20 of the Best Internal Communication Tools Your Company Should be Using
829 Studios | Internal Communications
829 Studios | Internal Communications
Internal communication has come a long way since the 18 hour workday at the factory with the smokestack and the whistle that announced the end of the work day.
In fact it’s come a long way since the early years of the internet when the boss would come around to your cubicle and say “...ahhhh, that would be great…”
Today, internal communication is a well-studied science consisting of diverse methods, tools, purposes and styles.
The Harvard Business Review recently discussed the importance of communication for building strong internal teams, a critical part of the success of an organization. They explicitly called it a ‘science.”
But one thing you can say about the practice: in this day and age of remote work and employee empowerment, internal communication is a must if you want to forge a cohesive culture and get everyone rowing in the same direction.
uStudio's Internal Communication Tools
Internal communication is the use of various communication tools to communicate internally. It has various purposes:
Internal communication is the glue that holds an organization together.
An organization is composed of people, and for people to work together they need to communicate. The most effective organizations are only as effective as the ability of the people in that organization to communicate and collaborate with each other.
Think of the human body and the central nervous system. The body can only work if the brain can communicate with every single part of the body.
Likewise, the brain must keep tabs on every cell and organ, and the cells and organs must communicate with each other. The human body does this through synapses “...the points of contact between neurons where information is passed from one neuron to the next.”
Think of internal communication software and apps as the synapses that allow a corporation, government organization or nonprofit to communicate internally.
These apps facilitate everything from the written word, the spoken word, collaboration, tracking and analytics, one-way, two-way and multi-point communication.
In the following section, we review 20 of the types of internal communication tools your company or organization might use to carry out effective internal communications.
Let’s get into it. The following list is not in any particular order:
Unlike public podcasts that are available to the general public through apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, an internal podcast is a podcast only available to employees, partners, or a dedicated list of people.
A distinguishing factor of internal podcasts - or private podcasts as they’re often called - are the robust security protocols embedded in the technology. Internal podcasts are often vehicles for communicating confidential information, and that information must be kept secure.
Private podcasts cover three major use cases:
At uStudio we’ve developed a market-leading internal podcast application that organizations use for training, sales enablement, internal communications, as well as live audio and video streaming. Our clients use our platform to deliver “shows” to employees with diverse formats, such as:
….and much more.
Videos, whether as a standalone or as part of an internal podcast application (uStudio’s platform does both video and audio), are a highly engaging medium that can be used to share information in a visual format.
Videos are great for sharing company updates, product demos, training and development information, and employee spotlights.
Video conferencing is a particularly effective way for remote teams to get to know each other and establish that human bond previously only available to teams who got together physically in one location.
Recorded videos, on the other hand, are great training tools. Executive teams can record videos so employees can view them asynchronously while also getting to “know” the trainers on a more personal level.
Videos can be professionally produced, but we think the raw footage generated from a smartphone is more immediate and compelling than a slick, over-produced corporate video.
Newsletters are a great way to share company updates, employee spotlights, and industry news. But they can be abused. We’ve seen cases where executives, such as the CEO and other higher ups, can overwhelm employees with text-heavy, stream of consciousness communications that end up unread in employees’ inboxes.
Internal newsletters have been around since the advent of email in the mid-’90s, but they’re seeing a revival of sorts.
In their book “Smart Brevity,” Axios founders Jim Vanderhei, Roy Schwartz and Mike Allen recommend using the short, to-the-point messaging style that made Axios such a new media powerhouse.
In a recent article to internal communications professionals, Axios said:
Smart Brevity is a communication formula … to prioritize essential news, explain its impact on readers, and deliver both in a concise and visual format.
What we learned: Smart Brevity doesn’t just work for busy news readers. When we used the same format for our internal comms — like all-staff updates and department news — engagement among busy colleagues started to spike, too.
Internal newsletters aren’t going away any time soon.
Audio streaming is a great way to share information with employees in real-time, especially for on-the-go workers such as sales executives and remote service personnel (uStudio’s internal podcasting platform enables robust, secured audio streaming).
You can use audio streaming for company-wide announcements, conference calls, and training sessions.
We believe one of the strengths of audio streaming (here we see an overlap with internal podcasting) is the ability for employees to catch up on company news and updates while commuting to and from work, or while gardening, exercising or cooking.
Employee apps are mobile apps designed specifically for internal use. Internal podcasting tools like uStudio and others are available in app form, for example.
Internal apps can take those company podcasts, videos, audio streaming, and the company newsletter, and make them available to remote employees in a secure environment.
In fact security is one of the key factors for making employee apps available in the first place: instead of placing your information on the Gmail mobile app, or on the Spotify mobile app, an employee app designed specifically for internal communications can keep critical data from leaking to unauthorized ears or eyes
Analytics tools, as a way of tracking and analyzing employee performance, often conjures up images of Big Brother and an intrusive management team spying on employees.
But while there have been some reported abuses, this image couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Analytics apps are essential for tracking the effectiveness of internal performance and communications efforts.. They can be used to track employee engagement, response rates, and overall usage of internal communication tools, and can also be used to identify areas for improvement so managers can make data-driven decisions.
A common conversation starter between employees working at different companies meeting each other for the first time is: “What messaging app does your company use?”
Slack seems to be the most popular corporate messaging app, followed by Google Chat and Microsoft Teams. But in many parts of the world WhatsApp, Telegram and WeChat are used extensively, despite their security weaknesses.
Chat or instant messaging apps are used for quick, written conversations when email is just too much trouble.
Many chat apps combine video communications, For example, with Google Chat you can click the video icon at the bottom and send an instantaneous video call to the person you’re chatting with, and boom! Instant video meeting!
Calendar tools are a great way for employees to manage their schedule and stay on top of important events, especially for those of us who are constantly forgetting about meetings (guilty!).
Google calendar, Microsoft calendar and Calendly are some of the more popular calendaring apps. Calendly’s popularity stems from its ability to just add a calendly icon to your email signature and let other people schedule time with you.
Another great benefit of calendar tools are their ability to:
An intranet is “... a private network contained within an enterprise that is used to securely share company information and computing resources among employees…”, according to TechTarget.
In other words, it's an internal website that companies have used to dump everything from HR policies, to product information, corporate directories and employee training portals.
Intranets can be very useful, or they can be the bane of everyone’s existence. It depends on how they’re managed.
The principal benefit of a company intranet is the ability to have all the information an employee needs organized into a central repository. Think of those moments when you need to contact the sales manager at your Bahrain, Adelaide or Indianapolis offices. There’s nothing better than the convenience of pulling up your company’s intranet page and typing in the search bar of your company directory.
An enterprise social network is just what it sounds: a social media app for your company with a little bit more of a serious purpose than just scrolling endlessly through your friends’ photos and getting fomo.
Atlassian said that an enterprise social network “...usually incorporates some elements of team messaging, project management, task management, and collaboration tools into one platform.”
It’s lIke an intranet, a messaging app and video conferencing software all rolled up into one.
An enterprise social network (ESN) allows “...colleagues to communicate and collaborate across silos, leading to higher employee engagement and more innovative ideas.”
You can also create functional or geographically focused groups, similar to Facebook or LinkedIn groups, to discuss matters pertinent to your job function or location.
Collaboration tools, also known as project collaboration tools, are applications that allow for collaboration between participants in a project, such as software development or a marketing campaign.
There is some overlap here between project management and collaboration tools, but collaboration tools focus on the communications aspect of projects.
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between collaboration tools and project management, especially today with so many project management tools adding collaborative features to their platforms.
The growth of product development methodologies such as design thinking and customer development has driven a sharp rise in the use of whiteboards as a collaborative brainstorming tool.
Visions of multi-colored sticky notes occupying hastily drawn swimlanes come to mind, and now you can do it with virtual whiteboard software! Hooray!
Companies such as Miro, Stormboard, Mural and Microsoft Whiteboard, among others, have arisen as a way for remote educators to teach online classes more effectively, and for remote teams to improve brainstorming sessions.
Employee feedback platforms have risen in popularity as a way to give workers more of a say in decisions taken by companies (or to make them feel like they have more of a say).
In addition to the ubiquitous and somewhat clunky Google Forms, companies such as Jotform, SurveyMonkey and Typeform provide easy-to-use forms that corporations can use both internally and externally.
An interesting application we’ve seen for employee feedback platforms is to let employees choose which song and drink combination would be best for the office Holiday party.
Internal knowledge management systems are a great way for companies to share information and resources with their employees. These systems can be used to store and share documents, videos, and other media.
Often embedded within the company intranet, internal management systems are like a company Wiki, and some allow for collaborative knowledge updates.
From simple task lists like Google to-do lists, to Microsoft Project and even Notion, task and todo list management tools have become a must-have application within corporate walls.
We’ve seen very sophisticated uses of applications like AirTable and Notion to manage to-do lists, projects, tasks and knowledge management. But sometimes all it takes is a simple Google Doc with a bulleted list of tasks, and the use of the “strike-through” font to show when a task is completed.
If your company is like a campus, digital signage is a fantastic way to advertise company events or update employees on relevant news and training.
Imagine eating your lunch in the company cafeteria while watching the latest replay of the recent corporate karaoke session on a nearby screen.
In case you’re thinking that time tracking and attendance software is not really an internal communication tool, think again. They are important tools to communicate information from the front lines to management.
Managers use these applications to:
Employee directories are exactly what the name implies: a directory of everybody that works for a company, such as contact information, titles and location. They’re mainly embedded within a company intranet, and are a great way for employees to find the right internal contact for a project or to obtain time-sensitive information from relevant parties.
Though similar to an employee directory, organizational chart software shows the hierarchies and reporting structures within an organization. For example if you want to make a lateral move at your company, the organizational chart can help you identify who the director of a department or regional office is.
According to the Engagedly blog, “Employee goal setting and tracking is one of the most crucial aspects of a business.”
Despite the somewhat hyperbolic wording, we do believe it is important because aligning employee goals with corporate goals can give your workforce a feeling that they have a personal stake in the fate of the company.
Setting and monitoring employee objectives and goals are important to ensure a company is moving as a unified whole towards an important objective.
Applications such as Engagedly, Trakstar, Asana, and Jira, among others, have robust employee goal-setting and performance management functionalities that allow for the communication and tracking of employee goals.
While not a completely exhaustive list, we feel that with the tools we’ve discussed here, organizations of all shapes, sizes, and organizational structures can properly manage communications with and between employees, as well as share corporate values and even drive employee satisfaction.
In the current post-pandemic environment, where meaning and purpose are paramount in the minds of today;’s workforce, internal communication tools must enable a democratic, two-way or multi-directional flow of information.
At the same time, while helping employees to fulfill their personal and professional objectives is important, management needs to keep the focus on company goals such as growth, profitability and corporate responsibility.
We feel the tools mentioned here strike that delicate balance between employee empowerment and corporate objectives.
What do you feel we left out? What would you suggest for a future version of this list?
Feel free to contact us below, or to email us directly.
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