Successful organizations tend to also have excellent communication strategies. I’m of the opinion that to communicate well externally, an organization must be united internally as well.
Productivity increases 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, however 70% of employees are not engaged at work (Paton, 2015). It stands to reason, most organizations have room to grow in the arena of internal communication.
Internal communication is simply communication that happens within an organization. That can be in any form from an official address to an impromptu conversation between employees.
The communication climate is the general framework of communication flow within the organization. It differs according to the nature and mission of the organization as well as its leadership. It can be freely flowing (open and welcoming) in some environments and stifled (quiet and confidential) in others. It’s one of the key components of a successful organization and is recognizable almost immediately upon entering.
Regardless of the climate, internal communication can always improve. Over-communication isn’t a term that’s used very often when referring to communicating within an organization.
This week I’ve studied some traditional methods of internal communication, as well as some more modern platforms for information sharing within organizations. Since effective communication is so valuable, leading to motivation, productivity and loyalty, choosing the best way to communicate a message internally can be challenging. This decision requires wisdom and foresight from organization leaders. The message content, audience, severity and timing must be considered when selecting the preferred communication channel.
The most common form or organizational communication is email, which became popular in 1993, soon after the internet was invented. This has transformed communication in the business world. It makes it possible to transfer text, images, and attachments immediately. All that’s required is a digital device and an internet connection – both easily accessible. This form of communication is so easy to use, therefore, it is. The average employee receives 147 emails a day (Hussein, 2014) and spends 1/3 of his or her day reading, organizing, prioritizing and replying to email (Trinkle, 2014). Therein lies the challenge. As easy as it is to send, it’s just as easy to miss. Recipients may not see your email because it gets lost among all the other email traffic that takes place in their inboxes during a day. Even if employees receive the email and open it, they may not read the message entirely or may misinterpret what was intended. Other email challenges include errors in the message, requiring follow-up emails adding more confusion. Often emails are sent to incorrect recipients or the correct recipients are left off by mistake. Organization-wide emails only go to current employees, which can create challenges when new employees join. They can be a step behind before they step foot into the door. As convenient and efficient as email can be, it doesn’t come without its own challenges and mishaps.
Intranet came onto the larger organization business scene mid-90s, around the same time as email. Intranet is an internal digital platform for an organization only accessible by its members. Current widely used intranets like Jostle and Communifire provide organizations the capacity to house all pertinent information and communication in an easily accessible location. It is contained within an organization’s network and not available to the general public. It serves as a starting point for employees to access company specific information and outside resources. Its communication benefits include employee accessibility to important documents, communicating messages to particular organization audiences, keeping employees current in policies via training tools, as well as enhancing employee connectivity through interaction and collaboration. The challenges of this tool can be numerous. Connectivity issues, password problems, an ineffective layout can be a few of the hurdles in adopting this method.
In-person communication is a strong communication tool to disseminate information internally. Individual and staff meetings are more personal, direct and conducive to two-way communication. This provides a better opportunity for the employees and leadership to be on the same page. Different members may report on key topics/events in their area and the leader uses this feedback to encourage, provide advice or redirect back to organizational goals or standards. Often employees are recognized for service, which gives employees value in the organization. Obviously, members must be present for this form to be effective.
Tele/Video conferencing has become an increasingly popular form of organizational communication particularly in connecting people located in different places. Collaboration is possible with people from all over the world using this platform, usually accessed by an internet site and or phone. This can be a major cost saver to organizations with members spread across multiple locations and can assist with organization communication. Usually these virtual meetings are recorded for reference or sharing later. Technical issues do arise from time to time, and if not resolved quickly can compromise the exchange of information.
Social meetings can often have more impact on an organization than formal meetings. These events can be birthday celebrations, staff lunches or invitations to an outing after working hours. These breaks from the working norm can boost morale and deeper the connection between employees and the organization.
Printed communication in some forms, is becoming an outdated form of information sharing, but still remains a requirement in many organizations. These includes everything from signature-approved memos, internal newsletters, a staff handbook, a resource library and even signage on a bulletin board. These methods serve to be effective in some ways can present their own challenges as well.
Some more modern channels of communication are in line with social media trends. These digital communication tools improve employee engagement through teamwork and collaboration. Some of the popular internal social media tools include: Yammer, Podio, Wrike and Skype. Yammer is a employee communication hub that fosters communication and collaboration giving employees the ability to chat, share files and organize projects. Similar in function, Podio and Wriken are web-based platforms for organizing team communication, business processes, data and content in project management workspaces. Skype gives employees a platform for digital voice and video calls, keeping them from accumulating costs on their personal devices/plans.
These digital tools are meant to assist the communication within an organization. Leaders must keep in mind the audience and members of their organizations and their openness to trying new technology. These forms are immediate fails if the employees are not on board.
Selecting an appropriate communication channel can seem like a daunting task, but in the end the organization leaders must choose the most effective channel for a particular message with the resources available in that moment of time.