Looking to brush up on all the latest HR acronyms, buzzwords, and common terms? This glossary is for you, sort of like the ABCs of HR. It's everything you need to know in the realm of employee experience and human connection, defined in easy-to-understand language.
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Communication is the glue that holds your business together. Without effective communication between employees, managers, and other key players within the business, your operations will falter. But as the world of work changes, communication becomes more complex and challenging to manage. That’s why more employers use an employee communication platform to transform their internal communication.
The market for communication platforms is exploding, with an overwhelming number of choices, each with countless bells and whistles. Selecting new technology and tools is more complicated than ever. So how can you figure out your needs and which platform will fulfill them?
Use our guide to employee communication platforms to find out what they can do for you and how to choose the right platform for your organization.
What Is Internal Communication?
In the simplest terms, internal communication is the process of sharing information your people need to perform their jobs wherever they are in the business. This information covers a range of tasks, starting with basic training information all the way up to converting high-level strategy into an action plan. Internal communication covers what people need to know, which people should receive information, and how you will distribute it.
Not every employee needs to know the nitty-gritty of the company’s financial planning, for instance. However, everyone does need to know that their benefits options are changing in the next open enrollment period. An internal communication strategy can help you share without oversharing and reach the right people at the right time.
The breadth of internal communication strategy depends on your business’s needs. For some, the term includes employer branding and marketing, team-based project communications, and culture development.
Internal Communication vs. Corporate Communication
Internal communication is a type of corporate communication. You might think of corporate communication as how a business communicates about itself externally. Corporate communication does include external efforts such as crisis communication (what we might refer to as “damage control”), media and public relations, and marketing.
But corporate communication also includes internal communication. Many large corporations have chief communications officers to tackle all four areas. Internal communication grows in importance as more businesses recognize the need to treat employees as customers.
Employee Communication Platform 101
An employee communication platform is an integrated system that brings all the most important communication aspects together in one place. These platforms offer one “source of truth,” as it were, because employees can access the information and people they need in one easy-to-use system. Communication platforms are multifunctional and multichannel so you can customize communications based on your internal strategy.
Of course, communication tools have evolved in recent years. When we think of employee communication in corporations, that used to bring to mind email or intranet portals. But while those channels remain, today’s fast-paced work environment embraces newer, sleeker software solutions.
As you review your options for a communication platform, you’ll probably see the terms “software” and “platform” used interchangeably, but they aren’t quite the same. Software is limited in what it can offer. Even when supplemented by integrations, communication software can be hard to access in the flow of work. When that happens, time-sensitive communication gets lost in the shuffle.
Platform communication solutions, on the other hand, are the future of internal communication. They provide options across multiple channels so you can control the flow of communication. At the same time, users can customize how they receive information to match their workflows.
4 Ways an Employee Communication Platform Transforms the Workplace
Connecting employees and other stakeholders within the business is especially important in organizations with remote or hybrid workers. Employees can struggle to feel like they’re part of a team or gain access to the resources they need to perform. An employee communication platform transforms how we communicate to deliver an all-around better experience and enable higher performance.
Share Information People Need When They Need It
The most obvious benefit of an effective internal communication platform is that it streamlines operations-related communications. You can distribute accurate information to help people perform their jobs better, whether by asking their manager a quick question or accessing previously shared training materials.
But a lot of information not directly related to performance gets lost in the noise. A communication platform can resurface information for people who need it most. You can use your communication platform as an on-demand service — highlighting, for example, information related to open enrollment or leaves of absence when employees need those details.
Make Collaboration Easier
Success hinges on employees working well in groups. However, our recent research found that collaboration is more difficult today than it was even just a few years ago. Almost three-quarters of employees (73%) agree that genuine collaboration takes more effort and planning today than before March 2020, when the pandemic took hold.
Collaboration is hard to get right, particularly in a hybrid work environment. But when using a communication platform with workflow capabilities, you can customize the collaboration journey with suggested workflows, templates, and conversation prompts to help managers create a more productive and organized effort.
Improve Employee Engagement and Experience
Good internal communication connects employees in a truly transformative way. Many employees are working remotely and may never meet their colleagues in person. That can be isolating for some employees. In fact, our research found that 69% of employees don’t feel a very strong sense of connection to their co-workers. Your people crave connection, and an effective employee communication platform plays a huge part in filling that gap.
An employee communication platform can make a big difference in how employees engage with each other. Dynamic communication across channels helps team members meet each other where they are — no matter where they are. That helps your people engage with each other and form bonds, which drives a greater sense of purpose and vastly improves their experience.
Develop and Automate Strategic Content Campaigns
You can also use an employee communication platform to manage content campaigns. Examples include communications to the entire organization, such as announcing a merger or new enterprise software. Content campaigns are also a vital part of a successful change management strategy.
Employee communication solutions can also drive content campaigns that manage and improve the employee journey. Onboarding can be overwhelming for a new hire, for instance. A drip campaign that sets expectations and directs each new hire will go a long way toward improving their first experience with your company.
3 Layers of Internal Communication and Connection
Communication isn’t static: Once sparked, it can move in any direction. Your internal communication strategy has to give that initial flame room to breathe and grow. But doing this well has become more complicated in a hybrid working world.
One of the most common layers of employee communication is one-on-one communication between managers and employees. Closely related is communication by employees with their colleagues. To make sure communication within teams is effective, managers need upfront conversations about the group’s norms and expectations. For teams to use communication software to prioritize information access and sharing, everyone needs alignment on how and when to use each channel.
When managers understand their communication options, they can guide their teams in making the most of each channel. While nearly every employee has access to email, for instance, that probably isn’t the best way to send urgent communications. Your organization probably has channels that deliver push notifications, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, text messages or other chat-style channels. Those tend to be the best channels for questions that need a quick response.
Teams have more flexibility in how they deliver comms that aren’t timely, like notices of upcoming time off. A communication platform that integrates with your favorite communication channels can give your people more options for how and where they receive general information
Scheduled communication is yet another form of one-on-one communication within teams. Examples include regular check-ins between managers and employees, as well as notices from managers that are triggered within an individual’s workflow.
Communicating across teams is another form of internal connection.
Cross-training, mentorship, and other programs designed to connect people with folks outside their inner circles can greatly impact engagement. Peer meetings between managers from different teams can illuminate what’s happening in other parts of the organization, for instance. Those connections and insights can spark ideas that managers can bring back to their teams.
Organizations have many internal, cross-team programs that are voluntary and easy to access — but lack of awareness is a problem. Fix that by being where this information lives in your communication platform and by using the platform itself to promote these opportunities. Make it easy for employees to receive alerts — in their channel of choice — to learn more about what’s happening within the company.
With the Organization as a Whole
Connection with the organization — to its mission, vision, values and purpose — is one of the biggest influences on employee engagement. This is where the employer branding and marketing piece of your comms strategy can really shine.
Using your communication platform to deliver targeted content at key points in the employee journey (like onboarding) can help your people connect with your larger purpose and to see their role in bringing the vision to life.
3 Steps for Choosing Your Employee Communication Platform
As with any tech decision, you have many options. To make the right decision, take a step back and think about what you really need from an employee communication platform.
Align With Your Internal Communication Strategy
Your internal communication strategy is the guiding force when selecting an employee communication platform. Each platform emphasizes different priorities, so you need one that aligns with your strategy and culture.
Whether you’re a startup developing your company culture or a large org revisiting your values, you’ll need a platform that helps you survey the workforce and interpret the data you collect in meaningful ways.
Consider how you want to drive connection across all the layers of your organization. For example, communication within teams is generally strong, but you have gaps across teams. To deepen those connections, you’ll need to find a platform that, among other things, makes it easy to post announcements about events and opportunities. And employees should be able to opt in or out of those communications.
Rank the Features You Need By Importance
Your communication strategy informs the features you need in a platform. If most of your workforce is deskless and in the field, instant messaging or push notifications might be more important than communications that require a physical location or a laptop. If your main priority is to improve connectivity, then a social media-style user interface that encourages online interaction might be especially valuable.
Use your comms strategy to pinpoint the most important and effective types of communication for your company. Compare vendors’ offerings against that wish list. Make sure your people weigh in during this process. They have the best insights into what tools and features they’re most likely to use. Survey managers and employees to learn their preferences — both in terms of what they already use and what they wish they had.
Keep the Employee Experience Top of Mind
As you consider your options, never lose sight of your users. Everyone in your organization uses employee communication software, and each level, function, or business unit will approach these systems differently.
Consider integrations and other usability elements that affect the user experience and influence whether employees want to use the platform. If Slack is your primary employee communication app, but a new communication platform doesn’t integrate, that will cause problems. Perhaps employees will be disrupted by the switch and potentially misplace key information. Or they’ll rebel, sticking with Slack and failing to capitalize on your investment.
Spark Connection With an Employee Communication Platform
Your people are looking to you to generate connection so they are productive, happy, and informed. The right employee communication platform can be exactly what you need to make that happen. With the right building blocks of a good comms strategy in place, adding a platform can take your communication — and connection — to the next level.