Workplace Communication Channels: Master Them in Four Steps

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By Carla Lynn
July 13, 2020
5 min read
Internal communications best practices (1)

This is an IC 101 Series Blog Post Sharing Communications Best Practices

An effective workplace communication channel strategy is a communicator’s paintbrush. It’s the tool that delivers messages and is ultimately one of the biggest influencers of that message’s success.  

After all, before you can get your message heard, it has to be seen.  

Are you engaging with employees in the right way? Research shows that 83% of Generation Z workers prefer to engage with managers in person, yet 82% of managers think that those same workers prefer to be communicated with through instant message.   

No matter how cutting edge your tools are, if you don’t speak to your audience through the right medium, your message will come across as hollow.  

Does this mean you need to interview each person in your audience personally? No. But you need to be aware of all the different workplace communication channels currently used in your organization, and how they are used to create targeted messaging that stick.  

Here’s how…   

Step 1: Perform your workplace communication channel audit  

The first step to creating an effective workplace communication channel strategy is to perform a channel audit. Your goal is to identify how information flows through the organization.  

This includes official channels (email, newsletters, annual reports), informal channels (instant messaging, lunch-time conversations), and unofficial channels (how employees communicate with each other outside of work).  

Finding the official channels will be easy. The trick is to identify informal and unofficial channels. Interview leaders, managers, and workers across the board and find out the different ways in which they get information. While you’re having these conversations, find out how they would prefer to receive communications, this will be a great asset to look at when putting together a strategy later.  

Through this practice called network mapping, the tools and channels through which this information flow and the people who carry influence and act as hubs of information. This will allow you to identify bottlenecks, disconnects, and of course, opportunities.  

You don’t need to use each channel you’ve identified, but you need to be aware of how, why, and when people communicate.  

Use this free channel audit tool to get started.  

Step 2: Do some research  

Every organization is unique, and every person has different wants and needs when it comes to communications. But we are all humans, after all. Find out what researchers and thought leaders are saying and read case studies. You might find a few answers on the “how” and “why” of your channel audit, key differences, or even just a few ideas.  

For example, each generation has a multitude of preferences when it comes to how they approach communication. These are not facts, and naturally, each group has outliers and personal preferences. However, generational traits are excellent clues into the mind of your audience:  

  • Baby Boomers enjoy face-to-face communications that are both formal and direct. They look for background information and details  
  • Generation X prefers informal interactions via phone, text, and email. Professionalism and etiquette are values essential to them  
  • Millennials want fast and authentic communications. Efficiency and a digital-first approach is the name of their game  
  • Generation Z is all about transparent and visual communications. With a preference for face-to-face interactions they also value video voice-command and mobile media  

Remember, no matter what research and the experts say, nothing is ever guaranteed to work in an environment. Use the research as a backdrop for direct feedback from employees.  

Step 3: Establish a single source of truth  

Regardless of how many channels of communication are used in your organization, it’s essential to create one place where all the information can converge. It’s excellent to utilize influential people in the organization (based on network mapping) to disseminate information, but that information needs to be substantiated in a central location.  

Your intranet is the ideal platform to act as your “single source of truth”. Whether it be updates, company-wide announcements, or policies and procedures, employees know if they want to know something, the information will be correct.  

Remember all the time wasted looking for a document, press release, or searching for something as simple as an expense claim? Neither do we.  

Need help establishing a single source of truth? Use this free tool.

Step 4: Create a strategy using your key workplace communication channels

You know how communications flow through the organization, and you’ve also established a single source of truth to hold all information. Now what?  

The tricky part is to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  

Just because there are 25 channels used to communicate in your organization, it doesn’t mean you need to use each one. It merely means you are aware of how people receive information, and with that knowledge, you can match campaigns with channels to optimize reach and awareness.

Atlassian created a fun flow chart on how and when to send an email. It’s a good inspiration for setting clear rules, goals, and objectives for channels. View the full image here.

workplace communication channels - email strategy

The goal is to categorize your available channels, give each a purpose in your communications plan, and then lay out a strategy on how and when to use them. When creating your communications plan, you will then have a multitude of goal-driven tools to use.  

Finally, don’t forget to track, measure, and report. Continuously measure the success of each channel so that you can keep bettering future campaigns.  

Here’s a free tool to get started with metrics.

Extra resources:

Internal communications best practices for effective communication in the workplace
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By Carla Lynn

Carla Lynn was a former Intranet Connections teammate.