Internal communications: How to do it effectively

From BDC

Whether it was a virtual meeting this morning or an announcement naming your new VP, internal communications make up a big part of a company’s overall activities.

It’s not just big companies that need to concern themselves with internal comms; a good internal comms plan can lead to better collaboration, engagement and productivity for small and big companies alike.

What are internal communications?

Internal communications refer to the processes and strategies used to communicate information and messages within an organization, for example:

  • company news
  • updates on projects or initiatives
  • feedback on performance
  • other information relevant to the organization and its employees

Internal communications can build a strong and cohesive culture, improve employee engagement and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Examples of internal communication

Some ways for businesses to keep their employees informed and engaged include the following:

  • weekly or monthly company newsletters that provide updates on company news, company polices and procedures, industry trends and upcoming events
  • company intranets where employees can access important documents, resources and news
  • internal social media posts on platforms like Viva Engage, LinkedIn, and Facebook to share updates, photos and news with employees
  • company-wide email updates that provide timely and important information about company initiatives
  • physical bulletin boards where employees can post information and updates in a central location within the office
  • town hall meetings where senior leaders provide updates on the company’s direction and goals, and employees can ask questions
  • regular team meetings where employees can discuss projects, share ideas and provide updates on their progress
  • one-on-one meetings between managers and employees to provide feedback, discuss goals and performance and answer any questions
  • group messaging apps that facilitate real-time communication between employees and teams
  • two-way feedback channel that facilitates employees sharing their insights on company direction, and asking their questions on pressing matters (channel could be hosted on intranet or other platforms)

Other ways for a company’s employees and management to communicate internally:

  • Internal memos
  • Podcasts
  • Live webinars
  • Emails
  • Magazines
  • Infographics
  • PowerPoints

Julie Rhéaume, a BDC manager of employee communications provides some concrete examples of internal communications: “It could be a year-end message from the company president or an intranet article on how to subscribe to your employee benefits plan—or even hallway conversations.”

While there may be numerous ways of having management speak to employees, as well as for employees to speak with one another, Rhéaume cautions about overdoing it.

“There’s just so much news in our newsfeed and homepage that an employee can take in. That’s something you have to keep in mind.”

"Internal communications can build a strong and cohesive culture, improve employee engagement and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals."

Why are internal communications important?

Rhéaume says internal comms brings together employees and helps them make sense of the company’s goals.

“It helps them connect the dots, and fosters cohesion,” she says, adding that internal communications tries to get everyone on the same page.

Valérie Grenier, a BDC senior advisor in employee communications, sees internal communications going beyond employers putting out messages; she sees it as part of a dialogue that helps a company better know what employees need.

“You have to make sure your employees have a way to communicate with you so that you can then respond to them.”

Part of that dialogue might centre around news that is harder to share with your workforce, such as layoffs. Internal communications employees learn how to share bad news to ease the pain accompanying it.

It also may decide to overhaul how they conduct meetings, making them more effective.

Benefits of internal communications for entrepreneurs

  • Build a cohesive team: You are likely working with a small team of employees. Effective internal communications can help you build a cohesive team, which is critical to the success of any company.
  • Keep employees informed: Your employees need to know about changes in strategy and other important news. Effective internal communications can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. This is especially so when communicating an action plan.
  • Foster innovation: Effective internal communications can create a culture of innovation, where employees feel empowered to share ideas and collaborate on new initiatives.
  • Improve employee engagement: Effective internal communications can help you keep your employees engaged and motivated, which most often leads to higher productivity and loyalty.
  • Enhance customer service: Keeping employees informed about the latest products, services and company news will help them better serve customers and provide a more personalized experience.

Internal communications for smaller companies

While smaller businesses do not have the same needs or resources of a large company, internal communications is just as necessary, say Grenier and Rhéaume.

Grenier advises entrepreneurs to centre their communication around what the company produces or delivers.

“For entrepreneurs, it needs to be related to their products or their services so employees can represent the business properly. You want your employees to know what’s going on within the business.”

She adds that employees should be up to date on a company’s objectives and strategies. “That can be communicated through a simple email or can be part of a larger annual plan.”

Smaller companies don’t have the same resources as bigger ones; however, their size does offer some advantages when it comes to internal communications:

  • Fewer formal communication channels: Smaller companies’ internal communications may be more informal and happen through regular team meetings, one-on-one conversations or even group messaging apps.
  • More personalized communication: You may have more direct interaction with your employees, which can foster a closer relationship and a deeper understanding of each employee’s communication preferences.
  • Greater flexibility: Smaller companies often have fewer policies and procedures to follow. This can allow for more experimentation with different communication strategies and channels.
  • Distinctive company culture: The strong and positive culture of a smaller company can foster open communication and collaboration.

What is an internal communication plan?

An internal communication plan is a comprehensive strategy that outlines how a business will communicate with its employees. It’s a roadmap that details what information needs to be communicated, who the audience is and how the information will be disseminated.

Whether it’s to put through a project, a set of messages or a major change, Rhéaume sees an internal communications plan as a framework that encompasses a few stages.

“You start with the context to really capture the goals and why you’re doing this. It helps you position it. So, you set context and goals, and then you put down your strategies.”

“So, say there’s a change related to behaviours regarding information security. You would not just push information but also have some “pull” communications, where people could go and get more information. It might be a network of champions across the company who are the go-to people for security.”

“Or on the ‘push’ side, you might have an email every quarter to remind employees about best practices. It’s a plan with all the activities you’re going to do to try and attain your goals.”

Grenier says these don’t have to be big endeavours. “For smaller organizations that don’t have a dedicated person, you don’t need to have a big plan. It could be a short one-pager. But you need to know your intention, the context and who you are targeting.”

  • Goals and objectives: Such as increasing employee engagement, improving communication between departments or promoting a specific initiative
  • Target audience: It might be all employees or a specific department
  • Key messages: Should be clear, concise, and aligned with the overall business objectives.
  • Communication channels: Can include company newsletters, intranet sites, social media channels or group messaging apps
  • Timeline: Outlines when information will be communicated and how often it will appear
  • Roles and responsibilities: Who creates, approves and disseminates the communication, and who measures its effectiveness.
  • Metrics and evaluation: For evaluating the effectiveness of the communication for things like employee feedback or engagement

How do you develop an internal communications strategy?

Developing an effective internal communications strategy requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. define your goals
  2. tackle your strategies
  3. identify your audience
  4. determine your key messages
  5. choose your communication channels
  6. develop a content calendar
  7. assign roles and responsibilities
  8. monitor and measure effectiveness
  9. continuously improve

Developing a strategy is also about setting a tone, says Rhéaume. “When you’re communicating with your employees, you’re helping to send a message about company culture.”

She says BDC’s dedication to equity, sustainability and wellness are frequently the subject of its internal communications. Getting messages on those topics shows employees that those issues are a priority for the Bank.

Setting up friendly competitions, such as a wellness challenge, is another way to drive home that plan. “You get the sense that, ‘Okay, this is important for the company.’”

Grenier adds that developing a strategy is also about looking at all the areas that will be affected by a new announcement. “When we launched our hybrid model for working at home and at the office, we had to think about the different departments involved. There was IT, real estate, HR and operations. So we needed to be sure that all the communications were consistent and were aligned with what we were saying on all ends.”

What does an internal communications person do?

An internal communications person is responsible for developing and implementing internal communications strategies within a business or organization.

They play a crucial role in ensuring that employees are informed, engaged, and aligned with the company’s goals and values. They work closely with senior leaders, managers and employees to develop effective communications strategies and channels that support the company’s overall objectives.

Some of their key responsibilities may include:

  • creating and managing internal communication channels such as company newsletters, intranet sites, social media channels, and messaging apps
  • writing and editing internal communications such as company-wide emails, announcements, and newsletters to ensure they are clear, concise, and engaging
  • developing communication plans and strategies, ensuring that important information is communicated effectively and efficiently to employees.
  • coordinating and promoting company-wide events and initiatives such as town hall meetings, employee recognition events, and awareness sessions
  • measuring and analyzing communication effectiveness of internal communications, using data and feedback to continually improve communication strategies
  • ensuring messaging and branding is consistent with the company's guidelines

For Grenier, there is a strategic element to her job but one that is also sensitive to employees’ questions and needs.

“My job is to create employee engagement. So, if they don’t understand where we’re heading, what we’re doing and why, they may not be as engaged as we would want them to be. So, we need to understand their reality. It’s then that we can build the approach and the tactics that we want to implement.”

When should a business hire an internal communications expert?

A business should consider hiring an internal communications expert when they are looking to improve their internal communications strategies and channels, or when they are experiencing communications issues that are impacting employee engagement and productivity.

There are certain situations that would call for the business to seek out an internal communications expert.

  • Intense change: When a business is going through a merger, acquisition, or reorganization, it may be helpful to hire an internal communications expert to help communicate the changes to employees and ensure they are informed and engaged.
  • Rapid growth: It can become challenging to keep employees informed and engaged when a business is growing so quickly. Hiring an internal communications expert can help ensure that communication channels are effective and that strategies are in place to keep employees informed and aligned.
  • Waning employee engagement: This may be a sign that internal communication strategies are not effective. An internal communications expert can help identify areas of improvement and develop strategies to improve engagement.
  • New initiative launch: A new product, service or program may require the hiring of an internal communications expert to help promote the initiative and ensure employees are informed and engaged.
  • A crisis: Incidents like a data breach may require an internal communications expert to help ensure that employees are informed and prepared to respond appropriately.

How to measure internal communications

Measuring the effectiveness of internal communications is crucial for determining the success of your communications strategy and making improvements where necessary.

  • Conduct regular surveys to gather feedback from employees on the effectiveness of your internal communications.
  • Track engagement metrics to determine the effectiveness of your communication channels.
  • Track attendance rates for internal events.
  • Collect feedback from managers or team leaders on the impact on departments.
  • Monitor organizational outcomes such as employee retention rates, productivity levels and overall business performance.
  • Conduct focus groups to gather feedback on specific communication campaigns.

Is internal communications part of HR?

Many companies (including BDC) place their internal communications under human resources. There are some exceptions.

“I’ve seen other organizations place it under marketing or external communications,” says Rhéaume. “That way when they have an external campaign, they’re close to the internal comms people and can have an integrated campaign both internally and externally.”

Internal communications remain very integrated with the rest of the organization, says Grenier. “Every department has something to communicate to employees. If you have a marketing campaign that’s going out or if some IT equipment is changing, you’ll want the employees to know ahead of time.

“And our job is to make sure that it’s done with the proper timing and we’re communicating the relevant information.”

Next step

Get key insights into how to develop and enhance your HR policies and processes by downloading the free BDC guide, Hire and Retain the Best Employees.

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