15 vital internal communications tools for the digital workplace

By Simpplr Marketing
simpplr-blog-09-01-2022
Digital workplace
Employee communication
Employee engagement
Engagement & Communication
Internal Comms
Internal communication
When you’re living in the middle of a workplace revolution, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, especially if you’re a Millennial who grew up with technology — literally. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials ranged from eight to twenty-three when Facebook was first released on the Harvard campus in 2004. (Yes, Facebook is that young.) After that, more social networks followed: Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, and now TikTok in 2016. LinkedIn is a touch older, launched in 2002, proving that business started going digital much sooner than most of us realize. Google is older still, having launched in 1998, but Google Docs wasn’t official until 2006. By the time the first-generation iPhone and the first-generation Kindle were released, both in 2007, the writing was on the wall. Whether businesses were ready or not, the world was going through a digital transformation. Still, the first release of the Google Docs Editors suite didn’t exactly take the world by storm. At work, life went on as usual. Microsoft’s Word and Excel held their own for years, and they still do when it comes to paying business customers. But users tell a different story. At the height of the pandemic, Microsoft was reporting 200 million active users each month for its Office 365 business suite. For Google, the number of users reached 5 billion. Are those numbers skewed? Probably. Google was including Gmail, which was free at the time, even to small businesses. That kind of pricing is hard to beat. But Google did report that 5 million businesses were already paying for G Suite in March of 2020, now rebranded as Google Workspace, and in June of 2022, Google announced it was phasing out free services for small businesses. Programs are now apps, spreadsheet templates have given way to custom solutions, and the best communication tools have gone digital.

Internal communication tools no business should be without

During the 1980s and 1990s, traditional business systems gave way to electronic and hybrid ones. For example, company newsletters might be designed on a computer, then printed to be distributed on paper. Spreadsheets were the same. Data was entered and manipulated electronically, then printed out as physical reports. The first two decades of the twenty-first century saw a new, more dramatic shift — from electronic and hybrid systems to fully digital, cloud-based solutions. The following list lays out the digital teamwork and internal communication tools that have changed the face of business communications.

1. Smart intranet software

Business intranets started out as clunky, hard-to-use systems that were custom-built for enterprise companies. They weren’t modeled on consumer-facing apps because, in the 1980s, there wasn’t any such thing. Not yet. For many companies, those legacy systems became sunk costs in terms of money, people-hours, and data. It wasn’t easy to move away from a bespoke, one-of-a-kind system. Today’s modern intranets integrate with popular collaboration tools and solutions — including databases and communication tools — so implementing them is fast and easy. For example, a modern intranet like Simpplr requires no IT maintenance and is intuitive for employees to use—no training needed. This intranet can be deployed fast, in days rather than months.  They’re also built on many of the same design principles that have defined the success of consumer-facing social media apps, making them extremely easy for employees to use. In addition, Simpplr’s out-of-the-box prescriptive analytics allow you to see which content drives the most interest and discover new content promotion methods that will increase user retention and encourage further engagement. Unite internal stakeholders and make the business case for a modern intranet with this eight-step guide to choosing the right intranet solution.

2. Project management

Digital, cloud-based systems have revolutionized the realm of project management. If you don’t know first-hand what it was like to track enterprise-grade projects and workflows on paper, be glad you don’t. Today, project managers and even individual team members have internal communications tools at their disposal, allowing them to flag new issues, mark what’s done, and coordinate their remote work with efficient, effective communication using real-time project management tools. Centralized, collaborative task management makes it easy for employees to see what they’re responsible for and when, both within and across departments — even when priority levels have to change on the fly. Popular project management tools:
  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Trello

3. Calendaring

Calendaring used to require dozens of phone calls or emails back and forth, especially when setting up conference calls for multiple team members scattered across time zones. Cloud-based calendars solved that problem but introduced a new one, making it so easy to set up meetings that individual work time started to erode. In 2022, more than half of US professionals reported spending 30% of their work week in meetings.. Today’s cloud-based calendars allow users to set their share permissions both individually and as a group, letting them block off individual time to work while still finding open meeting times without countless emails back and forth. Popular calendaring tools:
  • Google Calendar
  • Microsoft Outlook

4. Instant messaging

While full meetings have always been important to team collaboration in the workplace, sometimes team members just have one quick question. If you were on the job in 1983 (think Stranger Things, season one), you would have popped into someone’s office down the hall for a quick consult. Today, that office could be a thousand miles away. Distributed teams and remote work have changed how we do business in the twenty-first century, and instant messaging has changed how we ask those one-minute questions. One of today’s most crucial business internal communication tools, instant messaging allows for individual conversations and easy group chats to keep topics organized and your team moving forward. Modern communication software can even extend that convenience through mobile apps for Android and iOS. Just remember that mobile device notifications can also lead to burnout. Make sure your team knows how to set notification permissions to define a good work-life balance. Popular instant messaging tools:
  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
Tip: With Simpplr, you can integrate with Slack and MS Teams and share company news from your modern intranet, so your employees never miss an important announcement no matter where they are.

5. Video conferences & webinars

For remote teams, video conferencing is a necessary tool for internal communication. Without video calls, people lose the face-to-face communication that brings teams together. Even traditional offices use video meetings and webinars to build better relationships with suppliers, vendors, and other offices in different cities or around the world. When you add screen sharing and video chat tools for real-time collaboration, video conferencing is an efficient, effective way to share work and talk through possibilities. Popular video conferencing tools:
  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • Hangouts from Google

6. Video sharing

According to new research from MIT, the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. That’s just one of the many reasons why video is such an effective way to drive employee engagement. Companies share videos of employee success stories, social media stories, training for new systems, and much, much more. When shopping for an intranet solution to tie your team communication tools together, look for one with native video capability. Popular video sharing services:
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo

7. Document collaboration

Document collaboration tools help your team share and work on documents together, even at the same time. More than just a matter of convenience, these internal communications tools also minimize the mistakes that used to happen when multiple versions of a document were floating around the office. A cloud-based document suite with modern collaboration features is an essential tool in almost every business. Popular document collaboration tools:
  • Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)
  • Microsoft Office 365

8. File sharing

Like document collaboration, file sharing lets you share documents with other team members, but file sharing is more limited. Where document collaboration lets multiple people actively work on the same document, file sharing simply lets people download files from a central location. File sharing is excellent for approved logos and photos, pdf reports, or product shots that can be reused across different website pages or ad campaigns. Placing these key items in a central location also removes the chance of accidentally losing important documents when an employee leaves the company, and their email is deleted. Popular file sharing tools:
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
Tip: Simpplr Search is federated, meaning in addition to searching content from the entire intranet, it also searches any integrations plugged into Simpplr, such as file repositories like Dropbox, Google Drive, or SharePoint. This allows your team members to find content from one centralized location.

9. Knowledge centers and wikis

Knowledge centers and wikis do for team knowledge what file sharing does for files, putting that information in a central location where anyone can access it. These are great internal communications tools because companies use them to document policies and procedures, share data and other reports, manage customer communication schedules such as emails or newsletters, and more. Permissions can be set on a space-by-space or even a page-by-page basis. A small team, for example, might share the ability to change their internal procedures, while spaces for customer-support scripts can be protected against accidental changes. Searchable wikis keep everyone on the same page while saving valuable time, allowing employees to look up what they need to know. Popular wiki tools:
  • Atlassian
  • Trello
Tip: Simpplr not only integrates with popular wiki tools like Atlassian but also allows teams to create centralized knowledge centers within the Simpplr platform itself. Some popular knowledge centers can include sites such as all things related to HR, New Hire Onboarding, and even closed groups where users can access information only if given access.

10. Employee directories

Employee directories can range from simple lists of names and contact information to complex, dedicated HR databases that capture and store employee information, potentially including sensitive personal data. While a rudimentary list of names and phone numbers could easily be part of a small business wiki, keeping up with employee information across a global operation is a different ballgame. Ensure your employee directory solution matches the complexity and security of your specific needs. Popular employee database tools:
  • Oracle
  • SAP
  • ADP
  • Workday
Note: Simpplr integrates with your employee database tool and provides an easily searchable directory and organizational chart within the intranet. Employees can quickly and easily connect with the right people, and employee profiles help them get to know each other, further driving engagement.

11. Internal blogs and news

There are many different ways to manage an internal company blog or newsfeed. You could, for example, put recent news on a centralized wiki page, but busy employees aren’t likely to take the time to look at it very often — if they even remember it. You could also email your employees a regular newsletter, but emails aren’t very personalized. When employees see too much “news” that has nothing to do with their job or division, they’ll learn quickly not to open that email. The best option is a company newsletter integrated into a modern intranet with adaptive personalization. Each employee can see a newsfeed that’s unique to them, driving employee engagement.

12. Data and analytics

Today’s companies manage tremendous data — sales numbers, website traffic, customer support response times, employee engagement, and more. The data would be overwhelming without modern analytics tools to interpret it. Still, making sense of that data and getting it in front of the people who need it are two completely different tasks. When modern intranet software includes data analytics, it combines the power of big data with smart business communications, turning insights into action.  Simpplr, for example, offers built-in analytics at every level, from global usage down to individual pages, feeds, profiles, and more, offering HR teams the ability to turn up the volume on employee engagement. Popular analytics tools:
  • Google Analytics
  • Zendesk
  • Salesforce

13. Discussion boards and forums

    Internal discussion boards and forums make the best internal communications tools because they can host multiple asynchronous conversations across different functions and geographic locations. Organized by topic, they facilitate the exchange of ideas between employees who might otherwise never meet. From the C-suite to customer service to the warehouse workers, taking full advantage of your company’s shared intellectual capital has never been so easy. Connected forums within your intranet provide employees with one convenient source for all their work communications and updates.

14. Email integrations

Email isn’t a terrible way to communicate, but offices discovered early on that it’s a lousy way to work. Messages get buried, attachments get lost in long email chains, and finding what you need can be a big waste of time. Today’s email integrations offload task-related messaging into centralized locations like calendars and project management software. Similarly, integrations in the other direction let users choose how they want to receive those calendar and project notifications, even if it’s in an old-school email.

15. Social media communication

With social media's introduction, researchers have been wondering how much communication is too much, and for a good reason. New research from Yale suggests that unmoderated social media is making us morally outraged. It's no wonder many employers shy away from what could be a valuable tool for marketing and hiring outreach. To strike the right balance, modern companies manage employee engagement on social media by providing pre-made posts with clear guidelines. That way, an engaged workforce can chime in without creating PR headaches.

Final thoughts

Although every one of the internal communications tools and technologies listed in this guide can improve employee engagement, building the business case for internal communications can still be a struggle. For help proving the ROI of internal comms to the C-suite and other leadership, read the free eBook 5 Steps to Internal Communications ROI.    

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