Internal communication is the transmission of information between organizational members or parts of the organization. It takes place across all levels and organizational units of an organization.
Organizations employ a broad range of internal communication strategies, including vertical, horizontal, formal, and informal communication. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Vertical communication occurs within the formal organizational hierarchical structure. A message may start at the top and be transmitted down at each level of the hierarchy until it reaches the bottom level. Responses are communicated back up the chain of command in reverse order until it reaches the top level.
For example, a corporation’s president announces a new personal leave policy and sends a memo to each divisional vice president who passes the memo along to their respective department heads. The department heads send the memo down to their unit supervisors who send it to their team leaders who then distribute it to their team members.
Horizontal communication occurs when the transmission of information is between people within the same level of the organizational hierarchy. Sometimes horizontal communication is referred to as lateral communication. Horizontal communication can be very effective when different divisions need to corroborate on the same project because they don’t have to wait for communications from one division to run up to the top to be filtered down to the other division.
For example, an auto company may be designing a new prototype that requires the attention of the research and development division, the marketing and sales division, and the production division. With horizontal communication, the heads of each of these divisions can coordinate with each other to ensure efficient and effective completion of the prototype.
Formal communication is any organizational communication that uses the organization’s formally-recognized channels of communication. Examples include formal organizational meetings, presentations, workshops, memos, and reports. Most official business is conducted through these formal channels of communications.