The 7 Types of Internal Communication that Have to Happen

Stuart Sinclair - June 16, 2020

Internal communications is a broad term that covers many areas of business. As such, there are many internal communication types that need to take place within an organisation. While one of the traditional examples of internal communication is a memo from the boss, the truth is that this is just one small part of the bigger picture. Internal communication comprises many varieties of exchanges between leadership, departments, teams and colleagues, covering a wide range of topics and issues.

In this blog, we take an in-depth look at the seven key types of communication in business, and how best to apply them in your internal communication strategy.

  1. Leadership-generated
  2. Employee-generated
  3. Peer-to-peer
  4. change administration
  5. Information delivery
  6. Culture communications
  7. Crisis management

Types of internal communication

#1 Leadership-generated

The top line:

This is the flow of information from the top-down, from leaders to employees on the office floor. Also known as ‘downward communication’, it is the traditional method often viewed as the core role of internal communications.

Examples:

  • Formal announcements
  • Progress reports
  • Corporate overviews
  • Business updates

Objectives:

Leadership-generated communications tend to be both formal and company-wide in nature. They are focused on informing staff of the overall business direction and strategy. In addition, their function is to make leaders visible, especially in larger organisations where some employees may never meet senior management in person.

Channels:

Email is one of the most widely used internal communication channels for leadership-generated messages. However, this may not be the most effective way to reach all employees, with email overload becoming a real issue in most offices. Company-wide meetings are good way to increase leadership visibility but can mean that remote workers miss out on important announcements.

Try this:

Consider putting a face to the name with a video message from the CEO. This will ensure your leaders are both seen and heard. Gallup research indicates that hearing directly from the boss has a positive effect on engagement levels, helping staff to feel a sense of purpose in their work. An employee engagement app will enable you to deliver your video announcement seamlessly to all employees, bypassing any technological issues.

# 2 Employee-generated

The top line:

This encompasses all communications that travel from employees to managers and others higher up in the company hierarchy. Known as ‘upward communication’, of all the different types of internal communication, this one is overlooked at your peril.

Examples:

  • Discussion forums
  • Workplace pulse surveys
  • Virtual suggestion boxes
  • Staff polls & votes

Objectives:

Your aim is not to talk at your employees, but to talk with them. Employee-generated communications should give everyone in your organisation a voice, regardless of role, seniority or location. Communicating with employees is a two-way process, ensuring every worker plays an active role in contributing to the company.

Channels:

When you’re aiming to improve internal communication, opening up two-way communication channels is the best place to start. Keep your finger on the pulse of your company’s health by with regular feedback opportunities. By carrying out frequent internal communication surveys, you will ensure employees have a chance to be heard.

Try this:

It’s vital to monitor the engagement levels of your workforce by scheduling regular surveys, polls and health checks. Consider using an internal communication app to help you timetable and deliver your check-ups. Built-in feedback modules make it easy to create a range of polls and surveys and evaluate your responses.

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#3 Peer-to-peer

The top line:

As well as organising communications between employees and management, it’s also essential to connect employees with each other. Also known as ‘lateral communication’ conversations between employees need to be actively encouraged and facilitated order to be effective.

Examples:

  • Social media spaces
  • Communication hubs
  • Peer recognition schemes
  • Project collaboration

Objectives:

Encouraging collaboration between employees is one of the key types of communication in business. When employees share with their peers, the benefits of internal communication quickly become clear. Your aim is to prompt conversations that support company culture, improve problem-solving, generate new ideas and improve camaraderie and morale.

Channels:

Employee communication on a lateral level can be facilitated on a range of different channels. Social media networks are great for encouraging the informal sharing of knowledge and opinions. However, they do need to be carefully monitored and controlled. Project collaborations can be handled via traditional methods of email and face-to-face meetings, or alternatively moved on to an internal communication platform for greater reach.

Try this:

Considering creating a social space where employees can meet, chat and share information and knowledge. It will keep business operations front of mind and help encourage a shared commitment to company goals. Employee engagement platforms offer conversation modules that allow you hold dedicated group conversations, using social tools such as likes, follows and comments to promote interaction.

#4 Change administration

The top line:

Change is notoriously difficult for organisations to navigate, often leading to feelings of fear and resistance in the workforce. Communicating change is crucial to the overall success of business and will determine the difference between success and failure during the process of transformation.

Examples:

  • Large-scale restructuring
  • Office openings and closures
  • Brand or product modification
  • New software, systems or processes

Objectives:

The rules of effective internal communication are never more relevant than when you’re trying to initiate change. Clarity is essential. You need to be unequivocally clear about how the change needs to take place. Your aim is to deal in the specifics, with clear examples of how the new processes and rules are to be applied. No employee should be left questioning their decision making.

Channels:

Your internal communication plan needs to include a carefully managed strategy for handling change communications across a variety of channels. There will be a need for a lot of leadership-generated content, delivered by formal methods of meetings and memorandums. However, you also need to include plenty of two-way channels for feedback and questions.

Try this:

Storytelling is a great way to demonstrate how others in the company are applying the new ‘rules’ and navigating the change. By offering authentic, practical stories, you are delivering a real-life application of the required adjustments. Social spaces for these stories can easily be set up on an employee engagement app, ensuring everyone has instant access.

#5 Information delivery

The top line:

The delivery of information is one of the key internal communication best practices. It is the role of the internal communications department to ensure that every employee is fully informed on all organisational, legal and procedural issues.

Examples:

  • Legal requirements
  • Brand positioning
  • HR policies and procedures
  • Training tools

Objectives:

Information is power. Armed with knowledge and understanding, employees will offer an improved service for clients and an improved performance for the business. Understanding is crucial. One of the common internal communication mistakes is the delivery of information without a strategy in place to determine whether it has been correctly understood.

Channels:

An employee intranet can be an ideal vehicle for streamlining information and ensuring it is all kept in one secure place. However, it does need careful management. One of the reasons intranets fail to engage employees is because they are allowed to become outdated and obsolete. As soon as information can no longer be relied on as current, the intranet instantly loses traction.

Try this:

Consider gathering your information into a central hub on an internal communication platform. The app will allow you to post knowledge, documents, videos and more into a single accessible area. By allowing employees to access the platform via their favourite device, you’ll be breaking down barriers and connecting with every employee. Even the hard-to-reach.

What to look for when choosing an employee engagement solution

#6 Culture communications

The top line:

It’s intangible, but hugely influential. Company culture affects everything from hiring and retaining staff to brand positioning, business stability and financial performance. And of course, employee engagement levels.

Examples:

  • Mission & values statements
  • Onboarding procedures
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Rewards and recognition schemes

Objectives:

Your aim is to introduce a sense of purpose into your organisation. Purpose-driven organisations have been shown to outperform those that are purely profit-driven. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that 78% of CEOs believe culture is one of the top five drivers for an organisation.

Channels:

Communication that portrays your company culture won’t come directly from the boss. It will come from your employees, the ones at their desk every day. Therefore it makes sense that the methods of internal communication will be peer-to-peer orientated and largely informal in nature. Social media spaces and company events are ideal channels to promote culture communications.

Try this:

Peer recognition is widely recognised as a prime motivator in employee engagement. A recent survey revealed that recognition from colleagues made employees feel 90% more satisfied in their work. Considering implementing a peer-to-peer recognition programme to create a positive culture of appreciation and improve understanding of company values.

#7 Crisis management

The top line:

When businesses face major disruption and unexpected challenges, crisis management comes to the fore. How you handle communication in a crisis can mean the difference between make or break for an organisation. Of all the types of communication in business, this one definitely needs its own section in your internal communication strategy.

Examples:

  • Pre-crisis protocols
  • Responsibilities and responses
  • Instant news broadcasts
  • Multi-channel messaging

Objectives:

Crises, by their very nature, come without warning. Therefore, it is essential to have a solid crisis action plan in place before the situation arises. By planning ahead, you will mitigate risk, keep staff safe and reduce the impact on your bottom line. Reach is all important. Quite simply, you need to be able to connect with every single employee, instantly, no matter where they are.

Channels:

Your internal communication tools need to be more robust and agile than ever in a crisis situation. A multi-channel approach is the best practice solution, with the aim of reaching every employee with a single instant message, sent across multiple networks. You’ll also need to implement a feedback mechanism to confirm staff receipt and safety.

Try this:

A dynamic internal communications app will put you in a position of strength when a crisis hits. With its ability to work across multiple channels, it will connect with employees wherever they are at that present moment; at home, at work or on the move. In-built feedback channels allow you measure the reach of your communications, while the flexibility gives you the power to rapidly adjust your plans to suit the ever-changing situation. 

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