5-step internal communications strategy: Reducing the chaos of how teams talk

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Anyone who played the telephone game as a kid knows the importance of accurate communication. It may sound dramatic, but being able to accurately and thoroughly communicate with team members may be the difference between companies reaching their goals and going out of business.

Workplace communication has always posed a struggle, and the challenges have increased with the recent rise of remote work. That’s why it’s more important than ever for employers to formulate an internal communications plan.

By following a five-step plan, you can build and maintain an effective communication strategy that informs employees, encourages collaboration, and gives them opportunities to engage with each other — keeping your company culture strong.

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How to level up your internal communication strategy in 5 steps

Finding the best way to make communication flow freely among team members (and throughout the company) isn’t as simple as it sounds. If there aren’t enough communication channels, people will undoubtedly get left out of important updates. 

But too much of a good thing is a distracting thing. Too many communication channels can offer diminishing returns by confusing team members (When do I use which channel?) and sucking them down the time-wasting rabbit hole of endless threads.

This guide will cover five actionable tips and internal communications examples that can improve your employee communication strategy.

1. Establish processes and expectations when it comes to communication

The most important rule to follow when implementing an effective project management communication plan is: Don’t treat messaging and collaboration as a free-for-all.

Team members shouldn’t spend all day hovering over their chat apps or inboxes. While you shouldn’t have to wait hours (or days) to receive an update or answer a question, requiring employees to always be “on” isn’t fair or productive. This is especially true if you work with distributed team members, contractors, or freelancers.

Without establishing expectations, you’re basically setting up your team for burnout. Your communication goals should include:

How often your team needs to communicate

Daily stand-ups. Weekly check-ins. Monthly progress reports.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how often teams should meet. What matters is that you and your colleagues can plan for such events.

Make time for a meeting, but also make sure there's enough time for team members to focus on their other tasks and projects. Forty-two percent of remote workers say they’re more productive when given time to work uninterrupted.

Chat check-ins and video meetings are a must for modern teams, but they shouldn’t get in the way of letting your colleagues do their best work.

Deciding upfront how often your team should communicate speaks to the importance of having individual and shared schedules among your team. Doing so ensures that your teammates can block off time to participate in team communication efforts without sacrificing their personal productivity.

With tools like Teamwork, you can create recurring events (such as stand-ups or meetings) to create a sense of consistency and avoid annoying scheduling surprises.

Additionally, establishing specific policies and timeframes for check-ins and other types of communication is a smart move. For example, a company might implement policies such as:

  • Meetings must be scheduled at least 72 hours in advance.

  • Team members should respond to emails within one business day.

  • Teammates should respond to direct @mentions in Teamwork within 24 hours.

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When to keep internal comms formal (versus informal)

The tone of internal communication varies from business to business. Keeping your communication formal versus informal largely depends on your company culture.

Many teams use spaces such as their Slack channels as a place to get a bit informal, drop some memes, and let loose a bit. Meanwhile, sharing information via company-wide emails or Kanban board updates might be a bit more “suit and tie.”

While professionalism is always essential, giving your colleagues a place to drop the business talk is often a welcome break and a subtle way to bring people together.

It's all about keeping close to one theme. Your team can get confused if you demand one tone vs. another across different internal communication tools.

Where you document progress and milestones

Project management communication is important, and one of the most important aspects of successful internal communications is keeping folks updated on the progress of any given project.

This is where a Kanban board comes in handy. Rather than waste precious time going back and forth via email, project boards provide a definitive place for teams to update each other.

This strategy reduces bottlenecks and needless notification spam while still holding collaborators accountable for their roles.

Just remember: The business goal for establishing the processes above is better work performance and less stress among your employees.

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2. Come up with a communications hierarchy within your business

Keeping team members updated and in the loop is a big responsibility that shouldn’t fall on one person. And teams shouldn’t only receive top-down information, either.

Creating a communications hierarchy is key to a successful internal comms strategy and addresses both issues. Two aspects you'll want to include in your communication hierarchy:

Define roles (and who reports to whom)

When teammates know who exactly they report to or understand who is working on what, they feel more confident in their communication.

This is important for new and entry-level frontline workers. Managers should direct the flow of good internal communication. They should be comfortable delegating tasks to team members while also reporting to their higher-ups.

Luckily, Teamwork allows you to easily add new usernames, the company, and even the role type. This makes the communication hierarchy much simpler for leaders and those working together.

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Remember that a full-blown workflow or hierarchy may not be necessary if you’re a small team with only a handful of employees. For example, an up-and-coming agency might have one or two managers working with contractors and then reporting to the founder.

For larger companies, defining roles is crucial for cross-team collaboration and meeting communication needs across different departments.

Be transparent, but give teams the space to talk among themselves

Collaborating quickly and efficiently is crucial, especially among remote workers. The popularity of employee engagement apps like Slack (and platforms such as our Teamwork Chat) showcases how valuable these tools are in the communication process.

That said, teams should have the freedom and flexibility to speak their minds in their own internal communication channels via team chat. The same rings true whether we’re talking about entry-level workers, contractors, C-level executives, or anyone in between.

Managers should trust their teams and empower them to talk among themselves. To foster an authentic and open dialogue policy, team members need a space free of judgment to feel empowered to share ideas and concerns.

Team channels do a great job of removing the dreaded sense that “Big Brother” is always watching. Instead, channels help people feel relaxed and welcome to speak up. These channels and the freedom they provide help increase employee engagement and boost job satisfaction.

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For example, Teamwork allows you to create team channels, project channels, or send private messages in one place. We also provide one-on-one or team video chat to streamline communication even faster!

Want to see more? Try a free 30-day trial of Teamwork to see why more than 20,000 teams trust our software each day.

3. Discern between the need for real-time comms vs. 'passive' messages

“Ugh. Couldn’t this have just been an email?”

Chances are you’ve caught yourself thinking this after another meeting request lands in your inbox, right?

We’ve all been there.

How you prioritize tasks goes hand in hand with your internal communication strategy. Video calls, chat messages, and email might seem interchangeable, but they (generally) represent varying levels of urgency and prioritization.

For example, consider the following communication framework as a way for effectively structuring your internal communications plan:

  • Team chat for company announcements, video announcements, general communication among teams, and low-priority questions

  • Documentation hubs (Teamwork Spaces) and email as a centralized location for specific content, updates, team organizations, and onboarding documents [Insert image from original blog]

  • Video calls for meetings, presentations, and conversations that require 15+ minutes

  • Calls and SMS for urgent, real-time communication regarding high-priority issues and initiatives

Teams must find a balance between keeping folks informed and dumping irrelevant or overwhelming updates on them.

Use asynchronous workflows wherever possible

Since the pandemic, teams consist of many more remote workers than before. Some team members are scattered across time zones, making it inconvenient to always meet and communicate in real time.

Asynchronous communication channels are priceless for many reasons:

  • They keep employees more productive across the board because they can respond when it’s convenient for them. This mitigates the frustration of constant interruptions.

  • They offer a more inclusive approach to communication. Instead of meeting face to face in real time with a few team members, every person has access to the same updates and information — regardless of location.

  • They help teammates set boundaries and avoid stress, so they don’t feel like they need to be on and available every second.

Create due dates and timelines for specific tasks

Progress is the name of the game for your overall business strategy. Managers must see that their team reaches milestones and meets deadlines — they also have to address it when they don't.

Every stakeholder should know where to look for the deadlines and timelines they’re tasked with. Otherwise, they’ll operate in a vacuum with no direction, focus, or drive. That’s inefficient and doesn’t help team members feel like they’re doing a good job.

Effective internal communication must include due dates and project deadlines front and center in the tools the team uses. Having access to tools that make it easy to visualize timelines helps them manage their responsibilities more effectively, so everyone can contribute to the company goals.

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4. Condense your communications stack to save your team time

Fact: Forty-three percent of workers feel they waste too much time jumping between team chat and video apps.

With so many tools flooding the market, it’s no surprise that teams at large are stressed.

Although apps like Slack and Zoom are invaluable (particularly for remote teams), there’s no denying that they can be potential time wasters. Bouncing from platform to platform results in lost productivity, not to mention needless breaks in focus.

Likewise, learning the ins and outs of numerous individual tools can be daunting. For teams working with contractors, the expectation that they need to adopt half a dozen tools to work together is unrealistic.

This speaks to the value of using an all-in-one solution like Teamwork. With your chat app, scheduler, video meetings, and granular task management options all in one place, teams can get more done within a single platform.

Now, you're not just reducing time switching between apps — you're creating an easier way to onboard workers with one tool.

For example, our Kanban board syncs with your email, team chat, and scheduler, so all your comms are in the same place. Less switching, less time wasted.

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Host weekly check-ins for quick project updates

Check-ins are quick ways managers can get caught up on information they need. You can discuss quick progress reports, updates on milestones, and information on delays and bottlenecks in quick one-on-one meetings with team members.

Check-ins keep projects on track, help team members stay focused and accountable, and pave the way toward business objectives.

These meetings don’t have to be in person or on video, although both are acceptable vehicles for check-ins. Teams can use one of their internal collaboration tools, like Teamwork, to handle both real-time and asynchronous check-ins. This adds flexibility to the process while still giving managers significant project updates.

Reduce the number of meetings you have in a week

Too many meetings suck the life out of team members and decrease employee engagement.

Instead of meeting after meeting, employ internal communication tools instead. Keeping up with statuses, addressing issues, and tracking progress with preset key performance indicators (KPIs) gives companies the best of both worlds: They keep managers updated and keep team members more productive (and out of meetings).

By staying on top of projects through internal comms, you reduce the need for multiple meetings every week and give several hours back to each team member to do actual work.

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5. Assess (and reassess) your internal communications strategy over time

Reality check: Your communications won't be perfect on day one.

As you experiment with different tools and processes, assess what is and isn't working. Through conversations with your team and first-hand employee feedback, make a point to ask:

  • Do employees feel well informed?

  • Do employees feel that management hears and values their input?

  • Do employees spend too much time in meetings?

  • Do employees feel open to collaborating?

Through feedback and surveys, you can identify bottlenecks and potential communication problems before they have a chance to spiral out of control.

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Another way to assess the effectiveness of your internal communications tactics is through project time-tracking software. For example, Teamwork allows users to log the time spent on any given task (including communication). Tracking time gives you a quantitative metric to assess whether employees spend ample time communicating and how comms impact outcomes.

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Continuously improve your internal communication

Everyone wants to know what’s going on with work, from granular information about new employees, new products, and changing work hours to big-picture information like the company vision and yearly goals.

The most effective internal communication plan isn’t set-it-and-forget-it: Managers must keep their fingers on the pulse of their team, the communication tools available, and the feedback they get from on-site and remote employees.

By striving to make communication easier, quicker, and less stressful, companies keep their employees happy and engaged, projects moving forward productively, and the company culture positive.

Create OKRs, monitor team communication progress

Measuring objectives and key results (OKRs) is integral to understanding what is working and what needs work. Set the OKRs to help determine whether your internal communication strategy is working and how to improve it. Share these OKRs with the entire team, so they’ll be aligned with the objectives and understand expectations. Use OKR tracking software to list objectives, prioritize tasks, and create transparency.

6 common types of internal communication

Drilling down the broad term “internal communication” helps companies understand that there are many types of communication. It’s important to include how each of these will fit into your company’s internal communication plan.

Leadership-generated communication

This communication is a top-down strategy. The information or data originates at the highest levels and travels downward from the managers to the team members. This communication typically consists of big-picture information and corporate communications about the company's vision and overall objectives.

Team member-generated communication

Team member- or employee-generated communication travels from the team member up to the person’s manager and beyond. Some examples of employee-generated communication are employee polls and surveys, workplace surveys, and open or anonymous forums.

Peer-to-peer communication

A crucial part of any team is the collaboration and communication among team members, which is peer-to-peer communication (or lateral communication). Communication tools, social media platforms, peer recognition programs, reviews, brainstorming, and team collaboration sessions are good examples of this type of communication.

Crisis management communication

Handling communication smoothly when the company faces a dramatic change or challenge is the key to defusing the situation and maintaining an effective, collected workplace. Examples of crisis management internal communication are sharing information via multiple channels, having preset processes in place for crises (for example, if there’s a tornado or a fire), and having a way to broadcast news immediately during a crisis.

Culture-building communication

This type of communication builds, reaffirms, and adds to the company’s culture. Communications that share the company’s corporate responsibilities, core values, mission statement, and employee recognition programs are part of a company’s cultural communications.

Change communication

Getting team members to embrace and adapt to change may be like pulling teeth. The right communication strategy can smooth the path to change.

Sharing information in a proactive, transparent way can help alleviate team members’ stress about change and get them to adapt to it faster and with fewer obstacles. Examples of change communication are an office closing or moving, a product line being retired, a new software platform being added, or high-level hires or departures.

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Is your internal communications strategy working for you?

We can’t overstate the necessity of building a thorough, transparent internal communications strategy. Understanding the six common types of internal communications gives you a foundation for creating a plan that increases communication effectiveness, removes the need for multiple weekly meetings, and keeps everyone on track and focused from the top down.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your company’s internal communications, Teamwork is your solution. With our multiple communication features, time tracking, and Kanban boards, our app allows your team members to share information in real time and asynchronously. Whether you work all-remote, hybrid, or on-site, Teamwork empowers and includes everyone in the loop. Sign up for Teamwork for free today.

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