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When employees want to open company messages as much as personal ones, that’s what we’re aiming for.
There are now hundreds of options for workplace tools under the banner of “internal communication”. The difficulty is in finding the ones that are more than just tools for tools sake, and then using them in a way that solves real employee problems.
As our Head of Customer Support, Adam said: “Anyone can turn up at the gym. But knowing what to do there? That’s not a given. There are questions around which muscle group to train, how heavy to load your weights, what type of exercises to do, what “good” form looks like. If you’re going to give someone a tool to use, they also need to know what to do with it.”
It’s a great point.
In this guide we share 7 tools that are designed to improve internal communication - and what to do with them.
Types of Internal Communication Tool
An intranet is a private network that’s connected via the web. It’s designed as a centralized channel for internal communications where employees can gather, share and access information. An intranet is often used as a single point for employees to stay connected to what’s happening within the company.
An intranet becomes a hub for every aspect of communication; from sharing documents to company social media updates, photo-sharing, project notes and more. The “homepage” section of an intranet increases the visibility of company-wide information and important notices. Dedicated sections and channels mean that employees have access to all of the information available, but can focus on the areas that are relevant to them.
The difference between an intranet and a forum
Some companies will choose to have an intranet and forum; some will use an intranet that contains a forum element; and some will have just one or the other.
An intranet brings together different methods of communication, so while you may have a forum aspect or an instant messaging integration, there will also be documents and static pieces of information, like guides.
Forums are a platform for conversation and will often be “threaded” so that employees can jump between different topics that are relevant to them.
When you hear the word “intranet” you probably think of something clunky and outdated. But Igloo is here to change all that. Igloo is an intranet tool that pulls together all of the resources that are important to a team. It allows you to create “hubs” of information, team rooms where people can discuss ideas and in-depth knowledge bases so that no one has to ask the same question twice.
Why it’s a top app: Igloo saves time and that’s really important when it comes to how and why we communicate. If all of the resources you could ever need were in one place, no one would have to search for files, ask for details or hunt down locations again. Igloo makes it really simple to do that and has an attractive interface that makes people want to use it. Igloo also integrates with many of the tools you already know and love such as Google, Office 365, Zendesk and Slack.
Digital signage involves placing screens in strategic positions. It’s one of the lesser known tools for workplace communication. Why? Possibly because it’s one of the only passive methods of internal communication.
If you feel that not much of the company information flying around is actually absorbed by team members, then digital screens could help. Implementing a passive method of sharing information increases the flow of company updates, without adding yet another channel the employee has to actively check. Screens can focus on one piece of information or data, or add lots of ever-changing content depending on the information employees need. They can be managed by one person, a team, or the entire company; and they can be updated cheaply and easily.
There’s a reason why billboard advertising has been one of the strongest methods of marketing for over a century. It works. Information we see or scan permeates our thought process.
Now imagine if you could do that within the workplace.
Digital signage benefits:
With ScreenCloud you can share any content you like to your digital screens, through schedules and playlists. This allows you to take the most important information and give it an office-wide view. This could be in your office, team room, reception, lobby or even in the lunch café.
Why it’s a top app: ScreenCloud allows you to create content using over 60 different apps in the App Store such as social media feeds, news, world information and dashboards from customer support tools like Zendesk. Then you have playlists and scheduling, which allow you to create different content for different departments, days of week and times of day. As well as “emergency” takeovers where you can broadcast crucial information to your teams, as and when needed.
An instant messaging tool allows you to communicate instantly and send messages of text, photos, videos or web links to other people within your company. It's a faster and more natural way of communicating and closely mimics tools we use in our personal lives, like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.
When you craft an email, you know it’s going to sit in someone’s inbox and potentially be referred back to later in the day. With instant messaging, it’s instantaneous so you can give less thought to the way you say hello, or how you sign-off. Instant messaging channels are also set up for group discussions. For example, you may have one 'room' dedicated to Marketing and another for Sales. This allows everyone to share relevant information, without clogging up your inbox with emails.
Instant messaging channels often give you the power to integrate and automate useful information you have elsewhere. For example, we integrate our “Customer” channel on Slack with Close, so that when a new customer signs up we get notified in Slack.
If a company intranet is the “pull” method, where employees can search and pull out data, instant message channels are the “push”.
Instant messaging benefits:
Here’s what Slack, a popular instant messaging tool, looks like:
Slack has widely become the “go to” message app of choice for corporate comms but another we really like is Flock. This app is slightly easier to use than Slack and has all of the features you may need for sharing information with your team, fast. It also has to do lists, notes and integrations with your Google Drive, making pulling in and working on documents much faster.
Why it’s a top app: Flock syncs really well across desktop and mobile devices so you don’t have to spend time scrolling through messages on your phone that you’ve already read. It also takes up way less storage than Slack, a nifty 21MB for the iOS mobile app, compared to Slack’s 66MB.
A collaboration tools is any tool that allows more than one person access, in order to share a project, add feedback, notes or provide sign-off. Cloud-based software has changed the way collaboration tools are accessed. Many modern collaboration tools allow multiple users to access them simultaneously, and provide the features needed for changes to be tracked and to save different versions as the project evolves and changes.
Benefits of a collaboration tools for internal communication:
Why might you use a collaboration tool?
Not all companies use collaboration tools but those who do, find they have less email chains, more productive project management and security benefits, like locking a project down to just a few specific team members. Collaboration tools help you to monitor tasks, see progress and have version control over your documents.
One of our favourite apps for getting stuff done at ScreenCloud is Google Documents. Perhaps the easiest way ever to create documents, spreadsheets or slides and share them with your team. With Google Docs everything is in the Cloud so you don’t risk losing your files and you never have to click “save”, because it does it for you.
Why it’s a top app: Hard to believe, but Google Docs is 100% free. This means unlimited documents, spreadsheets, slides and forms are all easy to create, write and save. You can organize files by folder to make them really easy to find and there are a multitude of settings to allow your team to edit or just view.
Employee social networks are a relatively new tool for internal communication. Organizations can use the same features of a public social network to encourage employees to connect and discuss work-related topics. These might be spin-offs from a regular social media network, like Facebook by Work; or a standalone platform like Yammer. As with many communication tools, employee social networks overlap with other tools like instant messenger and company intranets. So why would you choose to start using one?
We think of it like this: if intranets are places for communication, channels like Slack are for collaboration. Then what about water cooler information? Especially in remote teams, team building and “getting to know each other” is essential but the information often seems too frivolous to post into Slack or to share on email.
This is one area where employee networks come into their own and provide a space for team building that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
Many organizations also see their employee social network as more than just a “nice to have”. Using them to share events, company blogs, and all of the information an employee needs access to. In this way, a social network can become a hub which allows employees to be more expressive and creative.
Workplace by Facebook in action - image source.
Benefits of an employee social network:
Jostle is an example of an employee social network. It labels itself as a “People Engagement Platform” containing tools such as a blog-led news feed and a “Shout out” section for employee praise.
Why it’s a top app: Jostle is a modern day employee network tool which means it's easy to navigate and is simple for any team member to get to grips with. They're also big on updating the product suite and adding new features, so there's always something new to see and a better way to manage your internal communications.
Many companies view internal communication as something that’s top down, from the directors of the company to the employees. But what about lateral communication? The way employees communicate with each other is conducive to great work. That’s why tools that actively encourage employees to communicate more effectively are so important. One we have been trying recently at ScreenCloud is Donut, where two employees are randomly matched to take part in a “get to know each other” Slack call. Employee team bonding tools are useful for companies that have a partly or fully remote team. They’re also useful for teams where communicating may not come as naturally, for example in Development teams where most energy is spent on solitary coding, rather than communication.
Tools like Donut aren’t “magic cures” for companies where there’s a culture issue or low employee engagement, but they can help employees to feel more engaged and invested in their colleagues. After all, it’s pretty hard to dislike someone who has a pet cat called Wallaby.
Benefits of a team bonding tool:
An example of a team bonding tool is Know Your Team, which provides icebreaker questions for new team members and can be programmed to ask one non-work-related question each week, like “What’s your favorite family tradition?”.
Why it’s a top tool: Know Your Team focuses on making good management easy. This translates into simple guides for managers that are scannable and pre-set questions (150+ of them!) that help you to get to know your team, without having to spend time and energy thinking of icebreakers.
Get it on: Browser
A video chat tool allows different people to connect via a voice call, or voice and video call, via the internet. Examples of video chat tools include Skype, Zoom and PowWowNow. With many teams located across continents, or different offices, internal communication often means transatlantic communication. Teams that need to communicate regularly need the tools to be able to do so effectively. This is where video chat tools come in as an important part of the internal communication arsenal. Without a way to create virtual meetings, teams are restricted to written communication and we all know that sometimes you need to get face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) to thrash an idea out.
Benefits of a video chat tool:
Zoom is a web and video conferencing tool that makes video calls (often filled with technical problems), easy. Whether you’re having a multi-person meeting or trying to give a video webinar to customers, Zoom gives you the tools needed to succeed. Zoom meetings are easy to setup, run through the app and can be shared with those outside of your office with a simple link. Once that person is in your “room”, you can share screens, talk over video and send messages.
Why it’s a top app: Zoom works across Mac, Windows, Linux, Chromebooks, iOS and Android and does one important thing: it makes video conferencing work. The ability to call or schedule a meeting with anyone, whether in your organization or not, makes this a no brainer for improving the way you and your team communicate.
What internal communication tools are your company using? We’d love to hear your experiences and see what you find effective. You can contact us here.