One of the most significant problems a growing business will face is how to manage internal communication. This isn’t surprising. In fact, 74% of employees report that they are missing out on important company information. How does that happen? Often it is due to a lack of planning on the part of businesses. 60% of companies do not have long-term strategies for handling internal communications.
Why does that happen? Think about extremely small companies and start-ups, for example. These businesses organically develop highly informal methods of communicating internally simply because there isn’t a need for anything more robust. When you have fewer than ten employees, pretty much everyone in the company knows what is going on, what the problems are, what key dates are coming up, and so on.
But this is precisely what can make it hard to transition into being a larger business. Suddenly informal, organic communication methods don’t work and you have to figure out what will work. So when you’re small, you don’t need internal communication plans. And when you’re bigger, it can feel as if it is too late to find a solution.
In this post, we want to describe seven methods for internal communication and rank each of them in three different areas: notifications, general company information, and strategic planning.
The five internal methods we’ll discuss are:
SMS, or text messaging, communicates with employees via the use of a bulk texting app, such as what we offer at Mobile Text Alerts. Texting is the absolute best tool for HR. If you don’t have it, you need it. Here’s why.
First, engagement with texting tends to be higher than other messaging channels. Texts enjoy a 95% open rate on average whereas email rates hover around 23% and organic reach on Facebook is about 5% at best. Everyone reads their texts.
Second, for short, bite-sized information, texting is the ideal medium because it is easy to access and read and will not clutter email inboxes or add to a person’s mountain of Slack notifications.
Third, texting allows for all the same sort of tracking and personalization as email, but, as already mentioned, with better engagement and a better format for short, quick messages.
Though it may surprise you, not everyone is able to receive SMS messages. For people who do not have a mobile phone or do not have texting capabilities on their phone, phone alerts are an excellent way to relay messages promptly and without needing to make a large number of individual calls.
Briefly, phone alerts work by taking a voice recording and sending that recording out to your list members that cannot receive SMS messages.
If you want to start using SMS but are worried about some members of your team not getting messages, phone alerts are a great way to fix that problem.
Email can work well for longer company announcements. Because it is more formal and lends itself to longer messages, email is a good medium for important company-wide announcements.
Often it is a good idea to pair announcements made in all-hands company meetings with emails to review what was discussed.
In other cases, unexpected but significant company news can effectively be communicated via email—an employee being let go, for example.
That being said, while internal emails do have much higher open rates than external—typically in the 66% range—it remains the case that email inboxes are cluttered, things slip between the cracks, and so important information can be missed if communicated primarily or exclusively through email.
Additionally, given that many workers already spend up to a quarter of their time on email, it may be unwise to build your internal comms around a method that many people already feel overwhelmed by and spend too much time with.
Slack is an internal chat system that was designed to replace internal email. It does many things well.
It makes immediate communication with an entire team or an individual easy.
It supports many different apps, like tools for project management, that your business probably already uses.
It provides most of the services you would need as part of an all-in-one internal comms solution.
That being said, email provides most of those services too. Both Gmail and Slack, for example, offer video or audio chats paired with their text-based messaging software.
With tools like Slack, the issue isn’t functionality. It’s volume—when you have an all-in-one messaging solution, well, you have an all-in-one messaging solution. And that means all your messages are going to that one place.
It’s not surprising, then, that Slack fatigue is a thing.
In practice, what can easily happen with Slack is that it doesn’t replace email with something better; it simply doubles your workload for managing messages (if used alongside email) or it simply ends up taking up all the time you used to spend on email.
Thus while there is certainly value in having a messaging app like Slack that can facilitate certain types of internal communication, it is very easy for that useful tool to slip into becoming an enormous time-suck that contributes to burnout within your team.
Internal wikis, maintained either via the open source Media Wiki (which also powers Wikipedia) or through some sort of proprietary software like Tettra, can be an excellent tool for particular types of internal communication.
A wiki is a great place to document various processes that are essential to the company’s day-to-day operations. It can also be where the employee handbook lives as well as things like scripts that sales teams use when calling, guidelines for marketing messaging, and so on.
That being said, a wiki has limited value in as much as it is not built around an inbox and so there is not a great way of sorting messages chronologically or of identifying new content. So for many purposes, especially alerts and notifications, a wiki would be the wrong channel.
Google Docs can be used in many ways. They are helpful as a way of sharing a meeting agenda ahead of time as well as tracking department goals and performance.
What makes them especially useful is the collaborative element which allows multiple users to all contribute to the same doc. (Here's a list of other cloud-based collaboration tools you could use as well.)
Indeed, there are many ways in which Google Docs offers the same benefits as a wiki.
That being said, the problems with wikis also apply in slightly different ways to Google Docs. While you can arrange your docs by when they were most recently edited, most users are not going to treat their Google Drive as being like an email inbox. So time-sensitive information can easily be lost.
Additionally, an excess of dependence on Google Docs can lead to the same problems we have discussed with most other internal comm channels: overuse leads to too many notifications which leads to messages being ignored or not read.
Word-of-mouth, of course, is how most communication gets done in extremely small businesses and start-ups. And up to a certain size it works. But that size is almost certainly smaller than you think it is. Once you have more than ten employees, you almost certainly need some formalized methods for communicating with employees. Word-of-mouth isn’t good enough once you reach a certain size.
For notifications, the best internal messaging channel, by far, is texting.
Notifications are not messages that need to be saved. They are not complex. They do not require much in terms of response from the recipient. So there is little reason for these kind of communications to clog up a person’s inbox or Slack.
Text notifications are highly convenient. Recipients do not have to download an app or create an account in order to receive text messages. Since over 96% of Americans own a cell phone, and 95% of all texts are read, you can almost guarantee that your messages will be delivered and read.
Moreover, because these messages concern particular times and events, they are not relevant to your employees long-term. So there is no need to worry about them being accessible to people a year or 18 months down the road. As for the sender, who is concerned about accurate records, a “Sent Messages” report can easily be viewed in the SMS software.
For this kind of communication, there is simply no close competitor to texting. SMS and phone alerts are by far your best choice for internal notifications and alerts.
At Mobile Text Alerts, we offer a robust SMS software solution for Human Resource Professionals. Our online dashboard and mobile app makes it easy to:
For the kind of information that employees will periodically need to access, a wiki of some kind is your best option. Wikis can be used to document on-boarding processes for new employees, interview processes during hiring, set-up for new clients, sales protocols, and a host of other aspects of your day-to-day work. A wiki is also an easy place to host an employee handbook as well as company policies and rules.
If you need to communicate something that will be relevant to your employees for a long time or concerns essential day-to-day operations of the business, a wiki is an excellent option.
Finally, for strategic planning Google Docs is a great option. You can create a document for meeting agendas, department planning, and so on. Then everyone within the meeting or the team can have access to the doc up to and including the ability to edit the doc themselves.
Google Docs also supports chat between people on the document. In addition to that, the search feature in Google Drive makes it easy to find documents when they are needed.
For internal communication that is complex, highly interactive, and that will need to be returned to many times in the future, Google Docs is an excellent tool.
Most work we do on a day-to-day basis requires a toolbox approach to find a tool for HR that works for different functions rather than a single software application. Internal communications is no different. Depending on the use case, the appropriate channel to use can vary dramatically.
For most day-to-day uses, texting is going to be the best option. For a limited number of highly important pieces of information, a wiki can be fantastic. For planning purposes, Google Docs is still highly valuable. But the key point to keep mind is that not all communications are the same. Different messages have different needs. And as long as you are remembering that and making decisions based on individual use cases rather than anything else, you should do fine.
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