Communication channels, properly managed, can make the difference between an organization that runs smoothly, and a place that’s chaotic and without direction. In this article, learn how to set-up, manage, and get the most from your company’s lines of internal communications.
Why are communication channels so important? Because let’s face it: we’re living in an information age. It’s coming from everywhere, from five different devices, ten different apps, a million different people. Some have even gone so far as to call this “infobesity,” of being overwhelmed with a glut of content. And without proper organization and targeting, your company’s most crucial communications will get lost, resulting in a workforce that’s misinformed, unengaged, less productive, and less satisfied with their role at the company. In this blog post, we’ll share the best ways to organize and manage the various communication channels at your organization, ensuring employees always have the information that they need, through the channel they prefer, and perhaps even more importantly, feel like their voice is actually heard.
In this article, you will learn:
1. What do we mean by “communication channel”?
2. What is the role of a channel in a communication system?
3. What are the different communication mediums?
4. Examples of internal communication channels in the workplace
5. Choosing the right channels for effective communication
6. Sociabble as a solution for organizing all types of communication channels
What do we mean by “communication channel”?
Of course, before discussing how to properly establish and utilize communication channels, we need to establish what they actually are. Essentially, they’re the means by which the members of an organization engage in the sharing of information, and interact accordingly. These channels can take many forms, from email, to bulletin boards, to newsletters, to an internal communication platform—there are countless ways information can be shared. But when these systems aren’t properly organized or integrated, problems can ensue.
It’s hard to establish a common company culture, proper alignment on business goals, a cohesive sense of identity, or encourage innovation and the sharing of new ideas. Best case, things stagnate and don’t reach their potential. Worst case? Chaos ensues, as important communications are missed by employees, and wrong actions are taken, breaking down systems and hurting business. Companies that manage information channels correctly can avoid these problems. They run smoothly, almost effortlessly, because the flow of information is so integrated into normal daily life.
What is the role of a channel in a communication system?
Communication is the decisive factor in running a successful business. Without it, an organization can’t function. The various departments—HR, production, manufacturing, executive, marketing—will not work together as a cohesive unit. Imagine a car in which the wheels, engine, brakes, and steering wheel all have faulty connections. Won’t run very well, right? Well, a business is no different. To perform well, it needs an integrated flow of directives and feedback. This is what keeps it running smoothly and efficiently, and this is the role that communication channels perform. They link each individual, each department, and each outside entity, and allow the business to function at peak potential.
The Right Channel…
Messaging is important, but just as important is the channel being used to convey it. It’s critical to think about how you’re communicating with your staff and colleagues. Which channels make sense, and which do not? For example, would it make sense to distribute important updates over email to frontline workers who don’t have a corporate email address? Does it make sense to post updates on a company bulletin board, if many employees are working from home? Is it useful to use static google docs for sharing data, if you need to communicate the updates to a sales representative who’s constantly on the road, and needs updates on their mobile?
Communication channels need to be taken into consideration, because if the right ones are not being utilized, employees simply won’t receive the updates they need. And they won’t be able to communicate their own questions and problems to deal with the challenges that follow.
…and the Right Timing
Another consideration is how the information is being used on a specific channel. Effectively, there are two kinds of communication: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous communications happen in real time—think of a live chat app, a video conference call. This can be useful for engaging in discussion, sharing ideas, and settling urgent matters. Asynchronous is spread out, and not instantaneous. Like an email, for example, or a paper letter. The advantage of this is that people can check up on news in their spare time, or when they’re not quite so busy. These two kinds of communication should be taken into account as well. Because it doesn’t make sense to share critical changes to safety regulations over a paper newsletter that will be read in a week, nor does it make sense to have an urgent two-hour video conference to share pictures from the last company Happy Hour. Context matters.
What are the different communication mediums?
Obviously, as stated, there are many different means of communication—you have a number to choose from, and doing so means taking into consideration the message, the audience, and the content. What follows are the most common forms of interpersonal communication that exist in a business environment:
1. Digital Communication Channels
They are some of the most frequently used ones at the moment, not only at organizations, but also in our everyday life. Of course this means social media, but also news from the world via digital websites or news from our friends and family over email, etc. This can include written comms, but also many other formats and kinds of information, from videos to infographics to audio files.
2. Face-to-Face Communication
This is the richest form of communication, especially when it is in real time and real life, as there are the elements of body language, facial expressions, etc. But it can also be virtual, with the host of video conferencing tools that exist today. Either way, they’re going to have a powerful impact.
According to a Gallagher “State of the Sector” study from 2022: “Whether in person or virtually, face to face channels are still considered the most impactful, with more than 90% of respondents rating most of these as ‘very’ or ‘quite’ effective. Their use, however, remains lower than many digital channels, although most of them are used in higher proportions in larger organizations.”
3. Written Communication
It simply is not true that digital communications and social networks have killed written comms. It is, in fact, more alive than ever: blogs, articles, and social media posts, we still write (and read) a lot of content. Often considered as the most formal, and the less urgent medium, written comms is now used also in informal contexts, but can be used for very urgent communication too (instant messaging, chats, etc.).
As noted above, however, digital communication can encompass written or face-to-face communication as well. It is the one category that can include virtually everything.
Examples of internal communication channels in the workplace
When it comes to a corporate entity, there are even more specific channels that can be used to convey information, and that can fit in various forms into the rubric above. These are the specific tools of business today, used by companies and organizations around the world. Some are more modern, some more traditional, and others are in the process of constantly evolving.
It has long been used as the main means of communication in organizations. It was seen as a contained, cohesive way of keeping workers informed and supplying them with the resources they needed. However, now it is losing its power and popularity as more effective means are available; digital communications have become more diverse, and in many cases intranets are too difficult to use or too contained; they’re often not dynamic enough to accommodate all the different kinds of data flowing in and out of an organization. However, some companies still use them, and they can fill a useful role as a repository of files or older information.
According to a Gallagher study, “Email announcements have reached near universal levels of use (94%) and are considered ‘effective’ by around 4 in 5 of respondents (78%).” And this shouldn’t be news to anyone. For over two decades, they’ve been the primary mode of communication for professional and personal use alike, supplanting paper mail as the way to send correspondence and information. However, they do have shortfalls as well—they’re not synchronous, and important info can easily fall through the cracks. So while very useful, on their own, they can’t keep a company going.
Collaborative and Project Management Tools
There are a host of these, including Teams and Yammer, and they exist to create a digital space where co-workers can collaborate on projects and communicate around them. There are many kinds of digital tools like this, and each has pros and cons, and serves a slightly different function. With the rise in remote work, they have become even more critical in the virtual office, as they’ve taken the place of the traditional conference call or water cooler chat. Managers can assign tasks, while team members can collaborate and see how the project is going forward. These platforms, however, are only effective if they’re actually being used, so adoption is a key component.
This is a classic communication channel, going back to the days of typewriters and filing cabinets, but its longevity is testament to its effectiveness. Today, employee newsletters are more often digital, and sent via email, but some paper copies still exist. It’s a great way to solidify company identity, while also sharing important news and tidbits of company life. It’s also an opportunity to inject a bit of fun into the conversation, with inside jokes, humorous pictures, and the inside scoop regarding company life. A challenge is the fact that they can be difficult to tailor and target. However, with a platform like Sociabble, you can segment both the content and your audience, and actually send dynamic newsletters that are tailor-made for each recipient. With these newsletters examples and tips both relevance and open rates will go through the roof.
Chat and Private Messaging Solutions
These channels are very helpful for team spirit, and when it comes to enhancing a company’s synchronous communication. Instant messaging is valuable in that it enables employees to react to an important situation immediately, which in turn makes a company more dynamic and agile in their ecosystem. They also encourage discussion and debate, as the two-way flow of communication is made possible in real-time—something that’s much more challenging over email, or with a newsletter.
Document Sharing Tools
These channels are great for asynchronous adjustments to documents. Think: updating as a group a PowerPoint presentation, or having a shared Excel chart that is being continually updated by multiple people. These tools have a specific function, and while they’re not ideal for sharing company news or updates, they’re good for collaborative work on a fixed digital file.
Video Conferencing Tools
These are in the same family as chat applications, but they allow for a visual context? You can see emotions, gauge reactions, and build a stronger connection. This is the closest to real-life interaction, which is why it can be so effective. It’s also all the more powerful given the current prevalence of remote work scenarios. It allows distant co-workers to feel closer and more connected, at a time when many are struggling to achieve a sense of belonging in the workplace.
Internal Podcast and Radio
With the rise of podcasts, companies have seized the opportunity to begin creating and sharing their own audio content. These are great for doing interviews, and for sharing ideas and philosophies. They’re an extremely one-way form of communication, however, so they should be seen within that context. But if done with a bit of personality and decent production values, they can become a valuable tool and a big hit with employees, and the public at large.
This is a communication channel that’s well-suited for sharing information with the general public. It’s an opportunity to become a thought leader, and to build up an audience. New posts can be shared via social media, increasing brand awareness and even building up a presence on Google searches—which will further enhance the reach of your company. But like with podcasts, blog articles are a one-way kind of asynchronous communication. But they’re also effective.
Internal Social Media
The same principles that work for communications with the general public can also work for communications within a company. Most employees are familiar with the basic interfaces of popular social media platforms, so it’s simple to transition to a platform that serves the same function, but for the sharing of corporate news.
Employee Survey Solutions
Many of the channels described have the weakness that they’re primarily top-down. The solution? Employee surveys, which go in exactly the opposite direction, empowering employees to share their thoughts and ideas with top management. Surveys can take many forms. They can cover everything from safety, to workload, to ideas for CSR projects, to ideas for where to hold the company holiday party.
Choosing the right channels for effective communication
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from. And not all of them will necessarily be helpful for your organization, and your business environment. According to a Gallagher study, the “volume of communication being too high” remains in the top three challenges for organizations with more than 10,000 employees. So “more” might not necessarily be the answer. You might want to consolidate and streamline your program, and combine multiple channels into one.
One important step when it comes to setting up channels is to conduct research among your employees and see what their working habits are, when they’re available to send and receive information (i.e. lunch breaks, mornings, after work), and what their preferences are in terms of communication.
Also, consider each channel’s purpose, whether you want your audience to receive the information instantly, or if an asynchronous scenario is better. Are you looking to get more employee feedback to optimize your work-from-home policy? Then a survey might be in order. Are you trying to cut back on email exchanges? Then live chats might allow more issues to be covered in real-time. Looking to get employees excited about company events? Perhaps a fun newsletter showcasing photos could do the trick. And sometimes, the answer can even be “all of the above.”
Sociabble as a solution to organize all types of communication channels
If in reading over the options discussed above, you reached that same conclusion—that streamlining and integrating your communication channels into a more coherent stream is the way to go, then Sociabble is an Employee Communication platform that can help.
The communication ecosystem can be complex for an employee. It’s not always easy to make sure they’re receiving the right information at the right time. There are so many competing channels and sources bombarding them with news.
The solution? An integrated platform that allows for personalization of news, through segmented content, targeted audiences, and even real-time language translation, so any employee in the world can understand it. A platform that empowers admins to pin critical news, target dispatches, and manage audiences at both a local and global level. It also includes the ability to edit translations in foreign languages.
In addition, each employee has different information consumption habits. This depends on the organisation of the day, in terms of timing, workload, and devices. It is therefore up to the company to adapt and inform employees according to their habits, through the channels they prefer.
Sociabble does all of this, while seamlessly managing the channels discussed above. This includes:
The Sociabble platform aggregates different communication channels, including all content from official social media accounts of the company, as well as the company’s social networks like Yammer. All that contents will be displayed on Sociabble and can be filtered by the user, giving them control over which content they see.
Sociabble allows employees to access document, media, and procedures. An ergonomic and flexible interface suits the employee’s preferred user experience. For example, the ability to add and download photos and documents in a hierarchical dedicated document repository with access control from both desktop and mobile. And admins can manage the access rights (read, import, edit, delete) to documents and folders using Sociabble’s sophisticated audience builder features.
Internet and Intranet
Sociabble is able to aggregate content from internet sites through secured RSS feeds. It’s possible to embed the Sociabble platform into an existing intranet as a webpart or as small widgets. Sociabble’s widgets are responsive and custom to each End-User.
Teams and Collaboration Tools
Sociabble also benefits from a direct access within Teams. End-Users never have to leave the environment they work in to access the information, the two are seamlessly integrated.
Quizzes and Surveys
Quizzes and surveys are an integral part of Sociabble’s engagement framework and are flexible in their use. Surveys help improving upward communication and allow interaction with the community to better understand employees and to get their point of view; multi-question surveys, single-question surveys, open-questions surveys, it’s all included. Get feedback in real-time, with a quick and easy to use integrated tool that allows admins to send a survey with just a few clicks.
With security and privacy guaranteed by B2B standards, the Sociabble chat feature is an intuitive and easy to use interface that replicates the user experience of B2C employee’s favorite B2C apps; it supports emojis, reactions, and likes to individual messages, mobile push notifications, group name & photo personalization, as well as audience-based segmentation of the company’s communication targets.
Sociabble can automatically generate the most relevant newsletters for each employee. You can have dynamic, personalized newsletters filled with surveys, videos, and gifs, translated instantly into the local languages of your employees, with just a few clicks. It makes sending quality, relevant newsletters virtually painless.
Sound like something your company might be interested in? Want to learn more? Sociabble is already used by hundreds of organizations all over the world, including industry leaders like Primark, Renault Group, L’Occitane, and Coca-Cola CCEP. Schedule a free demo to see what Sociabble can do for you.