Investing huge budgets and staff time into external marketing campaigns is no big deal for most companies. It’s an effective way to attract, convert, and retain customers. But what about internal audiences?
Internal communications has long suffered from a lack of strategy. In fact, only 29% of organizations surveyed had an overarching internal communication strategy. It’s not enough to send a monthly newsletter or annual employee survey anymore. Today’s employees want to feel valued, supported, and recognized as individuals — something that shouldn’t be an idealistic goal, but the everyday norm.
The way forward is an approach to internal communications that’s not only meaningful and engaging, but centered on inclusion. It’s everyone’s individual traits, preferences, needs, and ideas that make great things happen. It’s time to recognize and celebrate this with a more inclusive approach that follows an internal communication framework — one that considers your audience, format, tone, outcomes, and assumptions.
In this guide, we’ll share strategies and different types of internal communication to help you deliver more inclusive communications. From asking for employee recognition preferences to marking significant observances, there’s always more we can do to make every individual feel welcome.
1. Leadership and top-down communication
Leadership communication is all about aligning and connecting people with your company’s vision, mission, and values. When you’re writing, speaking, or presenting to large groups of employees, it’s essential that your tone and approach match your goals and culture.
Top-down communication happens in different ways. Some of these channels are in-person, while others are delivered by email, webinar, or in a hybrid environment. While the environment might change, the need for a positive and inclusive approach remains a must-have.
Some of the most popular leadership communication examples include:
- Town hall meetings
- Fireside chats
- Ask me anything (AMA) sessions
- Question and answer (Q&A) sessions
- Company-wide newsletters
- Company updates and business communications
- All-staff meetings
We look to our leaders for inspiration, support, and motivation — and that needs to shine through in your message. Top-down communication is an ideal place to start your journey towards being a more inclusive organization, as these leadership messages demonstrate the importance of inclusivity within your culture.
Use your town hall meetings and employee newsletters to talk about diversity and inclusion projects, showcase diverse imagery, and invite team members to share their own stories.
2. Peer-to-peer communication
You need your leadership team onboard if you want your company to truly embrace inclusive communication, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen between peers too. With so many of us talking to coworkers throughout the day, it’s these moments that can make or break whether people consider your company inclusive and welcoming or not.
Peer-to-peer communication is a fancy way of saying “talking to your coworkers.” It’s all those conversations and interactions that happen naturally, or the moments where you’re brought together to discuss ideas or challenges.
Examples of peer-to-peer communication include:
- Messaging via an internal communication tool, like Slack
- Stopping by a coworker’s desk to discuss a task
- Voicing your opinion in an open discussion
- Taking part in an internal focus group or forum
- Attending a virtual town hall or brainstorming session
- Sharing updates in a team meeting
What’s wonderful about peer-to-peer communication is that it covers so many areas. You can promote a coworker’s awareness project in your #watercooler Slack channel, show consideration for underrepresented voices when planning campaigns, or introduce new ways that people can share their opinions — like anonymous voting in video calls.
“Take the extra time to communicate and reinforce habits - etc, threading, emoji reactions, prefixing messages with intent.”
3. Leader-to-employee communication
Leader-to-employee communication might sound similar to leadership communications, but the two serve a different role. Instead of focusing on motivational and purpose-driven messaging, leader-to-employee messages are more about getting things done.
With this type of internal communication, leaders seek to guide the flow of information, updates, and key details to the people they manage or work alongside.
Examples of this include:
- Company information communications
- Team meeting communications
- Updates on staffing, policies, and workload
- Progress and annual reports
- Disciplinary reports
- Private praise and employee recognition
This communication type covers a real mix of intentions and styles. Managers need to be able to apply inclusive language and consider every employee’s individuality in moments of praise and excitement, but also through change, hardship, and uncertainty.
When messaging many employees at once, be open, transparent, and use inclusive language. For private communications, take each employee’s preferences, needs, and communication styles into account to create the best possible work environment.
4. Employee-to-leader communication
In the past, top-down communication was the go-to and there were few ways that employees really had an opportunity to get involved. Now, organizations are much more inclusive and promote two-way channels for everyone to share their opinion and make their thoughts known.
Employee-to-leader or bottom-up communication channels are focused on giving team members a way to influence what happens at a company.
These internal communication channels include:
- Employee focus groups
- Employee resource groups
- Discussion forums and internal chat rooms
- Employee surveys and polls
- Employee-led events and campaigns
- In-person or virtual suggestion boxes
- Staff-produced employee newsletters
- Dedicated feedback channels in Slack or other internal communication apps
Promoting inclusivity in employee-to-leader communications is all about empowerment and transparency. Your employees need to know that they’re free to raise concerns or suggest ideas in a space that feels comfortable and secure.
Provide a range of feedback channels, so there’s always an option that aligns with an individual’s needs or preferences. Use anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, and voting options to collect opinions and promote ideas and insights from diverse groups. Give employee groups ownership over their own channels and meetups, and provide resources so they can meet and discuss.
“I’ve learned that feedback is critical for any form of communication. By listening to staff on what works and what doesn’t work, you are set up to know how to improve and better communicate. Keeping that feedback loop open is vital!" says Talie Schwager, VP People at Coindesk.
5. Holiday and observance communication
One of the more obvious opportunities to promote inclusivity is through your holiday and observance communication. While many companies wish their employees well at Christmas, it’s easy to forget that there are a huge range of religious and cultural events throughout the year. It’s time to take a more inclusive approach to celebrations and observances.
Holiday communications extend beyond sending a New Year card to your employees or announcing that it’s Women’s History Month.
Popular holiday and observance communication channels include:
- Wishing team members well as a holiday approaches
- Sending holiday cards and greetings
- Celebrating national, cultural, and religious holidays in Slack
- Hosting workshops and webinars to learn about significant events
- Giving employees resources to host holiday-related talks, campaigns, and events
- Hosting an annual holiday party
- Sharing information and advice about holidays and awareness days
Some companies prefer not to mention or observe any holidays at all, while others will mention and reflect on them all. While it might seem easier not to cover every observance or holiday, it can lead to employees feeling like their culture or way of life isn’t recognized.
Try to find a balance that works for you — like sending a more inclusive “happy holidays” greeting at the end of the year, and also highlighting key holidays in your employee newsletters, Slack channels, and staff meetings. Our guide to employee communications for holidays and observances gives you plug-and-play message ideas that are intentionally inclusive.
If you’re not sure which holidays are coming up, our HR calendar has all the details you need. Discover key dates and significant moments for a range of locations and cultures, as well as bonus fun days to celebrate together — like National Ice Cream at Work Day.
6. Change management communication
Even a small change like switching to a different tool or app can make people feel unsettled. Big changes, like a change in office location or leadership, can be even more overwhelming. That’s why it’s essential that change communication is intentional, thoughtful, and inclusive.
Your change management messaging should seek to reassure and provide clarity. It’s a time to show leadership, strength, and community. It’s also a time for transparency and open dialogue with employees and peers.
Some of the best methods of communicating about change include:
- Scheduled all staff meetings
- Q&A sessions with a specific topic
- Dedicated employee newsletters or bulletins
- Face-to-face meetings with affected employees
- Training and awareness opportunities
- Regular meetings with employee representatives
- Sharing information about internal and external support
- Regular updates throughout the journey
Navigating change can be especially tough for some individuals, and it’s set to be a rising trend. Over 71% of HR leaders agree that change communication will play a significant role in 2023.
Consider everyone’s needs and be mindful of how your employees might react to the news. Inform people in advance where you can, offer clear agendas for your meetings, and come prepared with guidance on how individuals can access support if they wish to.
7. Crisis communication
When a crisis strikes, there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. What you can influence is how you prepare, guide, and support your employees through it. Crisis management communication plans are files we hope not to have to use, but should always have at the ready.
A crisis can cover anything from company layoffs to a widespread, worldwide life-changing event. How you handle each type of crisis changes, but the goal should always be to inform, assist, and be a source of clarity.
Examples of different channels to use during a crisis include:
- Crisis communication plans, guides, and templates
- Company intranet
- Instant messaging apps and SMS for alerts
- Email and employee newsletters
- Anonymous surveys, polls, and suggestion boxes
- Impromptu in-person, hybrid, or virtual all staff meetings
- Social media channels
Take extra care to consider inclusivity as you plan your crisis communication strategy. Recognize that not everyone has the same access to alerts or information, and aim to share crucial updates across as many communication platforms as possible.
Offer spaces where employees can raise fears, concerns, or questions with the safety of anonymity. Provide additional support to those who need it, and make personal crisis plans for individuals that cover a range of scenarios.
8. New hire communication
There’s no better place to introduce a new employee to your inclusive culture than through your new hire communications. It’s one of the key moments that matter as a member of your community. As they move through your recruitment and onboarding process, they’ll get to know what working for you is like and what they can expect.
The employee onboarding process provides plenty of chances to talk to, meet with, and get to know your new team member. Embrace each of these moments to their fullest and actively demonstrate your inclusive approach.
Some of the best communication channels to try with your new hires include:
- Inclusive job ads, intake forms, and recruitment processes
- Personalized onboarding journey
- Meetings with managers and peers
- Check-in surveys at the end of the first week and month
- Anonymous employee feedback surveys
- Pulse surveys
- Check-ins with a buddy or mentor
Not only is the onboarding process an opportunity to share your approach to inclusive communication, but it’s your first chance to get to know your new hire as an individual and learn about their needs and preferences. Include a survey to ask for their preferences and requests, and tailor their employee journey to match.
“Perhaps one of the simplest ways to create inclusive communication is to involve your people, so ask! Those with communication difficulties or cultural differences already know what works best for them and what is acceptable. Spend time consulting with individuals and listening. Involve everyone and identify different ways of working," says Tracy Rawlinson - Freelance HR/L&D writer for B2B (Former Local Authority Leader of Multi-Agency Teams, NPQICL).
9. Culture communication
Every organization has a culture, whether it’s been intentionally crafted or left to develop all by itself. Your culture is the embodiment of your company mission, goals, values, and beliefs, and what makes your employee experience unique.
While your company culture should be felt in every piece of communication you share, you can also dedicate moments and messages to sharing your values and goals.
Examples of culture communication in action include:
- Public-facing and internal mission statements and values
- Employee newsletters
- Charity and awareness campaigns
- Town hall meetings
- Employee engagement surveys
- Team building events and activities
- In person, hybrid, and virtual company retreats
- Internal and external social media content
- Employee recognition and employee appreciation initiatives
- Recruitment messaging
Every piece of messaging you share is, at its heart, culture communication. The way you approach internal communication is a reflection of your culture and values. Use these culture-specific moments to reinforce and encourage values of strength, transparency, and inclusivity throughout your HR communications.
“You really have to be intentional about your communication. Think about how employees will receive it, and the larger context in which they are receiving it," says Kim Rohrer, Principal People Partner at Oyster.
Embrace the future of inclusive internal comms
Effective internal communication should always feel relevant, meaningful, and personal. Your employees should feel like they’re receiving a message that’s handcrafted for their needs, preferences, and situation. Sounds impossible, right?
With Pyn, bringing your internal communication strategy to life is easy. Our platform helps you plan and send the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Deliver inclusive, personalized comms automatically, to the channels that your teams already use. Use our expertly written messages, or compose your own. Schedule a demo with our team to understand how we can help you deliver your internal communication plan in a more inclusive way.