Your Ultimate Guide to Internal Communication
for Frontline Industries
Did you know that poor communication costs companies $37 billion each year in lost productivity?
Internal Communications: Definition
Internal communication, in its simplest form, is the way a company and it's employees interact with each other to get the job done. That's it. As a business leader primarily managing employees who don’t work at a desk, you face specific communication challenges. Challenges that managers with office-bound employees don't have to worry about.
You’ll get actionable, easy to understand answers to questions like:
- * What is internal communications and why is it important?
- * What are some trending issues in internal communications?
- * What security and compliance issues do you need to be aware of?
- * How do you implement a proper internal communication strategy?
- * How do you measure ROI?
Chapter 1: Understand What Internal Communication Actually Is
Let's start with the basics. In this chapter, we'll cover what internal communication is, the benefits a strong internal communication strategy provides, and current trends your company should be preparing for.
What Is Internal Communications in 2021?
So what is internal communications exactly? There are many ways to answer that question. For some, the answer might be a specific software tool. For others, internal communication is a certain strategy that keeps team members on the same page.
There are plenty of different internal communication methods. But it doesn't matter if your organization uses the latest and greatest technology systems to keep in touch, or a simple bulletin board in the breakroom, the objective of internal communication is always the same: to facilitate interaction between a company and those who work for it.
The Benefits of Effective Internal Communication
Internal communication is the way a company and its employees interact with each other. Great, but why should your organization invest time and funds into bettering this relationship? Why do some companies share important information via a bulletin board in the break room while others build out entire systems dedicated to the task?
The truth is, effective internal corporate communication (effective being the key word here) will benefit your business in multiple ways. For many companies, the bulletin board isn't an ideal method as it’s outdated almost as quickly as it’s posted (not to mention the environmental impact of regular printing), so they turn to other tools.
No matter what internal communication channels your organization uses, an effective system will provide the following benefits:
With the proper internal communication system in place, management will be able to quickly relay business goals, best practices, and important news to employees. Team members will also be able to ask questions and get feedback right away.
By investing in a mobile-friendly internal communications app, your company will enjoy other efficiency perks as well, such as:
- • Employee surveys
- • Recurring newsletters
- • Automated shift notices
Many internal communications platforms even give users access to chatbots which makes internal communication that much easier. Imagine the freedom management will feel when simple, but common, questions like, "What time should I arrive on Friday?" are answered automatically!
Research shows that engaged team members work harder and more efficiently, experience more joy, and are much less likely to quit.
Engaging frontline workers has its challenges. Unlike their office-bound counterparts, non-desk workers aren't centralized in one convenient location. This means that addressing and engaging them in their day-to-day activities isn't as simple as calling a quick, impromptu lunch meeting. Even teamwide email blasts won't solve the problem as only 17% of field workers have a company-issued email address.
What's the solution? We recommend you take advantage of proven engagement techniques such as sending polls and surveys to your workforce. Asking for your team's opinions has two distinct advantages.
- • Learn critical information about your business.
- • Your employees will feel valued and engaged in their work.
When employees receive instructions quicker, they're able to implement management's requests in a more timely fashion. When team members feel engaged, happy, and valued, studies show that productivity will increase by as much as 31%.
Top Internal Communication Best Practices and Trends
There are plenty of innovative internal corporate communication ideas out there. Here are the main trends for frontline industries that you need to be aware of:
Re-imagine Company Culture
Company culture has always been important. But the need for continued culture improvement, especially when attempting to scale a company, has never been more clear. Your team wants to feel appreciated and like they're working on something meaningful. An effective internal communication system plays a large role in making them feel this way.
Embrace Digital Dexterity
Digital dexterity refers to a company's ability and willingness to use both existing and emerging technologies for business gain. Technology can improve just about every area of business. This is especially true when it comes to internal communication. A communication tool that frontline workers can use in the field is essential. One that provides management with detailed analytics as well is invaluable.
Most experts agree that artificial intelligence is the future. Companies that get on board with this fact will be better positioned to excel in the future. As we mentioned earlier, AI technologies can make your internal communications planning much more efficient. Through the use of automation, management will be able to focus on the most important tasks, while delegating the tedious aspects of communication to chatbots and other forms of technology.
Learn about the latest internal communication trends. Then implement them into your business.
Can't read it now? No problem!
Download the PDF version to read it later:
Make Sure Your Internal Comms Are Secure
In the last few years, data security has become a hot topic. Rightfully so. Every week it seems we're treated to a breaking story regarding consumer messaging apps (think Facebook, WhatsApp, and the like) and the ways in which they've been careless with user information.
These mistakes have led to bad press, customer distrust, and a significant drop in revenue. The same thing could happen to your organization if its internal communications became exposed. Let's spend some time discussing the security measures your internal communication system needs.
Security Measure to Look For
Data security matters, we can all agree on that. But how can your company ensure that its internal communications stay protected? Start by double checking that your communication tools have the following attributes:
Built for the Task
The internal communication tool your company uses should be built for the specific purpose of keeping enterprises in touch. Consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp were not designed to share important business data. As such, they don't have the qualifications needed to ensure security.
Professional-level internal communications platforms will have:
- Best-in-class 256-bit TLS encryption
- Advanced firewall protection
- ISO 27001 certified data centers, and
- Perform regular external security audits
If your internal communication tool doesn't have these security features, consider switching to one that does.
If you're not familiar, the GDPR is a data security law, established in the European Union in 2018. It gives the general public greater control over their personal information. It also monitors what companies are legally allowed to do with customer data.
This law applies to any business that has customers residing in the EU—even if the company in question does not. For example, a hotel in New York is subject to GDPR rules if it hosts international guests. Failure to abide by the new law may result in hefty fines of up to 20 million euros.
Internal communication systems that aren't GDPR compliant, WhatsApp for example, put businesses at risk. What if internal conversations about customer information get hacked? This is entirely plausible given the lax security measures of consumer messaging apps. Were this to happen, your company would be in violation of the GDPR and may have to pay the expensive fines.
So, how secure are your workforce internal communication channels? Does the tool you're currently using meet the criteria above? If not, you'll want to consider investing in a tool that does. We'll cover that topic and more in the next chapter.
Improve Internal Communication at Your Company: Creating an Internal Communications Plan
Now that you know why secure internal communication is important, let's talk about the ways you can improve it at your place of business.
Internal Communication Best Practices: Does Your Company Have Internal Communication Issues?
Before attempting to improve your internal communication system, first ask if you're experiencing any issues. And, if so, what those issues are. Here are a couple problems to look out for:
Your Management Team and Your Employees Are on Different Pages
Miscommunication between management and their teams will almost always lead to poor results. When significant decisions are made, how does leadership inform the rest of the company? If the system you're currently using doesn't encourage communication, it may be time for a change.
But healthy internal corporate communication isn't a one-way street. Your workforce should also have a convenient way to ask management questions. This will ensure that each worker is crystal clear on their responsibilities and costly mistakes are minimized. Do your current internal communication channels allow for two-way conversations?
You Receive a Lot of Customer Complaints
This is an indirect sign of poor internal communication. A large number of dissatisfied customers could be the result of poor communication. If leadership's commands aren't acted upon, the customer is bound to suffer the consequences.
As we mentioned earlier, internal communication engages employees. Engaged team members are generally happy ones. A high number of customer complaints could also signify that your employees are feeling unsatisfied in their work. This could lead them to take out their frustrations on innocent customers.
Admittedly, this issue needs to be thoroughly investigated. There are many reasons why your company might receive customer complaints. Poor internal communication is just one of them. But it's worth looking into.
Implement a Winning Internal Communication Strategy
If you've concluded that, yes, your company needs to improve internal communication, it's time to start doing so. Here are the internal communication best practices that you need to be aware of.
Know Your Goals
Before doing anything else, you need to understand what you're trying to achieve. What are your goals? What issues are you trying to resolve by implementing an internal communication strategy? What’s your internal communications plan?
For many organizations, internal communication objectives include sharing company news, notifying team members of any changes in company processes, and gaining valuable feedback via employee surveys. Each of these objectives could help to improve engagement, reduce turnover rates, and better facilitate team collaboration.
Identify Your Influencers
When implementing anything new at your company, be it an internal email program, a more efficient customer help process, or something else entirely, it's important that you identify influencers. These are people who understand the benefits the impending changes will bring and can get the rest of the company excited to embrace them. Oftentimes, they'll be company leaders such as c-suite executives or department managers, but not always.
The more influencers you have encouraging the rest of your team to use your new internal communication tools, the better.
Define Your Metrics
What will you measure to gauge the effectiveness of your internal communication strategy? We recommend using "adoption" and "activity rate" as key metrics.
Every industry is different, so the ideal metrics will vary from company to company. But in general, companies should aim for at least 50% monthly active users and 20% daily active ones. If you hit these marks, you can be confident that your internal communication system is in a healthy spot.
Develop Your Strategy
Both before you launch your new internal communication system and after it's up and running, it's crucial that you plan and strategize the kind of content you'll publish. What can you post that will engage your team?
If you're fresh out of ideas, start with welcome messages, company news, and employee recognition. Aim to post two or three messages a week inside your new internal communication platform. This is a good amount as it will allow you to engage your team without becoming a distraction.
Engage Your Team
Speaking of team engagement, our fifth and final internal communication best practice is to get your employees involved as much as possible. Internal communication only works when both management and workforce invest and use it.
The best way to make sure this happens is to share company news and employee achievements and encourage competition. For example, you could run quarterly competitions to see which department can maintain the highest internal communication tool usage rates. The winners would then get announced via the app and be given a reward.
Choose the Best Internal Communication Tools
According to a Towers Watson study, companies with effective employee communication tools see 47% higher total returns than businesses who communicate ineffectively. You want to be a part of the first group. But there are many different internal communication platforms on the market. Here's how to choose the best tool for your organization and build your internal communications plan.
Identify Your Needs
Start by listing out everything you need in an internal operational communication tool. Think about who will use the platform. Do you need a tool your entire company can access or just one specific department?
Also, consider how you plan to use the tool. Is it for collaboration purposes? Perhaps you need an internal communications app so that team members can quickly go back and forth on projects. Or do you just need a broadcasting tool that will allow management to blast updates to employees in a convenient way?
There's no right or wrong answer here. Just be honest and evaluate your company's unique situation.
Make Your Budget
Price is always a concern. The cost of communication tools can range from a few dollars a month to over five figures a year depending on the features included. Do your best to balance the needs your company has and the price it can afford.
Do Your Homework
It's important to read product reviews when investing in any kind of business tool. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites out there dedicated to sharing this information. Sites like Capterra and G2 Crowd are very useful. You can learn a lot from specific company case studies as well.
Demo the Platform
Finally, before making a purchase, demo the product first. This will allow you to see, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if it's the right tool for you. A list of product features is great, but it won't tell you what using a piece of internal communication software is really like.
Verified customer reviews from sites like Capterra are important, but they can't replace the experience of using the app for yourself. Any tool worth its salt will allow you to test the product out for free before committing.
There are many internal communication platforms on the market. These four steps will help you narrow down the options and choose the right one.
Internal Communication Examples and Tips for Frontline Industries
Internal communication in frontline industries like hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and countless others is essential. The best way to ensure that it happens is to invest in a digital, mobile-friendly platform that can be accessed on your teams' mobile phones.
Here are our top tips and internal communication examples on how to reach your frontline employees.
1. Invest in a Centralized Platform
Research shows that frontline employees crave involvement. They want to know what's going on at their place of work. This, paired with the fact that you need a reliable way to communicate with your team anyway, makes investing in a centralized communication platform a no-brainer.
When you can reach your employees via a convenient centralized employee portal, communication becomes a breeze. Management can assign tasks, team members can ask questions, and the hotel as a whole will run more smoothly.
Pro tip: Check out our internal communications toolkit for out-of-the box templates you can use in your internal communications planning today.
As an added bonus, a centralized internal communication software will make your team feel more engaged. This will increase both productivity and retention rates.
2. Leverage Your Employees' Personal Devices
Very few frontline workers in the hospitality industry have company email addresses. But most of them have smartphones practically glued to their hips. And they're likely using them on company time whether you like it or not. Rather than fight the inevitable, embrace it with a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.
Encourage your team to bring their phones to work and use them to communicate with their colleagues via the internal communication channels you've established. This will allow you greater control over the conversations that are already happening. It will also ensure that your internal communications stay secure — an area of great importance since 70% of data leakage loss happens on smartphones. Protect your data with a strong BYOD policy.
3. Become More Transparent
Internal communication tools can benefit your hotel in amazing ways. But only if the solutions you put in place get used by your staff. One way you can increase usage rates is to promote transparency.
By sharing hotel sales figures, company goals, and more, you'll build trust with your team. They will, in turn, become more engaged in their work and more likely to communicate via your internal communication tool. When this happens, productivity, efficiency, and business growth will increase.
4. Choose Dependable Forms of Communication
Sometimes things go wrong out in the field. When this happens, employees and management need to communicate quickly to resolve issues. Unfortunately, face-to-face conversations are rarely possible and email messages don't grab attention or reach production workers.
Instead, base your internal communication on a digital, mobile platform. When all management/employee contact happens via a smartphone app, communication becomes quick and issues get resolved in record time.
5. Get Employee Feedback
Nobody knows what's happening on the factory floor better than the folks who work there every day. Management needs to communicate with factory workers and glean their insights. But many veteran workers in this field aren't used to freely conversing with their bosses. They're great at fulfilling requests and getting jobs done, no questions asked.
But this doesn't benefit your manufacturing business. By implementing an intuitive internal communication system, preferably one that can be accessed on a personal mobile device, you'll empower your staff to share their knowledge. You can then use this information to increase efficiency, update processes, and more.
6. Ensure Employee Safety
In frontline industries, workplace safety is imperative. Fortunately, an internal communications app can help your team avoid injury. How? Safety best-practices can easily be shared with employees in the form of written documents and informational videos.
Also, management can poll their teams with safety quizzes and surveys. This will allow company leaders to gauge how much safety information their employees are actually retaining. And it will tell them if their safety manuals are clear or need to be updated.
Lastly, internal communication software makes it easy for any team member to file an incident report. One of the best ways to reduce workplace injuries is to get more eyes on problem areas. Empower your team and encourage them to immediately report unsafe working conditions when they see them via your internal communications app.
Internal communication examples of safety and training messaging
7. Create an Internal Communication Plan
First, have an internal communications plan. Many companies don't and suffer the consequences. How will you contact and engage your team? How much information do they need on company policies, processes, and upselling?
By establishing how communication should happen, the key messages that should be conveyed, and the channels that should be used, you'll ensure that your business runs smoothly.
8. Make it a Two-Way Street
Internal communication is usually a one-way street. Management gives direction to its staff and that's it. This is problematic for multiple reasons:
- It discourages employees from asking questions. Mistakes are then made because staffers aren't clear on what they're supposed to do.
- Employees are typically the first to encounter problems. But why would they share them with management if they feel their voice isn't valued?
- Workers want to feel engaged in their work, just like employees in every other industry. A working atmosphere that gives a voice to its workers will see much lower turnover rates.
When developing your internal communication channels, make sure that your team has the ability to ask questions, alert you to problems, and is sufficiently engaged in their work.
9. Don't Fight the Mobile Revolution
Your staff is already texting each other. Don't fight the inevitable. Embrace it and give them a platform to communicate through that you control. Preferably one that can be accessed via each employee's smartphone.
This will allow you to stay in regular contact with your team, encourage two-way conversations (even the shyest employees can send a text), and boost engagement. The numbers don't lie. Engaged and motivated employees contribute 69% more revenue.
How to Measure Internal Communication ROI
Once your internal communication channels are in place, it's important that you monitor them and assess ROI. Unfortunately, according to recent reports, less than 40% of internal communicators take the time to measure the effectiveness of their communications.
This presents numerous budgetary and productivity concerns. You should know how much your internal communication system costs. Then you can determine if the cost is justifiable.
You should also investigate how much internal communication is saving your company. According to Thought Leader Zone, the average business with 100 employees loses roughly 17 hours a week and over $500,000 a year due to poor communication. That's no joke! Think of how much more money your organization can keep after implementing internal communication tools.
How to Measure ROI
But all this begs the question: how should internal communication ROI be measured? If you use a digital solution, you'll have access to a robust analytics dashboard that will help you measure ROI. Here are the main stats to look for:
- Adoption Rate: How many employees are actually using your internal communication software? Look to see what percentage of your team has created an account and signed in to use it.
- Open and Response Rate: An employee may have "adopted" your platform, but not be engaged in it. Next, measure what percentage of your messages are being opened. Obviously, the higher the number, the better. It may also help to look at response rates. A response shows the highest level of employee engagement.
- Employee Surveys: Finally, to help judge the effectiveness of your internal communication efforts and get an accurate feel for its ROI, simply ask your team their thoughts on the platform. Create a survey and send it out. Then pay close attention to the answers you receive.
Pro tip: Estimate the ROI of your internal communications planning. Simply plug a few employee details into our ROI calculator and you'll be able to instantly see the potential annual impact of an internal communications app.
Internal Communication Statistics
Prioritizing internal communication may sound like a “nice to have” at first, but there is real business value in improving internal communication. For businesses who don’t, the consequences can be costly.
Let’s take a look at internal communication by the numbers. . .
• Around 74% of employees have the feeling they are missing out on company news.
• 400 surveyed corporations (with 100,000 plus employees in the U.S. and U.K.) estimated that communication barriers cost the average organization $62.4 million per year in lost productivity.
• 82% of IT buyers said they planned to increase spending on deskless technology in 2019, and 33% said their top reason was productivity.
• 53% of frontline workers use messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger up to six times a day for work-related reasons, but 68% of them said they’d stop if given approved internal communication tools.
• Employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read text.
• Companies with leaders who possess effective communication skills produced a 47% higher return to shareholders over a five-year period.
• Nearly 20% of internal communication managers expect their budgets to increase in 2020 as they manage information overload.
Internal Communication Best Practices from the Experts
Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what some of the industry’s most influential thought leaders have to say about internal communication.
“The purpose of internal communication isn’t telling people what to do, but to create a shared understanding and meaning. Only then can employees’ align themselves to a company’s goals. With purpose in mind, keep asking questions and listening to employees across the company to get to the root of the issue.”
- Rachel Miller, Director, All Things IC
“The way you communicate with your team internally is ultimately the way your team will communicate with your customers. Communication often interrupts, so good communication is often about saying the right thing at the right time in the right way with the fewest side effects.”
- Jason Fried, Founder & CEO at Basecamp
“Learning how our brains work is important as we look to encourage empathy, support wellbeing and engage people - all a part of what we do in internal communications.”
- Trudy Lewis, Internal Communication Consultant
“It's always important to ask what we want to result from our comms - too easy to be thrilled by the stuff we produce rather than focus on the 'why'”
- Liam Fitz, Author, Managing Partner at Working Communications Strategies, Partner Donhead Consultants