Communication is a universal



Communication is a universal and essential feature of human expression and organization. It deals with sending and receiving knowledge, facts, ideas, figures, goals, emotions and values. Communication is a central element of the way in which people cooperate with each other; it acts as interpersonal event which is the building block of society (Smith, et al., 1999, p. 4).

In business organizations, communication with customers, shareholders and employees is now regarded as a major resource that requires careful management and adequate investment. Some of that important communication is internal which involves the flow of information within the organization, both to provide information for decision making and to maintain a focus among staff. Without effective and managed internal communication, the activities of a business will become uncoordinated and focused more on individual goals rather than operational objectives (Griffin & Moorhead, 1986).

Internal communication acts as a key to maintain a motivated workforce and helps to drive them towards their business goals. Many companies believe that employee communication can make a lot difference between an enthusiastic, motivated workforce and an organization of suspicious and aggressive employee.

1.1Aim of report

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This report will aim to identify some of successful internal communication tools, how they effect business organizations, and their effects on employees' motivation. This report will also highlight the possible obstacles or challenges that can be met through the different communication supports used in an internal communication system and benefits of internal communication.

2.Literature Review

According to Argenti (1996) contemporary organizations focused on retaining a happy workforce with changing values and different demographics; they have necessarily had to think more seriously about how they communicate with employees (p. 80). Weight et al. (1994) suggest that management nowadays needs to give the internal audience equal attention to those external to the organization (Wright, et al., 1994, p. 301), however Dolphin (2005) suggests communication professionals to focus the importance of integrating the internal message with those messages communicated externally (Dolphin, 2005, p. 185). Internal communications can be defined as “transactions between individuals and groups in organizations at various levels and in different areas of specialization” (Frank & Brownell, 1989 cited in Dolphin, 2005). According to Kalla (2005) internal communication is “all formal and informal communication taking place internally at all levels of an organization” (p. 304), whereas Orsini (2000) defines it as “the full range of ways that people communicate with each other within the organization” (p. 31).

Spitzer and Swider (2003) suggest that effective internal communications should be having three basic objectives;

  1. Communicated information is understood and accepted by the audience with respect to the content, relevance, intent and worth of the message;
  2. Goals of the communications (motivating, informing, directing or gaining the participation of the employee audience) are achieved among the majority of employees;
  3. The end result of an improved internal communication should achieve improvement in one or more of the core success components including product quality, sales, profitability, workforce performance and satisfaction, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.

[Spitzer & Swider, 2003, p. 70-71]

According to Argenti(2007), the goals of internal communications in order of their importance are:

  • to create the sense that employees are an important asset to the organization
  • to improve self-esteem and promote goodwill between employees and management
  • to notify employees about internal changes
  • to clarify compensation and benefit plans
  • to increase employee understanding of the organization, products, ethics, culture, and external environment
  • to change employee behavior toward becoming more productive, quality oriented, and entrepreneurial
  • to increase employee understanding of major social issues or trend affecting them;
  • to promote employee participation in community activities.

[Argenti (2007), p. 201]

Internal communications have responsibilities of planning and executing effective internal communications such as measuring employee views and acting on such views, sharing information more widely. It includes ensuring senior management visibility which has responsibilities of protecting the desired corporate culture, ensuring a continuing supportive role by the HR sector and empowering employees and enhancing internal relationships and learning (Dalton & Croft, 2003).

2.1Internal communication methods

The main methods or ideas which are being practiced by many companies include:

  • Staff newsletter (printed publication every two months)
  • Weekly Staff Matters (which are normally emailed to all staff)
  • Circulation of Members Matters
  • Copies of key publications for staff (such as Corporate Plan, residents' newsletters, and guide to councilors etc.)
  • Promoting a more open culture, e.g. when Chief Executive writes a regular column in the staff newsletter, send regular emails to staff about matters of importance, and holds annual talks with the Leader to all staff based on their progress
  • Weekly Members' Matters, a monthly Members' monthly and bulletins on matters requires more depth
  • Appraisal systems (key meetings at which managers and staff articulate their views on their roles, required training and personal development.

[Rushcliffe, 2003]

2.2Internal communication as a process and to manage it as a cycle

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Quirke (2008) suggests that cycle of communication is completed by measuring impact. Without measurement, a communication strategy becomes like a computer that is not plugged into the electricity supply. In principle, measurement is attractive to managers, but in practice they are unsure about how best to apply it to communication. Many organizations are moving towards an integrated, balanced approach to measuring their business performance. For example, using a balanced business scorecard is an attempt to integrate the different factors against which a business needs to deliver for an ‘at a glance' understanding of how a business is performing. Such approaches to business measurement, which acknowledge the importance of employees' contribution, inevitably highlight the need for effective measurement of internal communication. Thus, organizations need to understand quickly how best to improve current approaches to measuring communication (p. 327).

Internal communicators need to measure the impact of what they do, and use measurement to drive improvement. Measurement should focus on outcomes and be linked to contribution to the bottom line (Quirke, 2008, p. 328).

2.3Why measure impact?

Companies who have continued measurement ever since have won high ratings both for their communication and for employees' satisfaction. Yet, what they have often not won are the business results they needed. Rover Cars, for example, had fabulously high scores for employee satisfaction and pride in the company. However, that very pride contributed to employees' resistance to change, and their subsequent difficulties (Quirke, 2008, p. 329).

Measurement signals what is important to the business and shows whether management is serious about change or not. It also forces both the management team and employees to clarify their expectations and helps keep communication visible on the management radar screen (Quirke, 2008, p. 329).

2.4Assessing communication impact

Two approaches are required in measuring typical communication; 1) checking whether employees are satisfied with what they get, and 2) checking whether they received the messages or not. Kirkpatrick (1994) suggests a model for assessing training effectiveness based on 4 levels including,

  • Reactions - how did participants respond to the training programme
  • Learning - advanced skills, knowledge or attitude
  • Transfer - these are new skills, knowledge and attitude being applied back on the job
  • Whole organizational result - the business benefits e.g. increased production, fewer accidents, improved quality

[Kirkpatrick 1998, p. 109]

2.5Benefits of investingin internal communication

  • Good internal communication makes business sense: It helps build a dedicated and high performing workforce that is focused on achieving the organizational goals. In this way staff will stay for longer; helping management avoid expensive recruitment costs
  • Effective communication boosts morale and motivation:It affects how people in organization feel about their jobs. Line managers' interpersonal skills play critical role here.
  • Staff should be organization's ambassadors: If employees are satisfied, they are more likely to talk positively about the company.
  • Communication makes culture: Good two-way communication helps create a can-do culture boost encouragement.
  • Communication directs to a learning organisation: Upward communication from your workforce is a vital source of information whether it involves customer intelligence, early warnings, whistle-blowing or innovative new ideas.

[LGA, 2009]

2.6Obstacles to Internal communication

According to the assessment by The Minnesuing Group, a forty-member peer group of top internal communicators, the top four enduring obstacles to internal communications are:

  • Leaders who do not understand the relationship between internal communication and the business outcomes they are trying to produce
  • Failure of employees' communication function to credibly articulate the link
  • A demand for tactical communications support that drains all existing capacity and makes it difficult for the internal communications functions to shift from a tactical to a strategic level
  • The lack of a well-defined competency model for the strategic internal communications functions.

[Doorley & Garcia, 2006, p. 130]

2.7Top Internal Communication Challenges Today

  • Motivating employees to align with the business strategy
  • Leadership and management communication
  • Managing information overload
  • Measuring the ROI of internal communications

[David, G. & Associates, 2006]

2.8Improving Internal Communication

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Improving internal communication requires a framework of an effective integrated communication based on the principles of mutual reinforcement. Many organizations practice good things in individual parts of their internal communication processes but lose the benefit by not linking them together or by leaving out a key part of the circuit. Therefore, in order to get a better return from their investment in internal communication, organizations need to form a virtuous circle of communication, comprising the following seven links in Figure 1. Thus, the challenge for internal communicators is twofold: to develop and implement best practice in each of these areas, and to link them together so they are mutually reinforcing.

2.9Internal Communication System leads to Motivation of Employees

Internal communication can play a major role in motivation of staff performance, which in most business will have a significant impact on quality of product and service delivered to the customer. In service-based businesses, such as bank, quality of staff performance is often the only image which the customer sees; therefore motivation and training of employees are keys for business success. Many programmes and projects regarded as internal to the business including corporate identity, internal marketing communications, Salesforce training and development, dealer/distributor network, production quality assurance and managing global/internal brands (Smith, et al., 1999, p. 14).

According to Quirke (2000), understanding is the key to employee motivation. If employees understand what makes their organization successful, they usually want to know how to contribute to their organization's success. According to research done by the ‘think-tank Demos', communication has a role but it needs to be rethought: ‘In a world of looser, more flexible relationships between workers and hirers, customers and suppliers, organizations need new ways to communicate with networks of people without trying to bind them into exclusive or hierarchical relationships' (Miller & Skidmore, 2004 cited in Tench, R. & Yeomans, L. 2006, p. 340).

3.Critical Analysis

3.1Example 1

ING Barings is one of 50 companies belonging to the Dutch ING Group, which is active in the banking and insurance business. Around 90,000 people work for ING worldwide in over 60 countries. According to Frey & Osterloh (2002) the company's information can be used to identify how its internal communication affects motivation of employees. Fundamental to the ING concept is the combination of different motivational tools in such a manner as to achieve the best balance between the needs of the employees and the interests of ING Barings. Figure 2 shows ING Barings' internal communication as the basis for successful management of motivation.

Source: Frey & Osterloh (2002), p. 231.

In order to sustain this dialogue, an extensive “Daily Newsweb” was established by ING Barings. When employees boot up their computers in the morning, the first thing they see on their screens is the latest ING Barings news, headlines of the day, the latest external and internal press releases, successful transactions and deals with a commentary from the CEO. Once a month, management information meeting is held at a fixed time. This takes place in the form of a worldwide videoconference in which some 1,850 members of management from over 50 countries take part. During the videoconference, the CEO reports on the current business situation and answers any questions that relate to this. In addition, each conference deals with one or two special topics for which appropriate experts are invited to make a statement.

According to Frey & Osterloh (2002), employees of ING Barings appear to appreciate these two measures aimed at supporting an open and transparent information policy. In particular, it was observed that an increasing number of suggestions, questions and ideas were directed to management from the floor. At the same time the corporate board wants to make sure that senior management does not use any advance information to build up positions of power, but instead, to foster a dialogue with employees working under them and include those employees in the decision-making process. Hence, it shows that internal communication increases the intrinsic motivation of employees (p. 238).

3.2Example 2

ISA International, one of the first firms in the computer consumables markets which started in a back room in Bradford and has grown into a £140 million European business. In the mid-1999s, the company was keen to retain its workforce. The company's objective was to improve business by ensuring high motivation and loyalty amongst its staff.

The research stage encompassed a staff opinion survey, through a series of face-to-face lunchtime meetings with the managing director. Six issues were pinpointed: communications, recognition and reward, organization, work environment, training, having fun. However, this was summed up in the slogan ‘Building a Better Business … and having fun doing it' (Theaker, 2001, p. 140).

Communication was used as the key to facilitate change throughout the company. Three meetings were staged throughout the year outside working hours, involving the entire workforce. Key issues were outlined and progress on meeting targets reviewed. A Book of people was produced with a photograph of every employee with their job title and extension number. Copies were distributed to all staff. A regular newsletter called In Touch supported the changes, as well as reporting the activities of the Fan Club. Specially produced birthday cards were sent to all staff, singed by the managing director. The company Christmas party started with a humorous short video reviewing the year, followed by the announcement of the Employee and Sales Person of the Year awards.

Appraisal was built into the programme though several methods, both informal and formal. Increased manager/staff contact through monthly employee appraisals for the awards scheme resulted in regular feedback from staff which was used to adapt the communication programme. The company's trading performance also improved, indicating a more focused and motivated workforce. A communications audit was undertaken of staff response to the new programme. This was used as a benchmark for future analysis. A majority of staff felt that internal communications had improved since the start of the programme, and over 75 per cent felt more motivated as a result (Theaker, 2001, p. 140).

3.3Example 3

The BBC, renowned worldwide for its quality programming, has been at the leading edge of good internal communication practice for many years and the corporation's internal newspaper Ariel has found one of backbones of internal communication under different management regimes and culture change initiatives. Culture change within an organization depends very much on credible internal communication. If the internal communication system is clear and people feel more committed to the change (Tench & Yeomans, 2006, p. 350).


Communication-oriented employee management has positive results within organizations. Internal communication can be personal, written, printed media or electronic. Some of successful internal communication systems that result in motivations of employees are staff newsletter, circulation, emails, intranet, meetings, appraisal systems and bulletins on matters. Every system has advantages as well as disadvantages depending on factors including corporate objectives or corporate culture. These systems of internal communication have become essential for organizations to enhance their productivity, performance, trust, their employees' loyalty and attachment towards the company. Through internal communication systems companies build and nourish employee relations, establish trust and thereby contributing to general motivation. Hence, internal communication systems are tools to motivate employees' enthusiasm for the company.


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