Looking Ahead: The Future Role of Internal Communications
The drivers of change in internal communications aren’t tools and technology, they come from the business and its people.
When thinking about the future of in internal communications, we often think about developments in technology and the possible channels we may be able to use to communicate to employees, e.g. isn’t there an app we can use to update Linda’s team in Liverpool?
However, there is more to internal communications than screens and cables. To be truly effective in the way you communicate to staff, you need to understand how people work (together) and how this changes over time.
Here are some of the top business trends I’ve picked up this year so far:
Trust and transparency top the agenda
In a post-recession era, many organisations – and not just big banking – are slowly rebuilding trust with their customers, but also with their employees. Companies who haven’t made this a priority are slowly losing customers and employees to competitors.
It’s no surprise that we can see investments being made into ‘employer branding’ and more engaging content.
Ultimately communications campaigns seem to becoming more transparent, factual and collaborative: closed boardroom meetings and corporate reports are being replaced by online conferences and blogs.
Architecture to promote collaboration
Themes of trust and transparency carry through into modern architecture, where new office designs now offer more collaborative spaces and flexible desk units.
These new ways of working affect the way employees communicate with each other, but also how employers reach out to them. There is a clear trend of communications to become an enabler for open, transparent, and collaborative conversations amongst staff – be it digitally or face-to-face.
We tend to customise communications to the way teams work with each other, and think about when, how and where they receive information.
Smarter spending and streamlining
Many corporations continue to tighten their belts and streamline the workforce – Barclay’s loss of 19,000 jobs over the next three years is just one example (1) – and I often notice clients’ hesitancy when being asked to spend big. This is only justified. Because investing smart should be a priority, and even small technology investments can have a big impact.
Customised business applications and social media campaigns are slowly taking over expensive events and print campaigns. We can see continuous growth in collaborative technologies such as intranets and enterprise social networks.
Better access to communications
International workers bring different ways of working and culturally different communications preferences with them. At the same time we see a quicker turn-around of employees across most industries.*
These factors increase employee diversity, and there is real employee demand for a larger choice of communications channels; a prerogative only supported by digital media.
Today’s workforce also demands flexibility, e.g. working from home or working late at night is become more and more common. There is a strong movement towards implementing a ‘mobile use only’ workforce, and in some instances the encouragement of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (4), both of which bring additional flexibility to employee’s ways of working, but also change the way employers communicate to them.
Internal campaigns have started to embrace the ‘mobile comes first’ (5) movement, and have started to design content for mobile technologies only.
Rising investments into data protection
Last but not least, the growth in new technologies also requires a look-out for further security protocols. No company should ever live without its social media rules and a sound crisis communications manual.
Monitoring communications and engaging employees through community management ensures all stakeholders get their say, knowledge isn’t lost, and different communities feel engaged and appreciated at all times.
Over all, we can see some clear trends dominating internal communications – such as more collaborative employee platforms and transparent communications. Make the most of them, and never stop listening to what people have to say.
Employee opinions will help you understand which communications work, and which ones do not, and they will help you prepare for the future.
*Less and less UK employees remain in the same position for more than three years. (2) Government has also phased out retirement age (3) and our working population ages more quickly. At the same time younger workforces starts to arrive on-site as unpaid interns.
- Barclay’s loss of 19,000 jobs over the next three years is just one example