13 Best Communication Tools Every Business Needs in 2021
The data is in—the way we want to work has changed, and there’s no going back.
97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time, and 61% say they prefer being fully remote. It’s time for companies to completely rethink what communication tools they need for their workplace.
While meetings and watercooler chats may have helped your team bond in the office, you must now think outside the box. It’s time to reimagine what your communication stack could look like for a remote workforce and how it could increase your company’s overall productivity and morale.
In this piece, we’re going to do a deep dive into:
- The Importance Of Communication Tools
- Characteristics Of An Effective Communication Tool
- Communication Tools For Small Business Vs Enterprise
- 13 Best Communication Tools Every Business Needs In 2021
- Workvivo Will Work With Your Current Tool Stack
We are going to explore the 13 best tools in detail. But first, let’s look at why choosing the right communication tools for your business is so important.
Pro-tip: Before you start searching for new tools, it’s better to build a strategy around what software will benefit you most. So, before you dive in, take advantage of this free guide and template: How To Create An Internal Communication Plan & Strategy [Free Bonus Template]
The Importance Of Communication Tools
A communication tool is a broad label given to apps, software, or online portals that allow dispersed and remote teams to collaborate and talk to each other—no matter where they are.
We know communicating with each other in the workplace is essential, but according to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report, communicating effectively is the most crucial factor in determining whether a project succeeds or fails. In fact, one in every five projects fails because of poor communication, either between teammates or project managers.
Not equipping your team with the right communication tools is like leaving them with a typewriter when your competitors have iMacs…. There’s no way they will be able to compete.
Now, communication tools are more than just a way for your team members to say hello. They can be group messaging platforms that send out broadcast messages to an entire team, project management tools that monitor tasks and progress, or analytics apps that track staff morale.
And with communication tools covering so many areas, it’s no surprise that the number to choose from is…. Pretty overwhelming.
So, just what does a communication tool have to have to make it onto our list?
Characteristics Of An Effective Communication Tool
The best communication tools have a lot of things in common.
Not only do they improve internal communications for your team, but they also just make it easier to get your work done. The best communication tools double as productivity tools as they allow you to share information quickly and automate repetitive tasks, leaving your team more time to get their work done.
And there’s one characteristic of an effective communication tool that’s often overlooked: adoption.
A good communication tool should easily integrate with your existing tech stack, and you should aim to invest in tools with no learning curve. Your team already has enough to deal with—don’t throw complex software onto their plate and expect them to master it.
Instead, try and find tools that they’ll already be comfortable with, like social intranets and messaging apps that mirror software they’re already using outside of work. The easier your communication tools are to use, the more likely they’ll actually get used!
Communication Tools For Small Business Vs Enterprise
Not all communication tools are made the same.
A tech stack for a small business with a team of 10 will look a little different to an Enterprise company with 5000 employees. Here’s what the tech stack at Adroll, a SMB with about 100 employees, looks like:
What do you notice?
Their communication tools are split up into internal, customer feedback, customer communication, and customer support. Smaller companies may not need all of these tools, but they’ll still find software like Slack or Intercom a gamechanger when they’re communicating with customers—and each other.
The trick is knowing what tools will work best for your company’s individual needs. Let’s take a look at our top 13 picks;
13 Best Communication Tools Every Business Needs In 2021
Tool 1 – A Social Intranet
For people in a modern organization to actually engage, contribute and learn, they need to be less rigid.
We’re talking about teams having less structure, so they feel free to contribute, grow, and be creative in their work-life in a way that creates a community vibe. A top-down information tree doesn’t work for modern employees—but social tools do.
Investing in a social intranet is a way for your company to create a democratized communication platform that allows your people to talk, contribute, comment, share, and bond on their own terms. The more social your team is at work, the more freely they’ll communicate about not just tasks but also their lives.
This creates a deep bond within your team that’s hard to replicate, and it can create a ripple effect on everything from how happy they are to increased productivity and higher retention levels.
Social intranets are also a great way to plug common holes in a communication strategy, like:
- Disengaged teams with dipping morale
- Overflowing inboxes with unread company announcements
- Disjointed communication workflows (where should your team talk…email? Slack? WhatsApp?)
The reason social intranets are an ideal tool to fix these issues is that they are so familiar. For example, a tool like Workvivo mirrors common social media platforms and has everything from automated activity feeds to status updates:
Here, employees can join in (or start!) the conversation and keep up-to-date with what the rest of the team is discussing. Not only is this a perfect way to build company culture, but it also gives your team a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level and learn about each other’s values and interests.
You can track how well your social intranet is working, too. Workvivo has a dedicated dashboard that lets you see how engaged your team is, what posts they are responding to, and when they are interacting with posts.
Like what you see? If you want to try out a social intranet in your workplace, take Workvivo for a test spin here.
Tool 2 – Task Management
Dispersed and remote teams don’t have the luxury of popping into each other’s offices to see what their colleagues are working on or check up on a deadline.
That’s why task management tools are so important. Your company can have the most sophisticated tech stack, but it’s almost impossible to accomplish your goals if its tasks are not properly managed.
With a task management tool, you can create project calendars, assign tasks to team members, and set due dates. Once a project kicks off, the tool will track how projects are progressing and if your team is sticking to the schedule.
Task management tools are also perfect for managing discussions about projects, as every comment or piece of feedback made is kept inside cards or threads. For example, a tool like Asana keeps projects organized using dedicated lists, boards, and timelines:
If your team has a question about a task or needs to change a due date, all they need to do is @mention you, and you’ll get a notification.
Tool 3 – Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is an essential tool for fast-paced teams who need to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
While email is supposed to do this, we all know its flaws: messages are only read if someone is constantly checking their inbox. And even then, our email will probably get lost if our colleagues’ inbox is overflowing.
Instant messaging tools are the ideal solution for teams stuck in unnecessary email threads or who want to collaborate in real-time without dealing with the time lag that comes inboxes.
One of our favorite tools is Slack. It’s a simple, easy-to-use instant messenger that you can use to communicate individually or on team threads in real-time.
Our favorite feature in Slack is the #channels feature. Channels can be created for different teams, so your design team doesn’t hear what invoices the finance department is chasing, and they’re also a great place to increase productivity. Instead of hauling your team in for lengthy morning meetings, you can use Slack’s morning stand-up feature to get a quick rundown of what everyone is working on that day:
Pro-tip: If you use Workvivo for your social intranet, you can take advantage of Slack’s instant messaging features by integrating the app into your activity feed. So even when your team doesn’t have Slack open, they won’t miss out on any important messages!
Tool 4 – Voice & Video Conferencing Tools
Over the last year, we’ve all adjusted to meeting with each other through a screen rather than in person—and this trend is likely to stick.
Adding voice and video conferencing tools to your tech stack is a must. These tools aren’t just a way for your team to meet up and discuss projects, but they’re also a perfect solution to talking to customers remotely and networking with potential clients.
Depending on what tool you choose, setting up a video call with your team is as easy as setting a meeting time, sharing a link with them, and waiting for them to join. A tool like Zoom (which now has over 300 million users!) allows you to host meetings, share presentations, and connect with clients from anywhere.
Just sign up for a (free!) account—and get chatting.
Once the meeting starts, you can share your screen and link files with up to 25 team members. And if somebody can’t make the meeting, you can record it and send it to them once you’re done!
Nice to know: If you are using lots of apps, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Thankfully using a tool like Workvivo, you can use the App Launcher to integrate and use apps straight from the dashboard. Zoom’s integration with Workvivo allows your team to launch video meetings directly from their social intranet, saving them the time of switching between applications.
Tool 5 – Document Collaboration Tools
Collaboration tools are a must-have for any team.
Picture what a workspace would look like without a document collaboration tool—how is it possible for a team to join forces and work together on a project without them? There are plenty of document collaboration tools to choose from, and the best part about it is—lots of them are free.
We recommend a suite like Google Workspace, which allows teams to collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, slides, and forms. You can simply share a link with a teammate and then comment, make suggestions, and edit projects in real-time.
Tool 6 – Knowledge Center Tools
Educating your team about as many aspects of your company as possible is a great way to motivate them and build up their knowledge about your product.
The hard part is finding the time to educate them. Holding meetings and sending out hefty information packs isn’t the best way to motivate them to learn more about your company and empower them to solve problems on their own.
But one tool that can do all that is a knowledge center.
A knowledge center, or “base”, is basically a library where companies can store policies, training documents, wikis, and much more. It’s also a place you can make company announcements, update mission statements, and brainstorm company goals.
A communication tool like Notion allows you to build an organized knowledge base and easily update documents when needed.
And if you are in the early stages of creating a knowledge center, it’s perfect for that too. When you are writing guides, you can tag-team members into the document and ask them whether or not anything should be added:
Once all the guides are finished, the rest of your team can self-diagnose problems and use the knowledge base to freshen up on policy and culture standards.
Tool 7 – File Sharing Tools
Collaboration tools are one thing, but you need to be able to share files with the rest of your team as well.
Without a way to share files, your team is at the mercy of relying on email to share and manage documents. Not only can this hurt productivity, but it also makes it easier for files and folders to get lost in inboxes.
Adding a file-sharing tool to your communication tech stack allows your team to link files and folders using a simple URL link. For example, using a tool like Dropbox, you can use a secure link to send anything from images to videos and zipped folders to anyone on your team.
And unlike email, there’s no file size limit, so you can share large files without having to worry about condensing them and losing quality.
Tool 8 – Employee Directory Software
Building a good team environment starts with getting to know each other.
It’s almost impossible to do that if you are working in a dispersed or remote company and you don’t know the roles and responsibilities of everyone on your team. Even for small businesses, each team member must know the organizational layout and hierarchy of the company, so they know who to contact when they have a question or need information.
The solution? Using an employee directory.
They work like an old-fashioned Rolodex: they keep information about each employee, their role, responsibilities, and place in the company’s organizational structure. Each employee will also have a picture of themselves (so they’re easier to recognize in Zoom meetings!) and contact information to make it easy for other team members to reach out to them if they need to.
If you are already using a tool like Workvivo for your social intranet, the good news is employee directory software is included. With Workvivo’s People Directory and Organizational Chart, your team can use the search feature to find the right person to contact.
Tool 9 – Internal blogs, videos & updates
If your team isn’t interacting with internal content and lacks knowledge about products and announcements, alarm bells should be ringing.
A warning sign that your internal communications are in trouble is if your team just isn’t interacting with the content you are sharing with them. Part of the problem is that businesses don’t treat internal marketing with the same importance as marketing to customers, which Harvard Business Review says is a mistake. In his essay “selling the brand inside,” Colin Mitchell says that it’s hard for employees to emotionally connect to the products they are selling without internal marketing.
“Without that connection, employees are likely to undermine the expectations set by your advertising.”
“In some cases, this is because they simply don’t understand what you have promised the public, so they end up working at cross-purposes. In other cases, it may be they don’t actually believe in the brand and feel disengaged or, worse, hostile toward the company. “
You can overcome this by creating internal content like internal company blogs, videos, and podcasts that are just as interesting as the content you would produce for customers. By creating training videos and interactive podcasts, you can boost content engagement and directly link your C-Level leadership to every employee in the company.
Tool 10 – Analytics
A big part of getting your internal communications right is knowing what content your team is actually reading.
If you are in the dark about how engaged your team is, it’s hard to know what type of content they want to consume and whether or not your current efforts are going to waste. Adding an analytics tool to your tech stack can help uncover sentiment and show how happy your team is and learn about their behaviour when interacting with content.
Using pulse surveys, for example, can give you an insight into everything from how engaged your team is to how much trust they have in your company and how satisfied they are with their overall role.
Tool 11 – Discussion forums
Sharing information and discussing solutions to problems is essential to team growth and productivity.
The problem for some workplaces is that they lack the space for these discussions to happen. Without a dedicated space, it’s hard for employees to ask questions, share knowledge, and talk about new ideas and trends.
Building discussion forums can solve this. Discussion forums are like micro-communities where your team can talk about common interests, share perspectives, and encourage creativity. They don’t have to be all about work, either. Discussion forums can be used as a community-led approach to communication where your team has a place to just bond and talk without being tied to productivity or projects.
At Workvivo, we use discussion forums (called Spaces) to talk about everything from culture and diversity to events and social activities.
Spaces allow people from across the organization to collaborate around topics on a whole different level. Much more effective than your instant chat channel!
Share knowledge, brainstorm, or ask questions in these common interest groups.
Spaces can be public, private, mandatory, or optional.
Tool 12 – Email management
Whether you like it or not, email has its place in every company.
The problem with how email is used in modern workplaces. Some companies use internal blast emails from faceless CEOs to share company news or make product announcements (which unsurprisingly are mostly ignored.) And CC’ing and BCC’ing in colleagues is a sure-fire way to get communication buried in a busy inbox.
With the right communication tool, you can reimagine the place email has within your tech stack. For example, email management tools like Rooftop allow your team to work within shared inboxes and collaborate on customer emails.
You can even set up rules, so emails are automatically routed to the correct person, and instead of CC’ing and BCC’ing a team member, @mention them so they’ll get the memo!
Tool 13 – Communication tool for social media content
The final tool to add to your tech stack will make it easier for your team to share and interact with social media content.
Social media content tools allow your team to schedule posts in advance, track what content your audience is engaging with, and save time by writing posts in bulk.
Using apps like Buffer or Hootsuite help your team post content on your social media channel of choice. You can even preview posts to see how assets like images and videos will look, which is important because platforms like Instagram have different dimensions to Twitter and Facebook.
Schedule social media posts to appear on different platforms using Buffer
Social media tools can help with your internal communications, too. By linking social media platforms to your intranet, you encourage your team to share announcements and content to their personal feeds. For example, Workvivo’s social media integrations make it easy for your team to share internal links straight from the social intranet to their personal Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Workvivo Will Work With Your Current Tool Stack
Making sure all the communication tools work together is as important as finding the right ones.
Housing your entire tech stack under one roof makes it easy for your team to access each tool when they need it.
By using a digital workplace like Workvivo, you can connect existing social media and instant messaging tools to streamline your entire tech stack. For Enterprise companies looking for customized communications, Workvivo’s open API leaves the door open for developers to create any integration requirement they need.
But the best part about Workvivo’s employee engagement app is that it makes communication fun again. Forget about boring company emails or pointless meetings. Workvivo brings workplace communication back to where it belongs—where humans discuss ideas, share common interests, and most importantly, get stuff done.
Want to see how you can revolutionize your tech stack? Book a demo with Workvivo here!