A brief guide to internal communication tools
Internal communications tools are the method, product or software that you use to send and receive messages to and from your frontline. The tools you use should make your communication strategy more effective and streamlined—but they can do the opposite.
Our guide to internal communication tools is here to help! Read on to learn how to:
- Understand the importance of choosing the right internal communication tools
- Audit your existing tech stack
- Choose the most effective communication tools and processes for your organization
The importance of choosing the right internal communication tools
The moment you walk into your office in the morning, you begin communicating with the people around you. Whether you are answering an email, sending a Slack message or just having a face-to-face conversation with a coworker, you are interacting. It may be easy to keep track of your personal interactions at head office…but what about the interactions happening throughout the rest of your organization?
Do you know all of the internal communication tools currently being used to send information to your frontline managers and associates? How many tools and channels are currently in place. These are critical questions to ask. When multiple channels are in use, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand how employees are connecting with one another (and head office), and which channels or tools are most effective for driving performance.
Today’s consumer is more knowledgeable than ever. Internal communication tools have become crucial for creating alignment between different levels of the organization and, ultimately, ensuring employees in the frontline are armed with the best and most current information about your products and brand. That could make a huge difference to your business. Preparing your staff with the right information can drive sales, boost productivity and drive operational consistency across your organization.
Unfortunately, organizations are having difficulty delivering. Recent research found only 35% of frontline workers believe communication at their organization is effective—and 37% of frontline managers and workers believe that fractured communication is a major disruption to their day-to-day work.
The key is to find the right mix of communication tools and channels that makes sense for your industry, your organization and your performance goals. But the first step is auditing your existing tools.
Auditing your existing tech stack
The average worker spends an estimated 28% of the work week managing email and nearly 20% looking for internal information or tracking down associates who can help with specific tasks. With all of the different forms of communication that happen between various levels of the organization, there is a lot that can get lost in translation. Time spent searching different channels for the right information is not a good use of the workday, and can leave staff feeling frustrated or misinformed.
By taking some time to audit your organization’s internal communication tools, you can better understand what is working well, what is not and where the gaps exist.
As you review your tech stack, answer the following:
- What tools or platforms are we using to communicate with our frontline?
- Who manages those tools?
- Whose decision was it to use those tools? What was the objective behind this decision?
- How often are these tools used to send internal communications? To whom?
- How well do these communications fulfill their objectives?
Here is a step-by-step plan for auditing your communication tools. Need help tracking your intel? Our internal communications audit worksheet has a whole section on communication tools! Download it here!
1. List your internal communication tools
First things first. Build out a list of all tools your organization is currently using to communicate internally. Start with all the channels that head office is using to connect with frontline managers (like a learning management system, emails or, ahem, a top-rated enablement platform 💁♀️). Next, find out what the frontline is using to connect with each other (like texting or messaging apps). You may be surprised about the number of ways information is cascading to the frontline.
2. Find out who is using each tool
You have your list. Now, dive deeper by figuring out who exactly is using them. Maybe everyone in the corporate office is connecting via enterprise chat, while frontline managers are receiving company updates through an LMS. By understanding who is engaging with each platform, you will start to build a bigger picture around what is effective for each level of the company.
3. Find out how many people are using each tool
Once you know which areas of the organization are using each tool, the next step is to understand how many employees are engaging with it. Measuring the number of people using each tool will give insight into how widespread each channel is for communicating at work.
4. Find out what each internal communication tool used for
Next up, know the purpose of every tool on your list. How does your organization leverage the tool? Is the tool a platform used to train employees and provide product and service information? Or is there an app used for messaging and sharing ideas amongst store managers. Whatever the underlying purpose of the tool may be, make sure you take note of it. This might also help you to pare back your tech stack later on to a smaller list, if you find a channel with additional functionality.
5. Record engagement levels
The last and probably one of the most important steps when auditing your internal communication tools is to figure out the engagement and effectiveness of each tool. Find out how often the tool is used and the reasons are behind that frequency. Also, it is important to record any feedback received from your employees on the effectiveness of the tool. If you haven’t yet received any feedback from managers or staff, then simply ask! Here are some metrics to help you measure communication effectiveness.
Choosing the right internal communication tools
Once you’ve reviewed your existing tech stack, it’s time to decide what goes, what stays and what needs a complete overhaul. Not sure where to start? Think about the key components of an effective communication strategy to see where you might have gaps.
At the end of this guide, our Internal Communication Tools chart will help you evaluate the pros and cons of the top nine options. But for now, here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider when choosing your communication channels:
Don’t: Rely on email
Sure, email has changed the way we all communicate—but it’s not ideal for getting real-time updates to frontline workers on the floor (especially if you don’t have a BYOD policy in place). It also makes it far too easy to accidentally leave a cohort of employees out of the loop if they change their email address or haven’t yet provided it.
Do: Leverage a digital platform
Moving your communication strategy to a digital communication platform makes it so much easier for organizations to share updates, corral SOPs and provide opportunities for feedback and community-building all from the same place. A digital platform also makes it easy to harvest adoption, engagement and knowledge retention metrics to monitor the effectiveness of your communications (and see early warning signs of disengagement!).
Don’t: Bottleneck info at the floor manager
Another traditional communication channel for organizations is sending crucial info for the location managers to share with their teams verbally. Not only does that create a lot of opportunity for broken telephone, but it also puts a lot of pressure on overworked managers, who are already wearing many hats.
Don’t: Assume posters and bulletin boards reach everyone
“We shared that safety update on the bulletin board!” Oh, we’ve heard that before. But passive communication channels make a lot of assumptions about employee behavior and language. Plus, it leaves zero opportunity to gather workforce insights through metrics.
Don’t: Stick a computer in the break room
You’ve gone the traditional route with an intranet site or an LMS—but now your employees can only access company info when they’re at work, or when they’re on break at the one company computer shared by their whole team. It’s not efficient, and also doesn’t allow for sharing ideas and feedback in real time.
Do: Go mobile
Long gone are the days when organizations banish personal devices to employee lockers. A BYOD program is the best way to stay connected to every member of your team. Sharing real-time updates and announcements to their phones ensures they’re getting it instantly and encourages more interaction and engagement.
Here’s our full internal communication tools comparison chart to help you weigh your options 👇
You’re well on your way to identifying that magic mix of communication tools and channels that makes sense for your organization. And if you need more tips and tricks, read The Ultimate Guide to Frontline Employee Communication!