I recently returned to the world of internal communication after nine months off to have my son. It’s been a pivotal time for internal communicators, not to mention exhausting, and I’ve watched and listened in awe as our profession more than rose to the occasion.
Here, I summarise a few key topics that stood out for me and how internal communicators can maintain our newfound momentum.
Internal communications matters
Well, obviously. But it seems that many organisations woke up to that fact pretty abruptly in March 2020. Internal communicators were called upon like never before and played an enormous role in how employees across the world adjusted to new ways of working.
66% of respondents say their level of influence on senior leaders has increased over the course of 2020 – Gallagher Gatehouse State of the Sector 2021
In the beginning, much of what was communicated was reactive (whoever thought holding government briefings to the nation at 5pm was a good idea??) and IC pros’ crisis and change comms experience proved invaluable.
However, we now have influence, and the eyes of leadership are upon us, so it’s time to get our houses in order.
Every year the Gallagher Gatehouse State of the Sector report reveals low numbers of IC pros with long-term strategies, and this year in no different:
Just 40% have an overarching strategy in place to cover a period of more than one year (although this is up from 33% in 2020)
Now that we have the attention of leadership, we need to seize the opportunity and show them just how strategic we can be. Measure, measure, measure and use this insight to inform your strategy.
Organisations can’t ignore the outside world
In the past year, the world watched on in horror at the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and their deaths were just the tip of the iceberg.
Employees waited while leaders around the world debated whether they should make a public comment. For many it was a double-edged sword; to stay silent would draw criticism from employees and customers/clients but saying something could also expose the unaddressed inequalities within their own organisations.
It was a wake-up call that was long overdue, and as leaders turn their attentions to inclusion and diversity, internal comms has an enormous role to play.
Internal communicators need to listen to employees, understand what needs to change and feed that back to the business. We need to challenge and push back on internal communication that pays lip service to critical issues. We need to ensure our communications include a diverse range of voices and that we don’t only look at issues through one very narrow lens.
Our relationship with IT has never been more important
The days of presenteeism are now far behind us. In the early days of the pandemic, organisations had to scramble to ensure their tech met the needs of entire workforces working from home. For example, companies that always insisted upon written signatures from clients switched to electronic ones almost overnight and found it sped up their processes (who would have thought?).
So, as organisations embrace technology in a new way, it’s the perfect time to ensure internal comms is part of the conversation. Understanding your IT roadmap is a must. And in turn, the IT team needs to understand the role of IC and what employees need from their communication tools now that the way we work has fundamentally shifted.
How do we provide opportunities for human connection through technology? Are we using tech that isn’t fit for purpose but we’re reluctant to change it because of the time and money spent on it? What is the future going to look like and how can we be ready for it (for example, are you thinking about AI, or making it possible for employees to choose how they receive communication?). Questions like these need to be part of our discussions with IT.
“Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it.” Aubrey De Graf
The past year has brought many challenges, but it’s also presented opportunities to make positive changes to our workplaces and society as a whole. There’s a lot of work to do and change won’t happen overnight, but now is the time to make a real difference.
By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas
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