How to Choose the Appropriate Employee Communication Channels

By Caitlin Percival
August 31, 2020
6 min read
choose appropriate channel for workplace communication

With email, slack, teams, meetings, phone calls, video calls, and zillions of other company communication channels, what is the secret for how to choose the appropriate employee communication channels?

Leadership may prefer to send a detailed email as their channel to communicate strategic decisions. But what if employees actually prefer face-to-face interactions to consume that type of information? 

As you might imagine, the answer is not a simple one. In fact, it depends largely on the situation and the scenario surrounding the information to be communicated. This article examines eight scenarios with recommendations for how to choose the appropriate channel for workplace communication by stakeholders. 

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If you’re not sure where to start how to choose appropriate employee communication channels, here are a few channels with their unique pros and cons:

choose appropriate employee communication channels
See the full communication chart from Gartner here.

4 Scenarios Where The Company Should Choose The Employee Communication Channels

Some decisions are non-negotiable. There are a few scenarios where how to communicate with your employees should come from company leadership or your communications team. Let’s examine each of them in more detail.

1. Employee and Leadership Confidence in Preferred Employee Channels

If you already know what your employees prefer, make them official. This applies to companies that have done extensive internal communications research and have received recommendations from teams across the organization. In that case, it’s just about making a final call and streamlining the process throughout the company. Of course, ensuring effectiveness through goal-setting and measuring your success still makes sense in this scenario.

Example: If your leaders are on teams but 85% of your employees are on slack, consider making slack the official company chat channel.

2) Top-down strategic communication

It’s very important that employees feel their efforts contribute to the success of the company. Most employees tend to agree that they don’t hear enough about their company’s strategic decision-making. While building a strategy to solve that need is highly recommended, the nature of that strategy should come from you.

Communication depends on preferences by your C-suite and the channels in which they are most comfortable. For top-down communication efforts like this, the company should have the choice of execution of the tactic, so long as it’s delivered consistently, employees know where to get their information, and therefore are accountable for reading the email, attending the meeting, checking your intranet, etc.

Example: Quarterly meetings that are recorded, summarized, and share on your intranet (or another ‘single source of truth’ that your company uses).

3) Cross-organizational messages that affect multiple employee groups

The more varied the groups of employees that you need to communicate with becomes, the more difficult it becomes to leave the choice of channel up to them. Different groups (and generations) will have different preferences (just ask a baby boomer and a Gen Z how they feel about receiving text messages for work to see how differently they react!) it will be impossible to please them all.

We suggest gathering feedback on preferences but ultimately keeping all information on a single source of truth. Presenting strategy in a meeting? Important news shared in the huddle? Monthly newsletter? Changes to vacation policy? Sharing documents over email? They can get lost, forgotten, or ignored, better make a copy, and host on your SSOT.

The Workplace Communincation Channel of choice will vary, but dictate a reliable ‘single source of truth’ your employees all have access to, just in case they miss a meeting or an email.

4) Scenarios Where Employees Should Choose The Communications Channels

Finally, it’s important to realize that you’re not operating in isolation. Sure, your employees might love to engage in video conferencing or a messenger pigeon (how cool would THAT be in drone form?!)

Your company’s technology infrastructure or security requirements might just not support these preferences. When employee recommendations go into these types of impossibilities, company executives make the call on what channels to leverage.

We work with a lot of financial institutions and healthcare facilities where the top concern is security. Make sure your employees understand the importance of secure information sharing with mandated channels.

Workplace Communication channels: the basics

4 Scenarios Where Employees Should Choose The Communications Channels

The above range of options, of course, only describes a few very specific scenarios in which company leadership should make the call. On the other side of the equation, you will find a number of situations where employees are best equipped to choose their preferred communications channels:

1. Collaborative teamwork opportunities

Collaboration is key to the success of any modern enterprise. Prescribing how that collaboration should take place, however, can be difficult and dangerous. Your employees want to work together – but at least to some degree, they want to dictate the terms of how that will happen. Allow your teams to set their preferred collaboration channels when possible.

Examples: Teams/Slack, discussion forums, softphones…try to avoid email for collaboration.

2. A lack of effective existing communications

When what’s been done just isn’t working, it’s time to look for alternatives. You might have tried to communicate internally for years, with little effect on your various teams and employees. In that case, it might make sense to switch up the equation. Allow your teams to choose and recommend the channels that might be more effective, then test them out to see if your strategy begins to work more effectively.

We see this a lot with people trying to share documents or collaborate over email. Email was never meant as a collaboration tool! Save the headaches and look to diversify your channels based on what works for you.

3. Feedback channels in communication

Communication is always a two-way street, and part of that process has to be feedback and recommendations for improvement. Your strategy likely already includes this component. Even if it doesn’t allow your employees to choose exactly how they prefer to send feedback your way.

The more you accommodate their preferences, the more likely you will be to actually receive actionable feedback that improves your strategy long-term.

Use your intranet to set up quick polls, or send through survey monkey. Take some advice from your customer success team on how they get feedback. Just ensure there is the option to maintain anonymity.

4. Inner-team functional communications

Finally, when it comes to internal communications, don’t try to change employee behavior for trivial concerns. Allowing them to choose their preferred channels takes work off your plate while at the same time optimizing their time. That might lead to some meetings turning into emails or emails turning into town halls.

By allowing your team to choose, you gain trust and let your employees focus their efforts on more complicated challenges.

Don’t attempt to change employee behaviour over trivial concerns. Feed them the information they need in a channel they prefer and your internal communications will make an impact.

Choose the appropriate employee communication channels and a single source of truth

An internal communications strategy is reliant on the channels you use to share it. Our top recommendation in channel strategy for your internal communications is to have a single source of truth. No matter what channels your employees, leadership or partners are on, they should be confident in knowing where to find the information they need.

Do you have a single source of truth? Get your free single source of truth tool to find out!

By Caitlin Percival

Caitlin is a strategy-driven marketing professional with over six years of experience. She is well versed in goal-driven initiatives and her efforts in digital marketing have included numerous successful marketing campaigns, building and executing social media portfolios and creative storytelling. She holds a Digital and Mobile Marketing Certificate from Simon Fraser University as well as a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours Marketing) degree from the University of Guelph. When she's not in the office, you'll find her in the mountains either skiing or hiking.