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Internal Communications

6 min read

Wooden boards arranged as stairs with a black arrow hopping up them
Wooden boards arranged as stairs with a black arrow hopping up them

Improve internal communication in 5 steps [with templates]

How can you improve internal communication? Follow our step-by-step guide (with free templates) to find out.

Improving internal communication is as important as it is tricky because it doesn't follow any simple rules, just like with your family, partner, or friends. Whenever people come together, misunderstandings inevitably arise; disputes and rumors can ensue.

Nevertheless, you can create the basic conditions for a productive, positive, and professional exchange with the right questions, strategies, and tools. To help with this, we're sharing an overview of exactly how you can improve internal communication today

Why is internal communication so important?

Surely you can think of examples from your working life where internal communication failed. It might have been in times of crisis, a dispute between colleagues, or in connection with a wholly overwhelmed leader. What were the consequences of these communication disasters? Dissatisfied, distracted employees, a bad working atmosphere, or perhaps even dismissals?

81 percent less absenteeism is recorded by engaged employees. Those who improve internal communication increase engagement.

Even though research has long focused on external communication - after all, external stakeholders bring money into the company - many studies show there are benefits in improving internal communication.

  • Good internal communication has been shown to improve trust between employees and managers. This not only leads to good work internally, but also positively affects customer relations.
  • Internal communication can activate employees' intellectual and creative abilities, improving productivity.
  • Internal communication boosts employee engagement - their enthusiasm for work and their employer.

Engaged employees ...

✔ have 81% less absenteeism

✔ work 18% more effectively

✔ have 64% fewer accidents at work

✔ stay longer in the company

✔ lead to 23% higher profits

✔ increase customer loyalty by 10%

Source: Gallup GmbH

Internal communication in 5 steps

  1. Analyze the initial situation 
  2. Define goals and strategy  
  3. Clarify responsibilities  
  4. Optimize channel architecture 
  5. Measure success 

Step 1: Analyze the initial situation

Before anything can be improved, you've got to analyze the status quo. Only then can you define what "improvement" actually looks like. To evaluate where your internal communication currently stands, you can start with two points:

  1. The needs of your staff
  2. Your tools and instruments

You can only improve internal communication if you look at both factors together. Internal communication tools are a means to an end, but they shouldn't be your starting point. On the other hand, a change in staff needs can sometimes only be met by new tools or different use of existing tools. 

Start the analysis with your employees and create surveys or conduct standardized interviews. Templates for surveys can be found online, for example in this study. You can go through the following aspects:

  • How well does knowledge transfer work?  
  • Do staff know where to find relevant information?  
  • How credible and authentic do your leaders appear to your staff? 
  • What about employee satisfaction?  
  • How likely would you recommend your company as an employer to people you know (internal Net Promoter Score)? 
  • How much do employees identify with your company?  
  • Do your employees feel valued and listened to? Do they know where they can voice criticism? 
  • How do employees rate different dimensions of your company? For example, how active or passive are you perceived as being, dynamic or sluggish, progressive or conservative?  

In addition, get an idea of which communication channels are currently used for which information. You can use the following structure to compare your internal communication channels and tools:

Improve internal communication: Channel-Analysis-Matrix

Step 2: Define goals and strategy

From the results of step one, you can now deduce where your internal communication can contribute to improvements or be improved. You may already have ideas in mind. The rule here is: don't run off immediately. Channels, instruments, and responsibilities would be the next step. Before that, focus on translating the challenges into goals and prioritizing them. A cost-benefit matrix is a good way to do this.

Improve internal communication: challenges

If you still need to do so, now is the opportunity to work out your company's tone of voice. You may have already defined corporate values for yourself. These are similar to how you want to come across in internal communication, and should inform your tone of voice.

Corporate values usually apply to all employees. What you demand from your employees must be doubly observed in your management communication. The values form the framework for all measures and the operational implementation of your internal communication. 

Examples are:

  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Transparency

Step 3: Clarify responsibilities

Now that the strategic framework is in place, it's time to get down to the nuts and bolts. First, clarify who will lead the "internal communications improvement" project. Larger companies often create a dedicated position as Chief Culture Officer, Internal Communications Manager, or similar. In smaller companies, internal communications are the responsibility of the head of HR, the communications or marketing department, management, or their assistant. 

The person in charge must be in close contact with all managers and constantly work on internal communication principles, challenges, and goals. Without the involvement of department heads and other stakeholders, efforts to improve internal communication will come to nothing.  

Clear responsibilities are also needed for each improvement measure. Keep an overview of who is responsible for what. 

Improve internal communication: responsibilities

Internal communication is mainly practiced in teams. The keyword here is reference group-oriented communication. All channels and instruments must be used for a specific reference group and fulfill a clear purpose. Gaps in the channel architecture stand in the way of improved internal communication just as much as redundancies.

Step 4: Optimize channel architecture

You've analyzed the status quo and defined goals, fields of action, and responsibilities. Now it's time for the penultimate step: tackle the channel architecture. The trend towards more remote work due to the covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many long overdue developments: The bulletin boardpost-its, and word of mouth no longer work - and frankly, were never reliable communication channels in the first place. 

Another challenge is that non-desk workers are often neglected in internal communication, yet they comprise 80 percent of employees worldwide. On average, this large majority benefits from only one percent of all software investments. With the growth of employee apps, it's clear that a shift in internal communication has already begun. 

However, don't decide how to optimize your company's internal communication based on internal communication trends alone - the analysis of the employee needs should drive everything. Bring the results from step one together in a channel selection matrix with your prioritized measures. 

Improve internal communication: Channel-Selection-Matrix

The channel selection matrix illustrates which measures, channels, and tools you need and which don't contribute to your goals. Ideally, there are no gaps and no redundancies in your channel architecture after the improvement project. For example, to collect feedback through employee surveys, you only use one tool in addition to personal interviews. Central information is maintained in an equally central location.

Instruments of internal communication

  • Internal newsletter/e-mail 
  • Company-wide meetings and kick-offs 
  • Online meetings 
  • Internal wiki 
  • Employee blog 
  • Social intranet 
  • Messengers like WhatsApp 
  • Instant messengers for companies  
  • Employee app 

You can find the advantages and disadvantages in our overview of internal communication tools.

Step 5: Measure and optimize

Remember step one? You can use the same questionnaire for the status quo survey again after implementing your internal communication improvement project. Your progress and new potential for improvement will become apparent at this point. 

Improving internal communication follows a typical "Plan, Do, Check, Act" cycle: it's not a one-off project but requires ongoing adaptation. 

Conclusion: Improve internal communication with a system

Once you've gone through the five steps to improve internal communication, you should have an overview of:

  • what you want to communicate, 
  • your goals, 
  • who is responsible, 
  • which channels are used for which types of communication, 
  • and how you measure the success of your efforts.  

As described at the onset, crucial success factors, such as employee motivation, productivity, and, ultimately, your company's profitability, depend on your internal communication. With a properly planned strategy, clear responsibilities, and above all, the right tools, you can stand out from your competition.

Want to learn more about ways to improve internal communication? Read our 7-point plan for implementing a successful social intranet.

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