information.

The good: The branding and style of the intranet can be in line with the personality of the business, while it offers the potential for storing and sharing a great deal of information. Furthermore, internal communication can judge the success of communication through analytics.

The bad: If workers are not computer-based, then they may struggle to access the information, and many time-restricted employees may struggle to read communication available on the intranet. Similar to print, it can become outdated without regular management.

The ugly: While it offers feedback through comments and post sharing, it can be difficult to police.

Email

The average office worker receives 90 emails a day, while 269 billion emails are sent and received every single day.

The good: Email is a fast way to reach a wide audience. Furthermore, emails can be accessed on a range of devices giving an extensive reach. 

The bad: With so many emails being received, employees may delete or lose the email without being read. Email is difficult to prioritise, and it is not always easy to tell if messages have been read and actioned.

The ugly: While employees can reply to emails, it is a one-to-one communication approach that doesn’t address the whole company with its feedback. With emails, it is difficult to promote discussion and engagement.

Town-hall

A town-hall can be an excellent way to gather an organisation together and to share information so that everyone hears the same information at the same time.

The good: Town-halls can make leaders more personable, while communication feels more personalised. A significant benefit of a town-hall is the promotion of discussion, feedback and debate, where everyone has an opportunity to speak.

The bad: A town-hall is a huge time commitment from leaders and employees which can be expensive in terms of lost working time. Furthermore, not everyone may be able to attend, particularly remote and dispersed workers.

The ugly: Too much information in one go can be an overload, meaning the main message you want to portray is lost.

Away day

Typically used for team building, an away day is a chance for employees to focus their attention on the organisation, rather than their specific role

The good: It allows employees to network and have face-to-face communication which encourages clarity and reduces the risk of miscommunication and confusion. Away days can boost morale, team spirit and promote motivation and productivity.

The bad: This can be seen as a one-way dialogue as opposed to feedback seeking. Away days can also be incredibly expensive to organise as well as time-consuming, and it takes a whole day of productive (profit-generating) time away.

The ugly: Without prior communication, the topics for discussion may not be what the audience wants to hear.

Company conferencing

Conferencing allows leaders to reach a wide audience, providing the tools are in place and technology is reliable enough to ensure effective communication.

The good: Conferencing ensures information sharing in real-time. Conferencing offers leaders a way to communicate to a mass audience regardless of where employees are.

The bad: Having the right technology for conferencing is critical, the audience will quickly disengage if they can’t hear, or the line keeps breaking. It will also require workers to be available in a quiet space which may be difficult to organise.

The ugly: It may not be easy to ensure all workers are available at the same time (e.g. shift workers) and it doesn’t encourage two-way communication.

Company hierarchy

Using team leaders and supervisors to deliver information can help employees to have a voice and to receive information in the way that they prefer.

The good: Teams can feel comfortable in their environment with people they know which can promote discussion, feedback and involvement. With good line managers, communication can be incredibly effective.

The bad: Typically, the success will depend on the competency of the leader and training may be required for leaders in how to communicate effectively. Furthermore, company hierarchy and team meetings may not be suitable for all types of information.

The ugly: Without the right plan, structure or time management, it is easy for employees to switch off and disengage.

Video

Growing in popularity, video can be used in a variety of ways for formal and informal internal communication.

The good: Video is easy to access on multiple devices while its versatility and low cost make it easy to ensure communication is frequent, consistent and relevant.

The bad: Videos are a one-way communication channel, however, if you invite comments on the video, you can encourage more engagement.

The ugly: It may not be suitable for company-wide announcements as people will access the video at different times which could be deemed unfair.

Engage for Success Toolkit

The App

An internal communication app is a super-channel for businesses as it offers a range of tools and channels to reach as many people as possible. All your employees need is a device, this can be their own device or one that is provided by the business.

The good: An app is easy to access, with people being able to keep up to date at regular intervals in the day regardless of where they work. With push notifications, your app can get attention when required, while a range of communication methods and feedback channels can encourage teamwork and engagement.

The bad: Initial set-up may require investment and time to develop but can pay dividends when the app is perfectly adapted to the business and its requirements. Once set up, it is a quick, low-cost way to communicate across an organisation.

The ugly: The possibilities of an employee app are endless, which means you may want to enjoy all of the options available. However, it’s essential to use the feedback and analytics to keep the app relevant and useful to your team.