A WhatsApp message here. A short tweet there. In between, you send an e-mail or voice message. It’s no longer a secret that the way we communicate has changed over the recent years and decades. What happens in our private lives also applies to the communication within the company. The digitalization of internal communication. The radical shift to a remote work culture, encouraged by the Corona crisis, has also accelerated this development. What exactly does the digitalization of internal communication look like? What challenges have to be mastered? What do we have to consider?
What is internal communication?
The internal communication. A somewhat tiresome topic. She is in fact a little bit the shy Cinderella, who is left on the sidelines, while the wicked stepsister, the external communication, gets all the attention. However, many companies do not realize that behind internal communication lies a true princess and that it is crucial for the company’s success. Internal communication refers to communication within the company – i.e. between managers, employees and colleagues.
In addition to the exchange of information, it also serves above all to motivate employees and build a corporate culture. Especially in times of great uncertainty, transparent internal communication helps to eliminate misunderstandings, maintain the team spirit and achieve more understanding within the team for changes and innovations.
Internal communication becomes digital
Digitalization has changed internal communication enormously. On the one hand, digital media flood us with so much information that it is increasingly difficult to get an overview of important information and to inform employees in a targeted manner. On the other hand, the demands on digital tools and media are increasing, especially among the younger generation, and these have to be adapted within the company. Actually, digitalization enables faster and more efficient information dissemination – at least if it is done correctly. And this is often where the big problem lies: many companies have simply overslept digitalization. And this has become particularly clear in times of the corona crisis.
Digital Internal Communication today
The classic exchange of information in conference rooms, in the office or on notice boards is no longer commonplace. In addition to various new tools and messenger options in the office, the home office culture has gained ground, especially this year. And this has given internal communication another push towards digitalization. The following digital channels are becoming an integral part of internal communication:
- Social Intranet: A closed computer network in which employees receive company news and information. At the same time, various options for collaboration are available. A social intranet enables greater transparency and easier communication.
- Wikis: The alternative to the Social Intranet serves primarily as a knowledge management platform.
- Messenger apps such as Slack or Telegram are used both as part of a social intranet and as a stand-alone solution to communicate with employees quickly, in real time and across different departments.
- Email newsletters are used especially in large companies to inform employees about monthly updates.
- (online) Employee magazines are the somewhat expensive alternative to social intranets and are used especially by companies with sufficient resources and a broad range of topics.
Why digital communication is so important
The HR department does not know what is going on in Finance. The marketing team, on the other hand, does not want to know anything about finance. The trainee at the other end of the office is only being informed about the latest coffee varieties. Sounds like a somewhat exaggerated example, but unfortunately it corresponds to the often poor communication within the company.
The ability to communicate effectively within the company, with all team members and all departments, is essential for the success of the company. Digital channels play a very important role in this. Digital channels help to close the communication gap between departments and communicate quickly and in real time. This is especially relevant in the fast-moving age, in order to reach the team with the latest news.
In addition to the rapid transfer of information, digital channels also play a completely different role: that of employer branding. The younger generation has grown up with digital media. The switch to digitized work processes therefore also allows to attract new, younger skilled workers in particular.
Digitalization of internal communication: How do I communicate correctly?
So how does internal communication succeed in the context of digitization? Actually, everything sounds simple. After all, digital communication is faster and less complicated – at least that is the goal. But it presents many companies with major challenges. Even without science fiction tools, internal communication is a major weakness in companies. There is too little, wrong or simply no communication at all. “The team is not interested in this” or “I’m sure they’ve already noticed” are just some of the statements I’ve heard over the last few years. Or some other move the entire corporate communication to whatsapp, which is used intensively in private. After all, it is also a digital tool. The employees don’t need rest periods, ideally they should be bombarded 24/7, right? But internal communication doesn’t work that way. So what does effective internal communication look like in the digital age?
Probably the greatest challenge for companies is the wide variety of digital tools. The various communication channels must be well integrated into the individual workday. The selected tools should be used in a structured and targeted manner. If there are too many communication channels, the employee will quickly be overwhelmed. Information no longer gets through and a negative attitude towards digital changes develops.
With Messenger Tools, it is also important to focus on apps that allow a clear distinction between professional and private life. In the long run, mixing them will lead to much dissatisfaction and excessive demands.
Paying attention to trends
As mentioned briefly above, a major problem is that many companies simply oversleep the digital transformation. In the digital age, there are constant changes and one should always be on the lookout for new channels to optimize internal communication.
Involve the team
A transformation towards digitalization can only succeed if everyone pulls together. This requires an open dialog between managers and employees. Employees must be enthusiastic and motivated to let go of traditional norms and structures. This can only be achieved through agile and innovative methods such as Design Thinking.
Digital communication must fulfill two essential factors: Security and accessibility. To achieve this, it is important that companies increasingly rely on VPN solutions. Conversations and the written exchange of information must remain internal. At the same time, all apps and programs from the smartphone and desktop must be equally accessible to all employees.
The personal talk
Digital communication does not mean that the classic basic features of communication should be eliminated. Nothing will replace the power of a personal conversation. And this is something we should be aware of even in today’s age. No matter if home office or classic office, regular face-to-face meetings should take place (at least via video call). This is the only way to build a long-term relationship with the team.
Praise and feedback
Our communication becomes faster and nobody has time. Especially in writing, communication is therefore very vague. Not only that so many misunderstandings occur. Many managers simply forget about positive feedback. However, a few thankful words make a decisive contribution to employee motivation.
Digitalization has changed internal communication in many different ways. On the one hand, it enables faster and more efficient information exchange, better collaboration and employer branding. On the other hand, it presents us with the challenge of dealing with this change in the right way. The key is to embrace this digital change and develop an efficient communication strategy rather than rigorously rushing to all kinds of digital platforms. At the same time, the personal dialog should not be neglected. What opportunities or challenges do you see in internal communication? Write us your opinion.