Communication is the structure that holds up a company, this includes internal communication.

In fact, companies that communicate well are 2.5 times more likely to outperform competitors. And it’s not something that’s easy to do well. Internal communication makes sure that all employees are on the same page, working toward the same goals.

Here are five aspects of internal communication that I think are necessary for any company.

1. Frequency

Imagine this. It’s Thursday, 3:00 p.m. And there’s an email in your inbox from the higher-ups. A newsletter of sorts, with all sorts of announcements and updates.

The problem? It’s the 6th email like it you’ve received this week.

With a sigh, you quickly scroll through and delete it, not really paying attention to what it says.

Or put yourself in this situation. You’re sitting in a meeting with your coworkers. It’s been so long since a meeting like this has been held that you can hardly remember the last one. As it starts, you can’t help but feel like you have no idea what’s going on.

Why It Matters

Frequency can be difficult when it comes to communication. You want to send information out often enough that people know what’s going on, but you don’t want to overwhelm them.

The key, as it often is, is balance.

Send out information too frequently and people will start to feel buried. I remember when I was a college student, I found myself on the receiving end of daily announcements. By the time I was a sophomore, I was no longer reading the whole email.

I merely skimmed the list of topics at the top and hit delete if there wasn’t anything interesting.

It was very annoying. Clearly. Since I still remember it.

On the other hand, if you don’t update people on a regular basis, they will feel completely lost. People like to feel informed. When they’re not informed, they feel like they’re walking around in the dark. Without a flashlight. In a forest. Where they can run into trees.

Tips and Tricks
  • Consistency. If you’re going to send out information, try to do it regularly. People like consistency, so try to send things out the same day of the week or month. They’ll know to expect it and even look forward to it.
  • Balance. This will look different for each company. Try to find a happy medium. This might require trying out a few different formats and asking people how often they want to be updated. Personally, I’d recommend looking at weekly or bi-weekly (by which I mean once every two weeks, not twice a week) updates.

2. Length

This is a paragraph.

This is also a paragraph, but it’s a lot different from the last one. This paragraph wants to tell you exactly what it’s doing here. It will explain, in detail, why it matters to you. It will include examples, statistics, facts, and anything else that will support its case. It may seem a little bit long-winded, but it assures you that every piece of information it includes is absolutely vital to your understanding of it.  By the time you get even close to the end of the paragraph, you start to wonder if the paragraph is actually saying anything. Or if what it’s saying is worth your time and attention. Because this paragraph is quite long.

Why It Matters

Length is a key factor in communication. It’s easy to overwhelm people by over explaining concepts and ideas. Sure, sometimes things have to be explained in detail. But no one likes wading through lines of text to find the small nuggets of information relevant to them.

At the same time, no one wants to be under-informed. They like to know why things are happening, or how they work. They’ll be more excited about new developments if they understand the reasons behind them.

Tips and Tricks
  • One Thing at a Time. The best way to manage length is to keep your communication restricted to one topic. When you try to fit too many subjects in, it just gets confusing. Stick to one point, explain it, and keep it concise.
  • Consider Audience. When you’re sending out an update or an announcement, think about who’s going to read it. How well do they already know the subject matter? If it’s a more general, everyone-will-read-it type thing, you might have to spend more time explaining things. If it’s news about computers being sent to the IT department, you probably won’t.

3. Accessibility

When it comes to news, accessibility is key.

Pretend for a moment that you’re looking for an actual key. The key opens a box that has everything you need to do your work for the day. You’ve been told that the key is somewhere in the building.

Well that doesn’t help.

You try to search in the logical places. Look near the box, in drawers, under papers, with your other things. No luck.

You spend hours searching for the key, and eventually find it. But as you put it in the lock to open the box, you realize it’s time to go home. You’ve wasted the whole day looking for the key.

Why It Matters

Information has to be easy to find and access. It wastes time if people have to go scrolling through old emails or searching for files buried amid data.

Unlike a lot of points on this list, there aren’t really opposite extremes you have to be careful about. It’s not about finding balance, it about making information available to the people who need it.

Tips and Tricks
  • Centralized Information. The best way to make information easy to access is to make it easy to find. Set aside sections of your website or intranet (if you have one) specifically for employees. Keep commonly asked questions and their answers up to date. Explain the core values of the company and the goals you have. Include big pieces of news that affect lots of people.
  • Informed People. People talk to each other. Some people are more comfortable asking questions of other people than searching for answers on a database somewhere. They can interact with the person they’re talking with, ask questions to clarify specific points, and contribute ideas. Making sure people, especially people in leadership positions, are informed is essential.

4. Direction

Direction is a bit of an abstract concept and it’s harder to control. It deals with where the information is going and whether it can be responded to.

I guess it can be broken into two categories, approachability and audience.

Approachability deals with which way communication goes. Does it only go from the top down? Do employees feel comfortable asking questions? Ideally it will go both ways, between the sender and receiver.

Audience is a little more straightforward. Who is the news being sent to? Does the tone and content fit?

Why It Matters

The direction of an interaction, whether digital or in person, can really influence how a person takes news. If the news is abrupt, detached, or vague, the person getting it will feel confused. Put out. Maybe even offended. And that’s not something you want in your employees.

It’s also important to make sure people are comfortable asking questions and interacting with their bosses. If they aren’t, they’ll simply stay confused and that doesn’t help anyone.

Tips and Tricks
  • Encourage Conversations. At the end of a meeting or email, ask if anyone has questions. Answer them quickly and concisely so that people know you follow through. Even if people don’t have questions about a topic, start conversations to find out what people think. Make an effort to draw out those opinions.
  • Choose Tone Carefully. Tone can change the way people perceive things. Sometimes an occasion needs a more formal tone. But sometimes a formal tone can intimidate people. Over-explaining things can make you sound condescending. Using too much jargon or corporate lingo can make you sound conceited. Try to connect with your audience on a personal level.

5. Delivery

Delivery deals with the method you use to communicate. Do you send an email? Call a meeting? Trust heads of departments to spread news?

Why It Matters

It’s Christmas (well, not right now, but pretend it is) and you’re waiting to open presents.

There are two in particular that have caught your eye. They’re about the same size, but that’s all they have in common.

The first present is beautifully wrapped. The paper is neatly folded, not a wrinkle in sight. A shiny ribbon encircles it and is tied in a perfect bow. There’s a label on it, your name written in beautiful handwriting.

You want that present.

The other present is less pretty. Whoever wrapped it decided to use newspaper and string, and even that wasn’t done well. You can see parts of the box through the gaps in the wrapping. Your name is hastily scribbled on with a marker over what may or may not be a coffee stain.

You put off opening that present for as long as possible.

Tips and Tricks
  • Variety. Don’t simply rely on one form of communication. Send an email. Then hold a meeting. People absorb information in different ways, and if you only use one way to communicate, you risk alienating those who’d rather read the information, or meet in person.
  • Context. Pay attention to the content of the message and consider what might be the best way to send it. If it’s a complicated topic, do a meeting where people can ask questions. Just a quick update or piece of news? An email should suffice.

Conclusion

Great communication takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth the investment. Try making a communication strategy so you can try things in phases if it seems too overwhelming.

What are some ways you improve communication in the workplace?