The 3 types of
internal communication

3 types of internal communication - Upward, Downward, Cross-functionnal

Internal communication refers to all communication actions within a company. It aims to facilitate the exchange of information (results, major decisions, various events), especially between management and employees. According to a study by the Observatory of Working Life, about 25% of employees feel that internal communication is insufficient in their company.

However, this study also showed that employees consider internal communication as an essential factor in their well-being and motivation at work. Hence the importance, as an organization, to seriously consider this issue. In this article, we will therefore see what the three main types of internal communication are, as well as their role and objectives, accompanied by a list of good practices to implement.

Upward Communication

Upward communication is a type of communication in which the information shared comes from the employees. It is therefore the reverse of what is traditionally observed in companies, where information is disseminated from management to employees.

This mode of communication is characterized by its fluidity and openness. It allows employees to participate in the company's strategy and to freely propose their ideas, thus establishing a form of participatory democracy within the organization. As such, it is an ideal tool to promote innovation in the company. However, for this system to work, a strict framework must be set.

Best Practices

Good practices in upward communication are based on several key principles.

Firstly, it must be regular and consistent with the company's strategy, with clear and concise messages to avoid any loss of information.

Secondly, it is important that leaders are accessible and open, thus encouraging open dialogue and a culture of transparency.

Finally, the use of various communication channels tailored to the target audience (suggestion boxes, meetings, discussion groups, etc.) ensures the effective dissemination of messages.

Tools for Upward Communication

Downward Communication

Downward communication is the most common type of internal communication. It involves transmitting information from the company's management to the employees (hence the name: information “descends” to the collaborators). Downward communication is based on a hierarchical system where the management makes decisions and then communicates them to the employees.

While it is still heavily present within companies, it is increasingly giving way to other forms of communication. Indeed, downward communication is often criticized for its rigidity, even though it also serves to establish a framework and ensure the proper dissemination to employees of the projects and objectives to pursue.

Best Practices

Effective downward communication should reflect the values and DNA of the company. For instance, it is advisable to avoid using Anglicisms and "young" language when one is a traditional large enterprise! This would only cause confusion among employees. Thus, it is important to remember that good downward communication should be consistent to promote a sense of belonging among collaborators.

Similarly, the messages disseminated must be as clear as possible, and the communication channels varied enough to reach as many employees as possible: written support is obviously important, but oral communication must also be part of the company's communication strategy.

A culture of feedback can also be established, which shows teams that their opinions are important and taken into account.

Tools for Downward Communication

  • Displays, provided they are strategically placed
  • Digital Workplaces
  • Company newsletters
  • Internal social networks
  • Instant messaging
  • Team meetings, to be held regularly

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Cross-Functional Communication

Also known as horizontal communication, cross-functional communication is about facilitating exchanges among all members of a company, regardless of their hierarchical level.

When used appropriately, cross-functional communication fosters teamwork and information sharing among employees. It also helps to strengthen the company culture by creating a sense of unity and commitment to a common goal. In other words, it is an excellent way to encourage collaboration between teams.

However, be cautious of the pitfalls of this type of communication, which can sometimes be too pervasive. It is important to balance it to allow employees to focus on their core business, avoiding spending too much time in meetings, for example.

Best Practices

It is necessary to be cautious with this type of communication, which, if implemented too quickly or outside a well-defined framework, can weaken an organization rather than improve it. Firstly, it is important to establish solid bridges between the different hierarchical levels. This ensures that cross-functional communication blends well with the traditional functioning of the company. Also, avoid proposing exchanges that are too frequent or time-consuming, which could impede information sharing.

Secondly, it is necessary to train employees in cross-functional communication, which can sometimes be disconcerting. By clarifying everyone's missions and providing clear explanations about the functioning of this type of communication, employees will be able to adopt it quickly and easily.

Finally, companies must keep in mind that it is better to avoid implementing a cross-functional communication mode if it does not correspond to their sector of activity. Despite its advantages, this type of communication is not applicable to all organizations. Thus, a traditional means of communication that works well is preferable to a more modern way of communication but which is less coherent with the company's model.

Tools for Cross-Functional Communication

  • Meetings (physical or remote)
  • Informal exchange times
  • Discussion groups
  • Communication platforms, ideally favoring a single, centralized tool


Internal communication is an essential tool for organizations. Today, it is unquestionable to go without it! Indeed, it helps to reinforce the company culture, to facilitate the exchange of information, and to improve collaboration between teams. However, be careful, while all types of internal communication have their advantages, not all are suitable.

In fact, before making a choice, it is important to take into account the specificities of the company. For example, upward or cross-functional communication types are not transferable to all organizations...

Finally, we must keep in mind that traditional forms of internal communication (known as "downward") are not necessarily to be avoided, as long as they are within a clear framework and are governed by coherent rules. Moreover, there is nothing to prevent the mixing of different types of internal communication, in accordance with the peculiarities of the company.



The 3 types of internal communication - challenges & goals

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