Internal Communications: The Ultimate 2021 Guide

How effective a company's internal communication is will have a huge impact on its success. Keeping staff engaged and aligned to the organisation's goal will give you a far better chance of attracting and retaining the best talent. Read our Internal Communications: The Ultimate 2021 Guide. 


   Minute Read     Internal Comms

Internal Communications: The Ultimate 2021 Guide
Table of Contents

    Internal communication can be tricky for any business to master. What is clear, however, is that how a worker feels about their employer will at least partly be down to how their organisation engages with them. 60% of employers don’t have a long-term internal employees communications strategy, so it is easy to see how these issues arise. 

    However, the fact that almost all multinational companies now have a dedicated internal communications team shows just how critical it has become to business operations in recent years. 

    This guide will take you through what internal communications is, how it has evolved over time, real-life examples and best practices that can be implemented into an internal communications plan. This comprehensive guide will include: 

    • Internal Communication Definition
    • Why is Internal Communication Important?
    • Types of Internal Communication
    • Internal Communications Stats
    • How to Improve Internal Communication
    • Internal Communication Tools

    Internal Communication Definition

    What is internal communications? Internal communications is essentially any type of workplace communication from one organisation participant to another. 

    It is integral to the relationship between a company and its employees, keeping them connected and informed. To ensure effective communication internally, a business must be equipped with the appropriate information and tools. 

    History of Internal Communications in the Workplace

    • 1920’s- Researchers found that to optimise employee output, they must be made to feel emotionally connected to their work and workplace
    • 1930’s- With the commercialisation and revolution of business communication,
      businesses started to adopt internal comms strategies.
    • 1960’s- Internal communications theory established with publication of Douglas McGregor’s
      Human Side of Enterprise
    • 1990’s-Term ‘engaged employee’ is coined- communication starts to take a ‘trickle down’ form starting with leadership
    • 2000’s- Rise of the internet sees business become more transparent to its workers 
    • 2010’s- Employee engagement becomes the businesses’ shop window and high on the agenda of businesses and workers alike

    A history of internal communications from 1920's to present

    Why is Internal Communication Important?

    Internal communications is integral to ensuring an alignment of employees and the organisation’s goals. Good internal communication facilitates collaboration across departments and within, as well helping to cultivate business culture.

    An internal function that engages with all its workforce effectively is far more likely to get the best out of them by connecting through appropriate channels.  

    Companies who embrace technology tend to fare better with internal communication. Modern intranet solutions with chat functions, community hubs and news feeds that share company information, aids connectivity. 

    Recommended Reading 📖: Why is Internal Communication Important?

    Types of Internal Communication

          1. Management 

    Management and leadership communication internally is generally around strategy, results and company updates. Communication from the top of the organisation is vital to internal communications plans and helps employees to feel more connected with the business, taking more pride in their own work as a result. To enjoy the benefits, organisations need a platform where managers are more accessible.

          2. Peer-to-Peer sharing

    Peer-to-peer sharing relates to communication between colleagues. When employees engage with one another they can share information and utilise knowledge to carry out their duty more effectively. They can also support each other emotionally and professionally. In a world of remote work, central chat functions can be a simple way of ensuring these lines of communication are open. 

          3. Team collaboration 

    Team collaboration is an activity between colleagues working on the same project or to achieve the same goal. Collaboration is so important to the delivery of work. It is impossible to have standard processes, shared ideas or agreed deliverables and so much more without it. The workforce tend to agree, with 75% believing teamwork is important. To have the best chance of success a team needs to be set up with the tools to collaborate.

    Colleagues share discussion over laptop

          4. Informal 

    Informal is a straightforward but very important type of internal communication. A Linkedin study showed that 46% of professionals are happier when they have workplace friendships, which in turn makes them more productive and engaged. Working remotely has made this more of a challenge, especially when onboarding new employees. Having online social hubs where employees can discuss mutual interests can help to build these relationships in the modern workspace.  

         5. Resources 

    Internal communication isn’t just facilitated by dialogue, but also access to information. Policy, procedures and important documents are vital to how well employees work. It is reported that up to one working day a week on average is wasted on an employee searching for documents. Central knowledge bases are key to employees possessing the important knowledge and a vital facet to internal communication.

    Internal Communication Stats 

    There are issues surrounding internal communications felt by employers and employees alike that are incredibly common, but may not seem too obvious.

    Here are some internal communications statistics you may find interesting:


    • 33% of employees say lack of open communication has the most negative impact on employee morale
    • Salesforce found that 86% of employees and executives alike, believe ineffective communication is the reason for workplace failures
    • Queens University’s research found that 50% of millennials believe social tools boost productivity but only one in three said their company undervalued it
    • 57% of employees report that they are not given clear directions by management 


    How to Improve Internal Communication 

    There are a myriad of hurdles that businesses face when it comes to internal communications. However, there are ways to improve internal communication that are fairly straightforward and can help you implement an effective internal communications plan

    Here are some tips on how to improve internal communication:

    Assess current internal communications 

    To make necessary changes you first need to understand what you do well and what you don’t. This can be done by doing an audit or assessment of the current situation. Measurements for current engagement and an audit of your communication tools/strategy will help understand the current landscape. 

    Lead by example

    An ‘open door’ type of approach will help senior figures seem more approachable and sets an example of open communication from the top. This will reverberate around the business. Not only does it make employees feel more comfortable with their managers but also brings issues to the fore much quicker with added transparency. 

    Ask your employees

    Employees should be centric to your internal communications strategy, so ask for their opinion around current workplace communication. Feedback won’t be uniformed, but it will give you a better understanding of how the businesses current internal communication is actually received and what their needs are. 

    Use the right channels 

    It's not just what you say, it's how you say it. Implement communication channels that engage all of your workforce to encourage a more collaborative environment. As there are so many options, intranet news feed updates, company email, mobile applications and more, it is very important to choose the channels most suitable for your workforce. 


    Recognising your employees for their achievements and facilitating peer-to-peer recognition is incredibly effective, yet very simple. This can be done by introducing incentives or even just a ‘well done’ over the company chat function. A positive culture can be cultivated in this way, where employees feel that their work is valued. 

    Internal Communication Examples & Tools

    Aldi is a prime example of internal communications done right. They recognised the need for connectivity of their 40,000 strong workforce. Oak implemented the bespoke MyAldi intranet solution that allowed their mostly deskless employees to contribute to the company conversation. With a 90% engagement rate, it certainly did the trick.  

    Here are some of the internal communication tools of a modern day intranet that can help you realise your internal communications plan:

    • Mobile application 
    • Community hubs 
    • News & social feeds 
    • Instant messaging
    • Employee surveys with built-in analytics dashboard
    • Centralised document management 

    Intranet news feed with customised design

    Developing an Internal Communication Strategy

    An internal communication strategy is key to recognising your aims. It will be the blueprint for your success to guide you through the tasks and tools that you will need to implement to meet your goals. 

    In developing your internal communications strategy there are first five key questions to consider. These are questions so simple that are asked in most situations, but also give clear answers. 


    Defining objective(s) and why you want to achieve this. This will help you devise whether this will add value to your business. 


    Who is it you have to communicate with? This should make it simpler to define which channels you should use


    What is it you want your employees to engage with and what is it you have to do to engage with them?


    When is it the right time to be implementing a new intranet or adopting an important new strategy? Is there anything ongoing with the business that could conflict?


    How should your message be transmitted? This is important when choosing which channels and content will be central to your strategy         

    Recommended Reading 📖: Internal Communications Plans: Why You Should Ditch Email   

    Top 5 Internal Communication Best Practices

           1. Use the right tools 

    Tools very much make or break a communications strategy. Although technology can elevate internal communication, it is important to pick the tools right for your business. Eg, if you have a deskless or mobile workforce a intranet software with mobile access would be appropriate. 

          2. Give your workers their say 

    An internal communications function without a feedback loop is not fit for purpose. Ensure your employees can input their ideas, which can be done in the form of surveys. It will help you make necessary adjustments and make employees feel their opinion is valued. It's a win win!  

    Pulse Surveys measuring employee engagement

           3.  Measure internal communications success

    If you’re including SMART objectives into your internal communications strategy, data is key in measuring whether these have been met. Oak’s solution is built with an analytics dashboard connected to Pulse Surveys, so you can use your own intranet to measure the success of your strategy. 

           4. Share the news

    Remind your employees what they’re part of, it makes them feel far more engaged! Company news feeds are a great way of making sure updates aren’t lost in a big pile of emails and means everyone can celebrate the good news within the organisation. 

           5. Centralise- keep it simple

    Internal communications is about productivity as well as engagement, so a document management platform will help shave off the almost 400 hours an employee spends searching for documents each year. Shared knowledge will ensure everyone has access to the relevant information in an easy-to-navigate area and take away unnecessary tedium from their role. 


    Stephen is a Content Marketing Specialist at Oak Engage. A Public Relations MA with a background in tech recruitment, he has a passion for producing engaging content for technical and non-technical audiences.