In order to be successful, internal communication channels need to to reach all employees at the right time and with the right message and content. But some channels are better suited to this task than others. We've examined eight common channels to support your employee communication strategy and ranked them from the best to the worst.
Which ones can help you make the difference?
The 8 Most Important Channels for Employee Communication
1. Employee App
A mobile employee app is a powerful tool. In addition to being the most robust communications channel available, an employee app supports all of your employee touch points, such as HR processes, knowledge management, and employee self-services. And they're receiving increased praise from the savviest of today's companies.
Highly regarded for being streamlined and convenient, their functions are being developed to meet the most essential organizational needs, and they can be quickly implemented, especially compared to the large and cumbersome IT projects of the past. Given these developments, it shouldn't be surprising that employee apps are now a hot topic among internal communications specialists.
2. Staff Meetings
While indispensable for the delivery of crucial messages and the benefits of face-to-face interaction, if you have a dispersed workforce, the associated travel expenses can make it costly to get everyone in the room. This is a top-down communication channel in which reach is limited to attendees. Don't get us wrong: meetings are great, but they simply don't work in terms of involving remote workers with any regularity.
Once the go-to means of employee communication, email use is declining. As workers become increasingly remote, and freelancing is on the rise, not everyone will have a corporate email address. In fact, 70% of today's workforce doesn't work at a desk.
And even for those who do, the reach of email depends upon a recipient's ability to slog through their swamped mailboxes—assuming they even still bother check them with any regularity. 20% of emails are never even read.
4. Employee Magazine
Long valued for their reach, branding, and storytelling strengths, traditional company newsletters nonetheless have many downsides: they're expensive and slow to produce, they lack immediacy, and their effects are difficult to quantify. Alternatives to printed corporate magazines are therefore being sought by many companies. Check out the video below about how Germany's Paulaner Brewery successfully replaced their print magazine with an employee app.
5. Written Letters
Written letters remain a great means of communication on those exceptional occasions when a personal touch will make your message more sincere, such as a Christmas greeting from management to employees. But written letters offer no real benefit for day-to-day internal communications because they lack speed, mobility, and measurable reach.
6. Information Cascade
While spreading information from the top down may the backbone of information distribution within many companies, it greatly depends on the individual communication skills of the managers responsible for sharing important information. Reach is also a challenge here—especially with field- and shift workers generally isolated from management.
7. Terminal Displays
This modern update on the traditional bulletin board is a possible option if you have a lot of picture and video content and workers concentrated in one place, such as the factory floor. However, it's not a mobile solution and it's very limited in many ways, starting with reach. Displays will often only be effective as a supplementary channel.
8. Bulletin Boards
They're cheap, local, and easy to use, but they are more than a bit old fashioned in terms of speed, interaction, and analytics. Nor are they of any use to workers on the road. There's no way to measure the actual reception of messages or to communicate information in crisis situations. If you're expecting a bulletin board to spread company news, plan on being disappointed.
And by the way, don't confuse "access" (a term often used by IT to refer to the ability to access a tool even though it's hopelessly complicated) with "reach" (employees can see messages on their smartphones on their way to work without having to log in, etc.).
"Access" does not necessarily mean that they are easily accessible. It is "reach" that companies need, especially since it can also be measured!
What Makes a Good Internal Communication Channel?
Reach: As of 2019, 35% of US workers were freelancing. The total number of freelancers in the US has increased to 57 million, up by 4 million since 2014. The steadily increasing share of freelancers and the growing gig economy, not to mention the number of people working at home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, will drive this figure even higher.
That's why it is particularly important to reach those employees who are not sitting at their desk, but work elsewhere, be it out on the factory floor, behind the counter, or at the local coffee shop. The reach of your channels is a clear measure of effective communication.
Timeliness: Receiving information and communicating in real time has become a must for many people. Organizations now specialize in meeting this need: Amazon offers express delivery; Netflix makes movies and series instantly accessible; newspapers send push messages with breaking news; and our smartphones allow us to be online at all hours, regardless of time and place.
Interaction: Does your business information flow in one direction only, or is there an option for two-way communication? Social media features such as likes, comments, and sharing are becoming increasingly important communication options that today's employees expect. They also favor bottom-up interactions and improve peer-to-peer communication. Both are essential for increasing productivity in the workplace.
Measurability: Can you see how many employees have received a particular message? This sounds like a basic requirement, but not all channels can meet it.
Storytelling: Stories are a very good way to share information and convey values. But some channels make effective storytelling much easier than others. Putting the task of regularly creating new content in the hands of your employees makes this challenge a lot easier.
Rich media: Pictures and especially videos are a great way to create compelling stories. A picture is worth a thousand words. If your video takes thirty frames per second, then every moment of the video is worth 30,000 words. Multiply 30,000 by 60 seconds - a common length for an information video - and you get 1.8 million words! Not bad, is it?
Local: The closer, the more relevant. That's why a discussion about corporate strategy on the internal blog usually has fewer comments than the decision about a new site cafeteria. This is not to say that strategic communication should be left out, but that local content is a good way to establish a lively and relevant communication channel.
Costs: The impact of internal communication on the success of a company is difficult to measure, but new tools are increasingly making this possible. It is therefore extremely important to start examining your communication measures for cost-effectiveness as soon as possible.
Which communications channels are you using successfully in your organization?
We'd love to know, so drop us a line in the comments section below.