While it’s important for businesses to consistently improve their external communications with customers, let’s not forget what needs to happen behind the scenes in order to accomplish this: great internal communication. Businesses that have a system in place to ensure communications internally run smoothly are more likely to bring in more business while preventing any miscommunication disasters.
According to insights from Edelman’s 2021 Future of Corporate Communications Study, “While the importance of the communications function is increasing, resources to deliver are lagging.”
So, how do you avoid this problem? It’s all about having the right internal communications tools, and knowing how to use those tools at their utmost potential.
Why internal communications?
It’s important to improve your own operations from within in order to have that translate to a positive customer experience. Think about it: You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself, first.
The need for internal comms has been accelerated by COVID-19, with teams working fully remote or hybrid. This type of work environment requires stronger written communication and documentation than you would have in a physical office setting, which will naturally require companies to put more of an emphasis on their internal communications overall.
But, even with the rapid digital transformation aside, investing in internal communications can have lots of benefits for your business:
- Increase efficiency: Internal communication tools help save time by eliminating the need for slow, unorganized back-and-forth communication, increasing efficiency and productivity overall.
- Improve employee engagement: In remote or hybrid environments, internal communication tools help increase employee engagement to create a more cohesive workspace, even in a digital workplace. It also keeps employees in the loop and up-to-date on what's going on.
- Prioritize security: Internal communications tools give employees secure platforms to conduct their communication in order to avoid unnecessary data breaches.
The best internal communications tools for 2022
Businesses shouldn’t expect to perfect internal communications all on their own. By investing in some tools—and, knowing how to integrate these tools and train teams on how to use them—you’ll be able to see the benefits.
Keep in mind, because there are so many tools out there, you might find that only a few really make sense for your business, while others may contradict or overlap in a way that’s not conducive. Also, new tools hit the market all the time, so keep your finger on the pulse.
Best for project management
- Asana: Best for assigning tasks and ensuring accountability, especially across larger teams.
- Jira: Best for teams that need to set guardrails and manage various permission settings for their employees; ideal for software development companies, too.
- Trello: Best for small teams who need a simple and visual approach to the shared workspace.
Businesses each have their own approach to collaborating and getting work done. Many of these programs help companies stay organized, with features that allow you to not only assign tasks, set/change deadlines, create dependencies, and mark completions, but easily communicate regarding these tasks so that everyone is on the same page.
Best for company intranet/social intranet
- Happeo: Incorporates all aspects of a company intranet/social intranet in a user-friendly, all-in-one platform.
- Workplace: Best for companies who like the friendly, social feel of Facebook but want to keep it a bit more professional.
A company intranet or social intranet is an internal website for a company that should have a plethora of information for all employees to access and utilize. The website can have information on where to find the solution to a problem, a directory of who to contact in what departments, and news and relevant updates for the company, such as upcoming meetings, conferences, software updates, policy changes, etc.
The company intranet can also be a platform for internal social media engagement as well as chat/forums, or it can be separate. This is sometimes known as a “social intranet”.
One of the perks of going into the office is getting to simply chat and hang out with coworkers in-person. In many ways, this is essential for building a company culture and boosting morale, since the downside of remote work is losing the ability to connect with others. And, according to Teamstage.io, “94 percent of entrepreneurs and 88 percent of job seekers say that a healthy culture at work is vital for success.”
Best for virtual offices
- Teamflow: Best for replicating the actual office virtually.
Speaking of the benefits of the office environment, there are virtual offices that exist to help emulate the physical office environment. Teamflow is a digital version of the office, where you can sit in your cubicle, talk to people in the office halls, or sit around a conference table with your avatar version of yourself.
Best for support ticketing systems
- Freshdesk: Best for teams just getting started who want an out of box solution.
- Zendesk: Best for enterprise teams who have more complex workflows.
Whether it’s part of the company intranet (above) or separate, employees should have a place to go if they need help with a specific problem, generally, IT-related. This isn’t much different than how externally, customers would submit a support ticket if they needed help solving a problem.
Tools like Zendesk and Freshdesk allow all this dialogue and support to happen in one place, in order to ensure support issues are handled right away, so as to not impact company efficiency. With these internal communications tools, you can also have an FAQ with common problems and solutions to help people figure out the problem on their own. Should also list multiple contact options in case your staff is locked out of their system.
Best for internal surveys
- SurveyMonkey: Best for collecting feedback from anyone on your team.
Getting feedback from your staff about what’s happening internally helps leaders to understand what changes need to be made if any. Companies often spend a lot of time focusing on customers (as they should) and external aspects, when they need to be looking more introspectively. SurveyMonkey is a familiar survey tool that can be used as much internally as it can be externally.
Best for sharing and collaborating on documents
- Google Drive: Best for sharing and organizing large files across an entire enterprise, that can be organized, edited collaboratively, and exported in different formats.
- Coda: Best for companies who need to create one source of truth, gathered from numerous documents used across the company.
- Dropbox: Best for teams who collaborate on visual files.
If your company is producing content, then it’s important that those involved in the production are able to communicate and be on the same page at each stage of content development. Sometimes, this just means being able to have a space to share and collaborate on files, especially if those files need to be consistently updated, edited by multiple parties, and/or the files themselves are too large to share over other internal communication tools.
Best for hiring, onboarding, and HR
- BambooHR: Best for growing companies who want to have all the information of their employees throughout the entire life cycle of that employee, from application tracking to payroll and reminders.
- Workday: Best for bigger companies with a larger workforce to manage. HR does everything from workforce planning, talent recruiting, and analysis, but also has other features for companies, like the ability to conduct training across the enterprise.
- Docusign: Best for teams that work with contractors/freelancers/third-parties. In a remote world, eSignature platforms like Docusign help accelerate onboarding and allow for internal communications regarding employees’ status regarding those documents.
Let’s take it back to the beginning.
Businesses should make it easy for their HR staff and recruitment to communicate with teams regarding applications from employees and contractors so smart decisions can be made and interviews can be scheduled.
Once a person is hired, it should then not only be easy for that person to be onboarded swiftly, whether they are full-time, part-time, contract, or freelance but for them to have the opportunity to communicate with HR regarding any questions they may have during this process and after.
And, when it’s time for an employee to leave a company, having a space to have an exit interview and ensure IT teams close out access to their accounts, is imperative for efficiency and security.
Best for instant messaging
- Slack: Best for teams of any size in any industry that have a need for constant collaboration and communication.
- Google Hangouts: Best for smaller teams that are already using Google products.
- Microsoft Teams: Best for medium-sized teams who are already using Microsoft products.
When individuals and teams are able to get answers to questions right away, having a company-wide instant messaging platform can help solve the problems of delayed emails, timezone issues, etc. Other benefits include the ability to organize by department or project with different channels and/or groups, as well as the ability to have one-on-one direct communication or multi-team group chat.
Best for email
- Gmail: Best for companies already using GSuite or Google Workspace, as well as smaller teams.
- Outlook for Business: Best for companies already using Office 365 and/or other Microsoft products.
Even with the convenience of IM, many people prefer email — especially for longer-form messages, more formal discussions, sending attachments, etc. It can be used to address one person or a team, and being able to copy someone on an email means you can bring in whoever you need to.
Email can also be used to share important information but without the urgency of an IM. Having email systems for employees that are easy to use helps to keep the steady flow of internal communications, and whichever platform you use will depend on what makes the most sense for your business.
Best for video and conferencing
- Zoom: Best for all business sizes to easily schedule calls, in an interface that most people know how to use.
- Google Meet: Best for teams who are already working in Google or are not tied to one particular product.
- Loom: Best for any company that wants to save time by pre-recording videos; ideal for training, updates, company-wide memos, etc.
If your business operates in a remote and/or hybrid environment, then it’s imperative to have an internal communications tool that allows for easy and secure video chat, whether it be for one-on-one calls or team-wide/company-wide conferencing. And, video can also be one-sided. With Loom, for instance, companies can pre-record instructions alongside multimedia and send it to relevant employees, saving loads of time.
Best for texting
- Textline: Texting in general is best for field workers or hourly worker teams that tend to work more with their mobile device.
Most of us text regularly, but wouldn’t think twice about incorporating it into the workspace. But, why not? If you could text your coworker to get an answer to something, they’re probably more likely to respond on their phone than having to open up every other app on their computer just to give a quick response.
Textline is the sole winner in this group because it’s ideal for any industry with its ease-of-use, features (including security), and ability to integrate with other apps.
Overall strategies for improving internal communication
While internal communication tools can do wonders for businesses — and, often without much of a learning curve—it’s up to the companies themselves to make sure they are using these tools to their maximum benefit. It’s not just the tools themselves that can get the job done, but overall strategies for improving internal communication — often in conjunction with these tools — overall.
Here are some top internal communication strategies:
Choosing what tools to buy:
- Understand the immediate needs of the team; there are a lot of internal communications tools out there, but it doesn’t mean you need every single one.
- Invite your team into the conversation. Understand their workflows and hear their pain points, and let them help decide what tool would actually benefit them and not hinder the progress they’re already making. Think if the team will actually use it and what success would look like.
- When choosing a tool, be mindful of your audience. Is your staff Gen-Zs, baby boomers, or a mix? This is important to keep in mind when choosing tools that should increase productivity, not slow it down because your employees don’t know how to use them (or, find them useless).
- Any tools that are chosen should be able to be customized according to your employees’ needs. Look at tools that have customization features and different priced packages, as well as customer support.
- Think about implementation and training. What would the cost and time commitment look like?
General best practices
- Be sure to train your team on how to use the internal communications tools to their fullest potential.
- Come up with rules and guidelines regarding who can use these tools and in what way (set permissions).
- Encourage everyone to get personal; many of these tools give users the ability to create a profile/avatar, which helps create that company culture digitally.
- Get buy-in from leadership, meaning that your higher-ups agree to invest in these tools and also see their potential.
- Each tool should come with a specific team approach to using it. Many employees come into a company with experience in using these tools, but their previous company may have gone about it differently. This should be agreed upon.
- Consistently ask for feedback from employees regarding internal communications tools and approaches overall.
Internal communications now and in the future
Some internal communications tools have been around for quite some time, while others are just hitting the market. Others are having improvements and updates every day, and the companies who use them might switch from one to another when a tool is no longer serving them.
Decision-makers and team leaders at a company are encouraged to pay attention to how their internal communications are operating in order to make improvements when necessary. This could mean re-evaluating tools as needed, having professional developments and training regarding tools, and keeping an eye on internal communications trends. This can help businesses stay one step ahead, avoiding any potential slow-downs that could come from overlooking an aspect of business that’s often taken for granted.
Not sure what internal communications tools are best for you? Contact us to learn more about how Textline can benefit both external communications among customers as well internal communications among employees.