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Want your internal communications to be heard? Use the right tool

Posted by Hannah Price | 6 min read

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Did you know that nearly 50% of communications professionals believe that their companies should rethink their digital workplace communications?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Internal communications problems are rife in the world of business as technology rampantly develops and evolves. It’s hard to keep up.

But communicating important business messages to employees is more important than ever before. If you want loyalty, engagement, and productivity from the highly mobile modern workforce, you need to keep them informed.

To do that, you need the right approach and the right tools—which is what we’re focusing on in this article.

“For employees to be highly productive, they require clear role expectations, the ability to do what they do best, communication about their organization’s mission and purpose, and learning and development opportunities [...].
When employees’ needs are met, they don’t just become “happier” — they become better performers.”

Gallup, State of the American Workplace 2017

 

A closer look at internal communications tools

Communications professionals have a vast and ever-changing array of internal communications tools to choose from. However, not all tools are created equal and not all messages delivered through these tools are always heard.

As we discussed in a recent blog article, choosing the right communications tool for the message is essential for getting it heard. Choosing the wrong one can lead to internal communications problems - wasted time, decreased productivity, and frustrated teams.

In a 2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey (DWC), 250 communications professionals gave feedback on various communications tools - how they’re using them, how much they’re using them, and if they think they’re effective. Let’s consider some of the results:

  • Email
    Email dominated the usage, with 97% of respondents saying they use the medium for both internal and external communications.
  • Intranet
    Corporate intranet also had impressive usage: it came in second place with 78% of those surveyed saying they use the tool as a content repository, collaboration, and  “workplace tool and solution”.
  • Mobile App
    Interestingly, the mobile app scored lowest on utilization at 14%, but highest on effectiveness, at 90%. Presumably this discrepancy is due to a lack of widespread communications apps.
  • Messaging
    Messaging is also a moderately-liked but underutilized tool. Of the 250 communication professionals, only 35% said they used it but 61% find it effective.
  • Social Collaboration Tools
    Around half of those surveyed (45%) use a social collaboration tool at work, and only 45% find it effective for peer-to-peer communication.

Key takeaways

I’ve interpreted the statistics from the DWC survey and batched them into four key takeaways. You can use these to help inform and optimize your internal communications.

1. External email is here to stay

Email clearly isn’t going away (but we didn’t need this survey to tell us that). As an external communications tool, it’s still one of the most effective ways to connect.

However, as an internal tool, that’s not always the case. While this survey hasn’t given details on email’s effectiveness, other research shows that it’s often a poor internal communications tool:

  • Success of delivery is hard to measure
  • People often don’t even open the email due to email-fatigue
  • Messages get lost in “reply-all” emails
  • Important files eventually get buried in the inbox
  • Multi-way conversations are challenging

For internal communications, it may be better to invest in a communications platform that’s been built to connect people to each other and the business.

2. Intranets are well-used, and it's easy to see why

The intranet usage is impressive and is fulfilling a variety of purposes: document storage, collaboration, and “workplace tool and solution”. Unfortunately the survey doesn’t have results for “effectiveness” of the intranet, but this would be quite challenging to measure as intranets—like ‘social communication tools’—vary dramatically.

Traditional intranets are static online spaces that are primarily used for document storage, whereas modern intranets are communications platforms that act as online communications hub for the entire company.

A modern intranet can include a variety of features, such as a news section, organizational chart, and messaging. Everyone uses it to stay up-to-date with what’s happening across the company.  

In a tangible way, a modern intranet creates connections across the company and as such they’re a powerful, central communications tool. While it’s often managed by a couple of people within your company, everyone can participate.

In this way, a modern intranet reflects the people who make up the company, which in turn enriches company culture and employee engagement.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the intranet usage is so high. If you’re looking to increase communication and collaboration across your company, they seem to be a no-brainer.

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3. Social collaboration tools should be business relevant

Messaging seems to be the preferred method for peer-to-peer communications, while social collaboration tools aren’t highly satisfactory. Unfortunately, ‘social collaboration tools’ is quite a broad term; the market for these product is huge and the software varies wildly.

That being said, one of the things I often hear from people with social collaboration tools is that they’re just another piece of software they have to check on. They feel like they’re just social for social’s sake.

Those people are getting news through email and get their files from their intranet, so they don’t have any reason to be in the social collaboration space. It becomes more of a chore, so people slowly stop logging in and the social tool fails.

4. Mobile apps are critical to business communication

Mobile apps are clearly few and far between, but users appreciate them as a way to receive corporate communications. 90% effectiveness is a statistic that’s worth noting.

As the world becomes more and more mobile (66% of emails are opened on a mobile device) businesses need to keep up. When looking for a new internal communications tool, it’s important to consider one with a mobile app.

Conclusion

While modern business brings about many internal communications challenges, they can often be overcome with modern communications tools. It’s just important to appropriately match the communications tool with the need. If you feel like your internal communications are struggling, it may be time to look at the effectiveness of your tools and consider another approach.

If you have any questions, or communication success stories, we’d love to hear from you.
 

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