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Barriers and Benefits to Internal Communication in Business

Mary Clare Novak
Mary Clare Novak  |  April 19, 2019

At the beginning of every task, whether it is directly thought about or not, a goal is set.

Run a marathon. Make a sand castle. Start a business.

As we embark on these journeys towards that goal, we might get some help along the way. Your personal trainer might help you prepare for the marathon, a friend might come along with the perfect shovel, or the bank might take a leap of faith and accept your application for a loan.

However, these kind souls cannot be of any help if you don’t communicate your goals with them. Showing up to the gym doesn’t exactly tell your trainer that you want to be able to run a marathon. You have to tell them.

Communicating goals is necessary to the success of any operation. When tackling something with a team, fresh updates keep everyone on the same page and the operation on track to reach that common goal. And the only way to do that is to keep the information flowing through internal communication channels

Already familiar with the basics of internal communication? Jump ahead:

Internal communication: the basics

Internal communication occurs when coworkers, colleagues, and authority figures send and receive information to each other. The messages are specifically tailored for situations where the sender and receiver are apart of the same business.

If you’ve ever had a job, you have communicated internally.

Difference between internal and external communication

Before we go on, it is important to note the difference between internal and external communication, because although they are similar, they serve two completely different purposes.

Internal communication is when people who are apart of the same organization send and receive information to each other. The messages are not shared with anyone outside of the organization.  

Internal communication examples:

  • Calling your boss to talk about goals for the quarter
  • Meeting with your team to discuss a project
  • Stopping by a colleagues desk to say hi

External communication takes place when a business shares information with entities outside the organization. People within the organization most likely still have access to the information, but the message’s purpose is to inform external audiences.

External communication examples:

  • Holding a press conference
  • Sending a tweet on the company’s public Twitter account
  • Posting an article on your website’s blog

Alright, now that we’ve got that covered, let’s dive deeper into internal communication.

Tip: Learn how internal communications can play a role in employer branding!

 

Internal communication in business

In business, there are two different types of internal communication that are determined by the people involved in the delivery and reception of the message.

Vertical internal communication

Vertical internal communication happens among people at different levels of the business. The information either works its way down from superiors to their subordinates or upward from those subordinates to their superiors.

This type of internal communication recognizes the existence of a hierarchy in businesses. When there are new policies that employees need to be aware of, people with authority need to alert their employees. Similarly, when there is a faulty function of a business that can only be fixed by upper management, it is the responsibility of the employees to bring it to the attention of their superiors.

vertical internal communication

Specific objectives might vary between superiors and their subordinates, but they are both working towards the common goal of the business. Maintaining communication between these groups is necessary for that to happen.

Horizontal internal communication

Horizontal internal communication is when information is sent and received among people on the same hierarchical level of a business. It can happen at all levels, but the message is exclusive to that group.

This type of internal communication is used heavily when projects require teamwork and collaboration. When working on a team, communication is necessary when specifying goals, solving problems and making decisions.

horizontal internal communication

Teamwork is a beautiful thing. Sharing a similar goal with someone else makes it that much easier to reach it. But the only way to work together is with effective internal communication.

Internal communication channels

Sending an internal message can happen using all types of communication. However, there are specific channels that are best suited for certain topics. Choosing the right channel is crucial to being efficient respectful when sending an effective message.

Verbal internal communication channels

Verbal communication contributes greatly to the flow of information within an organization. It is used in a variety of situations, such as group meetings, brainstorms, and informal office chit chat.

Verbal communication is the best way for management to share sensitive information. Being promoted, getting a raise, or being given a new responsibility can be a big deal to some. Speaking with them face to face about it proves that you value them and their personal goals. However, if someone is out of reach, a phone call or video conferencing tools can step in and provide a similar personal touch.

See the Easiest-to-Use Video Conferencing Software →

Written internal communication channels

Written communication is your best bet when sending large amounts of information. When done properly, the emails, memos, or newsletters that include this information should be easy for receivers to understand and refer back to at a later time.

Yes, written communication is key when sending lengthy messages. However, it is also useful when sending messages about simple day to day tasks. Instant messengers, texting, and email are great tools for asking quick questions and clarifying information.

Internal communication barriers

Like all other types of communication, internal has its challenges. Let’s go over a few common internal communication barriers that your business might run into.

Speaking to multiple generations

Today’s workplaces contain people from a wide variety of age groups. A knowledge gap in communication technology might make it tough to be consistent with the tools being used. Also, younger generations might like to interact using too many different types of internal communication software, and information can be lost.

Tip: Check out these different types of internal communications software, and conduct an extensive training session on the one you think would work best for your business. This way everybody has the appropriate skills they need to be a good communicator.


See the Highest-Rated Internal Communications Software →

Keeping the audience engaged

Some internal communication messages can be extensive and dull. No matter how hard they try to get through bulky amounts of information, some people find it hard to focus the entire time they are reading or listening to a long message.

Tip: Add some type of visual communication to your written messages to break up the text, especially when numbers are involved.


Not enough communication channels

Certain communication channels are best for specific situations. If your business only uses formal communication channels that serve uber professional purposes, quick messages to colleagues won’t have a place to be sent and received. And if you only use informal channels, there is no place for professionalism.

Related: Read up on workplace messaging and why it's so important to the modern office. 

Too many communication channels

On the other hand, you can also have too many communication channels. People might not know which channel is best for their message, and information can get lost in the sea of channels.

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Internal communication skills

Overcoming all of those internal communication barriers may seem daunting. Never fear, the skills you need are here.

General communication skills

This might seem like a no brainer, but to succeed at internal communication, you must have knowledge of all the types of communication. Verbal and written communication skills are a must.

Knowledge of the topic

In order to circulate accurate and relevant information, you need to have a solid understanding of the topic you are currently discussing. Being the first to distribute information makes you the reference point for questions, concerns, and clarifications from that point forward.

Recognizing the audience

Understanding your audience is necessary before sending an internal communications message. Take a look at your receivers and evaluate their current knowledge on the topic you are presenting. A colleague on your same level might know everything you do. A new team member might need more background on the topic, but doing the same with a member of the C-suite is a waste of time.

Taking advantage of tools

The amount of tools for internal communication is overwhelming. But they are there for a reason. Online tools like email, instant messengers, and video conferencing software eliminate the stress of communicating people who are out of reach. Use them.

Internal communication tools can be helpful, but they can also be distracting. Check out our Slack tips for staying productive at work while also being a rockstar communicator. 

Focusing on the message

Before sending a message, think about the key points you want your audience to take away. Focusing on those points will provide the people within your business with the information they need to work towards the organization’s shared goals. As a receiver, pick out what you think is the main idea and return to it if you get lost in the bulk of the message.

Looking for more? Check out our resource on internal communication best practices for some extra tips on communicating in the workplace

Inside voice

Reaching goals can be tough. But it is even tougher when you have an uninformed team. Whether you are working on a team of two or twenty, prioritize internal communication.

FREE RESOURCE: Anytime or anywhere, communicate your ideas with confidence. Get my tip sheet...

Want to learn more about the other side of communication? Check out our resource on internal and external communication for more!

Mary Clare Novak
Author

Mary Clare Novak

Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Associate at G2 in Chicago. A recent graduate, she is happy to be back working in her favorite city. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)