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May 1, 2023

17 Top Communication Channels for Engaging Busy Employees

Communication channels in business

With so much volatility in our world and economy today, it is more important than ever to communicate effectively with employees. The right message, delivered at the right times, through the right communication channels – and how employees prefer to receive the message – goes a long way toward building community and engagement. Particularly for teams that are partly or entirely remote, employee communication needs to accomplish a lot. It is one of the best and most powerful tools companies have in breaking down barriers and bringing people together. 

Communicators and leaders have a wide range of options for communication tools and channels today – many that take your communication far beyond traditional emails, texts and meetings – and the list of channels keeps growing. It wasn't long ago that video conferences like Zoom and Microsoft Teams were used far less than they are today. Still, having access to so many channels doesn’t always mean your messages are received, heard, understood or acted upon. With more options to choose from – and employee preferences in mind – leaders need to ensure channels are selected strategically so employees aren’t victims of information overload. 

Through this blog post, you’ll get a quick overview of the key options so you can decide which communication channels may work best for your organization at various times. Let's get started…

What Is a Communication Channel? 

A communication “channel” is a widely used term in employee communications today that simply means how you communicate – whether it be through an in-person meeting, email, social media post, old-fashioned letter or through many of the other emerging communication options used today.  

Over the past several years, types of communication channels have greatly expanded. Not long ago, emails or printed employee newsletters dominated within corporate settings. While those more traditional channels are still used in many companies, especially inside global companies with multiple locations, there are now a wide variety of fresh channels to pick from.  

In many cases, the new channels became more popular because employees work in so many different settings, including in-home offices and other remote locations, where it’s much easier to pick up a message on a phone. There’s also been a growing recognition that many people don’t have regular or convenient access to emails. For employees on a factory floor, on the road to meet clients across the country or working in healthcare at the bedside, there’s very limited time for teams to see content.  

Knowing Employees’ Preferred Channels of Communication

By understanding employees’ preferred channels for different types of information, you’re able to adapt as needed to reach them more effectively and in ways that work best for them. The impact can be powerful and often increases the likelihood of your messages not only being heard but resonating with your audience and acted upon.

To best understand employees’ communication preferences, ask them. Auditing and seeking input from employees on internal communications helps arm you with the data you need to do more of what works and adapt what doesn’t. The upside? Engaged, informed and motivated employees who help you deliver on the company strategy.

Now let’s take a look at key examples of communication channels.

17 Types of Communication Channels 

The best employers use a variety of channels to communicate the same types of messages, ensuring that all employees receive the information in the way that’s easiest for them.  

Here we’ve provided a detailed list of 17 top communication channels to choose from, along with guidance on when to employ the various channels to gain your employees’ focused attention.

1. Face-to-Face Meetings

While it may feel like it takes more time to have a conversation, it often saves time and confusion in the long run, particularly if you are discussing sensitive news. It’s also very helpful to have regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings with a team member at least once monthly, even if you handle the majority of your communication via email or phone. Additionally, if your goal is to establish a stronger relationship or get a team member briefed or excited about a new project, there’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

Most Effective For:

  • Facilitating discussion for immediate action
  • Discussing complex, confidential or sensitive topics
  • Sharing high-level or detailed news/updates
  • Ensuring messages reach receivers
  • Gathering immediate feedback and input
  • Encouraging two-way dialogue

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Insist on an agenda/meeting goals and stick to them
  • Respect time allotments – if people know you start meetings on time, they’ll rarely be late
  • Use flip charts to capture the discussion and build on others’ thoughts
  • Ask questions to check for understanding and listen to what’s being said (or not said)
  • Before you adjourn, assign next steps

2. Video Conferences

Particularly since the pandemic, video conferences have been a popular and convenient way to communicate with a team. It’s important to realize, though, that these meetings need to be planned well to capture the audience’s attention. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of many team members trying to multi-task or simply tune out.

Most Effective For:

  • Connecting a team at times when they can’t be together in person while allowing for more intimacy than a phone call
  • Enabling screen sharing of valuable data in a highly visual and collaborative way
  • Allowing new team members to more quickly onboard, connecting faces with names
  • Opening up multiple communication queues, such as the body language and facial expressions of colleagues and clients

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Recognize that virtual meetings are different from face-to-face, requiring a different approach, meaning more care is needed for employees to open up
  • Plan ahead with important support materials; send the agenda ahead of time; when appropriate, provide background materials too, such as pre-reads, charts and graphs
  • Assign a facilitator to keep the meeting running smoothly, looking out for questions via chat functions
  • Consider an icebreaker, inviting employees to share some introductions before launching into the business of the meeting
  • Stick to firm timeframes and don’t overload participants with too many objectives
  • Provide multiple opportunities for engagement and questions
  • Ahead of the meeting, invite specific employees to contribute to portions of the meeting

3. Traditional Conference Calls (No Video)

In addition to gathering a small team together via video conference, it’s often appropriate to bring together a group or function without the need to be on camera. Especially for large global or nationwide functions, this type of conference call can be a great way to communicate news or share developments relatively quickly and efficiently.  

Most Effective For:

  • Gathering large groups together on a routine basis for alignment, to share news, to advance project plans or to simply connect on the priorities for the week
  • Allowing for more informal and efficient check-ins
  • Giving team members a break from too many videoconference calls, particularly at the end of the day when teams may feel drained by video

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Encourage more people to contribute by asking more specific questions of individual employees
  • If one team member is dominating the conversation, shift the attention to a new topic or call on someone else to contribute
  • Whenever possible, keep the calls short and to the point and adhere to strict timeframes
  • Distribute summary notes with action items following the call for clarity and understanding

4. Town Halls

When done well, Town Halls can be an excellent way to bring together a full team and align on a path forward while also welcoming employee and leader interaction, questions and inspiration for what the organization aims to accomplish.

Most Effective For:

  • Providing leaders an annual or quarterly opportunity to bring together the full team to discuss business developments and plans
  • Recognizing individual or team accomplishments
  • Helping the full team see the big picture for the business and upcoming milestones
  • Motivating employees with an inspiring vision for the company’s future

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Don’t just talk at employees; provide multiple opportunities for questions and conversation; during virtual town halls, this can be done with the chat function, Q&A moderator, etc.
  • Avoid PowerPoint overload and dense slides that can turn off employees or bore them; ensure the speaker is on video during virtual Town Halls
  • Have a follow-up survey after the Town Hall to gain feedback and continuously improve
  • Encourage leaders to host local meetings (virtual works as needed) within two to three days after the enterprise-wide Town Hall so they can narrow in on key messages specific to their regions or functions

5. Podcasts

The popularity of podcasts has soared in recent years, with many considering this the golden age of podcasts. Businesses are getting in the game, too, with some companies producing branded podcasts promoting their brand or vision. Companies such as Marriott have used podcasting to reach potential job seekers. Other organizations produce podcasts that provide a “behind the scenes” look at the work they do. And in many other cases, leaders communicate news or share in conversation with other leaders via podcasts. Depending on the interests of your employee audience, podcasts may be a very effective way to reach listeners in a more novel and engaging way.

Most Effective For:

  • Sharing updates with people who are on the move (i.e., remote/traveling employees)
  • Reaching audiences that use the internet or portable devices frequently
  • Elevating leadership visibility throughout the organization
  • Telling stories or sharing a dialogue between key stakeholders on an important topic

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Use informal language
  • Keep your message short
  • Use podcasts as a platform for employees to not only hear from leaders but from peers to drive engagement
  • Build a following by releasing new podcasts regularly

6. Written Communication

Whether it’s simply writing a leader letter to employees, sharing a news story about a successful employee or team through a company website, or sending details on a new health plan, written communication remains a critical way to engage with employees. However, remember the golden rule when trying to interest your teams through written content: be a strong storyteller! Write your pieces well so readers feel engaged and want to tune in.

Most Effective For:

  • Sharing detailed information in a compelling way
  • Providing a memorable story that shares a key concept or vision
  • Providing a paper record of reference materials, policies, etc.
  • Reaching audiences with limited access to computers

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Keep messages short and to the point
  • Use when additional dialogue or conversation isn’t necessary
  • Use headlines and subheads/bullets to lay out messages in an easy-to-read format
  • Make it visually attractive for an easier, more memorable read

7. Email

As maligned as email is in some quarters, particularly among younger employees, it remains a dominant form of communication inside many businesses. Knowing that employees can easily become bombarded by emails, it’s critical to use best practices for when to use them. One of the most important things to remember: most emails should be short and concise.

Most Effective For:

  • Providing directional, important and timely information
  • Sharing detailed information and data
  • Directing the receiver to an online source for more information
  • Providing brief status updates

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Make the subject line relevant and meaningful
  • Keep messages focused, easy to read and brief
  • Don’t put anything in an email you wouldn’t want publicly broadcast
  • Indicate if you need a response (what and when)
  • If it takes more than 2 - 3 emails to bring closure to a topic, make it a voice-to-voice conversation (it’s probably too complex for an email)

For more ways to use email (and tips for how not to use email) download this guide.

8. Text Messages

For urgent news – and when you need a quicker response than email – texts can be very effective. However, just like email, the key is to use texts sparingly and make them concise.

Most Effective For:

  • Notifying employees about security issues
  • Providing weather and/or travel alerts
  • Sending meeting and event reminders

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Keep messages short and to the point
  • Establish guidelines to prevent text message overkill
  • Give employees an opportunity to “opt-in” or “opt-out”
  • Know if there are certain times your company policy doesn't allow you to text

9. Voicemail

In professional settings, voicemails may be an appropriate form of communication. But employees should know that people tend to check voicemails less frequently. If you don’t get a response quickly to a voicemail, it’s best to follow up with a different channel, such as a text or email.

Most Effective For:

  • Communicating urgent, brief messages
  • Requesting an immediate response
  • Asking simple questions that have quick responses
  • Reaching people when a meeting isn’t possible
  • Communicating with team members who are traveling

Tips and Best Practices:

  • If working remotely, set your message to include your cellphone and/or home phone number so clients and colleagues can easily reach you
  • Use if additional dialogue or conversation isn’t necessary
  • Avoid leaving a message about numerous topics
  • Jot down what you’re going to say before you say it; keep in mind the outcome you seek
  • Begin with your main point; leave your call-back phone number
  • Indicate if you need a response (what and when)
  • Keep messages short and to the point; don’t ramble

10. Blog

Particularly for leaders, blogs can be an especially impactful way to engage teams in a conversation and give employees a sense of what a leader stands for and cares about. They are also a good outlet for leader storytelling, especially when they are written with an honest and authentic voice, free of corporate speak.

Most Effective For:

  • Creating dialogue between employees and their leadership
  • Demonstrating engagement from a leader(s) in a positive way, and hearing their perspective on important topics
  • Reaching audiences that already use the internet frequently
  • Sharing stories and inspiring readers

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Be authentic; blogs require a different tone and point of view than other vehicles
  • Keep messages informative, timely and simple
  • Use photos/visuals, section headers and bullet points when possible to visually break up the content and make it easy to read
  • Don’t just post messages – reply to others’ comments to create dialogue and an exchange of information
  • Appoint someone to moderate the discussion in the comments
  • Develop and share guidelines on using personal blogs to disclose company information

11. Internal Publications

Company newsletters and magazines are making a comeback in some circles because they can break through the clutter of communication channels and engage employees through stories, photos and graphics. They are a great tool to highlight employees doing exceptional work, personalizing the team and helping the full organization celebrate each other’s achievements. In the midst of a major new company initiative or program, magazines and newsletters also allow for detailed storytelling that can help give employees important context.

Most Effective For:

  • Highlighting employees and their work
  • Informing audiences of key business topics, news and updates
  • Giving context around and building excitement for key initiatives/programs
  • For digital: can link to additional resources, video, etc. for a more interactive experience

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Keep content short and to the point
  • Include messages from leaders and employees for credibility
  • Share tips/best practices to reinforce the right behaviors/actions

12. Internal Social Media

Social media that’s exclusively for employees has become commonplace in many organizations and takes on many forms, including company blogs, intranet articles that enable commenting or sharing, team sites for collaboration and social platforms such as Yammer, Workplace, Chatter or Jive.

Most Effective For:

  • Establishing open dialogue with employees
  • Soliciting feedback, which can be done with a formal poll or through the comments section
  • Generating engagement among employees
  • Integrating and sharing content from different platforms

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Have a committed team of ambassadors to participate on internal social media and act as the face of the company
  • Engage users with interactive content and by integrating popular social platforms (when appropriate)
  • Set up social groups so teams can collaborate on projects in real-time

13. Intranet

Company Intranets can be a great place to gather company news and vital information in one place that’s easy to access for employees. Ensure that the information is logically organized and archived so team members don’t need to waste time pulling up key documents at a moment’s notice.

Most Effective For:

  • Sharing successes, wins and best practices with large audiences (e.g., a department, a location or all employees)
  • Providing access to applications, tools and data
  • Sharing photos or videos that may be too large for email distribution
  • Encouraging collaboration through blogs and other social media tools
  • Serving as a go-to hub for essential information related to employee health and safety, company policies, etc.

Tips and Best Practices:

  • It should serve as a tool to help employees do their job better/faster
  • Ensure the site is easy to use and navigate
  • Keep content simple and up-to-date for credibility
  • Make it interactive (e.g., polls, feedback channels, leader blogs, front-line employee blogs)
  • Include a contact person for more information
  • Send email reminders with a link to call out items that are new to draw attention

14. Employee Surveys

What’s often missing inside organizations is a true commitment to listening to employees. When leaders fail to do this, they miss key details on what’s going well and what needs improvement. Regularly surveying employees (and allowing for anonymous reporting) gives leaders a pulse on the morale and engagement of the team, which is vital to achieving the company’s vision.

Most Effective For:

  • Gathering employee feedback and insights
  • Measuring the effectiveness or impact of programs, initiatives, communications, etc.
  • Showing employees their opinions matter

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Keep employees involved throughout the process; let them know what you heard and what will change as a result of their feedback
  • Share survey results and communicate the areas of improvement on which you’ll focus
  • Take action on the feedback

15. Notice Boards

In a world where employees are often bombarded with messages, notice boards can be a novel way to grab them, particularly when used as part of a new campaign or as a way to celebrate individual employees or team wins.

Most Effective For:

  • Sharing information that does not require action and is not urgent (e.g., recognizing individual employees or teams)
  • Inspiring employees by providing an easily visible display of progress being made

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Establish guidelines for postings
  • Ensure messages are easy to read
  • Avoid clutter – remove outdated postings regularly
  • Label different sections of the board to keep it organized by topic
  • Use visuals and color to bring the notice board to life

16. Training Videos or Storytelling Videos

Training videos can be a great way to reinforce the steps employees need to follow as part of a new process or program. Many companies have stepped up their game here, making them far more visually compelling and easy to follow, which naturally makes them a go-to resource for busy employees. Furthermore, storytelling videos featuring compelling narratives and/or insights from employees or leaders are another popular way to gain employees’ attention and interest.

Most Effective For:

  • Providing information and training on specific programs/initiatives
  • Serving as an opportunity to “show and tell” about new products, new people, etc.
  • Crowdsourcing content and building engagement through comments and/or by linking to polls, resource pages, etc.

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Appeal to visual and audio senses
  • Video doesn’t have to be highly produced to be effective; oftentimes small video shorts, with a clear message, resonate most with employees
  • Make the videos fun and engaging

17. Grapevine

While formal communication channels naturally get the most focus, it’s important to recognize that communication among employees – both positive and negative – is often one of the biggest ways that employees learn company news. Recognizing this fact is important for leaders and reinforces the importance of regularly pulsing employees for their questions and concerns. If morale is down, negativity can quickly spread.

Conversely, if positivity takes hold, that can be a real force for good inside your organization. This is where employee ambassadors can come into play, helping to spread optimism and excitement about the company through “the grapevine.”

Most Effective For:

  • Driving alignment or engagement among employees
  • Reinforcing messages employees have heard elsewhere
  • Listening to what’s being said and what’s on employees’ minds

Tips and Best Practices:

  • Maintain your credibility by communicating what you know, when you know it; don’t wait to communicate until you have all the details; keep communication timely
  • Pulse your people; ask employees what’s on their minds
  • Anticipate concerns and address them
  • Be open yet choose your words carefully to ensure you’re not causing unnecessary concerns or panic
  • Don’t over-script leadership; it’s obvious to employees

Cutting-Edge Approach to Communication Channels 

See why your CEO, Employee Ambassadors, and Front-line Managers are critical examples of communication channels. Download this free eBook for more.

Click to download the communication channels guide


The tips in this blog post offer a terrific roadmap for selecting the communication channels that best fit your organization.

One size does not fit all, and many organizations need a healthy mix of options. The best way to ensure you’re using your channels well is to measure them regularly. Ask your employees what’s working for them, what’s not, and what they want to see more of. Feedback from your intended audience – employees – is always the smartest way to get the most out of any channel (and ensures that you’re not wasting resources on channels that no longer provide value). 

In the end, the right channel or mix of channels should always be about getting you closer to achieving your ultimate business goal – engaging and motivating your teams to dig in and achieve the company strategy. 

That’s an end game that’s well worth a strategic and focused approach.

David Grossman

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