Implementing the right communication channels in your organization is the key to keeping your employees productive, engaged, and aligned with your business goals.
Today, employees feel more isolated and disconnected from the rest of the organization than ever before.
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According to a recent study, the root problem is that 60% of employees feel less-than-enthusiastic about internal communications. 44% of them say that their business’ internal communications are stagnant, with nothing having changed in the past five years.
For that reason, companies are now implementing new solutions to improve their internal communication efforts.
However, effective workplace communication is not easy to achieve. The key is to share the right content with the right employees at the right time through their preferred channels and devices.
In this blog, we will go over the list of internal communication channels to consider for your business as well as some of their advantages and limits.
Communication Channels in the Workplace: Definition
Communication channels are the means through which people in an organization communicate and interact with each other. Without the right communication channels in place, it becomes extremely challenging to align employees with the business goals, break down silos, and drive innovation in the workplace.
Furthermore, the communication channels you use at your workplace has a direct impact on the employee experience you deliver, employee engagement as well as your ability to help your employees increase their productivity, thought leadership and communication skills.
The thing is, with the shift to remote work, communication in the workplace has become more complex in the past few weeks.
As a result, many employers are struggling to understand how information flows within different channels, resulting in much more grapevine communication. Unsurprisingly, using inappropriate channels for workplace collaboration, peer-to-peer and top-down communication can impact your company's success.
6 Types of Business Communication Channels
When looking at all the possible communication channels, we can segment them into two main groups:
- Communication channels by formality
- Communication channels by means of communication
Communication channels by formality
There are three different communications channels based on formality: formal, informal and unofficial.
1. Formal communication channels
Formal communication includes exchange of information such as the goals, policies and procedures of an organization.
Some of the most common examples of formal communication include company business plans, strategy, goals, annual reports, agreements, company-wide communications, workplace safety guidelines and procedures, board presentations etc.
2. Informal communication channels
Informal communication channels are also used to deliver official business messages but in a more relaxed way.
Some examples of informal communication include conversations at work addressing various issues that team members may have, lunch time conversations and continuous collaboration among team members.
3. Unofficial communication channels
In addition to official communication channels, there is also an unofficial mode of communication that is quite common in the workplace. Unofficial communication includes employee communication outside of work environment on topics not related to work.
Communication channels by mean
Besides formality, communication channels can be divided by mean. In other words, the way and tools employees use to communicate with each other.
Let’s take a look into the 3 main means of communication in the workplace.
1. Digital communication channels
Electronic means of communication include various online tools that employees use to stay connected with each other and keep up with the company news and updates.
Today, digital communication channels are the most popular and most used channels in the workplace.
Some of the examples include email, internal communication platforms, employee collaboration software and intranets.
2. Face-to-face communication
Even though electronic means of conversation in the workplace are taking over, face-to-face communication is still extremely important.
This mean is much more personal, and it has more human touch into it.
3. Written communication
This type of communication is almost completely dead within organizations. However, written communication is still necessary when important policies, letters, memos, manuals, notices and announcements are being communicated to the employees.
The Rise of Digital Communication Channels in the Workplace
With the emergence of remote work, the popularity and usage of digital communication channels in the workplace have skyrocketed in 2020, and we expect this trend to keep growing.
As many employees are physically separated and dispersed, companies need to find new ways to keep their remote and non-wired employees connected, well informed and productive.
However, most of them are well aware that communication via emails and outdated intranets is not enough as they are not the right channels to keep employees engaged with the company's daily conversations.
We also know that these communication channels are not the best solutions for improving cross-functional collaboration in the workplace which is now more important than ever before.
Instead, employers need to turn to more modern, intuitive, user-friendly and mobile-first communication channels and tools that mimic the apps that employees use on a daily basis in their private lives.
Needless to say, technology has completely reshaped the way we communicate and this change is the ongoing process. Effective two-way communication powered by technological communication channels can significantly improve peer collaboration, boost knowledge sharing and make internal communicators' jobs much more streamlined and efficient.
Simply put, the best communication channels are the ones that help you deliver the right message to the right employee at the right time, and the ones that keep all the important information at your employees' fingertips.
12 Common Internal Communication Channels
Most organizations use digital communication channels to reach and engage their employees. Indeed, these communication channels are considered the most productive means of communication within workplaces.
Let’s take a look into these channels:
Intranets are one of the most used channels for internal communication. They are designed to keep employees informed about what is happening in the company and share important materials with them.
Since they have been in the market for decades now, organizations that like to “play it safe” are still prone to implementing intranets into their organizations.
However, intranets serve as content repositories. Ideally, you would like to provide your employees with fresh and relevant content that helps them keep up with the company news, which you can't do with a static communication channel such as an Intranet.
What's more, only 13% of employees use their Intranet on a daily basis. In fact, low usage rates with Intranets is one of the biggest challenges internal comms teams are facing now .
Here's why those usage rates are so low:
In the business world, emails are probably still the most popular means of communication in the workplace. However, should they be the primary internal communication channel?
Within enterprise companies, there is still an enormous flow of critical information delivered through emails. Some of them are more important than others, some require immediate attention and others don’t. But can your people prioritize them easily when their inboxes are full of irrelevant or unimportant information?
Lost of productivity and inability to instantly focus on what really matters are the two main reasons why internal communications departments are now replacing emails with more modern communication solutions.
In addition, emails focus on individual conversations while organizations are more and more focusing on teamwork and collaboration. Unfortunately, this is hard to achieve through emails.
3. Project management tools
Even though one would not consider them as communication channels, project management tools do enable better team collaboration.
Project management tools let employees create and assign tasks to team members, organized into ‘boards’.
Using such tools, employees can create actionable tasks in one click. A calendar view allows employees to schedule tasks in advance and to see upcoming deadlines at a glance.
Even though project management solutions have revolutionized the way employee collaboration and project management work, they are certainly not a replacement for internal communications solutions.
Moreover, 29% of employees say that poor internal communication is the reason for projects to fail.
Project management tools are simply not designed to keep employees informed about the happenings within the organization, neither they ensure easy access to company-wide information. Therefore, one should not use them as the primary internal communication channel.
4. Employee newsletters
Employee newsletters, if done right, can be a great way to inform your employees about what is going on within the company.
Employee newsletters, with a little bit of creativity, can be a great way to engage your employees and keep them up-to-date with information that is relevant to them and their interests.
You can send company updates, share CEO’s messages to employees, introduce new hires, celebrate big wins or announce important events.
However, newsletters are usually sent through emails. As mentioned earlier, emails can be pretty inefficient way to communicate with employees as they are hard to prioritize.
What's more, communicating with your employees through email newsletters doesn't allow you to personalize the information you share with them. With standardized newsletters, you can't tailor the information you share with your employees based on their roles within the organization, their location and the languages they speak.
5. Private messaging softwares
Private messaging software solutions became extremely popular and they are now used in most organizations.
Indeed, they enable team discussions all while making it easy for employees to have private discussions with their colleagues on a daily basis.
However, private messaging apps have some limits:
- They don't enhance conversations around specific pieces of content.
- Even though private messaging apps encourage team communication, they don't enable organizational communication. For example, they don't help you inform the whole workplace on important company updates, key business trends, or internal processes employees need to know.
Private messaging apps are great for team chats, but they won't help you communicate company-wide information with your entire workforce.
6. Document sharing softwares
Not able to immediately find important documents that you need to complete your tasks or the project you're working on?
Besides causing frustration among employees, employers are still not aware of the real cost of extensive information search.
This is exactly the reason why document sharing tools have been developed; to structure and organize important documents so that employees can access them in seconds.
However, implementing this type of software is just the first step toward great internal comms. These software allow you to store key documents, but they don't help you share specific documents or information with the right employees when they need it.
Just consider these stats:
- 86% of employees say that they usually experience difficulty searching for office files when they need them. (SmallBizTrends)
- 46% of employees say it’s time-consuming and challenging to find the documents they need. (M-Files)
- 83% of employees must recreate existing documents since they can’t find them in their company network. (M-Files)
After the implementation, information still needs to be grouped, organized and segmented in a way that makes sense to your employees. If the search process is not intuitive to employees, they will be unlikely to use it.
7. Video conferencing softwares
Every company today has a video conferencing software in place. This is not surprising as we live in the world where we don’t have to be physically together to work successfully as a team.
Video conferencing software solutions enable us to connect our remote employees on a more personal level than just via messaging apps.
In addition, they are one of the most popular ways to reduce travel times and other related business costs.
Video conferencing solutions, however, are made to ease conversations among teams, not to drive ongoing company conversations, share updates and drive engagement at the company-wide level.
Therefore, they are never used as the primary communication channel to keep all employees informed and up-to-date.
8. Internal podcasts
Studies from LinkedIn show that 42% of people between the ages of 18-34 listen to podcasts at least once a week. When done right, employers can leverage the rise of podcasts to effectively communicate with their employees.
Because of this communication channel’s storytelling capabilities, they have become one of the preferred methods for younger generations to take in information.
With podcasts, however, it is important to recognize that this type of communication is largely one-way. Therefore, podcasts are most effective when they’re part of an integrated internal communications plan, combined with a more complete digital workplace communication solution.
9. Internal company blogs
We see many organizations starting an internal company blog. This is a great idea to encourage both employees and leaders to generate content employees want to read.
These blogs can cover a variety of topics related to internal or external company happenings.
Some of the topics include company-wide event announcements, big changes such as digital transformation projects or mergers and acquisitions, employee stories, company achievements, milestones and many others.
For example, Google’s re:Work is a great example of a blog where they cover organizational values that they wish their employees to adopt.
Even though the company's internal blog may be a form of creating interesting content to employees, we need to make sure that the content is actually consumed by employees.
It is normal that some employees engage more with your content than others. Some will actually go to your internal blog and read what is up there. Some, however, are not so engaged and will expect YOU to deliver relevant information right to their fingertips.
10. Employee feedback softwares
Even though employee feedback software solutions may not fall directly under an internal communication channel, they should be considered as one of the digital means for internal communication.
Feedback is an extremely important factor of every employee’s lifecycle, and it is a great way to spread positivity in the workplace.
Even though investments into these tools may not fall under the overall corporate communication strategies, they certainly optimize collaboration and build trust among employees.
11. Internal social media
Internal social media as an internal communication channel has been emerging in the past few years.
The main reason why internal communicators implement these solutions is to achieve long-term organizational goals, including higher employee engagement.
Utilizing internal social media enhances knowledge sharing, collaboration, and communication between employees and management.
12. Employee survey solutions
The best way to continuously improve your business is by asking your employees for their opinions and thoughts.
Employee survey software enable companies to easily gather valuable data on their employees and make improvements accordingly.
Even though surveys do not enable two-way conversations and don’t ensure easy access to important information, they are extremely useful to understand how your employees feel.
The Consequences of Using the Wrong Communication Channels
As mentioned earlier, using inadequate communication channels in the workplace can have serious negative consequences on the employee experience you deliver, your employees' productivity, collaboration as well as trust in the workplace.
The image above presents some of the biggest barriers to employee productivity that are related to using the wrong communication channels.
Let's take a look at the more comprehensive list:
- Too many irrelevant emails
- Lack of transparency and visibility in the workplace
- Maintaining close relationships with the peers and managers
- Poor team communication and cross-functional collaboration
- Focus on unnecessary distractions
- Lack of organizational alignment with the business goals
- Harder change and crisis management
- Lack of agility and fast decision making
- More misinformation
- Higher stress levels among employees
Therefore, organizations need to become more aware of the importance of choosing the right communication channels when it comes to supporting the employees' productivity and helping them feel more engaged.
Consolidating Communication Channels into a Single Platform
The communication ecosystem in the workplace has become extremely complex, making it hard for employees to use them in a way that enables them to do their best work.
On the other hand, internal communications professionals struggle to identify and choose the best channel for reaching all of the employees at the right time with the right content.
As a result, there is a big lack of personalization in internal communication, and this is why generic company-wide announcements often get ignored intentionally or non-intentionally.
Today, employees may receive company updates via intranet, access documents via a document sharing tool, communicate with managers via emails, get a survey through a survey app and communicate with their peers via a completely different channel.
But is it possible to keep up with all of these updates on a daily basis without losing on productivity?
It's actually very hard, if not impossible!
Instead of just keep adding new communication channels in order to try to improve communication in the workplace, employers need to take a completely different approach.
Using so many different channels can sometimes send just parts of the message, increasing the risk of miscommunication and information loss in the workplace.
So, what's next?
The next big step in the world of workplace communication will be to consolidate all these different communication channels into a single platform that will serve as a central source of relevant information for every employee in the organization.
Communicate with Your Employees through Their Favorite Channels with Smarp
Today, employees expect from their employers to make it easy fro them to connect with the information, people, and processes they need to get their job done.
Besides implementing communication channels such as intranets, newsletters and internal company blogs, consider providing employees with a single feed where they can access tailored information through their preferred channels and devices.
Think about it: today, most employees have the feeling they're missing out on important information. You need to make it easy for your employees to access the information they need whenever they need it.
That's why we've built Smarp — we make it easy for you to deliver the right information to the right employees through their favorite channels and devices.
In a nutshell, Smarp helps you to :
- Create personalized news feeds based on your employees' job functions, preferences, interests, locations and the languages they speak
- Embrace real-time communications and provide an easy mobile-access to information
- Automate content import from trusted and credible sources of information
- Keep remote, deskless and blue-collar employees connected and informed
- Easily segment your internal audiences for better content localization and personalization
- Create channels dedicated to specific company topics
- Schedule content delivery based on employees' time zones for better readership
- Enable your employees to collaborate more efficiently
- Connect various communication, collaboration and document sharing tools
- Provide data on employee engagement with internal content so you can take your internal communication to the next level
- Enable employees to become brand ambassadors by sharing important company news and educational content with their personal networks.
Want to learn more about Smarp? Feel free to book a demo now 👇