Effective internal communications for small remote teams can be tough. We explore the challenges you face and what you can do about them.
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Imagine you’re running Operations at a small remote digital marketing agency and, despite your efforts, your team doesn't read your internal company newsletter. Which is a shame, since it’s packed with useful information to make their working lives better.
But then you get an idea.
To create a more inclusive and original way of communicating with your team, you invite them to submit a story about themselves and spotlight a different team member each month.
Now everyone on your team reads—and looks forward to—your newsletter. And you’ve learned plenty about who you’re working with, which gives everyone more opportunities to form genuine connections.
It’s a win-win situation.
Managing a small remote team brings unique challenges, like information overload, multiple communication channels, or disconnected team members. To overcome these, you need to pair creative thinking with the right tools.
Here are some ideas you can use to inspire your internal communication strategy, keep your remote teams aligned, and create a company culture they’ll want to be part of.
Ready for better internal communication?
Switchboard’s virtual rooms make it easy to find and share important internal communications.
Internal communications in 2023: challenges for remote teams
If you’ve faced challenges with internal communication, you’re not alone. Over a third of remote and hybrid employees say communication has become a bigger challenge in the past 12 months.
Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. The right online workspace tools—as well as some creative thinking—go a long way. But effective internal communication doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, you need a strategy for getting the information out intentionally and creatively.
A good internal communication strategy can:
- Build a strong company culture with transparent communication
- Improve employee engagement and retention (35% of businesses have lost an employee due to poor internal communication)
- Improve productivity by aligning employees around a common goal and responsibilities
- Ensure information is consistent, accessible, and secure
- Show employees you’re listening to them (74% of employees are more effective at their job when they feel heard)
Below, we’ll look at some common internal communication challenges for small remote teams. Then, we’ll show you how to create a strategy that works for your specific business needs so your employees always get the information they need.
Communication tools are designed for in-person teams
Wouldn’t it be great if remote workers could lean over and chat to their workmate for all the latest buzz and company updates? Online tools like Slack and Google Meet are a great way to catch up with teammates and are more popular than email or company intranets for internal communication. But they still lack the remote-specific features that mirror in-person collaboration. For example, after a Google Meet call ends there’s no automatic record of what you talked about or place to find the files you shared during the meeting.
When you have a shared and secure virtual workspace, you can go beyond video conferencing with features remote teams need to communicate effectively—no matter where they are.
With a dedicated workspace for internal communication, remote teams can avoid overcompensating on Slack (or sending out a newsletter no one reads).
Pro tip: Switchboard’s virtual canvases are designed with remote teams in mind. They let you easily share knowledge and collaborate with your team on important company documents, projects, or projections—without sharing screens or switching between tools.
Information is difficult to find
Successful internal communication starts by making it easy for remote teams to access important information, resources, or guidelines. This is crucial because 65% of remote or hybrid employees say they often struggle to find files or end up having to ask colleagues for them, which is a huge waste of time.
Small remote companies need to act as one unit, where everyone knows exactly what’s happening and what they need to do. Instead, information shared async can arrive piecemeal and, people don’t always remember to save key information in a central place that everyone can access.
By creating an environment that’s designed for remote teams, you can give employees everything they need to do their job well from anywhere. This makes them more productive, engaged, and satisfied in their job.
Too many channels
Every day, your team probably uses upwards of five internal communication channels: email, Slack, a project management tool, a video conferencing tool, and a document management system. However, this isn’t working—63% of employees say they’ve missed important information because of these types of ‘siloed’ communication sources.
This creates fragmented information: you know someone said something very important in that meeting last week, but you can’t for the life of you remember who said it. So you’re left struggling to track down this nugget of valuable information.
Information flows in one direction
Despite the adoption of new tools and ways of online working, a staggering 52% of workers still map out their tasks in a paper to-do list or private drive their colleagues can’t access.
Without an open, two-way flow of information, remote employees can feel frustrated, unsupported, and isolated. In fact, 41% say they find it difficult to get a detailed overview of a project’s status at any given time.
Creating a communications strategy that works for your company
Today’s employees value intentional and personalized communication. But as we’ve seen, communicating across remote and disparate teams can be challenging.
Here are some practical steps you can take to improve, iterate, and get creative with your internal communications strategy.
Step 1. Define your goals
It’s important to set out your specific internal communications goals: what you want to share, how often, and with whom. Here are different types of information you can share across your organization:
- Rewards and recognition: think about how to reward or recognize employees, and whether you’ll make this across departments or company-wide.
- Top-down information: what systems and tools will you put in place to make sure all employees have access to company news?
- Team and company-related information: think about how your team communicates and what documents, files, etc. they use. How will you make sure they have access to everything they need?
- Informal discussions and feedback: how will you make communication feel like a conversation instead of being talked at?
- Crisis management: how will you quickly and uniformly alert employees to a crisis?
By giving team members equal access to key information and communication, you can boost their engagement and sense of belonging.
Set KPIs to measure the success of your strategy, for example:
- Employee engagement rates
- Employee feedback
- Employee advocacy rates when team members show support for your company and brand on social media
Step 2. Pick your tools
Based on your internal communications needs and objectives, you can then choose the right tools for your teams’ needs. We recommend looking at:
- Switchboard for knowledge sharing and collaborative online meetings
- Asana for project-specific communications and task management
- Slack for team-wide or department-wide communications
- Notion for creating knowledge bases and wikis
- Gmail for formal company-wide announcements
When looking for the right tool, keep the following in mind:
- Ability to integrate with other tools: you want a tool that fits in well with your current tech stack.
- Ease of use: it needs to be simple and intuitive to use so it doesn’t become a barrier to internal communications.
- Multi-purpose use: the more use cases and features a tool has, the fewer tools you’ll need to communicate effectively.
- Scalability: it needs to be able to grow as your small remote team does.
Pro tip: Switchboard’s easy, web-based app integration system lets small remote teams communicate and share information without switching browsers or having to give up their favorite apps.
Step 3. Implement your strategy
Now it’s time to take the plunge and start rolling out your internal communications strategy and tools.
Keep employees in the loop by announcing the launch of your new communications process and tools—and explain why you’re doing it. It’s worth creating a task in your project management tool with a Loom video to talk through the changes rather than sending out a dense email.
Remember, significant change might take time, especially if you’re onboarding your teams to new software, but it is worth the effort.
Step 4. Assess and iterate
Gather feedback consistently during and post-implementation, then refer to your key performance indicators (KPIs) above. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
You should also make sure to perform continuous tech audits and team surveys if your internal communications process and tools are meeting your needs.
Best practices for small remote teams’ internal communications
After rolling out a new internal communications strategy, it’s critical that you keep adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.
Here are some best practices you can use to ignite your remote teams’ internal communications:
Start with over-communication
When in doubt, over-communicate. This is the golden rule for small remote teams figuring out how to communicate effectively. Then, you can determine which types of information need to be added to memos, stored for quick team access, or acted on immediately. As you collect feedback from your team about your internal communication strategy, you can then adjust your communication cadence.
Keep communications meaningful
In a recent study by Gallagher, 81% of respondents claimed internal communicators shape their teams’ tone of voice and the way their leaders communicate.
The way you communicate with your team directly translates into how other team members communicate with each other—setting the standard for workplace interactions.
So keep communications thoughtful and meaningful to inspire a culture of intentional connection, empathy, and accountability among remote team members.
Keep it relevant and timely
Think about it: there’s no point sending out a memo about next month’s team-building exercise when you also have to send urgent updates on an important project today.
The more relevant and timely your communication is, the more likely employees will remember important updates or information. This will add to their sense of team alignment and productivity.
Make it a two-way conversation
We know internal communication sometimes involves top-down communication. But that doesn't mean it should always be one-way.
Make sure you’re actively listening to your team and leave open slots on your calendar for one-on-one communication and opportunities to talk instead of just pushing out information. Another idea is to dedicate a Slack channel to open team discussions and communication. This will help create a horizontal, open culture where people feel they can raise concerns and contribute ideas—which is highly motivating.
Get your timing right
The last thing you want is to bombard your team with internal communications, especially if you know they’re busy or offline—or it’s the middle of the night where they are.
To avoid overloading teams with communications, schedule messages so they arrive during office hours.
You should also consider how much time you and your team need to spend engaging with messages and subsequent communications. If you don’t communicate clearly the first time, you may find yourself very busy answering questions to clarify your message.
By being more thoughtful with your initial communications, you can make the best use of your own and your employees’ time.
Of the 32% of companies who claim they value employee feedback, only 13% learn from and act on it. So to make sure your employees are getting the information they need, collect and analyze employee insights and use them to improve internal communications across your organization. Do that, and you’ll become a more attractive place to work..
How Switchboard can improve internal communications
If you’re curious about Switchboard’s virtual workspace software and its ability to improve internal communications for your remote team, here’s how we can help:
Know where to go – i.e. the internal communications room
Create a dedicated Switchboard room for internal communications like newsletters and company announcements.
Your internal communications team can store their communications in this room and invite team members to view and contribute to crucial knowledge and resources. Make it a welcoming place to hang out and catch up on the latest company news.
Switchboard saves everything your team works on within a virtual room. Ops teams can save copies of their standard operating procedures (SOPs) in one place so everyone knows where to look for them, while marketing teams can refer back to previously shared presentations and documents categorized by client, room, or project.
Sharing docs and apps
Switchboard rooms have enough space to upload any kind of document or app you need to share with team members. Since it’s web-based, every app and website works within it.
Record meetings and store them in the room
Switchboard lets you record team meetings or virtual team huddles so it's easy to catch up on any missed updates or refresh your memory. This does wonders for boosting internal communications for small remote teams, especially if you’re relying on meetings as your single source of (organizational) truth.
See multiple documents side-by-side
In Switchboard, you can share any type of document and work on them side-by-side with your team. Scroll through documents as you video chat and edit in real time for added transparency and teamwork, without taking turns sharing your screen.
Switchboard’s online meeting platform lives on a secure cloud browser, and member management feature limits room access to relevant parties.
In Switchboard, every team member is encouraged to use their voice. With hostless video conferencing and easily accessible information, team members get a multiplayer experience when it comes to collaboration and knowledge sharing. This means everyone can get involved equally, rather than one person taking charge.
Internal communications strategy: the key to making remote work rival in-person collaboration
Remote work is here to stay. But when people are spread around the world in different time zones, that creates unique challenges for remote teams wanting to communicate across regions and time zones.
By consciously creating an internal communications strategy designed with your remote team in mind, you’ll be able to find engaging ways to present and share key information.
Following best practices like over communication and keeping messaging relevant and timely will also help you focus on the best ways to share internal knowledge.
When you have the right tools–like Switchboard–in your tech stack, your team can form a strong culture of communication and collaboration. Its shared, secure virtual workspace goes beyond video conferencing to let your remote teams communicate effectively no matter where they are—transforming isolated employees into a connected, productive, and engaged workforce.
Ready for better internal communication?
Switchboard’s virtual rooms make it easy to share and find important internal communications.
FAQs about internal communications
What are examples of internal communication?
Internal communication examples include any kind of initiatives a company takes to improve its company culture, business goals, and employee experience through effective internal communication. These include:
- Face-to-face communication
- Instant messaging
- Training sessions
- Conference calls
What are the four types of internal communication?
The four types of internal communication are:
- Peer-to-peer communication, i.e. Slack updates, social media, and email
- Employee-generated communication, i.e. employee feedback, updates from human resources
- Leadership-generated communication, i.e. memos, company-wide meetings, newsletters, updates from stakeholders
- Management to employee communication, i.e. team meetings, Slack updates, email
What are three methods of internal communication?
Although there are way more, three methods for a good internal communications plan include:
- Virtual workspaces
- Video calls
What risks are associated with internal communications?
While there are risks associated with any company-wide initiative, sticking to your communication goals and internal communications best practices can help save you from common pitfalls or mistakes. These might include:
- Keeping communications meaningful
- Starting with overcommunication, then adjust
- Making communications relevant
- Ensuring two-way communication
- Getting your timing right
- Collecting and implementing employee feedback
You might also require strong internal communications tools or a communications platform that makes it easy to meet your goals, disseminate company information or corporate communications, and collaborate with your team.
What are the two types of internal communication that are most difficult to manage?
Depending on your company strategy for handling communications and notifications from your team, you might find certain types more challenging to manage than others. However, the two types of internal communications organizations often find challenging are:
- Employee-generated communication
- Management-to-employee communication