An organisation’s internal communication is something that has to be nailed down as quickly as possible. If not, employees and managers alike will soon find their emails and messages lost in the echo of a deep inbox. According to Towers Watson, companies that manage to implement effective communication practices reap the rewards of 47% higher returns to shareholders.

It’s pretty vital that members of a company know where to direct their messages for the best responses. This helps prevent endless redirection and unnecessary emails. In an era of workplace communication apps like Slack, there isn’t much of an excuse for having a shoddy internal comms regime. But even with platforms like this in action, there remains room for improvement in most companies.

When does internal communication go wrong?

A quote from George Bernard Shaw: “the single biggest problem in communication, is the illusion that it has taken place”. This sentiment sums up poor internal communication pretty accurately.

There are several red flags that might indicate the presence of internal communication issues within a company:

  • Communication is not frequently discussed. If this is the case, it is likely that communication is given a back seat amongst other company issues, and the process could be improved considerably. It might be easy to assume that communication happens naturally, but it is something that needs to be nurtured.

  • Tasks get duplicated, or not done at all. Quite simply, if two or more people complete the same task, or the task is ignored by everyone, there is a big hole in the company’s communication skills.

  • Employees have nothing of note to talk about. If most workplace chat resorts to gossip or topics unrelated to work, the people at the top probably aren’t doing a good enough job of communicating stimulating company goals. If a team recognises a tangible common goal, they are more likely to talk about it and share key information in the process.

By no means an exhaustive list, the above are a few symptoms of poor internal communication. They exhibit that strong internal comms are something to strive for, and not something that will fall into a company’s lap.

What can be done to get employees communicating?

  • Encourage open dialogue. Providing a platform for colleagues to feel welcome enough to share their ideas is sometimes all it takes for communication to flow. For all some leaders know, their employees could be bursting with ideas but see no platform to express them. A better atmosphere can be fostered by distributing things like regular newsletters or other documents that encourage feedback.

  • Work on prioritising information sharing. The experts and more experienced members of your organisation are likely to hold a wealth of knowledge that would be gold dust for more junior colleagues. The problem in many organisations is that there is no system for information to be shared, meaning that it is hoarded by a select few. We wrote previously about the best knowledge-sharing practices for organisations.

  • Make ‘inaccessible’ information more accessible. This is also known as ‘sticky information’. It might include workflow or other information which is common knowledge to those higher up in the organisation, but newer members may be unsure about. Be sure to post public documents with the “essential” information required to complete work successfully.

  • Use the best tools for the job. Company communication, nowadays, is likely to take place using digital tools. It isn’t enough to provide a platform and be done with it; even the best digital platforms like email have their downsides. Up to 62% of time spent reading emails can be classed as unproductive.

  • Increase the frequency of company surveys. There’s no use relying on surveys that were conducted a year go. Respondents might have been having a bad day, or might not even be at the company anymore. Try to ask your colleagues some key questions about company communication as often as possible, and inform them on how you will react to their responses.

  • Keep track of what works. It’s not enough just to test the waters when trying out different internal communication methods. Keep qualitative and quantitative notes about how each method works. This could include metrics such as message open rate, or the time it took from a message being sent to the relevant work being completed.

Finally, working towards a common goal is a powerful motive. If your company has a clear enough mission statement, desire to communicate effectively within the team will be high and there will be motivation to try out new communication tactics.