Tips on Internal Organizational Communication Best Practices
Optimizing organizational communication can powerfully impact an organization's efficacy and success. For years, poor communication has been a concern for most employees. And it’s not improving. Almost 40% of all employees believe there is a lack of communication in their company. With all the technological advances and remote work, organizational communication is that much more complex.
“More than just about any other leadership skill, people are fiercely criticized for poor communication. The higher up you get, the more brutal that criticism becomes.” - Francis Flynn, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business
Having internal communication strategies in place is the first important step to effective communication throughout the organization. Each employee must know how to communicate as effectively as possible. This includes understanding the communication responsibilities of each role in the organization and identifying the key audience. Assessing the message, choosing the right kind of communication channels, and providing ongoing employee training is also critical.
Organizational Communication Definition
Organizational communication are the channels and forms of communication in which organizations communicate. This includes both internal communication within an organization and external communication between an organization and its stakeholders.
The Impact of Effective and Ineffective Organizational Communication
Ineffective organizational communication programs can lead to toxic workplaces. They can also be extremely costly to the bottom line. The cost of communication barriers that arise in the workplace stands at $62.4 million per year, per company, according to David Grossman’s “The Cost of Poor Communications” report, which included 400 large organizations with 100,000 employees.
Ineffective organizational business communication occurs when:
- C-suite and middle management fail to execute a company communication strategy.
- Communication is not in alignment with company communication strategy.
- The wrong communication channel and/or poor delivery timing is used.
- Use of improper word choices or wrong tone of voice causes misinterpretations, resulting in ill feelings.
- Trust is broken and business relationships are damaged.
On the other hand, effective organizational communication:
- Improves flow of information processes and procedures.
- Creates greater efficiencies and reduces costs.
- Improves team productivity by as much as 25%.
- Builds morale, inclusion, satisfaction, and employee engagement.
- Drives commitment and loyalty, leading businesses to be 50% more likely to have employee retention.
- Helps to lessen the chances for misinterpretation.
- Gives employees a voice for communication to flow up and down internally, with employees who feel their voice is heard being 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
Tips on How to Build an Effective Internal Communication Strategy
It's imperative that organizations see the critical need for transparent and clear communication as one of the organization's core values. Organizations should have comprehensive policies and strategies for workplace communication across all levels. Here are several best practices on organizational communication. These tips will help build an effective internal communication strategy:
Internal Organizational Communication Best Practices
Consider Role Responsibilities:
Communication is a vital management component to any organization. Organizational communication impacts a diversity of roles, teams, and different departments.
- C-Suite Role: First and foremost, C-suites should always lead by example. The communication strategy starts with this select team. Their important role will determine the success or failure of the internal strategy. The C-suite's role:
- Establishes the organizational company culture.
- Drives the need to communicate a particular message.
- Ascertains communication is in line with the organization's mission, vision, and culture.
- Builds and maintains a strong and trustworthy brand identity within messaging look (graphics) and feel (tone).
- Ensures clear, transparent, and consistent companywide communication.
- Corresponds and repeats messaging frequently, setting the tone for a cascading series of messages.
- Creates a method for employee feedback.
- Trains key leaders in middle management on their role.
- Middle Management Role: Middle management must follow the C-suites' lead. Otherwise, the internal communication strategy will not materialize and take hold. Middle managers must commit to their roles within the communication strategy to:
- Have a solid understanding of the company’s organizational corporate communication strategy.
- Enforce the organization's mission, vision, and organizational culture.
- Support a strong and trustworthy brand identity within messaging look (graphics) and feel (tone).
- Maintain the same tone and feel as the C-suite.
- Communicate daily with direct reports and several times a week with cross-functional teams, based upon the size of the organization.
- Provide feedback in a manner consistent with that of the C-suite.
- Practice strong interpersonal communication skills to move projects forward.
- Tailor communication to the correct audience and use the appropriate communication channels.
- Provide clear and straightforward messages that are to the point in order to avoid confusion.
- Contain important details and facts within the message.
- Maintain credibility by spelling words correctly, using proper grammar, and relaying accurate information.
- Actively listen to what is being said, how it’s said, and what’s not said.
- Be attentive to nonverbal communication.
- Lead by example.
- Employee Role: With so much competing for employees’ attention, messages must stand out and be clear and concise. Be selective and straightforward on the message’s purpose. Choose language with a critical eye. Present the message in an organized, methodical way using visual aids, if applicable. All employees should:
- Practice inclusive communication, ensuring all employees feel represented and valued regardless of their backgrounds and experiences.
- Voice concerns and issues.
- Provide positive feedback.
- Actively listen.
Identify the Audience:
Who’s the recipient of the message? This is a key question in an effective internal communication strategy. The audience may be anyone who influences. Or is being influenced by the shared information. At times this could be one individual employee or thousands. It depends on the message content and the size of the organization.
Always tailor the message and delivery based upon who the audience is. Here are some examples to keep in mind.
- Level Within Organization: The employee’s role in the organization makes a difference in the communication approach.
- C-suite requires formal email communication.
- Manager offers less formal communication, with room for using GIF in emails and chats where appropriate.
- Co-worker allows for casual and more relaxed communication, with more flexibility for using GIF in chats and other channels of communication.
- Organizational Settings: The more geographically dispersed, the more independent employees tend to be. This can prove to be a communication challenge, but it does not have to be.
- On-site communication is the easiest and quickest, as face-to-face communication on urgent and critical matters is within walking distance. Strong relationships develop easier, making communication less challenging.
- 100% remote/different time zones can make use of technology, such as virtual Teams or Zoom meetings and collaboration platforms like SharePoint and Monday.com, to help aid in collaborative communication, teambuilding, and a feeling of community. E-learning also plays a significant role in successful onboarding, reskilling, and upskilling. Web-based performance management systems, like 15Five, support employees on the journey of continued growth, development, impact, and success. 15Five also has recognition tools for the remote worker to feel part of a team.
- Hybrid working provides “the best of both worlds and offers the best working environment,” according to many employees. These employees have the luxury of communicating both in-person and using remote collaboration tools.
- Cross-cultural Differences: Cross-cultural communication is critical, as companies today are focusing on increasing workplace diversity. Effective communication may be challenging due to a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. Cultural differences can impact the way people express themselves, interpret messages, and make decisions.
- Being aware, respectful and open-minded of cultural differences and adapting to different communication styles helps create a more productive and inclusive environment.
- Practice intercultural communication and consider different perceptions and expectations when giving and receiving important information.
- If in doubt, ask for clarification with questions.
- Effective communication encourages a better exchange of new ideas and a broader pool for input and perspectives. Overall communication improves, bonds between co-workers grow, and the company’s performance improves.
Everyone has different personalities and communication styles. This can make it challenging to interact with some co-workers. Put their needs first to keep them comfortable. Ask them their preferred communication style. Mirror their body language and formality in speaking. Consider DISC training. It discusses personality types and teaches how to recognize personal tendencies. This makes it easier to recognize those tendencies in others. Understanding communication styles strengthens interpersonal relationships. Learn more about the DISC model and the four different DISC styles by watching HSI’s video.
Assess the Message:
- Purpose: What is the true purpose of the message? Understand if the purpose of the message to:
- Give direction.
- Set up a meeting.
- Ask or answer a question.
- Relay sensitive information.
- Educate on a new process or initiative.
- Share current company business affairs.
- Discuss professional development and career goals.
- Ask for feedback and share how the organization will respond.
- Timing: How urgent is the message? Is it a high or low priority in the big picture?
- Tone: What tone of voice should the message take?
- Informal communication (casual) vs. dressed up (formal).
- Choose jargon the recipients will understand.
- Consider appropriate wording for the age of the intended audience.
Choose Type of Communication Channels:
Send an email or chat? Will a quick call be sufficient? It’s important to understand all the different types of communication channels and when to use them. Set best practices for usage of each type of communication channel. Explain what types of communications are ok and in what circumstances. Having a good mix is imperative to a diverse workforce. Include what’s appropriate and in what circumstances. Always share and update annually.
“That meeting should have been an email instead.” - any employee from any company without an effective organizational communication strategy
So many communication channel options are available. Here’s a list for starters, with example of what they are each best used for:
- Face-to-face In Person: most traditional form of human interaction and the best way to quickly build rapport
- Virtual Meeting / Video Conference: allows hearing tone of voice and emotion facilitating more effective communication
- Town halls
- Team meetings
- New hire meet and greet
- Telephone: provides clear and immediate feedback when face-to-face communication is not physically possible
- Fast answer
- Voicemail blasts
- Complex or sensitive issues
- Email: fast way to share information and provide documentation to small or large audiences
- Job openings
- Detailed messages or documents
- Surveys/polls, like SurveyMonkey.com
- Employee handbook from human resources
- Text Message/IM: quick exchanges of information
- “Running late”
- Quick questions
- Minimal meeting availability
- Immediate answer/feedback
- Social Media Platform: way to feel connected to team members and the organization
- Surveys/polls through SurveyMonkey.com
- Stay connected with company and leaders by following on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Printed Materials: documentation at fingertips for reference
- Safety information
- Employee handbook
- Newsletters: public relations tool to keep connected weekly, monthly, or quarterly
- New hires
- New products/services
- Employee birthdays/employment anniversaries
- Information about the organization’s accomplishments
- Webinars: this form of digital media is a means of targeting learning
- “The Water Cooler”: an office gathering spot or dedicated chat channel where employees spend time together
- Listen and learn about employee issues
- Latest news unfiltered by management and learning the “inside” scoop
- Get to know each other better by chatting about work duties, families, pets, hobbies, sports, and other interests
Offer Employee Training - HSI Can Help
The art of communication has evolved with texting, virtual meetings, and remote work. Being a good communicator is critical. HSI’s communication skills topics help employees develop better communication on key areas such as active listening, social cues, communicating with the C-Suite, nonverbal communication, and more invaluable skills.
Here are just a few of HSI’s training courses pertaining to communication:
- Introduction to DISC
- Sharpen Your Message
- Communicating Across Cultures
- Build Trust Through Communication
- How to Communicate Well at Work
- The Water Cooler for Remote Teams
- Communicating with Different Audiences
- Communication Methods and When to Use Each
- Business Writing: Writing Clearly, Thinking About Tone