To keep your business running smoothly, you need to ensure that the internal communication is flowing seamlessly and efficiently. Here are some thoughts about the importance of internal communication and how you can maximize the effectiveness.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the nomination to become a senator for the state of Illinois. In his acceptance speech, he addressed the tensions between North and South with this famous line: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Lincoln’s statement was meant to point out the absurdity of trying to maintain a union comprised of totally incompatible ideologies, but it is metaphor that’s germane to many aspects of community — it's especially important in a business environment to have everyone on the same page.

When you have people or departments at odds with one another in your company, the whole company suffers.

The cost of poor internal communication

According to an SMB communications study, poor internal communications cost businesses $26,041 per employee per year in lost efficiency.

Poor communication can lead to other problems within the company. For example, insufficient communication during times of change (such as during layoffs) has been identified as causing a 42% increase in misconduct.

As much as 79% of organizations polled by the Federation of Business Communicator Associations in Europe say that internal communication is a key success factor. However, there’s a significant difference between being able to diagnose an illness, and being able to treat one, and while the captains of industry may know that their internal communication performances have the potential to make or break their businesses, many have no idea how best to tackle it.

Communication speaks louder than words

The first and most important thing to recognize is that the goal of internal communications is to foster transparency between individuals and departments. It's important to remember that every person within each team brings its own perspective to your business.

Customer service is focused on clients, marketing knows your product or service, production is focused on how the product works. All the while, management sees the big picture and knows how short-term achievement can lead to long-term success.

These are all vitally important bits of information, but unless these insights can be seamlessly and clearly shared between teams, they won't do the company much good. Despite this, many businesses have a false sense of what internal communication means. They often (incorrectly) rely on sending more emails or calling more meetings and believe that's what is needed in order to encourage a communication-rich business atmosphere.

As we know, the reality is that these methods are often times ineffective. It is estimated that as fewer than half of your employees even bother to open emails regarding internal communications, and 47% of employees believe meetings to be the biggest waste of time in the office.

Internal communication is important

A two-way street

In order to foster proper communication practices, businesses need to be able to take a cold, hard look at their outdated communication methods to identify what actually works, and what doesn’t. 71% of employees feel as though business leaders don’t spend enough time explaining plans and goals, but that’s only half of the problem. The other half is that often times employees have just as much difficulty communicating with management, as management has communicating with them.

Leaders who take the time to actively seek out and collect anonymous employee feedback through surveys will get valuable insights from employees. Employees have valuable insight into which practices are most effective in a company as the working cogs in the greater machine

Of course, if management is unwilling to act on employee suggestions, these surveys are a waste of time. In this respect, most businesses have substantial room to improve; among those managers who use employee surveys to gather employee feedback, 52% fail to take any action as a result of feedback, and 27% of managers don’t bother to review survey results at all.

This unfortunate inaction can have devastating consequences as employees who took the time to fill out the survey discover that their voices are ignored. After all, internal communication is a two-way street, and if employees feel they’re being ignored by their leaders, then they’ll feel less inclined to listen when those leaders are speaking.

Interdepartmental (mis)communications

When trying to facilitate communication between departments, it’s important to recognize that different teams often communicate in very different ways.

This is perfectly normal. After all, you wouldn’t want a sales team made up of people who think like designers, or a marketing department that knows how a product works but not how to present it.

Call it human nature, but when conflicting personality types attempt to share and comprehend ideas, the result is generally not unlike the child trying to fit the square peg into the round hole—no matter how determined the attempt, some things just won’t fit.

Internal communications improves your business

Businesses can help promote understanding between departments by setting aside opportunities for employees to visit and work with other teams. Those in sales will have a chance to understand how those in design think and operate, marketers will get a feel for what drives customer service representatives, etc. Shared experience will result in improved interdepartmental communication, which in turn will lead to increased efficiency, expanded trust and willingness to cooperate, and improved customer service.

Heads in the cloud

Often times the issues have less to do with conflicting personality types, and more to do with the overwhelming mass of information and individuals involved in the chain.

Communicating effectively is a skill, and it is made ever more complicated as the number of communicators grow, the concepts being communicated become more complex, and tools used to communicate. In fact, a business with only 100 employees will spend 17 hours per week on average just clarifying communication.

Sometimes, tools can help. Business communications platforms such asCommunity Cloud make it possible to connect customers, partners, and employees through custom experiences. The platform automatically organizes data and files in one common space so that those who need to can locate them without difficulty, and it gives those involved the ability to easily connect with one another over a secure feed.

Customers can likewise become involved in the conversation, and can even be directed to other customer groups where they can share experiences and find solutions together. In essence, modern technologies can help unravel the often-confusing specifics of internal communications, and foster an atmosphere where what needs to be said, can be said, to those who need to hear it and understand it.

The payoff

Internal communication, when operating effectively, increases company coordination, drive, trust, and employee engagement and motivation. Everyone involved in a project knows the common goal and it brings the “big-picture” visions held by management into the minds of employees in every department. And, considering that companies with effective communication practices enjoy 47% higher total returns for shareholders compared with the firms that are the least effective at communicating, improved internal communication is a goal that every organization should pursue.

Don’t let poor internal communication divide your house; keep the information flowing freely, and you’ll see that your organization has the strong, open foundation to remain standing for years to come.