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How to improve internal communications

The success of any organization will accelerate — or stall — based on the quality, strategy, and effectiveness of its internal communications. 

  • Why it matters: Employees are demanding more from the leaders they choose to work for. If their communications fall short, employees are prepared to vote with their feet — costing US companies $1 trillion each year to replace them, according to Gallup.

“The job of a communicator is, almost every year, becoming 10x more important than it was the year before, and it's becoming 10x more complicated,” says Axios CEO Jim VandeHei, and “you have to understand all aspects of internal communications” if you want to succeed as a leader and have your staff succeed under your leadership.

Why you need to improve internal communications

Improving internal communications in the workplace is critical, impacting everything from employee engagement and alignment to productivity and retention.

Companies that prioritize and invest in effective internal communication strategies will stay competitive and have an opportunity to reap the benefits of an engaged workforce, like:

  • Better employee retention: Companies with engaged employees are more likely to retain them, according to Gallup.
  • Higher employee productivity: Companies with more engaged employees tend to see higher levels of productivity and less absenteeism, according to the same Gallup study.
  • Cost savings: Disengaged employees cost companies $1.9 trillion in lost productivity each year.

Companies that don’t will struggle. Our 2024 State of Internal Communications report dug deeper into the cost poor internal communications can have on the workforce, like:

  • Misalignment with company goals: Only 14% of employees report feeling aligned with the company's goals. This employee-company misalignment can lead to disengagement, impacting morale and productivity.
  • Retention risks: 49% of the employees who reported a lack of alignment plan to exit their jobs within two years.
  • Wasted productivity: 55% of employees lose between 30 minutes and 2 hours of their working day, clarifying the details needed to do their jobs. And 48% of executives are getting more involved in projects than they think they should. 

Leaders need a strong vision, defined goals, and close collaborators at every level of the organization to help teams feel seen, heard, and respected as the organization grows.

9 ways to improve internal communications

People fundamentally make better decisions when you communicate better. Company leadership can improve communication between employees, departments, and other stakeholders in the following ways:

1. Build an internal communication plan

It is a critical first step to internal communications management and also one of its four key pillars. This document will help to keep your internal communication strategy on track. It outlines vital details like:

  • Messaging: What information do you need to share with your employees? And what’s the right frequency to ensure they have all the details they need to do a great job without getting overwhelmed with non-critical communications? 
  • Communication goals: Your communication plan must have goals for your internal communications. Examples include maintaining employee engagement, fostering alignment with company goals, and ensuring employees always have the information needed to do their jobs.

Once you’ve identified what’s working, diagnosed what could be better, and built or adapted your plan — all with employee needs in mind — you can start to socialize it and build deeper stakeholder buy-in

2. Explain internal communication best practices

Communication is a team sport, and the folks supporting you — whether they’re capital-C communicators or subject matter experts contributing ideas — operate best when they understand the best practices you’ve put in place and the plans leadership are aligned around.

For any collaborators, discuss communication best practices, like:

  • Watch your communication frequency: Not every announcement warrants an email. Your internal comms plan should distinguish between information that must be shared immediately and news that can go in a newsletter. Tempering the sending frequency of internal comms messages will prevent email overload, keeping your employees focused and productive.
  • Keep messages brief: Only 50% of your employees will thoroughly read messages from leadership. Many employees also admit that they don’t read through entire communications, despite opening them. Keep non-critical and critical messages brief and clarify the main takeaways to ensure employees don’t miss out on vital information.
  • Use simple language: Long, complex sentences and words get in the way of what’s critical and urgent. Use simple, conversational language to keep your readers engaged. 
  • Define internal communications channels: Employees should know what channels are available to them and how and when to use each one. For example, what channel should they use for something urgent that requires an immediate response vs. one meant to document and record your strategy? That means giving all your communication channels an identity and communicating it with your employees.

Internal comms best practices serve as your solid center of gravity — and a documented set of advice to help folks at every level communicate more up, down, and around the organization more effectively. 

3. Provide the right internal communication tools

Every workforce has its own pulse. And the people who keep the heartbeat strong will also have their own unique needs when it comes to what communication mediums and styles they prefer. Ask them, analyze them, and make sure you adopt the right tools to support them.

Best-in-class internal communications tools enhance internal comms by:

  • Facilitating two-way communication. Messages need to get out, but selecting which platforms you send them through, so audiences can either get them quickly — like on email — or engage in an async conversation around them — like through Slack or Teams — or keep record of them so they can revisit them and ask questions when they’re ready — like on SharePoint or another intranet — is key to their success. 
  • Fostering collaboration. Using a business communication software suite that offers a scalable number of seats and sends makes collaboration, reviews, approvals, and sign-offs much easier. 
  • Enabling segmentation. Not all communications are meant for the workplace at large. Good internal communications software tools let you send personalized communications to specific employees or employee groups.
  • Keeping distributed workforces connected. Internal communications apps like Zoom and Teams ensure employees in remote teams feel connected. 

“In today’s working world, for many of us, there is no physical office, so the technology tools you choose are how people understand and interact with your company. They are the mechanisms that define your culture,” Axois HQ VP of People Connie Marean told HRO Today. “It’s about creating the virtual manifestation of how your teams get to know each other and get work done.”

4. Create your distribution lists 

When asked how their leaders can improve communication, 33% of employees said they want to receive more relevant information more often. 

Smart segments will boost employee engagement and internal communication efforts by:

  • Targeting the appropriate employees. That means communicators ensure the right people are on the right lists so they’re armed with the right information.
  • Saving you time. What can be automated should be automated. Define and build the right groups, then lean on them when it’s time to share something. You can set a cadence to revisit and refresh them, so send lists stay current, but don’t go from zero to 100 every single time you send. 

When building a distribution list, first identify the email types you’ll be sending and the distinct employee segments receiving them. Examples of email types include strategic shifts, revenue alerts, onboarding emails that share company culture, engagement surveys, and a lot more.

For employee segments, you can also create distribution lists based on:

  • Regin. Companies with multiple branches and facilities will need to send news that’s specific to employees’ distinct locations.
  • Department. The unique areas of your organization require unique context and news about the work they do and how it connects to topline goals.
  • Seniority. You might make segments for board members vs executives vs. managers vs individual contributors vs. new hires, etc. so everyone gets the information relevant to them — and you can track how each uniquely engages in all-hands updates.
  • Projects. Create a list of employees and stakeholders from different departments working on specific projects. 

Where company-wide emails won’t do, distribution lists will. Use them to send targeted email communications to the right employees at the right time.

5. Build strategic company newsletters

Set up a weekly newsletter to keep your employees abreast of the latest company happenings. A regular newsletter improves internal communication by:

  • Minimizing emails. Internal newsletters let you bundle news and information into a single email. Your employees will benefit from reduced emails the company leadership sends. 
  • Reinforcing company culture. You can engineer your newsletter’s design, tone, and content to reinforce your company’s culture and create a sense of belonging among employees. The newsletter’s messaging can also help to align employees with your company’s goals.
  • Providing opportunities to appreciate employees. It’s easier to appreciate diligent employees in newsletters. Whether celebrating a single employee or a whole team’s accomplishments, the weekly format allows for employee appreciation that doesn’t disrupt other employees’ workdays.

Effective newsletters lead to engaged employees, making them essential to your internal communication strategy. Axios HQ’s AI-powered writing guidance makes newsletter creation straightforward. Anyone can use our platform to craft internal comms that are 40% shorter, on average, than typical internal comms — with all the same critical substance. 

Contact our team to learn how to create or improve your internal comms.

6. Use visuals

According to a study from TechSmith, employees who consume communications with visuals:

  • Perform better. Nearly 70% of employees who received visual communications absorb the information better and performed better than when they received text-based ones.
  • Are more productive. TechSmith estimates that visual communications can unlock $167 billion in global business productivity every year.
  • Absorb information faster. Employees absorb visual internal communications 7% faster than when reading text alone.

As for practical applications for visuals in your internal communications, try:

  • Using charts to present data to employees when sharing project progress or company stakeholders in leadership roles when giving updates.
  • Creating flowcharts to represent collaborations or processes.
  • Using org charts to give new recruits a visual representation of the organization’s structure; and so on.

Visuals simplify complex ideas and leave little room for miscommunication, making them indispensable for effective internal communication.

7. Stay consistent in your communications

When your employees know when to expect internal comms updates, you can harness that attention to strengthen trust, foster engagement, and reinforce the company mission and vision.

Two key areas to consider:

  • Frequency. Choose one that aligns with how often you have meaningful company news to share. Sending internal comms at a set date and time will ensure employees know when to check their for those updates — and set time aside to fully engage with them.
  • Tone. Write like you speak. It reinforces trust, humanity, and authenticity. Even if you’re writing on behalf of someone else, corporate lingo will never win out over genuine tone. 

Communication consistency, transparency, and feedback opportunities all help earn employee attention and buy-in.

8. Listen to your employees

There are lots of ways you can measure the success of your internal comms, but among employees, 35% say just having a chance to give their leaders feedback about the updates they do send would immediately help them improve. 

Getting feedback directly from employees is one of the most effective ways to boost quality and engagement, for two reasons:

  1. You hear directly from the folks your communications serve.
  2. Employees see they have a real say and feel heard. 

Showing you’re open to feedback — and responsive when you receive it — makes you a smarter, more trustworthy source of information. Employee surveys offer an efficient and anonymous approach to do it, and you can easily send them as standalone emails or as part of a regular newsletter or update employees already receive.

Consider survey questions with a clear slate of answers — like “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” — as well as open-ended questions for deeper input.

  • “The communications I receive from organization leaders are helpful and relevant and include the context I need to do my job well.”
  • “The communications I receive from my organization leaders are clear, engaging, and respectful of my time.” 
  • “My organization could improve the internal communications I receive by…”

9. Lead with transparency

Honest communication goes a long way in helping your organization meet its business objectives. Leadership must be transparent when communicating with employees because:

  • It builds trust. Transparent messaging can help you earn your employees' trust. Keeping employees in the loop about company happenings fosters a sense of ownership and alignment with the company’s goals. 
  • It provides learning opportunities. Transparent communication entails sharing company successes and missteps. Such open discussions allow employees to learn from past mistakes.
  • It reduces uncertainty. Communicating openly during uncertain times reassures employees and helps them focus. 
  • It's what junior employees want: A GE and Ipsos poll reveals that 40% of entry-level employees want authentic internal comms. It supports another survey by 15Five, which revealed that 81% of employees would rather work for a company that values open communication.

Transparent leadership creates a safe environment for employees and treats them respectfully. Both ensure that your employees remain engaged and put in their best work.

The bottom line

The stronger your vision, the stronger your team’s execution will be. But both will sink or swim if the bridge between them — communication — is not as clear and effective as it should be. Define and champion strong internal communication practices, teach them to the integral collaborators around you, and hold your employees’ experience and needs above all else.

Go deeper: Internal communication strategies that keep teams better aligned

How to improve internal communications FAQs

1. How could internal communications be improved?

You can improve internal communications by creating an action plan for your internal comms improvements, using distribution lists and feedback loops to hear from your employees. Also, include rich media and lead transparently. These measures and more will help to improve your company’s internal communications processes.

2. How to improve communication in the workplace between management and employees?

Management should maintain open lines of communication to facilitate two-way communication instead of top-down communication. This will ensure there is a dialogue between managers and employees.

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