What Is Internal Communications and Why Should I Care?
Whether you’re the head of culture at a tech startup or a manager at a Fortune 500 company, you should care deeply about how to communicate with your team. The study and practice of communication within companies is called internal communications, and it is crucial to boosting employee engagement.
One study concluded that good internal communications drives 25% higher employee productivity, unlocking trillions in value1.
Still not convinced how much communications matters? We pulled together 7 surprising stats that show the far-reaching effects of good internal communications.
What Is Internal Communications?
When a group of people grows linearly (e.g. a company hiring people one at a time), the number of potential connections between those people grows rapidly. See the illustration below.
On small teams, facilitating communications between employees is not challenging – they can all sit together in the same conference room. However, any medium-sized or large organization needs to dedicate significant resources to helping their employees share information and ideas.
Internal communications is the systematic study of the best ways to help employees communicate with each other and with managers more effectively. Strong internal communications creates a culture that fosters the company’s values internally, such as creativity and productivity.
For insights from some top internal communications pros in a digestible format, check out our 16 Best Practices for Internal Communications Infographic!
Internal Communications Channels by Popularity
Aside from email and in-person meetings, internal comms managers have many tools, or channels, at their disposal to create strong organizational communications. Below, we’ve included a high-level overview of some primary channels, with their corresponding usage percentages2.
- Email (99%): The preferred choice for organizations of all sizes, 98% of internal communications teams use email 3 for critical information. However, this channel can easily become over-saturated with too many messages, resulting in lower engagement rates.
- Face-to-Face Meetings (96%): It goes without saying that in-person communication is vital to organizations of all sizes.
- Intranet (90%): While this term may conjure images of outdated, clunky interfaces (run a quick Google Image search to test this), an intranet is a crucial tool for sharing information and resources. It can be anything from an enterprise tool like SAP to some shared files in Google Drive. However, intranet usage is at an all-time low: less than 13% of employees use theirs daily, and a third never use their intranets at all 4.
- Social Media (85%): A 2014 study found that 85% of corporations are using social media in their internal communications. The top channels are (unsurprisingly) LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. 5 Companies use social media to foster real-time, authentic, and open conversations that may involve both internal employees and external customers.
- Office Displays (80%): The content showing on the walls in your offices is all part of your communication strategy for employees. Organizations use posters and flyers (like the excellent ones from StartupVitamins) to communicate with their teams. Within this channel, digital signage is also rapidly gaining adoption for use within offices. In fact, half of communications pros use digital signage in their offices6.
- Internal Messaging: Many companies use tools like Salesforce Chatter or Yammer for chat-based communication. Here at Enplug, our team uses Slack for much of our informal and collaborative team communication. Slack allows teams to create channels for specific purposes and type messages in a chat format. It’s a powerful way to ask for feedback on new designs, alert the office when lunch is ready, and share successes.
Why Should I Care?
To compound the challenges that larger companies have always faced in regards to internal communications, the workplace and technology are changing rapidly.
The internal communications landscape is changing quickly in response to two major trends:
- Employees’ relationships with work and workplace. There’s already been much discussion around trends like working from home, unlimited time off, and creative office spaces. While these trends are still contested (vis. Yahoo banning working from home), they are reflective of a shift in how employees relate to their employer. Companies are getting more specialized and outsourcing more, while employees are more mobile, adaptable, and productive7.
- Changing technology allows people to connect in new ways. Whether it’s Facebook, Salesforce Chatter, Periscope, Slack, or YikYak, employees are in near-constant digital communication with each other. Savvy organizations communicate in ways that are already natural for their employees. The rise of internal social media usage (now at over 50%8) parallels the rise of social media as a whole.
Managers should look for new channels to meet their communications objectives in this changing and increasingly saturated environment. The good news is that there are high-quality resources available to help. Here at Enplug, we’ve created a free Internal Communications Planning Template which you can use to organize your own communications strategy.
Internal communications pros are using Enplug’s digital signage software to inform and engage their teams. See our guide to using workplace digital signage for more on this topic.
Enplug digital signage software was co-founded by CEO Nanxi Liu and CTO Tina Denuit-Wojcik in 2012 to enable organizations to use customized real-time streaming content to create engaging external and internal communications.
- McKinsey 2012. The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies
- MarketingProfs 2010. Email, Intranet Top Tools for Engaging Employees
- Newsweaver Report 2014: How Internal Communication uses email
- Prescient Digital Media 2013. Social Intranet Study Report
- Incite Group, 2014. How social media is now used in corporations, and Smart Insights, 2015. How is social media used for corporate communications?
- Weber Shandwick 2012: Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism.pdf
- RAND 2004. The Future at Work — Trends and Implications
- Towers Watson 2013. Just Over Half of Employers Using Social Media Tools for Internal Communication