Internal communications is the practice of keeping all employees, at every level of an organization, connected and in the loop. The primary goal of an internal communications strategy is to ensure that all members of an organization are well-informed and able to collaborate effectively.
Clear and streamlined communications are an essential factor in the success of any company, whether it has ten employees or one thousand. Over 40% of workers say that their trust in their leadership and team has been compromised due to poor communication.
From frontline workers to admins behind a desk, when each individual has a clear understanding of business goals, values, and guidelines, it makes for a much more connected workflow.
Read on to understand everything you need to know about internal communications, the types of internal communication, and the benefits that come from implementing a solid internal communications strategy.
Understanding internal communications
Internal communications can take a variety of forms – email, intranet, chat apps, newsletters, in-person meetings, bulletin boards, or an app specifically designed to streamline internal communications.
An effective internal communications strategy helps every employee feel connected to the larger company vision, and therefore aware of how their individual roles contribute to the overall success of the organization. A JobsinME poll found that a massive 85% of workers feel more connected to their jobs when there is effective communication in the workplace.
A solid internal communications strategy goes a long way in fostering that engagement – employees feel involved in the company mission and understand the role they play.
Regular communication also helps build trust between employees and leadership, strengthening that sense of belonging. Plus, those open channels of communication allow employees to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback, making them feel valued and empowered.
In frontline organizations, an effective internal communications strategy is even more critical. Deskless employees can be harder to reach through email or memos, as they’re not constantly checking email or messages (or may not even have access to these tools). But these frontline workers are even more in need of clear communications, to mitigate misunderstandings, enhance safety and compliance, and share urgent updates.
An internal communications app, like Blink, is ideal for organizations with frontline workers, connecting everybody and placing everything they need in one place.
Types of internal communication
1. Formal top-down comms
This type of internal communication flows from higher levels of management to lower levels. It starts with the C-suite, who makes all the calls, then disseminates their instructions, policies, and decisions to the organization’s employees through managers and leaders.
Within an internal communications strategy, top-down communications are a structured approach that ensures important directives and guidelines are communicated uniformly. Top-down comms not only maintain consistency but also help in disseminating organizational objectives effectively throughout the workforce.
Formal top-down employee communication methods include company-wide emails, official announcements, regular town hall meetings, or memos from upper management.
For example, in a hospital's internal communications strategy, this could look like an all-staff email sharing new patient care protocols. In a manufacturing plant, a bulletin board could display dates for upcoming safety training sessions. Or in retail, a company-wide text message can share information about a new product that management wants workers to upsell.
Pros of formal top-down communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- It is an efficient way to communicate broad messages.
- Messages are controlled and aligned with organizational goals, reducing misunderstandings.
- Conveys a sense of professionalism in conveying critical information.
Cons of formal top-down communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- It doesn’t consider how employees can share feedback.
- The passive reception of information may lead to disengagement.
- Information flow can be slow, causing delays in decision-making and implementation.
- It’s impersonalized, which can give employees a sense of being undervalued.
2. Formal bottom-up comms
This is the process where employees at lower levels of the hierarchy communicate their feedback, suggestions, concerns, and ideas to higher levels of management or leadership.
This type of communication involves conveying information from the "bottom" of the organizational structure upward, allowing employees to have a voice, contribute their insights, and influence decision-making processes.
Three-quarters of employees are more engaged and feel more effective when they feel their voice is heard, Workforce Institute found.
When included as a part of an internal communications strategy, formal bottom-up employee communication not only empowers workers but also fosters a culture of inclusion and innovation within an organization. It's a valuable channel for capturing on-the-ground insights, which can often be missed by higher management. Less than half of employees feel as though they have an easy way to share feedback on key communications; a solid bottom-up communication strategy is one way to mitigate this.
In a frontline organization, there are many ways to implement formal bottom-up communications. Employee surveys are a popular way to gather feedback from an entire team at once, and Blink’s in-app survey tool allows HR teams to get real-time data straight from the mouths of employees.
For example, in a healthcare setting, nurses and medical staff might use formal bottom-up communication to suggest improvements in patient care protocols or to report safety concerns.
Other formats for bottom-up communications include anonymous feedback forms and regular one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers.
By actively encouraging and acting upon this type of feedback, organizations can harness the collective intelligence of their workforce and adapt to the evolving needs of the industry.
Pros of formal bottom-up communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- Employees feel heard and valued, leading to higher employee engagement.
- A range of diverse perspectives can be gathered, leading to more well-rounded and innovative solutions.
- Frontline employees can identify challenges that might not be apparent to higher-level management.
- When employees are involved in change processes, they are more likely to support and adapt to new initiatives.
Cons of formal bottom-up communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- Gathering, reviewing, and responding to a large volume of employee feedback can be time-consuming.
- It can be resource-intensive, requiring specific software.
- Not all employee suggestions may align with organizational goals or be feasible to implement.
- Formal bottom-up communication may result in inconsistent messaging across teams.
3. Formal horizontal comms
This is the sharing of communications between individuals or departments at the same hierarchical level within the organization, for example, cross-functional meetings or interdepartmental emails.
Unlike the vertical communication we discussed above, which involves information flowing up or down within an organization, formal horizontal communication is between colleagues who hold similar positions within the organization.
Leadership consultancy Fierce, Inc. found that 86% of employees feel that a lack of proper collaboration and miscommunication between teams lead to workplace failures.
Formal horizontal communication helps facilitate the smooth functioning of departments, coordination, collaboration, and information sharing. For instance, in a retail setting, it's crucial for the sales team to communicate effectively with inventory management to ensure products are stocked efficiently.
In frontline organizations, formal horizontal employee communication connects the various cogs that make up the company and keeps it functioning. Within the structured internal communications strategy, it can take many forms, including project reports, regular email updates between departments, and the establishment of specific cross-functional teams.
When done right, formal horizontal communication enables seamless collaboration and makes the company culture one of teamwork and shared goals
The key here is constant communication. Using an internal app with a chat function - whether it’s private messaging or a group chat - will promote regular collaboration. Blink’s chat feature enables seamless conversation, to encourage employees to work together and share ideas.
Pros of formal horizontal communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- Promotes knowledge sharing between peers with different expertise.
- Allows teams to align their efforts and activities with each other, avoiding overlap or conflict.
- Improves communication within the organization, leading to better company culture.
- Allows colleagues to provide feedback on each other's work, which they’re often more receptive to than feedback from above.
Cons of formal horizontal communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- A reliance on formal channels may discourage spontaneous creative interactions between colleagues.
- Communication may become siloed within specific departments.
- Can sometimes be time-consuming, especially when multiple people need to be involved.
- May not adapt well to rapidly changing circumstances or unexpected needs.
4. Informal comms
Unlike other aspects of an organization’s internal communications strategy, informal communication isn’t facilitated or regulated by the organization’s internal communication channels. It happens spontaneously between colleagues – watercooler chat, if you will.
This style of communication often occurs in casual settings or through personal relationships and can take place at various levels of the organization, including between employees and managers, and even across different departments.
Informal comms include face-to-face conversations, social media interactions, instant messaging, and phone calls. It serves as a complement to formal communication channels and plays a significant role in building relationships and shaping the company culture.
We can look at Bank of America as a case study. Breaks for customer service employees used to be staggered so as not to have a shortage of staff fielding customer complaints. However, an internal audit found that productivity increased when workers took breaks together and socialized over lunch.
Oftentimes, frontline employees are working in silos and isolated from their coworkers. In frontline organizations, informal communications go beyond just sharing practical insights, it also gives these frontline workers a sense of camaraderie and belonging. In high-stress environments like hospitals or retail, where teams need to work seamlessly to serve customers and patients, these informal connections are invaluable.
Furthermore, workers can share valuable information that they learn on the job, which might not necessarily warrant discussion in formal channels. For example, tips for handling certain customers, which patient rooms have better heating, or even finding help to cover a shift.
The informal nature of these interactions fosters a culture of approachability, ultimately contributing to a more resilient and united frontline workforce.
The main Feed in Blink is designed specifically to foster this informal communication that keeps an organization running. It brings the whole company together in one place, without the formality of a memo or email chain. The Feed looks and feels like the social media apps we’re already accustomed to, making it easy for everyone to use.
Pros of informal communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- Quick and easy, especially in fast-paced environments.
- Helps to build personal relationships and a sense of camaraderie among employees.
- Allows frontline workers a way to connect and engage with their coworkers, especially those who don’t have these opportunities come naturally.
- Practical knowledge, tips, and best practices are shared more easily through informal conversations.
Cons of informal communication in relation to an organization’s internal communications strategy
- Frontline workers are limited in their opportunities for spontaneous chat, requiring the need for a centralized informal communications platform.
- It can lead to the spread of inaccurate information or rumors if not properly managed.
- Individuals who are not part of specific conversations or social circles may be inadvertently excluded.
- Important issues might not receive the attention they deserve when discussed informally.
The importance of effective internal communications is creating an engaged, connected workforce
For a truly effective internal communications strategy, a workforce should be three things: connected, engaged, and aligned.
A connected workforce
The right internal communications strategy bridges the gap between remote, frontline, and office employees. Without a wide-reaching net, internal communications can become stilted or even ineffective.
Frontline employees are consistently at a disadvantage due to the fact they most times do not have a company email or a desktop, like the organization’s office workers.
More than 80% of the global workforce is deskless. Whether your company is in healthcare, manufacturing, or transportation, these frontline workers need to feel just as involved and valued as the ones behind a desk.
For these organizations, effective internal communications reduce turnover, increase profits, enhance employee experience, and boost productivity. Read more about deskless worker team communication here.
An engaged workforce
Transparent communication empowers employees and boosts morale.
When employees are informed about the company's vision and the reasons behind certain actions, they feel a sense of ownership and inclusion. Transparency fosters trust, as employees perceive that their contributions and concerns are valued, leading to increased engagement and overall satisfaction.
Two-way communication is essential for employee engagement – as we covered above, top-down communication can lead to passive reception of information, which is a killer for engagement.
An effective internal communications strategy gives employees the ability to voice concerns and provide feedback or suggestions to management. This gives them a direct hand in decision-making, directly increasing their engagement with their work.
An aligned workforce
Aligning teams and goals across the entire organization, from the CEO to frontline workers, is crucial for success.
This involves ensuring everyone is across the broad business goals and objectives and understands how their individual work is crucial for reaching these goals. A study conducted by IBM found that 72% of employees don’t understand their organization’s core strategy, due to poor communication.
Don’t let that 72% be your employees. An aligned workforce ensures that the messages being communicated resonate with everyone, and are understood in the intended manner.
Effective internal communications leads to better collaboration, within teams and across departments.
Strategies to implement successful internal communications
Only 7% of workers agree that internal communication within their workplace is accurate, timely, and open.
Building a cohesive internal communications strategy is the key to uniting and motivating your workforce. We’ll touch on some strategies to help you create a successful internal communication plan, or you can read our in-depth step-by-step guide to writing an internal communications strategy.
Utilize technology for internal communication
These days, there are endless tools and software available to help organizations stay on top of internal communications. We’re no longer in the age where we have to rely on printed memos and morning meetings.
Blink, and other digital communication tools which promote collaboration and information sharing, can totally revolutionize an organization. They provide efficient, real-time means to disseminate information, engage employees, and foster collaboration.
Not only can these platforms allow employees to ask questions, provide feedback, and participate in discussions, but they also act as a centralized place for policies, procedures, and guides that employees can access.
A recent Emergence study found that more than half of deskless workers are dissatisfied with the software solutions provided by employers.
Particularly for decentralized teams and organizations with frontline workers, technology-driven internal communication plays a pivotal role in keeping employees informed, connected, and aligned with organizational goals.
Understand how to best reach your employees
Obviously, organizations are made up of different types of employees, and traditional top-down internal communication strategies generally don’t take this into account. In order to make sure your message is relevant to your audience, you need to tailor your message based on who you are communicating with.
For example, a message intended for frontline staff may focus on practical details and how it impacts their daily tasks, while a message for senior management might emphasize strategic implications and long-term business goals.
Consider the different workers that need to be reached with your internal communications strategy, and segment your audiences based on:
- Job role
- Seniority level
- Communication needs
- Whether they are desk-based or frontline workers
Then, you can analyze previous engagement data to see what type or format of content works best for each audience – eg. Email, live chat, video, etc., and the best times to communicate for the most engagement.
Utilizing technology can be very helpful here. Blink offers real-time powerful analytics to help you understand what content performs best, when, and with whom.
By customizing the messaging approach, and using data to optimize what the content is and when you are sending it, internal communication becomes more effective, increasing employee engagement and alignment with goals.
Establish regular feedback
Without regular feedback, internal communications are simply one-sided, which does nothing for employee engagement and satisfaction.
Every successful internal communications strategy should have built-in practices to regularly collect feedback from employees at every level of the organization. This can be done through surveys, suggestion boxes, town halls, anonymous feedback, or weekly leadership check-ins.
Employee feedback allows an internal communications strategy to be actually shaped by the people it’ll affect, not just the high-up decision-makers behind desks. Highlighting areas where improvement is needed – before it escalates into a problem – is crucial, not just for the employee experience but also for the success of the business as a whole.
Case study: Our collaboration with Salutem
During the COVID pandemic, the health industry faced endless challenges. Employees and organizations were dramatically affected by high levels of stress, low staff morale, and a huge hit to communications.
Salutem, a healthcare company that provides services such as care homes and healthcare staffing, needed a solution to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic. To do so, Salutem used Blink to revamp their internal communications strategy.
With Blink’s easy-to-use super-app, Salutem was able to launch monthly surveys, collect feedback and plan face-to-face group meetings to encourage two-way conversations between managers and staff.
Salutem launched S.E.L.F (Salutem Employee Listening Forum) initiatives to connect staff and promote a culture of free communication within the organization. Each division had a rep – nominated by managers through the Blink Feed – who were responsible for moderating Blink Channels and following up with their respective teams.
Colleagues were encouraged to share thoughts and open up conversations around concerns or opportunities for growth, which started conversations and reconnected employees across all teams.
The improvements that came from the new internal communications strategy were nearly immediate. The organization saw a:
- 300% increase in survey responses
- 92% adoption rate of Blink
- Tenfold increase in staff who were easy to communicate with
The integral role of internal comms in organizational success
There aren’t many constants in this world, particularly in the ever-changing landscape of a frontline organization. But one does remain: the vital role of an internal communications strategy. From formal top-down messages that steer the company's vision to informal watercooler chats that breed friendships, effective internal communication is crucial for the success of any organization.
By implementing a solid internal communications strategy, organizations can create a workplace where ideas flow freely, where feedback is valued, and where employees are informed, engaged, and motivated. It's a workplace where everyone, from frontline staff to top executives, feels heard, appreciated, and connected.
Internal communications shouldn’t just be a strategy, however. It needs to be a core tenet of your organization’s culture. Introducing an effective tool – like Blink – to encourage effective internal communication is key. By fostering open dialogue, valuing feedback, and leveraging technology, organizations can create an environment where everyone feels heard, informed, and engaged.
It's not about reinventing the wheel, but about adopting effective internal communications strategies that keep your workforce connected and motivated.
Want a preview of what Blink can do? Watch this 2-minute video to see it come to life.