Communication channels at work help ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing and tasks get done on time. In this article we’ll go over which channels to use for what type of messages.
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Picture this: You have an important message you need to send to your staff, but you’re not sure how to make sure everyone will see it at the right time.
All your workers are busy with their tasks — focused on keeping the company running smoothly. Even your employees’ supervisors are on their feet, responding to their employees’ needs or managing issues on the floor.
So how is everyone going to see your message right away? It seems they’re always on the move.
If you’ve been through such a situation, you’ll know already how vital communication is to the smooth running of your day-to-day, especially when you can’t see your colleagues face-to-face.
But with all the channels out there, how do you pick the right ones for you and your employees?
What Is a Communication Channel?
A communication channel is simply a method a person uses to talk to others.
Talking to someone face-to-face, instant messaging, and texting are all communication channels.
If you’re using something to communicate with someone else, that’s considered a communication channel.
Why Are Communication Channels Important?
Communication channels are important because they’re used to share both important and urgent information. They help ensure that everyone knows what they’re doing and tasks get done on time.
For example, many frontline workers rely on mobile devices and applications to communicate, which make these devices a viable “communication channel.” And, issues that impact either function can affect how workers do their jobs. In fact, 50% of frontline workers say that weekly issues with their phones or apps keep them from doing their jobs.
It’s not just about getting things done, however.
Good communication also improves engagement. As a matter of fact, employees who feel included in high-level communication are nearly five times more likely to be productive than those who don’t. And that makes sense since disengagement costs organizations worldwide a staggering $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
So how can business leaders choose which channels of communication they want to use and when to use them? There are so many choices, after all, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
But before we answer that, we have to talk about communication conventions.
What Are the Conventions of Communication?
In general, communication channels can be divided into three categories: formal, informal, and unofficial. Here’s a quick rundown on how each of them works:
Formal communication is like a full business suit — polished, reserved, and well-structured.
With formal communication, you basically have to be “on-brand” all the time. That’s why this convention is generally used for sensitive information, such as an organization’s goals, policies, and procedures. It also tends to be a one-way street and hierarchical — information flows from the top down and doesn’t require a response.
Business plans, contracts, company guidelines, and annual reports are all examples of formal communication channels.
If formal communication is like a full business suit, then informal communication is taking the blazer off and loosening the tie — or business casual. You still have to be on brand, but this time, it’s not so strict.
Informal communication is used in business settings where you want to be a bit more casual. Examples include a conversation with a colleague or asking a coworker for assistance with a task.
While formal and informal communication is used to discuss work-related matters, unofficial communication is used to talk about things outside of work. Taking our business suit analogy even further, it’s like you’re now at home and can now lounge comfortably in your pajamas.
Examples of unofficial communication include talking about your vacation plans during a lunch break or texting your work buddy about your favorite sports team.
Just as it’s important to wear the right clothes to an event, it’s also crucial to consider the formality of your communication. Doing so will allow you to pick the right channel for it.
Otherwise, it might be like wearing a clown’s red nose to a board meeting — inappropriate, confusing, and perhaps even uncomfortable for all involved.
How Do You Choose the Right Communication Channels for Your Organization?
How do you choose the right channels for your team so they’ll be engaged, compliant, and, most importantly, actually receive the message?
After all, choosing the right channel is crucial for relaying important information to field workers or updating an entire company of new workflows, upcoming sales, etc.
We’ve broken this process down into two easy steps, which are outlined below.
Step 1: Consider the details of your message
The first thing to consider is the type of message you’re sending. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you make this determination:
- Is the information formal, informal, or unofficial?
- Is the information confidential or sensitive?
- Is the information urgent, or can it wait?
- Are you communicating with just one person, a group, or the entire organization?
- Is this person (or group) someone you manage, a peer, or a higher-up?
- Does the recipient need to respond to your message?
- Do you need to add pictures or videos to the message, or does it only require text?
- Will you need to be able to find this information again?
After you’ve determined the type of message you’re going to send, it’s time to pick the appropriate channels.
For example, you wouldn’t text someone when you’re giving them their performance review. You’d find a spare room and talk there, or you’d do it over video conferencing if they’re unable to meet in person.
And you wouldn’t schedule a meeting just to give your entire team a quick update on a new product or procedure.
🧠 Did You Know:
Connecteam’s Updates feature gives you one central place for company newsletters, announcements and important updates. In just a few taps, you can send engaging updates to your entire company and see exactly who has read your message.
The point is that you should let the type of message you plan to convey guide you toward the channel you should use. If you do that, you shouldn’t go wrong.
Step 2: Fit your channels to your team
As Canadian philosopher and educator Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.” Finding the right communication channels also depends on how your team needs to communicate, as using the wrong channels with frontline employees will result in no one receiving your message.
So find out how to make it as simple as possible for your workers to receive your message — ideally in a clear and engaging way.
What is the most efficient and effective way to get your message to your team?
Is it talking face-to-face or instant messaging? Is sending text messages instead of writing memos a more efficient way of getting your point across? Maybe your team would rather not open app after app and would prefer a more streamlined solution like Connecteam.
Tailoring your communication channels to your employees’ needs and preferences will make it much easier to communicate down the road. And it’s less expensive, too.
What Are the 8 Channels of Communication?
There’s an abundance of choice when it comes to channels of communication. But once you’ve determined how your team likes to communicate, and what type of message you’re trying to send, you’ll have a better idea of which channel to use.
Here’s a list of eight popular communication channels and when to use them.
Face-to-face may not be the best way to communicate with frontline workers because they’re often spread out in different locations. Nonetheless, it’s useful in the right situations, as it allows you to get a full (and accurate) picture. Fewer misunderstandings will occur, too.
That’s because when you’re face-to-face with someone, you can hear their tone of voice, read their facial expressions and body language, and respond to them in real-time. That’s pretty hard to beat.
When to use it
Face-to-face communication can be used in formal and informal settings, but it’s best to use it if you want to deliver information in real time and require a quick response, especially if the information is sensitive.
You can also use face-to-face communication to boost team collaboration and engagement so employees aren’t siloed in their own teams or departments. For workers in the same location, face-to-face is a great channel for them to use to get to know each other better.
Despite the advent of new technology, the trusty telephone remains a great way to communicate if you need to talk to someone in real time.
And unlike some other channels, you don’t need to schedule a phone call ahead of time — just make the call!
Unfortunately, the costs do add up if you’re making a lot of calls. If that’s the case for you, consider using a cloud phone system. All your calls will then be made over the internet, allowing you to save on expensive hardware.
💡 Pro tip:
Don’t want to have to add every single one of your contacts’ information to your phone? Not to worry! With Connecteam’s Directory, you can keep all your employees’ contact information in one handy place.
When to use them
Use phone calls when you need to communicate in real time and need answers quickly or when you need to have important or urgent discussions. You can also use this method if you don’t require a visual aid to get your message across.
But beware of calling someone at odd hours of the night — most organizations have policies against calling employees after a certain time.
Written letters and memos
Despite the prevalence of technology in our modern world, written letters and memos are still used in some workplaces. And why not? They’re a quick way to let groups of people know about business-related matters such as:
- Policy updates
- Specific issues
- Upcoming meetings and events
- Schedule changes
- Recognition of employee performance
When to use them
As written letters and memos are an internal communication channel, use them when you need to efficiently convey business-related matters. They’re best used if you want to inform, bring attention to a problem, or answer a question.
💡 Pro tip:
Want to put a modern spin on this old school method of communication within your team? Why not check out Connecteam’s Updates feature? This social wall is a great way to ensure that you deliver your messages at the perfect times, and it also lets you see when each recipient has read each post.
Formal written documents
Many things can fall into the formal written document category, but business-related examples include the following:
- Written letters and memos
- Business plans
- Operational documents
- Financial documents
- Accounting documents
When to use them
Use formal written documents when you want to represent your company in a formal manner with employees, clients, or customers.
A good time to use a formal written document is if you want to train an employee or get them up to speed. In that case, you’d give the employee an operational document that shows them how to do something, when to do it, and how to troubleshoot problems with that task.
Many workplaces still use notice boards onto which they post notices, announcements, and other company-wide communications. Many notices are split into sections or color-coded depending on what kind of announcement is being made. For example, red might represent urgent messages, while green might indicate upcoming events.
💡 Pro Tip:
If you’d like to schedule company notices at specific times, Connecteam’s Updates feature can help. With it, you can communicate company news, announce the onboarding of new employees, recognize outstanding work, and so much more.
When to use them
Use a notice board when you have an announcement that everyone in your organization needs to see. Let your staff know they can post messages there, but make sure the board is organized so that everyone can find the messages that are relevant to them.
Staff meetings (at the beginning of a shift)
Ah, staff meetings. While they’re often mocked as a waste of time, they’re typically how a frontline team gets the information they need before starting work for the day. They also keep teams on the same page. And when done well, they can boost engagement and accountability.
When to use them
Conduct a staff meeting at the beginning of a shift to check in with your team, boost morale, and discuss any issues that occurred during previous shifts.
So far, we’ve covered more formal channels of communication. Instant messaging isn’t one of those. It is, however, an excellent way to stay in constant contact with your teammates without having to jump on a call or in front of a camera.
Team instant messaging is great for collaboration because of how simple and direct it is. All you have to do is type out a message and hit send, and the recipient receives it in seconds. Some apps even allow you to send attachments.
Unfortunately, instant messaging tends to be one of the “noisier” digital channels. Fortunately, though, you can customize your notifications to avoid being disrupted too often.
🧠 Did You Know?
Connecteam’s Chat feature, which is available for both app and desktop users, makes instant messaging effortless. With it, you can send files and media via one-to-one chats, team chats, or channels for quick, efficient communication.
When to use it
Instant messaging allows everyone on a team to communicate in real time without having to be in one place. It is especially useful for teams who must communicate asynchronously.
You can also use instant messaging if you need to keep a communication log.
Not everyone on a team can communicate face-to-face. Video conferencing (or video calls) is a great solution to this issue as it allows you to talk to your teammates in real time, whether it’s a one-on-one catch-up or an entire team meeting.
Keep in mind, though, that while video conferences can help keep your employees engaged and promote collaboration, this depends on the size of the conference.
One-on-ones and calls with smaller groups allow for more back and forth where people can ask questions and provide feedback. As the number of participants increases, however, two-way communication becomes increasingly difficult.
Fortunately, it sounds like many organizations know this, as the average meeting size on Zoom hovers around 10 participants.
A video conference can also be recorded and referenced later — something that can’t be done with face-to-face communication.
When to use it
Use video conferencing with remote employees for more complex business matters, such as performance reviews and team meetings.
But, as with face-to-face meetings, don’t go overboard with this method. 44% of remote workers dream of a day without hour-long video meetings. The average Zoom meeting length is 54 minutes, which is cutting it close!
You might be interested in reading our in depth review and decide which one is the best team communication app (updated for 2023)
Empower Your Team With Effective Communication Channels
Communication can make or break an organization.
Whether you need to update employees on your new policies or invite them to a work event, it’s absolutely vital that you pick the right communication channels for your team.
To do this, consider your message first. Then, fit your channels to your team.
And keep in mind that you don’t need to choose just one channel — many organizations use a combination. But if you want the convenience of a one-stop shop, Connecteam is here for you.
Why waste time and money with disconnected tools and fragmented systems when you can have everything you need on one platform? With its intuitive, easy-to-use, mobile-first app, Connecteam helps you manage your deskless employees from the convenience of your smartphone.