E-Commerce

Internal communication: how modern employee communication works

Fatih-Kağan Taşkoparan

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As an online retailer, you have probably already developed a sophisticated strategy for your external communication. After all, it is the key to your brand identity and customer loyalty and needs to be well maintained at all times. But what about your internal communication strategy?

Internal communication - do you need an extra strategy for this? Isn't that something you just "do" every day anyway? Far from it! In fact, today more than ever, you need conscious, strategic internal corporate communication. Find out why this is the case and how you can best implement your internal communication here.

Why conscious internal communication is important

Internal communication encompasses all communication within your company. This includes every form of exchange between all employees and between employees and managers through both formal and informal channels - from email newsletters to coffee-table chats.

Consciously managed internal communication primarily ensures the smooth exchange of information. It also contributes to the involvement of all employees in company processes. And this in turn shows appreciation, demonstrates transparency, increases satisfaction and motivation among colleagues and thus strengthens the long-term retention of talent. Last but not least, internal communication ensures that complex business processes and organizational matters run more smoothly.

What challenges does internal communication currently face?

The coronavirus crisis had a massive - and lasting - impact on the everyday working lives of countless employees: The sudden compulsion to work from home gave rise to a new understanding of collaboration. Many people want to work from home more often in the future - the months of lockdown have shown that this is possible. All it takes is video conferencing tools and stable internet connections.

However, the consequences for corporate culture and success should not be underestimated if employees no longer cross paths on a daily basis:

Virtual hurdles

Small pieces of information, agreements or even anecdotes that were once passed across the desk by shouting now have to go through chat or email programs. This always creates small hurdles: Contact persons have to be written to or called - and possibly pulled out of a task - every time they want to get something off their chest.

Misunderstandings

Everything is received a little differently in writing than it would be in a verbal exchange. Short and concise messages can come across as unfriendly, while messages that are too long require a lot of time and attention. As communication styles are very different, it is easy to get on each other's nerves and misunderstandings can arise that would never happen in a direct exchange.

Lack of exchange

Because some colleagues are afraid to write to others and "disturb" them over supposedly minor issues, there is no exchange of information, which would be important from a professional point of view (keyword: knowledge transfer) and would also contribute to a healthy working atmosphere. In this way, obstacles become entrenched, which harbors potential for conflict and frustration.

Availability

Anyone looking for information and asking questions usually needs quick answers. However, this is difficult with flexible working hours in the home office. In the office, everyone can see who is already or still there, but in the home office, availability must be clearly communicated so that inquiries do not go unanswered. This can otherwise lead to annoying delays, especially in large teams.

Interim conclusion: trust and closeness are lost

So there is no longer one familiar way for colleagues to communicate with each other. Instead, a great deal of agility and flexibility is required on a daily basis - as well as more forbearance and understanding.

This situation makes it more difficult for managers of both large and small teams to "feel" moods and situations. Communication between people, the most natural thing in the world, is increasingly being "framed" digitally, which involves more effort and "ceremony". As a result, the original naturalness of conversations is being lost to some extent, and with it trust and closeness.

Why do you need an internal communication strategy?

Smaller teams and e-commerce start-ups in particular sometimes see no reason to formulate their own communication strategy. But it is advisable to do just that:

After all, companies of all sizes want to make a name for themselves on the market, and this not only includes their external image, but also a matching, authentic internal interaction with one another. If there are major discrepancies between external and internal communication and corporate culture, this will inevitably filter through to the outside world sooner or later. In times of social media and employer rating portals, this cannot be prevented.

How do you analyze your internal communication?

If you want to review your internal communication, keep it healthy and improve it, you first need to get a clear picture of the initial situation. Clarifying a few basic questions is enough to start with:

  • What communication channels does your company use?
  • Which of these channels do your employees prefer or dislike using?
  • Do the communication channels you use provide everything your team needs? Video chat and document exchange are standard, but GIF integration can also make a huge contribution to carefree communication.
  • How do line managers approach employees - and are line managers easily accessible for employees?
  • Which communication channels could be eliminated or shortened?
  • What communication channels does your team need in order to exchange information optimally?
  • What communication structures and rituals does your team need - are daily morning meetings necessary or is a weekly update meeting enough?
  • Is all relevant information accessible to your colleagues and can they access it transparently and centrally?

It goes without saying that all team members must be involved in answering this list of questions. This will give you a complete picture of your internal communication, uncover obstacles and problems and reveal potential for optimization.

7 tips to improve your internal corporate communications

You have analyzed your internal communication, collected feedback and identified where things are sometimes lacking and what your team needs for optimal collaboration. Now it's time to take concrete measures on this basis to gradually improve your internal corporate communication.

How exactly such measures can look in detail is completely individual and always depends on the team to which they are to be applied. However, every team can take a few basic tips to heart in order to work and communicate successfully with each other:

Tip 1: Define the goals of internal communication

This principle applies without exception: the communication channel depends on the message - not the other way around. There is no point in acquiring a powerful and well-designed communication tool if it ultimately fails to achieve the actual information objective. So think about who a message is aimed at, what needs the person or group has and what goal the message is intended to achieve.

  • Are there complex processes, for example, where questions keep coming up? In this case, an internal wiki can be worth its weight in gold. If necessary, make it available in a dedicated employee app so that all team members can access it at any time and from anywhere - this is also a very useful solution for remote workers.
  • If a realignment is planned for the future, it is advisable to conduct an employee survey - there are plenty of easy-to-use tools for this.
  • If you regularly share valuable knowledge and relevant news with your colleagues, you shouldn't just use the general chat program for this - it usually gets lost there. Instead, maintain your own company blog. You could also make your specialist information and news available to the public, which will raise your company's profile as an expert and employer.

Tip 2: Demonstrate personality and closeness

In teams that frequently work from home, a certain amount of communication inertia tends to set in, resulting in an increasing emotional distance in addition to physical distance. Counteract this by setting a good example.

Make video calls approachable, relaxed and friendly, address your team members in regular video messages or send charming emails that don't miss out on the humor. In this way, you demonstrate that communication is welcome and that no one needs to feel inhibited about speaking up or giving feedback.

You should also allow fun in your chat tools: funny anecdotes that don't necessarily have anything to do with work, emojis and memes should be allowed, as they promote a sense of togetherness and lighten the mood from time to time.

Tip 3: Switch on the camera

If you want to create closeness in digital communication, you can't stare into a wall of black rectangles. So always switch on your own camera and agree with your team that you will always be visible in your meetings. This is far more likely to motivate people to take part in conversations than speaking into the void and not knowing whether anyone is there at all.

Of course, this should not be a strict rule. If someone has just had dental surgery and is reluctant to show their face, the camera can stay off. Otherwise, however, the rule should be: Camera on and be visible as a person.

Tip 4: Don't discriminate against anyone

Internal communication should not exclude anyone. Your colleagues working from home or in a coworking space should be just as much a part of the team and all conversations as the people on site. So develop strategies for inclusive internal communication so that no one is excluded. After all, you wouldn't show much appreciation if employees on site always heard news in advance and those connected digitally only received the information afterwards.

For discussion groups in hybrid meetings, it has also proven to be a practical solution to let the "remotees" speak first and then allow those present to speak. The reason: discussion groups tend to focus more on people who are present in person and isolate those who are connected - albeit unconsciously - as it is not so easy to take the floor in the room from the screen.

Tip 5: Worthy services rendered

One of the most common mistakes in internal communication concerns the appreciation of colleagues' achievements. Sure, many of the things we do at work are just that: our job. And that's what we get paid for, after all. But this way of thinking doesn't exactly ensure satisfaction and employee loyalty.

Even things that are supposedly self-evident do not have to be treated as such. Therefore, always give your team members feedback, not only for exceptional achievements, but also for everyday to-dos. People want to feel appreciated and be able to recognize the meaning behind their work.

Tip 6: Create understanding for each other

The larger teams become, the more different personalities and styles of interaction clash. Some people make (and demand) brisk announcements, while others want to be given a lot of information before they can get started. There is a lot of potential for conflict here.

Create an understanding of why different types in your team communicate in such different ways. Personality analysis workshops, for example biostructural analysis or similar approaches, are ideal for this. This gives everyone involved the chance to understand that there are "red", "blue" and "green" personalities (as distinguished by biostructural analysis, for example), who all tick and communicate very differently.

Tip 7: Check all suitable internal communication channels

You can only discuss which forms and channels of internal communication are best suited to you and your team if you are aware of the enormous range of possibilities. To conclude, here is a small selection:

Classical instruments:

  • Team meetings
  • Notice board
  • Newsletters
  • Request/complaint mailbox
  • Annual reports
  • Employee:inside magazines
  • Posters/Flyers
  • "Hallway radio"
  • Face-to-face events

Digital instruments:

  • (Video) chat programs
  • Instant messenger
  • Social Media
  • Digital/hybrid video conferencing
  • Intranet
  • Wiki
  • Company blog
  • Employee app
  • Newsletter
  • Podcast
  • Bots and survey tools

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