Internal communication makes companies work behind the scenes. Only through internal communication can you ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal. Effective communication within the workplace:
- Gives employees a sense of purpose and engagement
- Clarifies messaging
- Helps deliver on brand promises
- Boosts company resiliency in times of crisis
- Improves transparency
- Increases employee retention rates
But workplace communication isn’t always easy, especially when all or most of your employees are working remotely. You’ll need to strategize everything from how you convey your message to which communication channel you use. Fortunately, following a few easy workplace communication tips can help get everyone aligned and make sure no information is lost.
Barriers and benefits
Although many different communication tools are used in the workplace, there are only two basic types of workplace communication: vertical and horizontal. Both are important, but they have very different pros and cons. To implement better communication, you first need to understand both types of workplace communication, along with the barriers that can affect all communication within an organization.
Vertical communication comes downward from boss to employee or upward from employee to supervisor. Vertical communication might also involve groups of people, such as a message to all staff members from the CEO or an announcement from a team leader to several direct reports. This type of communication is pretty straightforward, but details can be lost or confused if the conversation doesn’t occur in real time or there isn’t a solid strategy for responding and clarifying.
Whether it’s between members of the C-suite, janitorial staff or marketing team, horizontal communication happens between people who are at the same level in the company hierarchy. The important thing is that no one in the communication loop is a supervisor or other superior. These communications can sometimes get messy when different members of the group put forth their own, sometimes competing, ideas. That’s why it’s usually best to track horizontal communication in writing, like text or chat, emails or a written log of verbal discussions.
Internal communication channels can be verbal or written. Verbal communication channels include casual watercooler discussions, in-person meetings, phone calls or video conferencing. The conversation could be vertical or horizontal in nature and might include up to hundreds of people. Verbal communication is typically best for:
- Group meetings
- Conveying sensitive information
- Raises, promotions and performance reviews
In most cases, you’ll want a written log of what was discussed, whether it’s contemporaneous notes, a transcript or follow-up note.
Written communication channels include email, text messaging, internet forums, chats and messenger apps. Written communication is often best for:
- Lengthy chunks of information
- Creating a paper trail
- Quick questions and short discussions
Barriers to internal communication
No matter the specific type or format of communication, there are some potential hurdles to smooth internal communication.
In your everyday conversations, you and your friends set your own unwritten rules. Maybe one friend hates phone calls, while another hates texting. One might check her email 20 times a day, while another never checks it at all. You know which friends prefer which styles, and you adapt to include everyone.
To communicate effectively in the workplace, you need that same attention to individual preferences. But you’ll also want to find commonalities that foster open lines of communication between people who might have very different styles. In many cases, it’s best to set standards for formal communication that everyone has to follow, such as posting team updates to a particular channel or reading the status report from the big boss once per week.
One of the trickiest parts of internal communication is figuring out how to get the message across. A dull, overly formal presentation usually makes people tune out and miss important information. But if you’re too casual in your style, people might not take your words seriously. Strike a balance by breaking up formal documents with charts and other visual input, and finding a tone that is professional but plain-spoken and “human,” without too much jargon.
Inappropriate number of communication channels
Some channels are better than others for certain types of communication, so it’s vital to provide a mix of platforms. Just make sure everyone knows which types of communication should go through which platform.
That said, there is such a thing as too many platforms. If there are a lot of choices and you don’t specify which one to use when, information can easily get lost. People won’t know where to look when they need to access a specific message.
Internal communication skills
Effective internal communication requires a variety of skills, including:
- General communication skills: Active listening, clarification and careful messaging are key.
- Topic knowledge: Before you send a message, make sure you’re prepared to become the point of reference on that topic. Be ready for questions and clarification requests.
- Knowing your audience: Think about who you’re talking to. A new hire will likely need more detail than a manager, while someone in the C-suite might not know exactly what’s happening on the floor.
Communication mistakes and how to avoid them
There are as many ways to mess up internal communication as there are messages generated. But some of the most common include:
- Using the wrong channel
- Not targeting the desired audience
- Going off message
- Failing to build audience engagement
Using Slack for better internal communication
At Slack, we understand the importance of internal communication and all the ways that things can go sideways. That’s why we offer a streamlined platform with a variety of channels designed to help you manage various types and styles of communication.
Whether you need to send out an internal newsletter, organize an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with a key executive or host a companywide meeting with more than 1,000 attendees, Slack makes it easy to set up relevant channels. Bringing all these types of communication into a single platform with well-organized channels helps employees know where to go for the information they need and helps to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.