10 internal communication challenges - and how to overcome them

Corporate comms not getting your message across? Here are some of the most common internal communication issues organizations face, and how to fix them.

Why is poor internal communication a problem?

Why is poor internal communication a problem?

Communication is vital for building deeper connections between your employees and your organization. So if it’s not as good as it could be, it could be costing you both in terms of employee engagement and the bottom line.

Employees who aren’t kept informed and engaged end up feeling undervalued and resentful. This can make goals harder to achieve, damage relationships and trust in management and hamper overall business performance.

These recent statistics show that, for many businesses, there’s still work to do to resolve internal communication challenges:

So how can corporate comms be improved in workplaces? Below, we highlight 10 of the most common causes of problems in internal communications and offer solutions on how to address them.

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1. Lack of transparency

Many companies with internal communication problems have them because they withhold important information from employees. A lack of transparency about what’s going on in an organization often means people turn to gossip to get their information, which invariably leads to miscommunication.

What can be really damaging is if workers find out about key decisions or significant news from external sources such as social media as this can cause resentment and a breakdown in trust.

How to fix it

To stay in control of the narrative, always keep employees informed when you have a major announcement to make, and explain your reasoning when making decisions. If you can’t be transparent about a particular subject, discuss why without going into specific details. Clear, authentic communication is essential to maintain trust between employees and senior leaders.

2. Not enough clarity

Problems can arise if the message you’re trying to get across isn’t fully understood. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The sender not being clear about what they want to say

  • The receiver not caring or paying attention to what’s being said

  • Language barriers and cultural differences causing crossed wires

Lack of clarity in messaging, expectations and goals can lead to confusion, misunderstanding and frustration.

How to fix it

To avoid confusion, make sure your communication is clear, concise and consistent. Use plain language, avoid jargon and try not to use slang terms that people from different geographical locations or backgrounds might not understand.

3. Information overload

One of the biggest internal communication challenges facing today’s workforce is information overload. Instant messaging, emails, social media posts, memos, company newsletters – we’re bombarded with information all day every day.

While this can be helpful for collaboration, it can also be overwhelming, distracting and stressful. We can end up with too many irrelevant messages on too many different apps and platforms, and vital information can get lost in all the noise. In fact, 82% of US employees say they miss important information because it gets buried in stacks of emails in their inbox.

How to fix it

There are a few ways to stop information overload from clogging up your internal communication systems. Having a mobile communication tool which can be used as an information hub, as well as for messaging and meetings, can avoid a confusing proliferation of tools and apps. Another is to be selective about who non-essential information is shared with. Before sending a message, think about who really needs to receive it.

4. Not enough feedback

When employees are left in the dark about how they’re doing at their job, they’ll continue to make the same mistakes and won’t feel reassured that they’re on the right track. Feedback is crucial for an employee’s development. In fact, 63% of US workers say they want more immediate ‘in the moment’ feedback on their work, rising to 74% for those aged 18-34.

A by-product of this is not enough positive feedback. Some managers never show appreciation for a job well done, yet are all too quick to criticize when something goes wrong. Lack of quality feedback can lead to frustration and disillusionment, eventually causing good people to quit.

How to fix it

Team leaders and line managers should have regular Q&A sessions with their staff where they can share feedback and address concerns. Always try to start on a positive note so employees don’t feel like they’re under constant attack. When you need to give negative feedback, make sure it’s constructive and not personal. Be specific about what needs to improve, and listen to the other person’s perspective.

5. Too much feedback

While too little feedback is a problem, so too is feedback overload. Constant evaluation, both positive and negative, can make employees feel overwhelmed and judged. Someone experiencing feedback fatigue will start to question everything they do, to the point that they’re incapable of making a decision without first seeking their manager’s approval. Or they simply check out altogether.

How to fix it

Striking the right balance is key to avoiding feedback fatigue. Before you give feedback, be clear about what you want to achieve and why. For example, is it to improve performance, solve a problem or develop a skill? Also, make time to have a quality feedback session, free from interruptions or distractions, rather than constantly drip-feeding bits of information.

6. Lack of psychological safety

Some people aren’t comfortable voicing their concerns or sharing their ideas in public. This isn’t necessarily because they want to keep their views to themselves. It’s more to do with a deep-rooted fear of looking foolish in front of other people, insulting co-workers or losing the respect of managers. When employees don’t feel safe speaking their minds, they won’t contribute.

How to fix it

Your aim should be to create a culture of psychological safety in your workplace. You can start by making it clear to employees that there won’t be any fallout from sharing their ideas, and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers yourself. Displaying your own vulnerabilities can encourage others to share more too.

Hold team building activities for employees to get to know one another better. This will help build trust so people feel more comfortable communicating with others.

7. Leaving out remote workers

While remote work offers an array of benefits, it also poses a number of internal communication problems. These include:

  • Lack of human interaction between team members

  • Less opportunity to pick up on verbal and behavioral cues

  • Team-mates working at different times in different regions of the world

  • Employees not knowing where to find the information they need.

  • Poor internal comms can cause remote employees to feel lonely, isolated, out of the loop and unappreciated.

How to fix it

Schedule regular check-ins to keep remote workers updated on what’s happening, being mindful of what time it is where they’re based. Also make sure they have the tools and links they need to access meetings quickly and easily.

To improve the social aspect of remote work, set up chat channels dedicated to non-work discussions or create ‘coffee break’ groups where teams can meet for informal get-togethers via video chat.

8. Too many meetings

Meetings are a great way to share ideas and build togetherness, but too many of them are a drain on productivity and only create confusion. In 2022, the average employee attended five to eight remote meetings a week, according to Harvard Business Review. That’s a lot of chat, much of which employees would say is a waste of time.

How to fix it

Meetings should still be an important part of your internal comms, but they need to be informative, participatory and to the point, with a clear agenda from beginning to end. Decide if a meeting is really the best way to solve a problem – could an email or group chat suffice?

You could even introduce meeting-free days so your team know they have regular scheduled time to fully focus on other work.

9. Failing to break down silos

Another internal communication challenge is organizational silos. A ‘them and us’ mentality can creep in if teams or departments don’t have the tools or inclination to share information and knowledge with each other.

Siloed teams often end up working in isolation from the rest of the organization, creating major barriers to communication and innovation. The result can be duplicated work, inefficiency and unaligned goals, along with missed opportunities for team collaboration. According to Forbes, 42% of US employees say poor communication affects cross-functional collaboration.

How to fix it

First, try to break down the silo mentality by creating a unified vision for the whole company. Encourage open communication and knowledge sharing through cross-functional meetings, shared platforms and collaborative tools. You can also create opportunities for employees to connect outside their immediate teams, for example through volunteer schemes or staff nights out.

10. The wrong platforms

The way your internal communication is delivered is vital for making sure you get your messages across. Slow, unreliable or difficult-to-master software can bring about delays in sharing critical information, not only causing frustration among employees but affecting decision-making and project timelines too. Security vulnerabilities in outdated software can also compromise sensitive company information.

How to fix it

To overcome internal communications problems caused by technological issues, invest in secure communication software that’s suitable for your organization’s needs.

A platform that supports collaboration and can be accessed by smartphone gives you a way to reach everyone in your organization quickly and efficiently. Set up training sessions so everyone knows how to use it, including remote workers.

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