While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge the world, one thing is starting to become certain: today’s workplace is changing. While working during the pandemic has been challenging and sometimes difficult to navigate, it has also highlighted the need for many ongoing improvements to make workplaces run more efficiently.
Internal communication in many ways is the lifeblood of an organization. It keeps employees informed and engaged so they can focus on achieving corporate goals. It keeps people and company culture connected. It ensures information flows in every direction and helps to build a cohesive team and a positive work environment.
Internal communications professionals already know why strong employee communication is critical to driving change in the workplace and its overall success, but have often been frustrated in their attempts to take senior leadership along on the journey to improving it and investing in it.
However, the changes to the ways workplaces function during COVID-19 has put a spotlight on internal communication practices and highlighted any deficiencies companies may have experienced in the past, and also an urgent need to develop and implement practical solutions.
The changing face of internal communications during the pandemic
Companies have had to get on the front-foot quickly to overhaul internal communications to ensure their companies function smoothly and efficiently during the pandemic.
Internal communications best practice dictates that when introducing change in the workplace, employees should be kept informed about important information in a timely manner, communication should be clear and concise and delivered via effective channels.
The pandemic has helped to focus on the benefits of internal communication, changing the way we communicate, what we should communicate, and how often we communicate.
Many organizations have enrolled internal news teams and quickly refactored their channels to ensure that, when apart they can be together, from internal content to collaboration. Caught off guard, many enterprises will now be signal monitoring for further disruption to modes of working
The digital transformation of internal communications
As many companies have transferred their employees to remote work, they are finding that they can communicate more quickly and effectively via digital channels. This includes online team/sharing platforms, pop-up messages, video conferencing, and more.
In some companies, not everyone is working remotely. Some may have a combination of staff working from their usual workplace while everyone else is at home. And in other workplaces there is no option to work from home: staff needs to remain on-site in essential roles.
These employees need to be contactable at all times in the event of an emergency such as a positive COVID case in the workplace.
It’s, therefore, become obvious that companies need to be equipped with communication tools that can reach people quickly no matter where they are.
Organisations have had to quickly fast forward their digital workplace strategies at speed, on the backfoot and in response to instability, many providers like Beem have stepped in to quickly shore up internal channels to ensure cohesion is maintained. Brands are unlikely to be as reliant on company value and cultures transmitted through physical spaces and behaviour, as this has shown to be highly exposed to rapid change and therefore less dependable as a channel for workplace ‘messaging’
An increased focus on timely and factual information
The situation with the pandemic means things are constantly changing: directives, policies, and news being shared with employees will change often.
When something important happens, it’s critical to share accurate information about it quickly with employees. If there is a time-lag, people may continue to act in a way contrary to what the company would like. This can include endangering their own health and safety.
When there is no news from management, a void can be created that can be filled with speculation, rumour, and misinformation. During the pandemic, there are many conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and fake news stories that circulate on social media. It’s important for companies to address these and communicate with staff before they take a foothold.
A greater focus on employee wellbeing
Employee health and wellbeing has often been a focus of internal communications, but now more so than ever.
In addition to the coronavirus itself potentially affecting employees and their families, there is a range of other mental health and workplace health issues that could arise during this time. Isolated, stressed, and worried employees may be struggling with their mental health and need to access programs and activities that can help them cope. During COVID employee wellness programs are especially important.
There’s also a need for remote employees to ensure they have a safe workplace so they are not injured while working from home, and therefore are needing more information about the appropriate steps to take.
Many organizations are now sending more pulse surveys than they ever have before to determine how employees are feeling and what they may need assistance with.
Leaders are starting to value employee communication far more
Think about the corporate world 20 years ago: the internal communications function in many organizations did not enjoy the same status as external communications functions such as media relations, public relations, and stakeholder management. Many times it was seen as an afterthought – the final thing that comms teams ticked off a to-do list after they took care of the other functions first.
And it wasn’t just senior leaders like CEOs and executives with this attitude – quite often it would come from the senior communications managers in the company too. It reflected in part traditional hierarchies within organizations where it was decided that employees didn’t need to know everything that was going on.
But over the past 2 decades, we’ve learned that poor, or no, internal comms leads to:
- lower levels of engagement
- lower morale
- resentment when employees of a company feel like they are the last to know something important about their organization.
External communications and client interactions cannot be authentic if your employees are not informed enough to do so!
Is there a single company in the world right now that can afford any of the above? We don’t think so, and the pandemic has had its role in helping internal communication becoming a necessity for companies, supporting rapid change in the workplace.
Leaders are learning that they need to communicate better, in an authentic voice, in a timely manner, and in new ways to reach their employees, and many are embracing it enthusiastically.
Many people expect when the pandemic is over, life will go back to being the same as it was. This is unrealistic. The pandemic has shown that different ways of working are possible, and many people will be reluctant to give up the flexibility and work/life balance that they’ve experienced since the pandemic began.