Managing internal communications

So far we have considered the positives and negatives of technological change. It is in the interest of all businesses to promote effective internal communications.

There is no doubt that the increase in the range of media available to organisations can increase the actual volume of communications. But how much of the communication is effective? Obviously, businesses have to be more concerned with the quality rather than the quantity of communications.

Integral in a successful internal communications strategy are the following:

Management responsibility

There should be someone in the organisation, ideally at senior management level, responsible for internal communications. Larger companies may build this into the management structure, whilst smaller businesses may have to combine this role with other duties. The important thing is that the responsibility exists.

At policy level, an internal communications strategy can:

  • communicate mission and objectives
  • stress core performance criteria
  • motivate teams and individuals
  • accentuate strengths and achievements
  • exhort employees to address areas were performance 'gaps' exist.

There is a special need to promote effective communications when different parts of the business are geographically separated.

Some businesses, for example, separate the telesales unit from more traditional distribution channels, causing a parochial approach to business issues. Inevitably, conflicts can arise.

Only by facilitating a sharing of common goals can this be addressed.


The traditional line and staff approach to organisation can itself be an inhibiting factor in establishing and maintaining effective communications.

The advent of new technologies has if anything created new problems here. For example, if a company has workers carrying out their duties from home, paid on a 'piece work' basis and communicating largely by electronic methods, the barriers imposed by the organisational structure itself can impede the processes necessary to transmit messages.

Many companies have made changes to their organisation structures in order to address these problems, moving away from the line and staff model and towards more flexible structures.

Choosing the right medium

With a wide range of media to choose from, barriers to communications can arise from choosing an inappropriate method for the message. For example:

  • routine messages between individuals can be conveyed in both directions by e-mail whilst more complex ones require alternative media such as hard copy briefings or meetings
  • company results can be prepared and published for all to read, but motivation towards achieving better results is usually better achieved in small face-to-face teams.


New technologies bring a language of their own. Conventional communications programmes stress the importance of simplicity in framing messages so that they are readily understood. Thirty years ago, Lawrence and Lorsch suggest that some of the problems here can be overcome by integrating the role of specialists, including technology experts, and generalists, who have to put IT solutions into practice.


As we have seen, technology can be intimidating to some, so the training and development function has to be charged with the responsibility of equipping personnel with the knowledge and skills to use the means available to them. For example, most software products are sold with a manual, but a significant proportion of workers learn the skills necessary to use the software by interacting with others or being trained in small groups or on a one-to-one basis.

Technology in itself can relegate the importance of developing effective communication skills. Even where a worker operates in isolation, there is a good case for developing effective speaking, writing and listening skills so that the person can contribute fully to the organisation.

Feedback mechanisms

Communication is most effective when it flows in two directions. Feedback mechanisms are therefore vital in order to ensure that messages are received properly and appropriate actions taken.

When messages are communicated electronically, there is a facility for immediate feedback, but does the recipient get the message straightaway, and even if he does, due to the purely one-dimensional nature of the communication (words on a screen), can emotional aspects of the message such urgency and depth of feelings be put across?

As business relationships become more remote, it becomes more important to constantly address the question of how people feel in terms of what they can contribute to the team and how they personally would like to develop.

Proper feedback systems are vital here in order to avoid alienating the worker and, more positively, utilise their skills and personal qualities to the optimum. As long ago as the late 1950s, Frederick Herzberg suggested that all people at work want to ask the question, 'How am I doing?'.