Back in the day, corporate communication used to be cumbersome.

Whether it was by phone or snail mail, it wasn’t like working on-site.

Now, people work remotely all the time. Thanks to video conference calls, real-time document editing, and the like, it’s much easier to work together no matter where you are.

But when it comes to communicating to a dispersed workforce, if HQ is trying to talk to a department or the whole company, many organizations still operate in the old ways. Some send out a mass email, hoping people read it. For those in sectors or industries with employees who don’t have access to email throughout the workday, they might mail something and trust the store manager pins it up on the back wall.

Most companies are sprinting away from their intranets after they’ve discovered how much effort and time it takes to update, and how few employees pay attention to it, and they’ve been discovering other ways to communicate to their workforce.

Here are the pros and cons to the most popular ways to communicate to your dispersed workforce.

Company Email

Email is perhaps the most common way of communicating in the workplace. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of emails.

Advantages

  • Speed. No matter how far apart two people are, an email can go from one to the other in a matter of seconds. Problems can be addressed quickly and efficiently. Questions can be asked and answered almost instantly.
  • Cost. Email is free to access, provided a person has access to a computer and the internet, which is standard for almost every workplace. You don’t have to pay for expensive software, postage, or other costs.
  • Direct. Emails travel a direct route from sender to recipient. There is no middleman to confuse things. An email can go to a single person or to a large group and replies go straight back to the person he or she is in contact with.
  • Attachments. You can easily attach documents, spreadsheets, and other important pieces of information to the email. Because of the attachment capability, you can email large amounts of information with ease.

Disadvantages

  • Information Overload. Emails are great, but sometimes they can be a little overwhelming. People can load emails with information, which is great for ease of communication, but not so fun for the person on the receiving end. No one likes wading through pages of words to find the point.
  • Computers. Unfortunately, emails are confined directly to computers or, in some cases, mobile devices. This can make email inconvenient for people who aren’t sitting in front of a desk all day. They might see things at the end of the day, but if something needs their immediate attention, an email might not cut it.
  • Spam and Viruses. We’ve all had important email magically end up in the junk folder for no apparent reason. Emails can be unpredictable, and dangerous too. One email carrying a virus can infect the whole building’s system if an unsuspecting employee opens it.
  • Complicated Ideas. Some things are better explained in person, or at least in a setting where a true conversation can occur. Complicated concepts can bring up questions that are better left for personal interactions.

Best Way to Utilize

Email is best utilized when people are at their desks. This makes it less effective for companies in lines like retail or manufacturing, where employees can’t easily access email while working. Still, it’s an effective way to keep people up to date.

Intranet

Intranet is an internal network for a company. Only employees have access to it, making it slightly safer from outside forces than email. Employees can access the private network through the internet.

Advantages

  • Only Employees. Only employees can access a company’s intranet. Well, technically someone could from the outside, but it would take a lot more effort than most people are willing to put in.
  • More than Email. Intranets do a lot more than email. They provide space to store information, instant messaging capabilities for easy communication, and details about the company and its policies.
  • Social Connection. Intranets give employees the chance to connect with each other. In fact, 73% of activity on intranet servers is devoted to instant messaging and activity streaming.

Disadvantages

  • Design. A successful intranet is not built in a day. It can be quite expensive to hire the designers necessary to create and keep an intranet running.
  • Time Consuming. Because intranets contain so much information, it can take a long time to find what you’re looking for. You can unintentionally waste a lot of time sifting through everything in your search.
  • Disconnect. Employees can often feel disconnected. Intranet lessens the need for human to human interaction. Employees feel more like a part of a machine than a company. Check out these ideas for getting employees excited about intranet!

Best Way to Utilize

Intranet can be used very effectively if you put the time, and often money, into developing it. Some systems are confined to a single building, however, and can’t be used for people in more than one place. If it’s not tethered to one building, you have a very convenient way for people to connect.

Physical Mail

Most people consider physical mail or announcements unnecessary with all the technological advances we’ve made in the past few decades. But snail mail may be making a comeback.

Advantages

  • Rarity. Because snail mail is so rare, it makes you feel kind of special when you get it. It shows that someone has put in the extra time and effort to create the mail and send it to you personally.
  • High Traffic. Putting up paper announcements is a good idea when you have high traffic areas. Think of a break area in a restaurant, where waiters and waitresses will be coming and going. Pinning a notice on a bulletin board will get people’s attention.

Disadvantages

  • Cost. Physical mail and announcements cost more. It takes a lot paper, especially if you are sending things to a lot of people.
  • Speed. There’s a reason emails have replaced snail mail. It’s faster. If it’s a question of speed, emails are your best bet.

Best Way to Utilize

This is best used within companies. Placing physical announcements in strategic places can reach a lot of people without having to compete with the large number of emails in a person’s inbox.

Digital Signage

Digital signage is a distant cousin of intranet. You can use it to display whatever you wish on a network of screens. The screens don’t all have to be in the same building, which can be very helpful for a dispersed workforce. It’s used for both advertising in public venues and communication in-house.

Advantages

  • Instant, Widespread Reach. With the click of a button, you can update all your screens with relevant information, instantly reaching people all over.
  • Easy to Manage. Managing digital signage content can be quite easy, especially if you have a handy program to help you do so.
  • Eye-catching. If created well, the information on the screens will grab people’s attention. The key to that is keeping it simple, scalable (fits screens of different sizes without becoming hard to read), and fun. Use bright colors, graphs, or even pictures.

Disadvantages

  • Limited by Screens. The information you give will only show up on screens. If there is some sort of technological malfunction or a screen gets moved without your knowledge, people might miss key information.
  • Fading into the Background. If done right, you can overcome this by updating the content so it’s always relevant. If you don’t update it, then no one notices it anymore.

Best Way to Utilize

This is a great way to keep lots of people who are far away from each other updated on company information, news, or even safety updates. You don’t have to spend the time or effort designing a template on the intranet, or worry about people seeing it in their email inbox, and you can make the information visually appealing.

Conclusion

There are plenty of other options and I encourage you to explore some. Find what works best for your company. After all, what works best for you might not work best for another place.

What strategies have you used and which ones work best?