The best internal communications tools

internal communications tools
Using the right internal communications tools for your company can help with employee morale and engagement.

Internal communication tools that are user-friendly and easy to access can make a difference in employee morale and develop a business’s corporate culture. There is a plethora of internal communication tools out there today. So, how do you pick the right program or tool for your company? Read on!

First, you need to establish what type of internal communications you want to communicate. Does the message need to be communicated to all employees or just your team members? Is the message public or private?

“Using the wrong tool for the job wastes time, frustrates people, and sends them running to nearly any alternative – usually email, or worse, external consumer tools unsanctioned by IT, creating silos of data that get lost over time”

-Deb Lavoy, 6 Essential Internal Communication Tools

Not only do you need to take into consideration the message, but also the employees. As the internal communications intern for my company, I work with two employee segments: Wired and non-wired employees.

What are wired employees?

wired employees
Wired employees are those who have regular access to technology and use technology for their job. In other terms, your glorified office worker.

 

Wired employees are associates who have access to technology. For example, at my company, everyone who works at a desk is wired employee. Here are some of the best internal communication tools for wired employees.

Intranet

For those of you who don’t know, an intranet is a private network within a company or organization. An intranet can act as a home for most employees to stay updated on the company and so much more.

Here are 5 Benefits of an Intranet.

  1. Productivity
  2. Corporate Communications
  3. Streamline Processes
  4. Spur Collaboration
  5. Knowledge Management

At my company, I use our intranet homepage everyday. This is where our internal news and messaging are posted on a regular basis. This is the landing page for wired employees and SO much better than getting thousands of emails each day.

Instant Messaging and Chats

Now, I have mixed feelings about chat tools like Skype or Instant Messenger. Although its easier to just shoot an IM to a coworker about changing a meeting time rather than emailing them its not a formal tool to use. I would suggest only using chats for informal communication.

Enterprise Social Networks

No, I’m not talking about Twitter or instagram. Enterprise social networks are private social networks within a business. At my company we use Yammer and it has been quite successful as a social collaboration platform. Not only can employees create post about work, but every once in a while people would post polls and jokes. These social networks can create a social community between a company’s employees, who may have never talked to each other before.

Reaching corporate employees who are in the office but not reaching remote others out in the field not our non-wired employees, or those who do not have a company email account. As an internal communications intern, I get the opportunity to work with our non-wired

What are non-wired employees?

non-wired employee communications

Non wired employees are workers who do not have limited or no access to technology to receive company communications. These are the hourly workers who are doing the manual labor, manufacturing workers, truck drivers and other frontline employees.

To reach these employees you need a completely different communications vehicle. Communications expert, David Grossman provides some advice on how to reach non-wired associates in Tips for Reaching Non-Wired Employees.

Grossman brings up utilizing employee input as a way for employees to have their voices heard. Not only is it the job of the internal communications professional to listen to the employees, but also to help non-wired employees understand their role in the company. It is too often non-wired employees ignore corporate messages due to a lack of understanding their own purpose. Why would an employee understand what the CEO is saying if he doesn’t even understand why he is there?

Some of the best ways to reach this segment are more traditional tools.

Newsletters and Posters

Creating newletters and signage to post in breakrooms are a great way to reach non-wired employees. Although it may seem simple, this traditional tool is functional for frontline workers

Managers

Actual conversations between managers and non-wired employees may be the most effective communiations tool. Hourly employees trust what their managers are saying and feel more inclined to understand the communicated messages.

Mobile

Now this may seemed like a “wired” tool, but it is not. Setting up a texting system or app to send messages to non-wired employees can prove to be a great new way to reach employees; however, this may not work for all companies. For example, at my company we looked into setting up a mobile app for plant workers. When we looked further into it we discovered that many hourly employees do not have their mobile devices out on the floor.

When it comes down to it, each company will need to find an internal communication tool that is tailored to its own needs; however, it is our job as communicators to decide what tools work best for what message we are trying to communicate.

What are some tools your company is using to communicate internally? How do the tools you use change when communicating with certain groups of employees? Let’s hear from you.

Using employees as brand ambassadors

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When I started my corporate communications internship for a tire company, I honestly did not care about tires. Heck, I didn’t even know how to put air in to my tires, let alone the brand on my car; however, that all changed the first few weeks of my internship.

I began to notice all the employees, from the coworkers in communications to the accounting department knew a great deal about tire products and most importantly, seemed to genuinely care about the company’s brand.

After my first day, I plopped myself on m couch and asked myself, “Why did everyone seem excited about tires?” As I continued with my internship, I learned my coworkers were excited because they were engaged at work and had a sense of pride in the company’s mission and goals. They are brand ambassadors.

What is a brand ambassador?

For the readers who aren’t quite sure what a brand ambassador is, simply put, a brand ambassador is someone who advocates for a company or brand. Some brand ambassadors can be an external representative, a spokesperson, who is often hired by a company to endorse a brand or product.

A brand’s words, spoken from the mouths of ambassadors, seem more human than traditional marketing and advertising methods. When we associate a familiar face, one that we like and admire, to a brand, we tend to assume the brand is credible because someone we trust is advocating its product or service.

Many companies spend time and money hiring outsiders to represent their brand; however, the best brand ambassadors are the individuals who clock in and out 9-5: Employees.

Employees know more about the company

While its great to have a stronger presence with external stakeholders, a company’s employees are just as, if not more, important to a company’s brand.

If you are not convinced, think about this—employees that are engaged with the company brand can help raise profits. In a study done by Gallup, results showed that companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earning per share compared to their industry peers or competitors.

Some other benefits include increasing brand (obviously!), improving brand position in search engine results, improving the company’s chances of hiring better job candidates and ultimately decreasing the costs of hiring external influencers to promote the brand.

According to Bowline Communications peer to peer communication is key, fostering a culture of honesty and collaboration. Bowline also mentions communications marketing firm Edleman’s Trust meter, noting employees people trust their peers more than top company leadership.

By creating and promoting internal brand ambassadors, a company can not only disseminate information to more people, but can also give employees the opportunity for their voices to be heard. That my friends is what its all about.

Zappos is the queen of employee brand ambassadors

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Zappos knows how to do it when it comes to internal brand ambassadors. Zappos has built its culture into every aspect of the business, from the hiring stage, through to performance reviews and its attitude toward rewarding and celebrating achievements within the company. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com adds that celebrations – both big and small – are a big deal at Zappos.

“We truly feel that celebrating frequently the things we achieve is one of the best motivators around for getting that kind of achievement repeated. While we rack up some pretty big bills for happy hours and parties, we believe that every one of those dollars comes back to us threefold in employee engagement, which to us is really what success is all about.”

Likewise, Zappos is great at giving their employees full freedom to talk on behalf of Zappos brand. The online shoe store has a unique policy on social media – they believe that by hiring people who share their values, they can trust their employees to use social media for the good of the company. They don’t restrict social media use and enable employees to distribute coupons to customers as they see fit.

How to create internal brand ambassadors

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Convinced internal communications is a great way to promote the brand? Great. That’s the point of this post. Now, how do you create these lovely brand ambassador? Here are some tips I pulled together from Forbes and MorningStar Communications on how to create employee brand ambassadors.

  1. Use technology to engage. There is a wide variety of tools to reach employees and share encourage company chat. Leveraging this company chat, visual storytelling, digital signage and other tactics can be useful in engaging employees at all levels.
  2. Create channels of communication. Brand advocates are not only vital, but profitable, as they are invested in improving the products/services and spreading the word of mouth around your brand. Employees want to be heard, they want to have a relationship with the company they work for. By creating communication channels, employees can offer suggestions that are acknowledged and truly considered when it comes down to it.
  3. Invest in employee wellbeing. A little goes a long way when it comes to showing your employees that they’re appreciated. Zappos celebrate with impromptu happy hours, free t-shirts and props emails, Starbucks employees receive free coffee and are given the opportunity for flexible work schedules that fit around their other commitments. What are you doing to make your employees feel truly appreciated?
  4. Make Sharing Easy. Brands should make it as easy as possible for employees to share their brand experience, by encouraging social media use, adding “share” buttons to websites and allowing them to be actively involved as the “faces” of the company. Finding a platform dedicated to helping bring your internal communities together will allow you to take these relationships to the next level and make this process less manual. Companies have the potential to make every one of their employees a brand ambassador.

After being an internal communications intern for four months I not only know how to fill air in my tires now, but I know how tires are actually made. I can tell you about my company’s products and history, and I often find myself staring at tires in parking lots, counting how many times I see my company’s brand. By creating an engaging environment for employees my company creates brand ambassadors. Are you a brand ambassador for you company? If not, we have some work to do! If you think you are, what are you doing to be an internal advocate?