4 levels of internal communication. Do you know them all?

In my previous blog post I described Three directions of internal communication to improve. It’s time to have a look at 4 levels of internal communication. Ready? Let’s go.

We can distinguish 4 levels of internal communication. Actually, there are 3, but I add 1 more to make the division even clearer and easier. As internal communication professionals, we should work on each one of them to increase their effectiveness. Each level lies within the responsibility of an internal communication team, although, as I am going to explain below, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way.

The division I found in wise books includes mass communication, team communication, and interpersonal (individual) communication. Below you may find my proposal, which is a little bit different. I divided the team communication into two, so we can find here communication between teams (which often appears as a weak point in IC audits I conduct for companies) and communication within teams (which is usually well-arranged and proceeds without major problems). And that’s the reason why this division into two kinds of team communication seems to me reasoned and justified. I hope you agree with me.

What are these 4 levels like? A few tips below:

•    corporate/mass communication – it’s my favourite kind of communication and I specialise in it. It’s the part of communication which is addressed to all employees or to large groups of them. It may also be called internal corporate communication. We have mass internal tools here such as intranets, newspapers, town hall meetings, and newsletters.

Through these tools we work on building awareness and understanding among our internal target groups. Here we implement our internal goals to keep our employees informed, engaged and integrated with the company’s mission, vision, and business strategy. At this level of communication we can also distinguish our key senders (the management) and key target groups (the employees).

But let’s remember the opposite aspect should also be taken into account – where our employees are senders and the board and managers are receivers.

•    communication between teams – unfortunately, I often find this horizontal communication problematic when I organise IC audits in your companies. Make sure to support your teams in communication between them. The cooperation between teams, everyday business and projects are here, as well as money. This part of internal communication is vital for the success of the project team cooperation. And we can find a lot of barriers here, when it comes to communication tools, ways of communications, and interpersonal communication.

•    communication in teams – it’s communication in a smaller unit. And, as IC professionals, we should plan actions to improve this level of communication as well. We often cooperate with an HR department at this level, which usually has trainings, coaching sessions and other development tools among its tasks. It happens that this part of communication is in the hands of an HR team only, which isn’t a mistake.

For me the most important point is to take care of this communication level effectively. And which team is responsible for it is a secondary issue. A synergy of IC and HR teams may be very useful and effective.  

•    interpersonal/individual communication – meaning 1:1 communication between employees or a supervisor and an employee. I found this part of internal communication often ignored by IC professionals, as they think it's an HR task to deal with or even the task of each employee to deal with on their own. It may be a task for an HR team, but also for an IC team.

It’s important to plan development actions for this level of communication and not to count on someone to do so or to leave an employee alone, hoping they will tackle their interpersonal communication problems by themselves. The development of interpersonal communication is a never-ending job and we all should take care of it by planning the development of our communication skills to keep them up to date with changes occurring in general internal communication.

Remember to plan development actions for all these 4 levels.


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