The most useful digital internal communications tools

As we adapt to the latest news around Coronavirus, 44’s Alan Coates explores the most useful digital internal communications tools, so your teams feel like they’re still having those special moments at the watercooler.

Over the past weeks internal communicators have had to react quickly – and sometimes drastically – to account for our new ways of home-based working. But creating the wrong working-from-home policies can quickly lead to long-term issues, so how can we make sure we are putting the right kind of digital internal communications tools and channels in place, at pace?

I believe that by combining different digital internal communications tools together, we can offer colleagues an environment that replicates the experience of the physical workplace in every aspect, like-for-like. As such, I’ve been challenged by my team here at 44 to suggest how I’d build that suite, using the most useful digital communications tools I’ve come across in the past few years.

Don’t call it an intranet – it’s the whole building

When we think of intranets, we think of text. Text and images. Text and images and links. And lots and lots and lots of pages. But what we need them to be is the building we work in – and the place to go. As most organisations move towards Office 365, there’s a real opportunity to take all the tools that come with that suite (Office, Teams, Outlook, Yammer etc.) and draw them together and call that the digital workplace.

There are some great tools out there that create an easy-to-install, custom dashboard that sits on top of your organisation’s Office365 instance, and which presents a shop window of pertinent and timely content, connections and functionality. What’s more, there’s one intranet tool in particular that can be set up in just two weeks – so it can be up and running when you need it most.

Don’t call it a newsletter – it’s a town hall

The impact and take-up of Teams in the past few weeks can’t be understated, and if you haven’t read it already, check-out our five top tips to using Microsoft Teams. However, there’s another great tool that isn’t as well known but really should be. Sway is part of the Office 365 toolset and, designed well, you can consider it a mix between a virtual presentation and a TED Talk.

Using either the built-in templates, or the ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ content builder, Sway can help you to tell personal stories, present reports, deliver presentations and more – all secure within your organisational network. Embed images, videos, spreadsheets and documents from OneDrive, and even use it for a fantastic interactive town hall.

Don’t call it an app – it’s the watercooler

Whether you’re naturally an extrovert or an introvert, I think many of us have found working in physical isolation a huge shift. While we might be able to do our work and communicate with each other – it’s becoming evident that it’s the little things that feel the most different. We’re no longer bumping into somebody in the canteen and chatting away. Or spontaneously thanking somebody for helping us out. Or sharing some news you’ve just heard at the watercooler. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never actually seen this happen at a watercooler. But you get my point.

Employee apps have come a long way in the past five years, and for my money are most useful digital internal communications tools. As operating systems and handsets adapt, so has the software that can run on them. For one example, take Thrive, an award-winning employee app that gives comms teams hands-on control for content and news, allowing people to like, share, comment on the latest updates). What’s better is that Thrive natively allows people to share their own ideas and stories or – and this is the bit I like best – recognise each other for the little things, as well as the big things.

A leap forward into the unknown

I’m big into music and I was watching a documentary recently about the Roland TR-808 – which was a drum machine that was portable, small, and helped kick-start the hip-hop scene in the late 1970s and beyond. As they were wrapping up the documentary, there was a line in the narration that hit me. Paraphrased, it was that every leap forward in the music world has always been prompted by advances in technology. It made me wonder. Are we seeing the same shift for internal communications?

Let me know what you think and – as always – if there’s anything at all we can do to help you and your teams in these uncertain times.