For many internal communications teams, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. As COVID-19 catalyzed unique disruptions and caused workforces to disperse, the spotlight shifted to corporate messaging. Suddenly, every employee began to look toward internal comms for real-time updates, policy changes, and messages from senior leadership that would provide guidance and reassurance during moments of challenge.
With all eyes now on internal communications, teams must go the extra mile to ensure their strategy continues to engage. However, cracking the code for compelling internal communications is no easy task, particularly as the world of work changes at an unprecedented clip.
Consequently, every internal communications team must ask themselves the same question: what are the trends that will revolutionize our strategy in the years to come?
IC will have a prominent seat at the decision-making table
Internal communicators have long known that effective communication is not only critical to driving change in the workplace. It also plays a major role in the overall success of a company. However, many IC colleagues have been frustrated in their attempts to convince decision-makers to invest in the benefits of internal communication.
With the coronavirus crisis far from over, many executives have finally realized the true value of effective communication that reaches the right people at the right time with news on lockdowns and reopenings, safety measures, and guidelines. Leaders have also looked to IC management to quickly drive traditionally softer aims, those that ensure cultural alignment, engagement and wellness. Comms management is now given a new tenet to ensure that businesses remain integrated, even when apart. A net positive but will pile on the pressure to already stressed IC managers
In addition to all the operational steps, it’s also important to provide employees with transparent and up-to-date communication. This will keep their motivation high and give them the opportunity to exchange and share stories and experiences. It’s now all the more important to provide people with comprehensive information in order to minimize uncertainty and worry. Everyone needs to be “on board,” or else change will be hard to manage in 2021.
IC will make leaders better communicators
In crisis situations, people want to know the truth. And they want to hear it in a calm and thoughtful manner from the people sitting behind the wheel: “Everything is going to be okay.” Imagine the chaos if a pilot shouted into the microphone in a panicky voice that we’re in for a bumpy ride and that everyone should fasten their seat belts and say a prayer, but that we’ll all be fine?
In 2021, an important trend is to empower managers to communicate better, more authentically, and more empathetically.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, in 2020, CEOs ranked last in the question of who’s doing an outstanding job meeting the demands placed on them by the pandemic. As a communication professional, one of your main tasks is to advise leadership on how to communicate better. Given the variety of their own challenges, problems, and personal worries, it would be fatal if managers were to get caught up in the maelstrom of misinformation or simply parrot the voices of others.
Therefore, comms management will now ever likely take on responsibilities in the internal public relations sphere.
Using the right technology, IC will become more human
This is a bold idea. What’s the right technology for internal communication? And how can technology of all things make communication more human?
It’s clear that digital channels are important in the here and now. Discussions are already moving towards artificial intelligence, bots, and machine learning. That’s all well and good (and certainly part of the future for internal comms).
But if we’re being honest, the IC landscape is not quite there yet. Very often (at least before the pandemic), formats such as notices, letters, or even printed employee newspapers were the way to go. However, these aren’t future-proof options for the many daily communication tasks ahead. Digitization is unstoppable and only accelerated by the coronavirus crisis.
This is hardly surprising, as it’s more important than ever to reach every employee in a company. What has always been one of the greatest challenges for communicators was exaggerated by the pandemic.
Though an emergent issue arose – that of comms saturation, employees felt (/feel) ‘always on’ with sustained remote collaboration and calls. We’d hope that pockets, windows and digital events being more common throughout 2021, those that punctuate the working day with messaging at the right time, and offer employees engagement options, rather than rolling content. This is something at Beem, we really stand behind!
IC will transform and become even more relevant to target groups
Employees want to be informed more and more. The Edelman Trust Barometer has shown that employers expect to be updated regularly on COVID-19, with 63% asking for daily information and 20% even wanting communications several times a day.
This is of course a two-way street: companies should also take great interest in keeping employees informed. Transparent communication not only creates trust but also increases productivity. Employees who are well informed and up-to-date can concentrate more fully on their daily work.
This willingness to inform and communicate naturally turns into the complete opposite when employees are flooded with news. An information overflow is usually the point when employees will start getting annoyed and stop engaging, a situation dreaded by all communicators.
Especially in 2021, targeted, relevant communication based on the information needs of specific target groups within your organization is therefore indispensable.
IC will be authentic, relevant, and direct
Internal communication must be authentic and take individual needs into account, allow for emotion, and be available to everyone. So, IC is no longer merely a corporate newsroom, but an enabler of active communication for people on all levels of the company. This starts with leadership, but it’s important for all employees.
2021 will be the year in which you should literally give every employee a voice. It doesn’t get more authentic. Challenge your employees with video contests and gamify their day: opportunities such as these ones will arise in 2021, and we can certainly say that it was great to hear the real “voices” of our colleagues and see their creative ideas!
So, if 2020 was the year to react to the unexpected, 2021 will be the year to be bold and to try new things. Use your newly gained seat at the table of decision-makers to finally make a case for your ideas. We’re sure that your employees will appreciate your authenticity. And with any luck, the “just do it” mentality will inspire more and more employees to share their stories and become active participants in your company culture.