Internal Communication Tools: Definition, Types + Examples
Think an internal communications strategy isn’t worth your time? Poor internal comms can have a real and negative effect on everything from employee engagement and retention to your overall bottom line. The right tool(s) should help your company improve the way you communicate—and can be a great starting point for defining and implementing a scalable comms strategy.
Internal communication tools are software that helps companies manage employee communications. These tools can help streamline communication between managers and employees, or between employees themselves. They can also help reduce the need for face-to-face meetings, which can save time and money.
Examples of internal communication
There are a variety of ways to communicate at work, but there are a few universal interactions that happen at nearly every workplace.
Management to employee communication
This kind of internal communication puts a tight focus on organizational structure and the top-down delivery of information from managers and decision-makers to individual contributors. It can be anything from your usual 1:1 manager meeting to a quick DM to confirm that you’re still on track to make a deadline.
If you’re looking for a way for employees to communicate important information to upper management, you need to focus on employee-up communication. Communication like this tends to be collaborative because it focuses on the workforce as a whole.
Whether you’re talking to someone on your team or having a conversation with a different individual contributor, you’re working to foster peer-to-peer communication. This is communication that happens between staff members throughout the day.
This critical type of internal communication can outline the strategies, systems, and processes that organizations use to communicate during a crisis. Since these issues rarely occur with warning, it’s important for organizations to consider how to handle situations before they arise.
Regardless of if you’re dealing with something minor or a major adjustment, it takes the right kind of communication to handle change management. Change communication should be able to help employees understand expected changes, when and why they’re happening, as well as context into how the change will affect the entire organization or individual teams.
Why are communication tools important?
In today's workplace, communication is key. Having the right tools in place can make a big difference in how well your team works together and how efficiently you can get things done.
The benefits of communication tools
Facilitates collaboration across teams
Reduces time wasted
Eliminates geographic barriers
Improves efficiency, clarity, and transparency
Gives employees the information needed to do their job
Promotes an engaged workplace
Without a communication tool, you're likely to run into issues with coordinating work, keeping everyone on the same page, and simply getting your point across. When communication is ineffective, it can lead to frustration, wasted time, or information overload.
Features of an effective communication tool
The ability to search for specific messages or conversations is a key component of any great communication tool. These tools should have features that allow you to search by keywords, people, dates, tags, categories, and even attachments. Allowing users to easily find the information they need without having to search within projects.
Organization and structure
An organized communication tool will allow users to structure information in the ways that work best for them. Many communication tools have the ability to create channels, tagging, and even custom fields to help organize information.
The ability to control how information is presented makes it easier for users to find the information they need and reduces the overall clutter in a project.
Communication tools that provide users with a news feed allow teams to see what is happening in real-time. This feature is important for keeping everyone on the same page and up-to-date on the latest activity and project developments across teams.
The ability to receive notifications about specific conversations or messages is a key feature of communication tools. This allows users to stay updated on the latest activity in a project and ensures that no important information is missed.
It's not uncommon for companies to use multiple tools for internal communications, which makes a file sharing feature crucial. The ability to share PDFs, images, videos, and other types of files can make it much easier for team members to collaborate on projects.
The ability to share information with people outside of your company is a major advantage of communication tools. This feature allows you to quickly connect with prospects, customers, partners, and other stakeholders.
The ability to track activity is a feature that can help users see the history of what has been said and done in a project. Being able to view the activity history can also be helpful when working across several projects, as it can serve as a bookmark for referencing what you're working on without having to search through each project individually. It can also be helpful for auditing purposes or simply understanding how a project has progressed over time.
Security and permissions
Security plays an important role in how your information is stored. Using a communication tool that offers advanced permissions and security, can give you peace of mind that your data is safe.
Multi-language support is often overlooked when it comes to communication tools. However, it can be a critical feature for companies with employees or customers located in different parts of the world.
Having the ability to use tools in several languages also promotes an inclusive environment and can allow employees or customers to enjoy the program in their native language.
Interactions and discussion
When working within a tool, it can be helpful to have the ability to interact with other users in a discussion without having to utilize a separate tool. This feature allows you to ask questions, give feedback and collaborate with others in real-time.
The ability to access your communication tool on the go is a major advantage. Mobile apps allow users to stay connected and continue working on projects, even when they're away from their office. It can help teams be aware of any urgent updates or notifications, as soon as they arise.
The ability to integrate with the other tools you have can make communication more seamless. This can include project management tools, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and even accounting software.
While some tools have these integrations built-in, others may require using third-party software, so it's important to consider what would work best for your team when choosing your communication tool.
Types of internal communication tools
Messaging and chat
Voice and video conferencing
Client relationship management (CRM)
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As the world increasingly goes digital so does the way we communicate. Messaging and live chat tools allow teams to communicate in real-time, whether in the same room or across the globe. These tools allow for quick and easy communication between team members without needing face-to-face interaction.
Can be used for informal conversations
Allows for quick exchange of information
Can be used to share files and links
Can be difficult to have a back-and-forth conversation
May be disruptive if used for non-work related conversations
Best internal communication tool for messaging and chat: Slack
If you’re searching for a best-in-class example of a messaging and chat focused employee communications software, look no further than Slack. This tool allows users to send and receive messages from individuals, groups, and teams.
Intranets are private networks that are only accessible to an organization's employees. They provide a platform for teams to communicate while staying up-to-date on company news and announcements.
Can be used to share sensitive information
Allows for easy collaboration on projects
Can be customized to fit the needs of the organization
Can be difficult to set up and maintain
Not all employees may have access to the network
Best internal communication tool for intranet: Guru
Guru is the tool of choice for people that want the combined capabilities of internal communication tools and intranets. Users get all of the benefits and flexibility of collaboration that traditional intranets offer. And thanks to our integrations and browser extension, users don’t need to navigate out of their current workflow to find (or contribute) answers.
In a collaborative workplace, it's important to be able to work on documents together. Document collaboration tools allow team members to work on the same document simultaneously, and see each other's changes in real-time. These tools can be used for brainstorming sessions, writing documents, design work, or collaborating on presentations.
Can be used for a variety of purposes
Allows team members to work together in real-time
Can be used for brainstorming sessions
May require training for team members to use correctly
Best internal communication tool for collaboration: Figma
It’s possible that your brand and UX team members are already very familiar with Figma, but this collaborative interface design tool can benefit everyone at work. Their FigJam tool can come in very handy for any whiteboarding session, and it integrates with a variety of tools that may already be a part of your tech stack.
In the age of information, it's important to be able to manage and share company knowledge, while maintaining a single source of truth within the organization. Knowledge management tools help teams to organize, store and share information while minimizing time wasted.
Can be used to store and share a variety of information
Allows for easy retrieval of information
Can help teams stay organized
Some knowledge management tools have the flexibility to also serve as an intranet
Can require a large time investment to set up and maintain
Best internal communication tool for knowledge management: Guru
Guru may be a great intranet and internal communications tool, but at its core, it’s a knowledge management solution that gives people the information and answers they need the moment they need it. With Guru, your team can create, share, access, and update information right in the context of their existing workflow.
Project management tools help teams to plan, track, and execute projects. These tools can be used for small projects or large initiatives, and allow employees to manage deadlines and track their progress.
Can be used for small or large projects
Allows employees to manage deadlines and track progress
Can help teams stay on budget
Can be difficult to learn and use
Can be inflexible depending on which teams are using them
May require ongoing training for team members
Best internal communication tool for project management: Asana
Project management takes internal communications to an entirely new level, and an all-in-one tool like Asana can help PMs and individual contributors alike. Aside from being simple use, Asana makes it easy to automate processes, repeat tasks, and workflows that can help make managing projects much easier and more efficient.
Voice and video conferencing
Voice and video conferencing tools allow team members to communicate with each other without being in the same physical space. These tools can be used for team meetings, training sessions, or one-on-one consultations. Video conferencing can also be used to connect with remote team members or clients.
Can be used for all kinds of conversations
Allows team members to connect with each other without being in the same room
Can be expensive to set up
Best internal communication tool for voice and video conferencing: Zoom
A solid internal communications plan needs a video chat tool to power it, and Zoom has become the ubiquitous choice for companies. Aside from ease of use, Zoom also allows users to record meetings and offers up to 1080p resolution for paid accounts.
In a digital workplace, it's important to be able to share files quickly and easily. File sharing tools allow team members to share documents, photos, videos, and other types of files with each other. These tools can be used for collaboration or for simply sharing information.
Allows team members to share files
Can be difficult to keep track of who has access to which files
May require a paid subscription for certain features
Best internal communication tool for file sharing: Google Drive
Google’s suite of professional tools paired with its notoriously low price point have easily made Google Drive one of the most popular file sharing tools for both companies and individuals. The tool can seamlessly integrate with a variety of other popular apps and has a powerful search function that makes finding files a snap.
Thanks to the rise of remote and hybrid work, finding ways to bond with co-workers and managers is more important than ever. Team bonding tools give employees different ways to interact and build relationships in a variety of ways.
Builds connections between employees
Adds to company culture
Potential to cause scheduling conflicts among peers
Best internal communication tool for team bonding: Donut
Want a casual way to connect with employees and meet new friends? Look no further than Donut, one of our favorite team bonding tools. Donut randomly pairs up employees for conversations and chances to connect. This is a great way to help people meet other co-workers outside of their usual departments and teams.
Marketing tools help teams to create and manage marketing campaigns. They can be used for a variety of purposes, such as email marketing, social media marketing, or content marketing.
Allows marketing teams to track results and measure messaging and campaign success
Additional tools may be required for more detailed analytics
Best internal communication tool for marketing: Hubspot
Hubspot has become the industry standard as an all-in-one marketing tool. Aside from its scheduling and content creation capabilities, the tool also allows users to measure and view analytics and metrics from campaigns.
Client relationship management (CRM)
CRM software helps organizations to manage and maintain relationships with their customers. This type of software can be used for sales, marketing, or customer service purposes.
Allows organizations to track customer interactions and data
Can help improve customer satisfaction
Can require a large time invest to setup and maintain
Best internal communication tool for client relationship management: Salesforce
Salesforce may not come to mind when you think about CRM software and team communication tools, but it’s one of the most comprehensive relationship management tools available. The tool comes with a wide range of services and integrations and is ideal for companies that are concerned about customization and scalability.
Strategies for building your internal communications plan
Now that you know the basics of internal communications tools, it's time to start planning your strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start to build your plan:
Define your goals: What do you want to achieve with your internal communications? Do you want to increase employee engagement? Improve communication between departments? Make sure everyone is on the same page about company news and announcements?
Identify your audience: Who do you need to communicate with? All employees? Just remote workers? Do you need to segment your messages by department or location?
Choose the right channels: What communication channels will work best for your audience and goals? Email? Intranet? Slack? Video conferencing?
Review your current internal communications methods
Now that you've reviewed your current internal communications, it's time to start thinking about ways to improve. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Increase employee engagement: If you want to increase employee engagement, consider using tools that allow for two-way communication. This could be something like a company forum or an instant messaging tool.
Make it easy to find information: If employees are having trouble finding the information they need, consider using a searchable intranet or an internal communications platform that allows for tagging and categorizing of content.
Get everyone on the same page: If you want to make sure everyone is receiving the same messages, consider using a tool that allows you to target specific groups of people or that allows you to send messages to everyone at once.
Solicit feedback and ideas
Ask your employees how they think internal communications could be improved. What tools or methods would they like to see implemented? What do they think is working well and what needs to be changed? You can also ask for feedback after you've made changes to your internal communications plan. This will help you to gauge whether or not the changes are having the desired effect.
Once you've implemented your internal communications plan, it's important to communicate regularly with your employees. This could be through weekly or monthly updates, company-wide announcements, or just general check-ins.
Make sure to keep your employees updated on any changes or updates to the plan, and solicit their feedback on how things are going. Internal communications is an ongoing process, so make sure to review and update your plan on a regular basis.
Offer employee resources and training
If you want your employees to make use of the internal communications tools and channels that you've set up, it's important to offer employee resources and training. This could include things like:
A quick start guide to using the tools
Online tutorials or how-to videos
In-person training or group sessions
Set a golden rule
It's important to set a company-wide standard (or “Golden Rule”) for internal communications that defines how employees should expect to receive and consume information. This could be something as simple as "all employees must check the company intranet every day" or something more complex. At Guru, our is:
We Seek and Share Knowledge. For this to work, there must be a “contract” between you and everyone you work with at Guru. This means every one of us commits to doing 2 things...
(1) you share your knowledge asynchronously, knowing that everyone else will seek to digest what you share. You recognize the audience you are sharing to and optimize for them because it is important to you that they understand.
(2) you seek to digest the knowledge that others have spent time preparing to share with you. If what is being shared is unclear or not relevant, you recognize the value in sharing that feedback to improve what is shared in the future.
By setting a rule, you can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that communication is consistent.
Improving your internal communications doesn't have to be a time-consuming process. There are a number of templates and automation tools that can help you to streamline the process and save time.
Use templates for things like company announcements, meeting minutes, or status updates to set standards company-wide, and make use of automation tools to schedule and send messages or to create and distribute content.
Frequently asked questions on internal communications tools
How can collaboration tools improve team communication?
Collaboration tools can improve team communication by making it easier for team members to share information and work together on projects. These tools can also help to reduce the need for face-to-face meetings, which can save time and money.
How do you measure if your internal communications tool is effective?
There are a few ways to measure the effectiveness of your internal communications tool. First, examine overall usage. If usage is high, then it's likely that employees find the tool useful.
You should also look at how people are communicating — are repeat questions still being asked? Does it seem like people are frequently missing key information?
What are the barriers that affect communication?
There are a few common barriers that can affect internal communication, such as lack of trust, ineffective channels, a lack of transparency, and poorly defined roles and responsibilities.
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