In any average digital workplace, the tools and channels available to internal communicators are becoming increasingly complex. Having options and choice surrounding your digital communications is, of course, a good thing, but managing communications consistently in a joined-up way has its challenges. Defining an omnichannel strategy with relative processes is the easier part, while actually making it work can be more difficult, especially when some communications are not carried out by IC professionals.
One thing that helps is having an overview of the tools, channels and formats that are available to you and your stakeholders. Considering your internal communications landscape and the relative characteristics of each tool and channel can then help you define the processes around core news, crisis communications, leadership communications, campaigns and more informal engagement activity. It also means you can issue guidance and offer support for leaders, managers and teams who need to communicate but are not IC professionals. Here, creating a digital communications matrix that aligns message purpose, audience, channel and content format can support consistent approaches.
In this article, we’re going to explore the different internal communications tools which are available, particularly for organisations who have a digital workplace based on Microsoft 365. We hope this will provide some useful background for anyone considering their digital communications strategies and tactics.
Email and email newsletters: Outlook
Email and email newsletters remain an important channel for internal communicators. There are advantages in this, but also many disadvantages, with the potential for missed messages and information overload. Email communication remains important for significant announcements and important reminders where everybody needs to be reached. The ability to be able to confirm an open receipt can also be important here.
Most internal communicators drive focused policies on the use of email for communications, and leverage the power of other digital workplace channels to reduce the number of single communication emails sent. They also use newsletter formats to consolidate messaging and drive traffic to other channels like the intranet. For example, a weekly intranet wrap-up email or newsletter that points employees back to the intranet is a tried-and-tested tactic.
Employee mobile app: LiveTiles Reach app
An employee mobile app where employees can access news and updates is now a critical channel for internal communicators, especially in broadcasting messages to frontline employees or a workforce who are on-the-go. In some industries like retail, manufacturing, travel and leisure, an employee mobile app with an emphasis on communications is crucial.
One of the most important aspects of an employee app is that it can be accessed via personal devices and, ideally, reach an audience who may not have a corporate digital identity or Microsoft 365 license. Here, an app like LiveTiles Reach can prove a highly valuable and cost-effective option.
An app can deliver all kinds of messages and updates, both formal and informal, although briefer messaging is sometimes better for reading on a mobile device. It’s also worth noting that these apps are popular with both frontline and knowledge workers . There can also be some overlap between an employee communications app, an intranet app and a Microsoft app like Yammer or Teams.
Company Intranet: LiveTiles Intranet
Despite what some commentators say, intranets remain very much a key channel in the digital communications landscape. While older, ‘traditional’ intranets which act as static content repositories are gradually becoming a relic of the past, modern intranets deliver a range of business benefits and can be highly effective for internal communications.
One of intranets’ strengths is their ability to deliver a range of messages and communications that recognise the complexity of global organisations. Personalisation should enable content targeting to different roles, divisions, locations and more, while within an intranet, there should be several different communication formats such as global news, blog posts, video and so on. For example, the LiveTiles intranet software includes attractive publishing templates to deliver more formal news, but also the ‘Noticeboard’ feature to roll up decentralised news from multiple sites; staff can be opted into Noticeboard channels or subscribe.
SharePoint: SharePoint communication sites, hub sites and home sites
Of course, SharePoint is not a generic internal communication channel, but if you have Microsoft 365, it is an option to deliver communications and create experiences that are similar to an intranet.
SharePoint communication sites offer a template to deliver communications from a team, department or function, along with the ability to create news and provide an effective ‘microsite’. Multiple communication sites can then be connected via SharePoint hub sites and even a SharePoint home site, creating a more coherent ‘intranet’ experience by aggregating some of the news.
Communication sites are advantageous in that they can be created and managed without IC or central help. The intuitive and pleasant experiences of modern SharePoint are far better than the administration baggage that came with classic SharePoint. Conversely, communication sites entail a lack of central control, and they often don’t meet the more sophisticated news publishing needs of IC teams.
It is now possible to create an enterprise intranet using SharePoint out-of-the-box that can be a critical digital communication channel, but this still requires some skill to pull off, and comes with hidden ownership costs. Our view is that using intranet software like LiveTiles will be a much better fit for IC teams.
Social collaboration: Yammer
Social collaboration tools like Yammer are now important internal communication channels, allowing for a more personal and informal approach to comms. Here, you can create opportunities for feedback, boost and reinforce more formal messaging on other channels, and broadcast quick, informal updates which can be targeted to different groups. A tool like Yammer is an important part of driving engagement and supporting any campaign that involves discussions and listening to employee sentiment. It’s also a great place for senior management to engage in conversations.
The beauty of Yammer is that it can also be easily integrated into other parts of Microsoft 365, including Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, meaning that employees can interact with Yammer right across your digital workplace and conversations can be placed into context with content.
Team collaboration: Microsoft Teams
In many organisations nowadays, team collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Slack are where work happens – employees use them for much of their working day. Because of this, they are a tempting channel for internal communicators to use in reaching their audience, even though Microsoft Teams is not necessarily designed as a communication channel in its own right.
Microsoft Teams introduces multiple options, including creating all company Teams and channels to deliver internal comms, or embedding Yammer feeds into different channels. Here, it also now possible to enable access to a LiveTiles intranet, ensuring that internal communications are integrated more directly into the daily flow of work.
You might be surprised that we’ve classed your corporate website as an internal communications channel, but it is not uncommon for employees to read your website, particularly frontline employees who may have less straightforward access to your intranet. Some large companies like Walmart and the Royal Mail even have semi-open intranets where the line between intranet and website is blurry. Many intranets also feature a feed from the company website, so this should always be considered in the mix of your overall digital communications channels.
Employee Experience and HR platforms: Microsoft Viva Connections
Employee experience is a term and concept growing in use across the digital workplace, and some tools focused on the employee lifecycle and HR processes are now being marketed as ‘employee experience’ platforms. This includes some intranet software or digital assistants that integrate different applications to present a single, integrated user experience; this even arguably includes core HR systems like Workday. More recently, Microsoft has launched Microsoft Viva, a suite of tools accessed through Microsoft Teams that covers learning, knowledge management and more. All these tools provide options for internal communicators, especially for more HR and learning-focused communications.
Microsoft Viva Connections looks set to become a significant offering for internal communicators. Part of the Viva suite that has yet to be launched, it offers an aggregated view of communications, conversations and more across different channels. We’ll be exploring Viva Connections in more detail in due course.
Digital signage is another important channel that was getting more attention prior to the pandemic. Of course, the growth of remote working since has meant that this has had less prominence recently, but it remains an important outlet for broadcasting in physical workplaces.
Live events: Microsoft Teams Events
Live events such as virtual all hands meetings, town halls and even conferences have become increasingly important during the pandemic as places to drive engagement and key messages that reach a wide audience. The launch of Microsoft Teams Events makes this more achievable for everybody.
Video sharing platform: Microsoft Stream
Video is another format that has grown in importance during the pandemic, especially for leadership communications. There is less expectation around the quality of video, so it can be very inexpensive to create videos that could have more impact than the written word.
Microsoft Stream provides an opportunity to create a video-sharing platform, with videos that can be easily shared and embedded across all your other channels including the intranet, Yammer, SharePoint and more.
Podcasts (and to a lesser extent, corporate radio) are becoming more prevalent, reflecting their growing popularity in the consumer world as well as the increasing availability of podcast platforms. These offer a vibrant way to reach target audiences, alongside an opportunity to consume information during down time, such as on the journey to work or in transit between locations.
Want information on digital communication options in Microsoft 365? Get in touch!
Internal communicators have many options, especially with Microsoft 365. If you want more information or are wondering how they could all fit together, then why not get in touch?