Turn the regular jumble of emails, meetings, and memos into an effective communication machine, and you'll be everyone's hero at your organization.
Streamlined communication means it's easy for everyone from interns to managers to:
- Know what's going on in active projects.
- Stay aligned with where the company is headed.
- Feel fulfilled knowing how their work fits into the bigger picture.
Internal communications systems are powerful, but in reality, they often don't work that well: 46% of employees report not having the context they need to do their jobs well.
So, in this post, we unpack the actual steps for transforming your current internal communications into a strategic asset that helps good people get great work done.
What are internal communications?
Internal communications refers to the tools and strategies organizations use to enable people to talk to each other.
As long as we’re talking small groups, internal communications initiatives are relatively simple. However with corporate communications across thousands of employees, it takes a bit of magic to make internal comms really work. You need to make sure every level of the company is connected without overwhelmed.
Effective internal communication must keep everyone informed and connected, no matter where or how they work.
Common internal communication channels are face-to-face briefings, casual chats between peers, and tools requiring an internet connection. These tools include the company intranet, emails, video, social media, messaging apps, video calls, and phones.
Why is internal communication important?
Good internal communication helps ensure everyone in the organization is on the same page and has what they need to work at maximum capacity. It's also a key component of public relations, crisis management, and team building.
Of all the internal strategies a business implements, communications are among the most important. Miscommunication snowballs into issues worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Employees say poor internal communication often causes:
- Delay or fail at completing projects (44%).
- Low morale (31%).
- Missed performance goals (25%).
- Lost sales (18%).
A good internal communication strategy isn't just about throwing information out there. It's about making that information clear, engaging, and easy to understand for everyone, whether they're on the front lines or behind a desk.
Managers with strong communication skills can boost engagement and lead to employee retention. When employees get the lowdown on what's happening in the company, they feel valued and are more productive overall.
A brief history of internal communications
Internal communications has come a long way, transforming from a simple management trick to a vital part of modern company culture.
It all started in the Victorian era when pioneers like the UK's Lever Brothers and New York's Larkin Soap Company used it as a function responsible for boosting team spirit and worker pride.
The real game-changer in internal communication came with Alex Heron's 1943 book, "Sharing Information with Employees," which focused on the art of talking to employees and delivering messages effectively.
But academics only began taking notice in the 1970s. The field started to heat up in the early 2000s as study after study was conducted on why and how internal communication was important.
How to build an effective internal communications strategy
The following eight steps and best practices will help your leadership team pave the way to internal communications success.
Step 1: Analyze your existing communication methods
Before you can improve your current internal communications strategy, you first need to understand how information flows in your organization.
Map out your company communications paths to see who's connected with whom, and how information travels from top management to front-line staff and back.
Next, evaluate your internal communication in terms of existing channels and their effectiveness: Are emails overlooked? Are meetings productive? Identify what helps you engage employees and what doesn't.
- Conduct an internal employee communications survey asking for feedback on your current communication’s effectiveness, frequency, and clarity.
- Audit the types of internal communication tools and review usage statistics of your existing strategy, like email open rates and intranet engagement metrics.
Step 2: Set your goals and objectives
Effective internal communication objectives do three critical things: help increase employee engagement, address the communication gaps you’ve found during your initial audit, and help employees understand their roles.
Engagement is critical because only 15% of employees feel actively engaged, and any small internal communication improvement will greatly impact this direction. Higher engagement makes employees 3 times more likely to stay at your company.
Breaking down the big picture makes it possible for everyone, from executives to new hires, to know their tasks and how their role contributes to the company's success. These insights from internal communication make employees feel valuable and motivate them to work.
- Set KPIs: e.g., aim to increase email open rates by 20% within six months.
- Connect each goal with a business objective, ensuring your communication strategy supports overall business goals.
Step 3: Segment your audience
When you know who you’re talking to, you can craft internal communication messages that are more relevant to the recipient and likely to be well-received and effective.
Segment your audience by department, role, skill level, and location. Choose the right channels and styles of communication that resonate best with each segment.
For example, complex technical information for skilled professionals could fit detailed written reports; company updates for all employees could be shared in a video like the one below:
- Create employee personas representing different segments of your workforce that you need to reach through internal communication.
- Use internal data from HR to understand the demographics and preferences of different employee groups for which you'll have to adjust internal communication.
Step 4: Define your key messages
Decide what messages you want to communicate and why each is important for your audience to know.
Then, craft each message for intended audience segments in a simple, easy-to-understand form without jargon or overly complex language. E.g., Internal communication for explaining a new technical tool might be more detailed for the IT department than for the rest of your staff.
- Identify the 2-3 most important information pieces you want to convey in each message.
- Validate that each message in your internal communication plan addresses the specific concerns or interests of the intended audience segment.
Step 5: Pick your communication channels and tactics
Good internal communications also require appropriate channels. The channel choice can depend on the message's nature, your audience's preference, and whether you need a quick reply or a good back-and-forth conversation.
Use a mix of employee communication tools and methods to reach your audience effectively — email, intranet, social media platforms, and tools like Slack or Trello. Focus on video communication for quick and engaging information dissemination.
Tools like Synthesia, an AI video maker, simplify the process and let you create effective video content for internal communication from plain text directly in your web browser. Need short update videos, recorded messages from leadership, or live Q&A sessions? They all add a personal touch and can help make complex information more digestible and engaging.
Here’s how Synthesia works:
Using Synthesia, you can also create an avatar of yourself, the CEO, or any other manager to use in your internal communication videos.
- Upgrade your internal communication tools
- Use Synthesia’s free AI video maker to create your first AI video in less than 5 minutes.
Step 6: Create a communications calendar
A comms calendar is a valuable tool. It brings structure and supports effective internal communication, ensuring the relevant information is delivered at the right time to the right people.
Want to ensure no internal communication falls through the cracks? Identify the key events and dates, schedule communications, and assign internal communicators to send them out.
- Plan thematic internal communication campaigns: Develop themed communication campaigns — e.g., a monthly focus on a specific company value — and schedule them in your calendar.
- Include regular updates in your calendar, such as weekly round-ups, company events, or monthly employee newsletters, to maintain consistent internal communication rhythms.
Step 7: Set your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Setting and monitoring internal KPIs is an essential part of any effective internal communication strategy. It's how you can tell where you need to improve and how to fine-tune your employee communications.
How to gauge employee engagement: Review attendance at meetings, participation in surveys, or activity on internal social platforms.
How to assess your communications reach: Check your open rates on emails, views on intranet posts, or analytics from internal communication platforms.
Looking to get employee opinions on the quality of your internal communication? Use feedback forms for employee experience, look at the comment sections on internal platforms, or have your internal communicators open meeting discussions.
- Choose the most relevant KPIs for your internal comms strategy: Select KPIs that directly reflect your internal communication goals, like survey-based employee satisfaction scores or intranet engagement levels.
Step 8: Review and refine your communications plan
Effective internal communication and facilitating two-way dialogue are ongoing efforts you need to integrate into your company culture. You must regularly review your strategy and KPIs, gather feedback, and adjust.
The key is to be flexible and responsive to your employee’s needs and preferences.
- Schedule monthly or quarterly meetings to review KPIs, discussing what's working and what needs adjustments in your internal communication.
- Establish feedback loop mechanisms for continuous employee feedback on internal communication, like quick polls or suggestion boxes.
Create an internal communications video in the next 5 minutes
Internal communication's purpose is to turn information into engagement.
With AI video, communicating internally gets a new level of interaction and interest. It's quick and easy and turns your usual updates into cool videos that everyone actually enjoys watching.
See how you can incorporate AI video into your internal comms strategy. Make your first free AI video with Synthesia and explore your options.