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

Stuart Sinclair - November 28, 2019
Internal Communications

Which communication channels will work best for your business in 2020? We take a look at the twelve key channels for internal communications and break down what’s good, bad and ugly about them.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. This is never truer than when it applies to internal communication channels in an organisation. How effectively a message is communicated is just as important as the message itself. And the key to effective communication is choosing the right channel in the first place. You need to select a channel that best fits both your objective and your target audience.

You also need to reach your employees. Every single one of them. With hard-to-reach employees, selecting the right channel to communicate with them is crucial. The problem may geographical, technological or emotional, and the right internal comms channels will help to break down those barriers.

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

Now, more than ever, we have a huge selection of internal communications channels to choose from. Do you kick out a quick company-wide email, create a new webpage on the intranet or organise a company away day? Or perhaps this is the time to film a video of the CEO? With so many options at your disposal, it can be a confusing dilemma.

With this in mind, we have pulled out the top 12 channels of internal communication and highlighted both their upsides and downsides for you to consider.

1. Apps

An internal communication app is a super-channel for businesses. It offers a range of tools and channels and all your employees need to access it is a single device. This can be their own device, or one provided by the business.

The good:

Keep everyone up to date at regular intervals throughout the day, regardless of location or computer access. With push notifications, your app can get attention when required, while a range of communication methods and feedback channels can increase employee engagement.

The bad:

Initial set-up may require investment and time to develop. However, this 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: 

There are a lot of apps out there and selecting the right one for your business needs can be a challenge. Make sure you choose one that offers the ability to share news, gather feedback and support that all important two-way communication.

2. Email

The average office worker receives 90 emails a day.  Considering this number, it’s understandable that 20% of emails are never even read. But email still remains the main channel for business internal communications in the majority of workplaces.

The good: 

It’s fast, it’s instant and it effortlessly reaches a wide audience. Furthermore, emails can be easily accessed on a range of devices, giving you excellent reach.

The bad:

It’s a one-to-many communication approach that doesn’t promote discussion and engagement. Yes, employees can reply to emails, but who gives a personal response to a company-wide message?

The ugly: 

With a swamped inbox to deal with, it’s very possible employees may not prioritise the email. They may even delete without reading it. It is hard to monitor if messages have been read and actioned.

3. Intranet

A successful intranet will streamline communication by bringing all your messages and information together in one place. It also allows the communication to flow both ways, giving a voice to individual employees.

The good:

An intranet allows for the sharing of knowledge across departments, ensures all information is up-to-date and easily accessible and encourages open discussions.

The bad:

It relies on employees actively seeking out information themselves, which may lead to time-restricted employees failing to access important messages. Workers without computer access may also miss out.

The ugly:

Without active management, an intranet can quickly become out of date and obsolete. In addition, comments and post-sharing require careful policing. 

4. Video

When it comes to effective engagement, video is your top choice. While people will remember 20% of what they hear and 30% of what they see, they will recall 70% of what they both hear and see. The combination of visuals and sound make it a ‘super-engager’.

The good:

Video is a versatile and low-cost form of communication, making it simple to output frequent messages across the company. Easy to access on multiple devices, it delivers substantial reach.

The bad:

Videos are a one-way communication channel without a feedback option. However, it is possible to invite comments on the video to encourage greater engagement.

The ugly:

Timing is everything when it comes to company-wide announcements. With video, people will access the message at different times, leading to a temporary imbalance of knowledge.

5. Screens

We are in the digital age and screens are everywhere. We may as well take advantage of them. Whether it’s a TV screen, a display wall or a company screensaver, screens will help you to communicate with employees with unrivalled immediacy.

The good:

It is simple to make the most of screens already in your workplace. Display company messages, mix in information from intranets, and reinforce brand identity – all at the same time. Screens can also reach employees without personal computer access.

The bad:

Well-planned digital signage is an excellent brand extension, but it has to be first-rate. Low quality or poorly planned digital campaigns can do more harm than good.

The ugly:

The messages on your screens need to be regularly updated if they’re going to continue to have an impact. Implement a schedule and keep on top of it to ensure your screens don’t become sidelined.

6. Print

Although many businesses strive for a paperless workplace, print still has a powerful role to play in internal communications. Newsletters and memos are a tried-and-tested route to sharing information 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. Remember that print has to be delivered in order to reach your employees, and this requires both time and money to achieve effectively.

The ugly:

As a one-way channel, print does not readily invite feedback and engagement. Communications could be read the wrong way, which may shut down discussion.

7. Notice Boards

Sometimes, simple is best. Posters and visual displays on the walls of the workplace are very inexpensive, highly targeted and easy to keep up to date. Often undervalued for their low-tech profile, banners and posters are still a relevant communication channel.

The good: 

For messages that you need to keep reiterating, such as mission statements and company values, not much will beat a well-branded poster for an on-the-spot impression.

The bad:

Posters need to be kept fresh and updated or they will quickly become ‘invisible’. Leaving the same poster on the wall for five years is a sure-fire way to ensure it is ignored.

The ugly:

The ultimate one-way communication channel, posters offer no opportunity for interaction or feedback and therefore can feature poorly for employee engagement.

8. Social Media

Opinion is polarised on whether social media is an effective channel for internal communications. As with every channel, it has both positive and negative aspects, but handled correctly, you could find it an invaluable tool.

The good:

Social channels can be excellent for encouraging information exchange and increasing engagement with younger employees. It is a good way to create genuine connections between employees.

The bad:

Be wary of creating a platform for employees to chat on. It is important to guide the discussions and encourage a healthy exchange of knowledge.

The ugly:

Close monitoring of social channels is crucial. As with any two-way channel, the opportunity is there for anyone to express their opinion. There is always the risk that private content is released through negligence, ignorance or other mistakes.

9. Leaders

Using team leaders and supervisors to deliver information can have a hugely beneficial effect on the impact of your internal communications strategy. The personal approach, handled correctly, will increase employee engagement across the company.

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: 

A good leader will have a very positive effect; a poor leader could be damaging.

Typically, the success will depend on the competency of the leader and training, with all its additional cost implications, may be required for leaders to communicate effectively.

The ugly: 

Without the right plan, structure or time management, it is easy for employees to switch off and disengage. Furthermore, leader presentations and team meetings may not be suitable for all types of information.

10. All-Employee Meetings

Also known as a ‘town-hall’, an all-employee meeting 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 high-cost, high-effort communication channel. It requires 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. The main message you want to put across may get lost in a surfeit of messages, discussion and debate.

11. Away Days

Typically used for team building, an away day is a chance for employees to focus their attention on the direction of the organisation, rather than their specific role. It is an opportunity to connect and engage across all levels.

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:

Away days can be incredibly expensive to organise as well as time-consuming. It is also takes an entire day of productive time away from the business. In addition, you need to consider the irregularity of such events, which makes them unsuitable for regular internal communications updates.

The ugly:

Without prior communication, the topics for discussion may not be what the audience wants to hear, resulting in a negative experience.

12. 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: 

The logistics of conferencing are not so simple. It may not be easy to ensure all workers are available at the same time (e.g. shift workers). It will also require workers to be available in a quiet space, which may be difficult to organise.

The ugly:

Having the right technology for conferencing is critical. Nothing is more likely to lose the attention of your audience than a poor line or one that keeps breaking up.

 

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