Internal Communication Tools: Definition, Types + Examples
Think an internal communications strategy isn’t worth your time? Poor internal comms can have a real and negative effect on everything from employee engagement and retention to your overall bottom line. The right tool(s) should help your company improve the way you communicate—and can be a great starting point for defining and implementing a scalable comms strategy.
Internal communication tools are software that helps companies manage employee communications. These tools can help streamline communication between managers and employees, or between employees themselves. They can also help reduce the need for face-to-face meetings, which can save time and money.
Why are communication tools important?
In today's workplace, communication is key. Having the right tools in place can make a big difference in how well your team works together and how efficiently you can get things done.
The benefits of communication tools
Facilitates collaboration across teams
Reduces time wasted
Eliminates geographic barriers
Improves efficiency, clarity, and transparency
Gives employees the information needed to do their job
Promotes an engaged workplace
Without a communication tool, you're likely to run into issues with coordinating work, keeping everyone on the same page, and simply getting your point across. When communication is ineffective, it can lead to frustration, wasted time, or information overload.
Features of an effective communication tool
The ability to search for specific messages or conversations is a key component of any great communication tool. These tools should have features that allow you to search by keywords, people, dates, tags, categories, and even attachments. Allowing users to easily find the information they need without having to search within projects.
Organization and structure
An organized communication tool will allow users to structure information in the ways that work best for them. Many communication tools have the ability to create channels, tagging, and even custom fields to help organize information.
The ability to control how information is presented makes it easier for users to find the information they need and reduces the overall clutter in a project.
Communication tools that provide users with a news feed allow teams to see what is happening in real-time. This feature is important for keeping everyone on the same page and up-to-date on the latest activity and project developments across teams.
The ability to receive notifications about specific conversations or messages is a key feature of communication tools. This allows users to stay updated on the latest activity in a project and ensures that no important information is missed.
It's not uncommon for companies to use multiple tools for internal communications, which makes a file sharing feature crucial. The ability to share PDFs, images, videos, and other types of files can make it much easier for team members to collaborate on projects.
The ability to share information with people outside of your company is a major advantage of communication tools. This feature allows you to quickly connect with prospects, customers, partners, and other stakeholders.
The ability to track activity is a feature that can help users see the history of what has been said and done in a project. Being able to view the activity history can also be helpful when working across several projects, as it can serve as a bookmark for referencing what you're working on without having to search through each project individually. It can also be helpful for auditing purposes or simply understanding how a project has progressed over time.
Security and permissions
Security plays an important role in how your information is stored. Using a communication tool that offers advanced permissions and security, can give you peace of mind that your data is safe.
Multi-language support is often overlooked when it comes to communication tools. However, it can be a critical feature for companies with employees or customers located in different parts of the world.
Having the ability to use tools in several languages also promotes an inclusive environment and can allow employees or customers to enjoy the program in their native language.
Interactions and discussion
When working within a tool, it can be helpful to have the ability to interact with other users in a discussion without having to utilize a separate tool. This feature allows you to ask questions, give feedback and collaborate with others in real-time.
The ability to access your communication tool on the go is a major advantage. Mobile apps allow users to stay connected and continue working on projects, even when they're away from their office. It can help teams be aware of any urgent updates or notifications, as soon as they arise.
The ability to integrate with the other tools you have can make communication more seamless. This can include project management tools, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and even accounting software.
While some tools have these integrations built-in, others may require using third-party software, so it's important to consider what would work best for your team when choosing your communication tool.
Types of internal communication tools
Messaging and chat
Voice and video conferencing
Client relationship management (CRM)
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As the world increasingly goes digital so does the way we communicate. Messaging and live chat tools allow teams to communicate in real-time, whether in the same room or across the globe. These tools allow for quick and easy communication between team members without needing face-to-face interaction.
Can be used for informal conversations
Allows for quick exchange of information
Can be used to share files and links
Can be difficult to have a back-and-forth conversation
May be disruptive if used for non-work related conversations
Intranets are private networks that are only accessible to an organization's employees. They provide a platform for teams to communicate while staying up-to-date on company news and announcements.
Can be used to share sensitive information
Allows for easy collaboration on projects
Can be customized to fit the needs of the organization
Can be difficult to set up and maintain
Not all employees may have access to the network
In a collaborative workplace, it's important to be able to work on documents together. Document collaboration tools allow team members to work on the same document simultaneously, and see each other's changes in real-time. These tools can be used for brainstorming sessions, writing documents, design work, or collaborating on presentations.
Can be used for a variety of purposes
Allows team members to work together in real-time
Can be used for brainstorming sessions
May require training for team members to use correctly
In the age of information, it's important to be able to manage and share company knowledge, while maintaining a single source of truth within the organization. Knowledge management tools help teams to organize, store and share information while minimizing time wasted.
Can be used to store and share a variety of information
Allows for easy retrieval of information
Can help teams stay organized
Can require a large time investment to set up and maintain
Project management tools help teams to plan, track, and execute projects. These tools can be used for small projects or large initiatives, and allow employees to manage deadlines and track their progress.
Can be used for small or large projects
Allows employees to manage deadlines and track progress
Can help teams stay on budget
Can be difficult to learn and use
Can be inflexible depending on which teams are using them
May require ongoing training for team members
Voice and video conferencing
Voice and video conferencing tools allow team members to communicate with each other without being in the same physical space. These tools can be used for team meetings, training sessions, or one-on-one consultations. Video conferencing can also be used to connect with remote team members or clients.
Can be used for all kinds of conversations
Allows team members to connect with each other without being in the same room
Can be expensive to set up
In a digital workplace, it's important to be able to share files quickly and easily. File sharing tools allow team members to share documents, photos, videos, and other types of files with each other. These tools can be used for collaboration or for simply sharing information.
Allows team members to share files
Can be difficult to keep track of who has access to which files
May require a paid subscription for certain features
Marketing tools help teams to create and manage marketing campaigns. They can be used for a variety of purposes, such as email marketing, social media marketing, or content marketing.
Allows marketing teams to track results and measure messaging and campaign success
Not designed for internal use
Client relationship management (CRM)
CRM software helps organizations to manage and maintain relationships with their customers. This type of software can be used for sales, marketing, or customer service purposes.
Allows organizations to track customer interactions and data
Can help improve customer satisfaction
Not designed for internal use
Strategies for building your internal communications plan
Now that you know the basics of internal communications tools, it's time to start planning your strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start to build your plan:
Define your goals: What do you want to achieve with your internal communications? Do you want to increase employee engagement? Improve communication between departments? Make sure everyone is on the same page about company news and announcements?
Identify your audience: Who do you need to communicate with? All employees? Just remote workers? Do you need to segment your messages by department or location?
Choose the right channels: What communication channels will work best for your audience and goals? Email? Intranet? Slack? Video conferencing?
Review your current internal communications methods
Now that you've reviewed your current internal communications, it's time to start thinking about ways to improve. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Increase employee engagement: If you want to increase employee engagement, consider using tools that allow for two-way communication. This could be something like a company forum or an instant messaging tool.
Make it easy to find information: If employees are having trouble finding the information they need, consider using a searchable intranet or an internal communications platform that allows for tagging and categorizing of content.
Get everyone on the same page: If you want to make sure everyone is receiving the same messages, consider using a tool that allows you to target specific groups of people or that allows you to send messages to everyone at once.
Solicit feedback and ideas
Ask your employees how they think internal communications could be improved. What tools or methods would they like to see implemented? What do they think is working well and what needs to be changed? You can also ask for feedback after you've made changes to your internal communications plan. This will help you to gauge whether or not the changes are having the desired effect.
Once you've implemented your internal communications plan, it's important to communicate regularly with your employees. This could be through weekly or monthly updates, company-wide announcements, or just general check-ins.
Make sure to keep your employees updated on any changes or updates to the plan, and solicit their feedback on how things are going. Internal communications is an ongoing process, so make sure to review and update your plan on a regular basis.
Offer employee resources and training
If you want your employees to make use of the internal communications tools and channels that you've set up, it's important to offer employee resources and training. This could include things like:
A quick start guide to using the tools
Online tutorials or how-to videos
In-person training or group sessions
H3 Set a golden rule
It's important to set a company-wide standard (or “Golden Rule”) for internal communications that defines how employees should expect to receive and consume information. This could be something as simple as "all employees must check the company intranet every day" or something more complex. At Guru, our is:
We Seek and Share Knowledge. For this to work, there must be a “contract” between you and everyone you work with at Guru. This means every one of us commits to doing 2 things...
(1) you share your knowledge asynchronously, knowing that everyone else will seek to digest what you share. You recognize the audience you are sharing to and optimize for them because it is important to you that they understand.
(2) you seek to digest the knowledge that others have spent time preparing to share with you. If what is being shared is unclear or not relevant, you recognize the value in sharing that feedback to improve what is shared in the future.
By setting a rule, you can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that communication is consistent.
Improving your internal communications doesn't have to be a time-consuming process. There are a number of templates and automation tools that can help you to streamline the process and save time.
Use templates for things like company announcements, meeting minutes, or status updates to set standards company-wide, and make use of automation tools to schedule and send messages or to create and distribute content.
Frequently asked questions on internal communications tools
How can collaboration tools improve team communication?
Collaboration tools can improve team communication by making it easier for team members to share information and work together on projects. These tools can also help to reduce the need for face-to-face meetings, which can save time and money.
How do you measure if your internal communications tool is effective?
There are a few ways to measure the effectiveness of your internal communications tool. First, examine overall usage. If usage is high, then it's likely that employees find the tool useful.
You should also look at how people are communicating — are repeat questions still being asked? Does it seem like people are frequently missing key information?
What are the barriers that affect communication?
There are a few common barriers that can affect internal communication, such as lack of trust, ineffective channels, a lack of transparency, and poorly defined roles and responsibilities.
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