What is Internal Communication? Your Ultimate Guide to Internal Comms
Internal communication is all the strategic communication that happens within a company and between employees. Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about why internal communication is so important.
Internal Communication Definition
Internal communication is all the strategic communication that occurs within an organization.
It is also referred to as corporate communication or employee communication.
Communication within a company typically includes, but is not limited to:
- Operational Messages: Daily tasks, shift notes, scheduling, etc.
- Leadership Communication: CEO messages, Town Halls, leadership changes, etc.
- Human Resources (HR) Communication: Employee open enrollment, employee policies, new hires, onboarding, etc.
- Crisis Communication: Safety risks, large company changes, layoffs, etc.
- Change Management: New policies, protocols, and technology changes
- Employee Engagement: All-team activities, employee recognition, company perks, etc.
Why Is Internal Communication Important?
Internal comms is important because it ensures that the right employee groups receive critical, work-related information in a timely manner.
Strong communication also helps departments across a company successfully implement new processes, tools, and technologies. This is because great communicators know to follow change management best practices when communicating.
In addition, a cohesive internal communications strategy helps improve the overall employee experience and, therefore, retention, employee engagement, morale, and even productivity.
Who Are Internal Comms Professionals?
Internal communication professionals are the individuals at a company who are responsible for creating and implementing a communication strategy.
Sometimes, human resources professionals fulfill the functions of internal communications or HR has a designated communication professional on their team.
These departments are often small in most companies, which can create challenges as the demand for employee communication rises.
What are the Most Common Internal Comms Channels?
There are many channels that an internal comms professional uses. Traditional communication channels, often used to reach a largely desk-bound workforce, include:
- Employee Intranets
- In-Person Meetings (e.g. Town Halls)
These channels are best for deskbound workers because they typically work in offices and have access to secure channels like Intranets and are physically present for All-Hands meetings.
This is why internal communication pros also rely on another set of channels for off-site employees, also called frontline workers or deskless employees. These channels include:
- Mobile Employee Apps
- SMS Texting
- Print Signage
- Digital signage
- Auto-Dialers (often reserved for emergency communication)
But the channels that comms pros have available to them continue to grow. Check out the latest State of the Sector from Gallagher, which breaks channels down by use and effectiveness.
Internal Communication Best Practices
The reality is, there are many things that internal communications professionals need to do to be successful. We need to be empathetic, strategic, team players, and expert content creators. There is so much to focus on, it can be a bit overwhelming.
But based on what we see working with communicators across industries, here are 3 best practices for internal comms to start practicing regularly:
- We recommend doing internal communication audits annually at your company to understand your existing channels, audience, and ability to message groups effectively.
- It is also recommended that communicators actively measure internal communications to make data-driven decisions and strategies.
- Another best practice is to facilitate cross-departmental collaboration and partner with key stakeholders when planning comms campaigns.
Top Internal Communication Challenges
According to Gallup research as well as the State of the Sector, there are a few main internal communication challenges that have remained somewhat consistent over time.
- The first challenge is that many internal communicators do not have a “seat at the table.” Many internal comms professionals struggle to prove their value as strategic advisors to senior leadership and can become stuck in a tactician role. And not having the seat at the table can often contribute to many of the other persisting challenges.
- A lack of resources. Many IC departments lack both budget and human capital. Internal comms teams are often very small even at large organizations, but they have a very big job to perform. The lack of budget this team gets also limits their ability to adopt the right tools and channels to be successful. This results in gaps in access to communication across the company due to an inability to invest in channels that adequately reach and support the frontline workforce.
- A third challenge is a lack of adequate time in their role (often due to inadequate headcount). This impedes a communicators ability to adequately strategize, measure success, evolve and change existing processes, and take on employee engagement tasks (i.e. “nice-to-know” content, storytelling, and employee programming).
How to Create an Internal Communication Strategy
Creating an internal communication strategy that is successful is no easy task. It’s so complex that we have written countless other blogs and guides on this topic. But any good communication strategy requires cooperation with stakeholders across your company and setting SMART goals.
Because partnering with stakeholders early and regularly, you ensure that there is alignment across departments so you can all work towards achieving the overarching goals of your business. And setting the right goals in advance helps guide your measurement and builds agility into your strategy because you can track your success in real-time and course-correct.
Doing these two things will help you create a strong foundation on which to build your strategy. And there are a lot of areas that you can then focus on. Watch this video to learn the five internal comms tactics that will actually make an impact.
How to Improve Internal Communication
Improving the internal communication function does largely depend on your company and existing challenges. But there are a few key tactics that you can use to begin elevating IC at your company, regardless of your needs.
- Conduct an Internal Communication Audit. This helps to identify any gaps in your internal communication strategy by showing you who your main audiences are, what channels you have, what channels your employee groups have access to, and what messages are shared on those channels.
- Focus on creating comms campaigns and not just one-off messages. This is key to successful change management for any program or initiative you are communicating about. It also helps you leverage your existing channels in more thoughtful and effective ways.
- Make measurement part of your day-to-day. Because one of the main challenges in the industry is not being valued enough as a strategist, it’s important to bring numbers to the conversation with your leadership team. They want to see the ROI of your campaigns and programs. They want to understand why something worked or didn’t and that you have a data-driven plan of attack.
If you’re struggling with any of the above tactics, we recommend taking a page out of a marketer’s playbook. Watch this video to learn how.
Internal Comms Trends
Many of the trends in the internal comms industry are about the digitization and modernization of channels. These include:
- Using mobile solutions for communicating
- Relying more on analytics platforms and channels that have better measurement capabilities
- Making it easier to localize messages to employee groups
But there are other trends as well related to what companies value and how to put employees first. Many companies have begun focusing on employee listening, which is much like social listening or consumer listening except focused on the employee voice. Internal comms pros are often involved in employee engagement and employee experience improvements company-wide.
These trends are rooted in changes in employee trust, which has shown that employees care more about a company’s purpose and values than ever before.
How Does theEMPLOYEEapp Help With Internal Comms?
theEMPLOYEEapp was created by comms professionals who understood the key challenges facing the industry.
Our product aims to help companies with largely deskless workers to improve communication with frontline employees and managers.
By using our app, companies are able to solve the challenge of frontline workers having access to resources, messages, and senior leaders.