Are Your Internal Communication Tools Broken?


Table of Contents

What Are Internal Communication Tools?

Yesterday’s internal communication tools don’t meet the expectations of today’s employees.

That statement won’t surprise experienced comms professionals. They understand the challenge in getting the attention of their workforces. But that task has become exponentially more complicated in recent years because their outdated channels and tools simply have not kept pace with employees’ communication needs.

Then came the coronavirus (COVID-19). It went from bad to worse.

C-suite executives have belatedly learned something that has dire ramifications throughout their organizations. They can’t reach everyone with critical messages that keep them safe, help them do their jobs, and maintain business continuity in this unprecedented time. The pandemic has uncovered gaps and antiquated systems as they try to connect with employees who are more dispersed than ever.

Their internal communication tools are broken.

They have discovered the hard way something highlighted in a recent Forrester SiriusDecisions webinar about crisis comms: “Many companies have severely under-invested in employee communications.” And it impacts every aspect of the workplace experience when top-down messages aren’t getting to every employee. That helps explain why a recent Morgan Stanley report found that CIOs worldwide see solutions to supporting remote workers – such as internal communication tools – as their No. 1 priority.

Before we get too far into our discussion, let’s take a step back.

What is internal communication?

The definition of internal communication, also known as workplace communication and employee communication, is the effective distribution of trustworthy information to everyone within an organization to keep people connected, engaged and focused on the company’s objectives and values.

Internal communication tools simply are the methods and channels that organizations utilize to get that information to employees. Their effectiveness is crucial because successful workplace communication is essential for engaging people and keeping the workforce focused on what matters. But the reality is that traditional tools haven’t been up to the challenge – even in normal times.

  • People have so many distractions in their lives that compete for their attention
  • Employees are either deluged by the sheer volume of workplace email or don’t have access to it
  • The proliferation of communication channels, such as collaboration tools, is overwhelming
  • Most employees are deskless – working on factory floors, in hospital wards, in retail showrooms, or driving delivery trucks
  • Even more employees are working remotely, and harder to engage, during the pandemic
  • Information silos hinder the ability to reach everyone with essential messages

Next, let’s explore how traditional internal communication tools have contributed to the growing problem.

Standard Workforce Communication Tools

Think about the evolution of employee communication.

Not all that long ago, electronic mail – you know, the “e” in email – was the hot new technology. It replaced the hard-copy version of memos distributed to employees. (Some of us will remember the old inter-office envelopes, complete with button and string.)

But the days when people got excited about hearing “You’ve Got Mail!” are long gone. Most of us dread looking at our in-boxes. Still, email remains a go-to channel for internal communication. The 2019 Internal Communications Measurement Survey, conducted by Ragan Communications, discovered that email remains the mainstay for how most organizations engage with their employees. They also use a hodgepodge of common workforce communication methods to disseminate information.

Ragan Communications

But what’s the most essential element of employee communication?

It’s knowing that everyone heard you!

That’s the age-old problem for internal communicators. They’ve always struggled to measure the impact of their efforts. The Ragan Communications survey found that only 22 percent of respondents said they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their ability to measure their communication. And one-third don’t measure at all.  

In fact, 58 percent of respondents said the lack of internal communication tools was the biggest challenge to measuring their effectiveness. Also, 30 percent said the available tools aren’t adequate for their needs.

Mark Ragan“The No. 1 question that I’m asked at every conference is ‘How do I communicate with a dispersed workforce?’” said Mark Ragan, CEO and Publisher of Ragan Communications, which hosts events that draw thousands of communicators each year. “Yet amazingly, some companies are still literally putting up paper flyers around their offices, like in the break rooms. I’ll think, ‘What, are we in the 1990s?’”

Kerri WarnerKerri Warner, the Global Head of Employee Communications at Mastercard, added that measuring the reach of messages is a must for comms teams today.

“Typically, people don’t get into communications because they’re focused on data and metrics,” Warner said. “We’re driven by creating words that influence and stories that matter. But the unintended consequence is that way of thinking doesn’t give communicators muscle inside the organization. Metrics are what get you taken more seriously.”

Why Internal Communication Is Critical

  1. Gets everyone the information they need to do their jobs better
  2. Aligns employees around the company mission, vision, goals
  3. Empowers employees to be better company ambassadors
  4. Explains the company values and principles
  5. Increases employee engagement
  6. Improves workplace productivity
  7. Keeps everyone informed during a crisis

Internal Communication Statistics

  1. Inefficient workplace communication resulted in increased stress levels (52 percent of respondents), delays or failures to complete projects (44 percent), low company morale (31 percent), missed performance goals (25 percent), and lost sales (18 percent), according to a survey of U.S. executives. Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit
  2. 86 percent of corporate executives, employees, and educators say that ineffective communication is a key reason for workplace failures. Source: Salesforce
  3. The vast majority of the world’s workers – 80 percent– don’t sit at desks, which makes them harder to reach and engage. Source: The Rise of the Deskless Workforce report
  4. 67 percent of survey respondents say they need more and better communication from their employer. Source: FleishmanHillard
  5. 52 percent of employees have witnessed poor financial outcomes due to ineffective communication, such as lost sales and damaged company reputation. Source: Dynamic Signal
  6. 36 percent of employees said they don’t know where to find the information they need to do their work. Source: Dynamic Signal
  7. 63 percent of employees are so frustrated by the way their company communicates with them that they’re ready to quit. Source: Dynamic Signal
  8. 85 percent of employees lose at least one to two hours of productivity a week searching for information. Source: Dynamic Signal
  9. 63 percent of employees say they would like their employer to share information about the coronavirus at least daily. Source: Edelman
  10. More than one-third (38 percent) of communicators say they did not have a crisis communication plan before the outbreak. Source: Ragan Communications

And here’s an eye-opening bonus statistic.

  1. Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $483 and $605 billion annually in lost productivity. Source: Gallup

The Modern Internal Communication Tool

One solution for closing the internal communication gap is to modernize the way you’re engaging with employees.

Think about the way we receive information in our personal lives. It comes directly to us – usually on our mobile devices. We get alerts from news sources that we trust. We have apps that are user friendly. Everything is made easy for us. It’s an engaging experience.

Well, guess what? Employees expect their places of work to communicate with them in the same way. It’s why digital Employee Communication and Engagement platforms, like Dynamic Signal, have become the modern way for organizations to connect with their people.

For instance, Dynamic Signal’s platform:

  • Reaches every employee, wherever they are, and on the devices that they prefer – whether through a desktop app or mobile app – with the information they need and want
  • Enables internal communicators to measure the reach of their content accurately, so they can understand who received the information – and then optimize their efforts
  • Gives leaders the confidence that the entire organization is hearing their messages, so everyone is aligned around company objectives and purpose
  • Allows employees to provide instant feedback through Quick Pulse surveys and comments, so companies have a finger on the pulse of what their people are thinking

An Employee Communication and Engagement platform is consumer-grade technology. Yesterday’s systems are failing because they are just not the way we communicate anymore. Mailers and newsletters! How dated is that information by the time you see it!

Instead, this is an agile, innovative, and urgent internal communication tool that gets your people’s attention in real-time – when it matters most.

Like, for instance, during a crisis.

Internal Communication During a Crisis

In 2020, we’ve all seen how critical it is to keep employees safe. Between the pandemic and the protests for greater social justice, it’s critical that organization keep their people informed with trusted, timely, and transparent communication.

Employees are suddenly working from home. Or they’re working on-site and in the field under extraordinary circumstances. They need to know the new policies, guidelines, and procedures to do their jobs in this new environment. And at a time of social upheaval, they want to know where their organization stands on issues that matter to them.

A recent Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report found that “employee communications” is the most credible source of coronavirus information. Sixty-three percent of survey participants said they are turning to employers as a news source – more than government (58 percent) or the media (51 percent).

Aaron Strout“We’ve always been big believers that you should have a crisis communication plan in place and be an expert on connecting with your employees,” added Aaron Strout, the Chief Marketing Officer of W2O, an agency with deep connections in the healthcare industry. “I think COVID-19 is showing the truth of this idea. Leaders who are listening to, having empathy with, and communicating with their employees and other stakeholders are the ones making a difference.”

The right internal communication tools matter during a crisis for both employees and executives.

  • Employees are hungry for trusted and relevant information. They want direction, guidance, reassurance. They expect it on modern technology. Employees need a connection to their employer and co-workers – now more than ever.
  • Leaders need a communication channel that cuts through the noise. From C-level executives to regional and factory managers, company leaders need the ability to provide accurate, timely information to everyone in the organization, no matter where they are located.

As we’ve discussed, there can be limitations to traditional internal communication tools. But an Employee Communication and Engagement platform is a centralized hub that serves as a “source of truth.” It’s where employees can find trustworthy information from the C-suite that makes everyone feel more invested in the workplace and helps them do their jobs better.

Employee Communication Case Studies

Here are three great examples of companies using Employee Communication and Engagement Platforms powered by Dynamic Signal to keep their workforces connected, engaged, and inclusive.

Brightview

Maryland-based Brightview Senior Living, which has 41 assisted-care communities in eight East Coast states, was rated No. 1 by FORTUNE magazine among large companies for Seniors Housing & Care in the 2019 Best Workplaces for Aging Services. Communicating with the 4,600 associates – most of them on the frontlines helping people – has always been important. But it became critical when the COVID-19 pandemic struck to keeping associates and residents safe.

Jennifer PetersIn less than a month after launching BVLink, the organization’s Employee Communication and Engagement platform, 93 percent of the associates had registered. They were receiving real-time communication from executive leaders, so that everyone was kept informed, healthy, and inspired throughout these enormously difficult times.

“We wanted this for a long time,” said Jennifer Peters, Systems Training Specialist. “But when the pandemic hit, we all understood the greater sense of urgency. It means so much when our leadership is able to speak directly to all of our frontline associates during such a challenging time.”

The healthcare network has a dispersed workforce of 53,000 at 100 facilities and offices primarily across Northern California – working around-the-clock shifts, seven days a week. With employees so dispersed, Sutter Health uses an Employee Communication and Engagement Platform called Team Sutter to reach employees wherever they are – typically on their mobile devices.

About 60 percent of the workforce uses Team Sutter to access critical information. But it’s not just top-down communication. Team Sutter also is a place for people to celebrate the company. Employees share stories about the great work their colleagues are doing and highlight their culture of caring.

“Dynamic Signal really connects Sutter Health employees because we’re so scattered,” said Carey Peterson, Internal Communications Director. “This tool is helping people get to know each other. We also wanted our employees to share the amazing news of what they’re doing not only internally, but also externally. I have not seen a program that has united our workforce the way this app has.”

Essilor

Dallas-based Essilor of America is the leading manufacturer of optical lenses in the U.S. The company uses Wired, an Employee Communication and Engagement platform, to provide information to 8,500 employees across North America and maintain a close-knit culture in the dispersed company.

Holly GillentineEmployees share success stories on the platform to drive a sense that they are all part of something bigger than themselves. They can also post approved content on their personal social media channels. That spreads the word about why Essilor is a special place and the great work done to improve the sight of millions of people.

“Dynamic Signal is at the center of our communication strategy for several reasons,” said Holly Gillentine, Vice President of Corporate Communications. “It’s the way that we communicate with our employees. It also allows our employees to share and connect to the broader community at large. So, while it’s not the only tool we use, it’s the centerpiece of what we use to communicate.”

Internal Communication Going Forward

The events of 2020 have shown organizations that improving their internal communication tools is not a marathon. It has become a sprint. Employees need to know what’s happening with their companies and their roles in helping maintain business success. And they need to know right now.

Traditional communication tools like email, Intranets, and even printed mailers still have a role to play in supporting the information needs of your employees. But the days are over when organizations can depend on any of them for any effective internal communication strategy.

Companies that focus on modern workplace communication tools are building connected, engaged, and more inclusive workplaces.

Just imagine a world where internal communication isn’t broken. It can be a reality when you have the right tools.

 

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.