When it comes to effective communication, all organizations benefit from internal communications professionals that can provide personal, engaging, and relevant channels between an organization’s employers and employees. When a communication strategy is done right, all employees feel empowered to “buy-in” to the company. This, in turn, will entice employees to keep dialogue channels open and, ultimately, supply the company with valuable and positive insight. However, there are obstacles that prevent internal communications from functioning as effectively as possible. Here are five barriers that drive internal communications professionals mad.

1. Lack of High-Quality Content: This is the number one reason why employees do not engage in communications. When bad content is spread throughout the organization, employees either don’t care about it and ignore it completely or have to decipher what is being said. This causes can demonstrate a lack of respect and professionalism and foster a dull creative environment. Content should be designed with an understanding of what employees need. All communication must be consistent, easy to understand, branded properly, and available across different platforms. The content must also be creative and consumable in a way that encourages employees to interact with it.

According to Hubspot, a survey of internal communications professionals showed that employee engagement sits at the top of the list at 76% while building up a culture within the organization of open communication sits at 55% as primary goals.. Goals like enabling change, bringing about internal brand awareness, and driving business performance all fall below the 50% range[1]. This is why high-quality content is vital to an organization—it can help employers reach their primary goals by enabling engagement and open communication.
2. Lack of Data Analysis: It’s important to gather and analyze data in order to avoid spending time and energy on a communications strategy that doesn’t deliver. If internal communications professionals don’t have access to clear initiatives or metrics, it is difficult to craft an effective and functional strategy.
The key to unlocking an organization’s full communications potential is to gather and analyze data. Not only can a communications expert then make improvements to a strategy based on real data, but the strategy can be evaluated for what elements are engaging employees.
There are a lot of factors that can be tracked, reported on and measured, but some examples of good metrics to track are what social elements are being engaged with, how engagement is broken down across the entire organization, what devices employees are using to communicate, what content is popular, and how often employees are engaging with content.
3. Out-of-Touch Management: The role of an internal communications professional can be quite ambiguous and encompass a lot of different responsibilities and expectations. Sometimes, higher-ups use communications experts as a mouthpiece for the company. Because of this, if something goes wrong, trust in the platforms, the strategy, and the communications professional is undermined and a lot of noise gets created.
To put this in perspective, according to Hubspot, only 3% of internal communications professionals hold a supervisory, specialist, or managerial role, while 13% hold an executive or advisory role and 38% a director or management role.[2] In addition to this, internal communicators are often bundled across the department of corporate communications, meaning that only about 20% of those in this role are within the human resources department, while 14% sit in a dedicated department and 10% are part of the sales department.[3] With the limited number of internal communication specialists in leadership roles, management can easily be unaware of their needs and challenges.
4. Lack of Strategic Planning: This is a communications specialist’s worst nightmare. When there is a lack of strategic planning, it is almost impossible to engage employees. For instance, if an internal communicator is told to make a piece of content go viral with little warning, they may have to focus on design over content relevance because of time and information constraints.
Additionally, when communicators are asked to provide “one-size-fits-all” communication methods, it can create a lot of problems rather than produce proper results. When a communicator must focus on awareness rather than interest and knowledge, employees may not take in the information, which leads to low comprehension rates.
No matter how much funding organizations invest in internal communications, if it is not done with a strategy and purpose in mind, it creates noise rather than impact.
5. Misunderstanding of Effective Communication Mediums: If the data indicates that employees engage more with a video newsletter, it may be time to retire the old printed newsletter. Critical communications are only effective when they are delivered in a channel that employees want to engage with. For instance, video content is much more likely to engage employees than a text-heavy email. It is important to note that what worked one or two years ago as an effective communication medium may not necessarily be effective now. When organizations keep using ineffective mediums, it makes it that much harder for a communications professional to encourage engagement.
Currently, organizations primarily use e-mail, intranet, and electronic newsletters while video, leadership communication, team briefings, and print newsletters round out the communication suite. According to Hubspot, video is one of the most valuable communication tools, as most employees are familiar with it, it can provide a lot of information in a short space of time, and it is the most engaging.[4]

When an organization understands the challenges that internal communications specialists face, they can adopt better practices to ensure that the right strategies are put into place. When informed decisions are made, engagement increases, employees are open to providing valuable feedback, and demonstrable returns on investment are seen throughout all levels of the company.

[1] Cox, Denise. “Delivering Effective Internal Communications: Delivering ROI Through Employee Engagement.” Newsweaver. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/301060/file-551356727-pdf/Whitepapers_PDF/Effective_ICv2.pdf?t=1393497886000
[2] Cox, Denise. “Delivering Effective Internal Communications: Delivering ROI Through Employee Engagement.” Newsweaver. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/301060/file-551356727-pdf/Whitepapers_PDF/Effective_ICv2.pdf?t=1393497886000
[3] Cox, Denise. “Delivering Effective Internal Communications: Delivering ROI Through Employee Engagement.” Newsweaver. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/301060/file-551356727-pdf/Whitepapers_PDF/Effective_ICv2.pdf?t=1393497886000
[4] Cox, Denise. “Delivering Effective Internal Communications: Delivering ROI Through Employee Engagement.” Newsweaver. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/301060/file-551356727-pdf/Whitepapers_PDF/Effective_ICv2.pdf?t=1393497886000