How Design Thinking Can Improve Internal Communications

Helen Marukh


Internal Communications

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving approach that prioritizes empathy and user needs. Use design thinking for internal communications to reach and connect with employees more effectively.

When was the last time you revisited your internal communications strategy? As organizations evolve, so do their communication needs. Big changes—such as growth, staff turnover, and new internal communication tools—all impact what employees need from their organizations. That’s why staying adaptable and open to new approaches is essential.

One approach that’s gaining traction is design thinking. This method isn’t just for products and services; it can also revolutionize your internal communications.

In this blog post, we’ll explore design thinking for internal communications and touch on how ContactMonkey can help you integrate design thinking into your corporate communication processes. By embracing this powerful concept, you can continuously improve how you connect with your team and deliver messages that resonate with employees.

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What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a user-centered approach that emphasizes empathy and prioritizes user needs throughout the design process. The concept originated in engineering, but has expanded into a general practice that can be applied in a variety of fields.

While there are various ways to practice design thinking, most designers recognize five key steps:

  1. Empathize: Engage with users to understand their needs, motivations, and behaviours.
  2. Define: Clearly articulate the problems users are facing from their perspective
  3. Ideate: Focus on the problem identified, and generate as many creative ideas for solutions as possible without premature judgment. 
  4. Prototype: Choose a potential solution and create a scaled-down version to test feasibility and gather feedback.
  5. Test: Gather user feedback and iterate based on the data collected. 

Most importantly, design thinking is not a linear process. Instead, it’s an ongoing iterative practice wherein designers revisit previous steps as they gain new insights and data. 

For example, data you gather during testing can help you generate new viewpoints for the empathize and define stages. Now that we’re aligned on the concept, let’s zero in on design thinking for internal communications.

5 Ways to Implement Design Thinking for High-Impact Internal Communications

For many communicators, bringing design thinking and communication together isn’t just intuitive, it could actually be similar to their current approach. 

That being said, deliberately leveraging design thinking for employee engagement helps comms professionals make more informed and strategic choices to improve employees’ experiences with their communications.

Let’s look at some examples of using design thinking in internal communications and how they establish better communication throughout your organization. 

1. Continuously refine your communication strategy over time. 

Design thinking is an iterative process that emphasizes continuous renewal over time based on user response. When viewed through the lens of design thinking, your communication strategy should be a living document that evolves with your organization’s needs. 

In other words, a design thinking approach to employee communications is one that acknowledges that your strategy will never be static or “finished”. While ostensibly obvious, many communicators do not have a systematized process in place for auditing and revising their strategy based on user feedback and data. 

Implementing a more formal process for reviewing and revising your internal communication roadmap helps you take on a design thinking mindset. 

How ContactMonkey can help:

For every email you send through ContactMonkey, you can view detailed tracking data and analytics on your data overview dashboard. These detailed analytics help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your current internal communication strategy.

ContactMonkey's internal email analytics

See campaign comparisons to track improvement over time as you refine and improve your strategy based on hard data. 

Real-time analytics that get it right

Discover where your employees are clicking, the best times to engage them, and which content resonates best.

2. Orient your communications around employees’ needs 

At the heart of it, design thinking is about empathy and understanding—specifically concerning the needs, motivations, and challenges of the end-user. For internal communicators, that end-user is the employee. 

Combining design thinking and internal communication means focusing on more than just transmitting information to employees. It means taking the time to understand what topics employees find most relevant and tailoring communications to reflect those priorities. This shouldn’t be guesswork, but informed by actual employee interactions.

Frequent surveys will help you get a better understanding of what your employees are actually thinking about and what would be most useful for them.

How ContactMonkey can help:

ContactMonkey’s survey features let you include pulse surveys in any email you send. Embed eNPS surveys directly into emails to get an overall picture of employee engagement at your organization.

ContactMonkey's eNPS options

Make employees feel more comfortable to answer honestly with the anonymous feedback feature.

Using ContactMonkey’s list management capabilities, you can segment sending lists by department, location, or other filters, thus ensuring communications are relevant to all recipients. Employee needs differ between teams and depending on employee circumstances. Being empathetic to the unique needs of different employee groups and targeting communications accordingly is a great way to use the power of design thinking for improving employee experience. 

3. Take a collaborative approach when “prototyping” communications 

While internal communication might not involve formal “prototyping” like in engineering, you can think of drafts as prototypes that need testing before being sent out. This often means putting drafts in front of multiple sets of eyes to deliver the optimal end product.

One way of using design thinking for internal emails is building in checkpoints with stakeholders during the drafting process. Try seeking input from various departments, teams, and individuals to gain a variety of perspectives. This collaborative approach will help you identify blind spots, generate new ideas, and create a more effective communication strategy overall.

How ContactMonkey can help:

ContactMonkey’s email builder features built-in collaboration tools that allow communicators to share their drafts with stakeholders and receive comments and feedback directly in the email builder. 

ContactMonkey email collaboration

4. Get employee feedback on your internal communications

Use design thinking for employee newsletters by embedding pulse surveys to ask for feedback directly in the emails you send. Embedded pulse surveys allow employees to provide immediate feedback while their first impression of your comms is still fresh.

By including questions related to the clarity and relevance of the messages, you can gain valuable insights into what is and isn’t working. This real-time feedback allows for timely adjustments and improvements to be made, keeping your internal communications engaging and impactful.

How ContactMonkey can help: 

Add quick pulse surveys to your emails asking for feedback on the communications you send. Choose from multiple survey options, including star ratings, emoji reactions, yes/no, and thumbs up/thumbs down. 

ContactMonkey survey options

Turn emails into engaging conversations

5. Use heatmaps to gain qualitative and quantitative insights

User surveys and interactions may not always reveal why parts of your communication strategy are ineffective. Employees might simply be unaware of why they don’t find a piece of content, like a particular link in a newsletter, appealing. 

In such cases, tools like heat maps/click maps offer a great design thinking-informed solution for internal communicators. Click maps overlay actual engagement numbers onto a webpage or newsletter, enabling communicators to combine quantitative and qualitative insights. 

Because heat maps give you a visual map of the user journey, communicators can more easily empathize with the user experience of their audience. This helps to identify potential problems and uncover solutions that are informed by both data and empathy.  

How ContactMonkey can help: 

Emails you send through ContactMonkey not only track opens and clicks, but allow you to view a detailed click map report for your newsletters to help you understand what parts of your design are getting the most and least engagement.

ContactMonkey click maps feature

Strengthen Your Communication Strategy With Design Thinking for Your Employee Communications

Adapting design thinking for communication professionals involves bringing the principles of design thinking into communications. These principles include: 

  • Centering user needs and experience
  • Iteration
  • Continuous and repeated testing

When you use design thinking in your internal communications, you can be more strategic about the changes you make to employee outreach. 

Employee communication tools like ContactMonkey help you to make user-informed decisions about your internal comms, implement changes with ease, and track effectiveness for continuous iterative improvements. 

Interested in finding out how ContactMonkey can integrate into your internal communication strategy? Book a free demo with one of our experts to see our solution first-hand.

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