Communications professionals are always looking for new and improved ways to boost and enhance their internal communications efforts to ensure they’re reaching employees the most effective way possible.Gone are the days where only typewritten memos, phone calls, posters and staff meetings were the ways management and employees communicated with one another. Connected, digital workplaces now have a range of different internal communication tools, thanks to advances in technology, where employees can be engaged on a variety of channels.
The right internal communications toolkit means your workplace will perform better, have fewer mistakes, be unified and have higher levels of engagement and morale. Every step you take towards improving internal communications is a positive one.
What tools do you currently have in your internal communications toolkit? Here are some of the most popular ones other companies will be using in 2020… are they right for you?
1. Internal newsletters
Internal newsletters continue to be one of the most popular internal communication tools in the workplace. They allow you to aggregate and collate content and deliver less urgent information at set intervals. It’s a fairly low-cost method of communicating – generally they are sent via email, which is something all employees have access to anyway. A well-designed, well-written and eye-catching internal newsletter can help you to share important information internally and help to build a positive team culture.
Pros: Cheap and easy to produce and send.
Cons: Email overload may result in reduced open rates and important information being missed.
2. Instant messaging
Instant messaging systems let your employees communicate with one another instantly and send text, videos, links or photos to each other – whether they sit at the next desk or across the world. People are used to communicating on similar systems in their personal lives either via text message, Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp and often feel comfortable with the more informal and quick communication style of instant messaging.
Pros: Instant, quicker than emailing back and forth. Less disruptive.
Cons: Needs everyone to actively use the tool and participate. Not so good for big group discussions, or more formal communication.
Intranets are one of the most common internal communication tools in the workplace . They are essentially a centralised repository of knowledge, news, documents and updates that can be accessed by employees on a broad range of topics.
Pros: A good way to share knowledge and files with restricted access and ensures you have a corporate knowledge base.
Cons: Can become too expansive. Information can be difficult to find. Employees may not even know when there is an important update.
4. Team collaboration tools
Collaboration software, such as Basecamp, Slack or Microsoft Teams, helps to keep your team’s communications in one place. It’s particularly useful for working on projects as well as breaking down “silos” and sharing knowledge with other areas of the organization. They can also be useful in your internal communications toolkit when you have remote workers, or project team members based in different geographic locations.
Pros: Avoids unnecessary emails. Allows a centralized hub of knowledge. Interactive and encourages two-way flow of information. Better project management. Increased efficiency and productivity.
Cons: Can be difficult to transition to. Some team members may continue to email and not adopt fully.
Internal blogs generally sit on an organization’s intranet site and can become one of the best . This In some companies there may be a top-down approach to communication where the blog is written by the CEO and/or senior executives only. In other situations it might be an opportunity for subject matter experts from across the organization to share information, opinions and solutions to problems in a conversational way.
Pros: Useful for sharing information, important announcements, reinforcing policies and procedures and addressing frequently asked questions. Promotes discussions and meaningful conversations.
Cons: Should be regularly updated to be one of the more meaningful communication tools in the workplace. May not be easy to locate on intranet. May not be read widely.
6. Corporate social media
Employees are used to using social media in their personal lives to share information with friends, and using it for work purposes is a logical step for many. There are some purpose-built platforms that you can only use within a company (such as Yammer) and other times companies may use established social networks like Facebook. As part of the internal communications toolkit, these are ways to quickly and informally share information and collaborate.
Pros: Information can be shared quickly. It’s free or cheap.
Cons: Even in this day and age, not everyone has social media. Some employees would be reluctant to link personal social media accounts to their company and wouldn’t view these platforms as internal communication tools and it wouldn’t be their first port of call to find out information. Allowing social media use at work could be misused. You don’t own the platform and terms and conditions can change constantly.
7. Video chat
Video is particularly useful for internal communications in large companies, or companies spread across different geographic locations. It enables co-workers in different offices to talk face-to-face even though they may be many miles apart – or even on the other side of the world from one another. While traditionally they could do this by telephone or travelling to one location for a meeting, video chat software such as Skype, Zoom, Facetime or PowWowNow enables everyone to get together without leaving their usual place of work.
Pros: Saves on travel costs. Saves on travel time meaning people can be more productive. Builds a more collaborative team environment. Is more flexible than traditional meetings.
Cons: Technological issues can sometimes make it hard to use, such as slow internet connections or poor facilities and equipment.
8. Video broadcasts
When you have an important official announcement to make, your CEO or other executives can’t be in every office of a large company at once. Your corporate office may have regular staff meetings that people in regional outposts miss out on and can’t attend. A good way to keep employees in the loop is to broadcast these types of events so that everyone can see and hear, regardless of where they are. Tools such as GoToWebinar can help, and for those who miss out because they were off sick, travelling, on vacation etc. the recording can still be accessed later.
Pros: Relatively cheap and easy to implement provided you have good camera and sound equipment. Time zone issues can be overcome by recording broadcasts and making them available later.
Cons: May not solve issues when there are language barriers. Some mobile staff may lack the bandwidth on internet plans to watch lengthy video broadcasts regularly.
9. Alerting software for important communications
DeskAlerts is an internal communication software system with many features that can deliver critical messages instantly to employees computers, smartphones or tablet devices using a variety of channels, grabbing users’ attention quickly. Pop-up messages on screens and push notifications on mobile devices form the backbone of this product, but other features include scrolling tickers, surveys, polls, quizzes, corporate screensavers, corporate wallpaper, digital signage and more to give you different options and allow you to run a comprehensive internal communications campaign.
Pros: One of the most versatile communication tools in the workplace. Very good if you’re on a budget and don’t want to buy multiple software packages! Bypasses email system and cuts through all the other digital noise and clutter in employees’ daily work lives.
Cons: If you have a unique workplace with no computers, phones or tablets you won’t be able to use it.
10. Team bonding tools
Tools that help your team get to know one another better can break down silos and foster greater collaboration and knowledge sharing. An example is Donut – an integration that people use with Slack – that randomly pairs two people from across an organization and schedules an informal chat so they can get to know one another. Whether it’s bringing together two co-workers who are in the same building, or two who are in different countries, it is a good way for people to get to know what other parts of the company do and understand other perspectives.
Pros: Fosters sharing. Builds team culture. Creates higher levels of engagement.
Cons: Many introverts will hate it and won’t opt in unless forced. If your workplace is predominantly introverts, it may not be a good tool.
Internal communication isn’t all one-way. For it to be successful, there should be some tools in your internal communications toolkit intended for two-way communication between management and employees. And a perfect way to do this is via surveys. Surveys can help you determine employees’ perspectives on many aspects of your company. You can then take steps to change things, and then survey again at a later date to have data to show whether your measures were successful or not.
Pros: Easy to implement – particularly if you have an all-in-one communications tool like DeskAlerts. Survey software does the math calculations for you, taking a lot of the hard work out of it compared to paper-based surveys. Anonymous nature of surveys can give you better feedback from employees who may be reluctant to share their views otherwise.
Cons: If questions are not specific, you will not get meaningful answers. If employees feel you don’t listen to what they tell you in surveys they may be reluctant to fill in future surveys.
Discussion forums have been part of the internet for a long time. Before the rise of social media, they were one of the most popular ways people would communicate on just about any topic. Discussion “threads” allow multiple people to ask questions, share opinions, get feedback and solve problems. While many internet forums died off when social media took over, some sites such as Reddit are still very popular, proving that people still like having the ability to share and discuss things this way. Forum software can be added on to your company intranet to give employees a place to discuss issues.
Pros: Most intranet software will have a way to integrate this easily. Lets employees be more collaborative and solve problems together without going outside company for help with internal issues.
Cons: May need to be moderated, meaning it will take more resources.
Podcasts are enjoying a lot of success right now, with many people tuning in to them for personal enjoyment or professional development. People are used to listening to them while they work, while they commute or even in their down time while they relax. Podcasts are better than video because you can listen while driving, for example. For internal communicators, this is a good way to tap into preferences and create content on any topic that you want your employees to know about. From corporate announcements through to training, the subject matter of the content you create is practically limitless.
Pros: Relatively easy to produce and distribute. Overcomes issues associated with video.
Cons: Not everyone will want to listen to podcasts. Should be used in conjunction with other internal communication methods.
Many computers these days no longer use screensavers- they were originally invented as a way of preventing older styles of monitors from having a particular image burned into it if it stayed static for too long. Modern monitors are LCD and don’t have this problem, but screensavers are still an option that can be turned on in operating systems if a computer has been idle or unattended for too long. Capitalizing on this feature is a good way to turn your employees’ screens into mini digital billboards. You can communicate just about anything, from new product launch details through to reinforcing your corporate values… or just use them as part of your overall branding, displaying the company logo.
Pros: Very easy to implement on major operating systems. A good passive way to reinforce your communications campaigns.
Cons: In most cases, you can’t send custom screens to different users simultaneously and need to attract IT staff every time you need to send something unless you have a tool like DeskAlerts.
15. Digital signage
When you have other screens throughout your company, such as TV screens in waiting rooms or staff kitchens, they are valuable real estate where you could be communicating company news, remind people about upcoming events, reinforce other messaging such as security and privacy reminders or showcase your values to a captive audience.
Pros: Easy to use. Capitalizes on screens that may otherwise not be used at all, or only rarely.
Cons: Can be seen by visitors to the company so not useful for secure or sensitive information. Not good for long-form communication on complex subjects.
Which tools do you use? Share your experience in the comments.