With the hybrid workplace becoming the norm, it's more important than ever to have an effective and engaging communications strategy. More people are working from home more often, so employees and managers have had to adopt new methods of connecting and communicating. Here are some of the major ways that the hybrid workplace is affecting internal communications in the near future:
Internal communications are elevated
It's been a longtime struggle to convince the c-suite that the internal communications role is as crucial to success as any other business operation. Investment and inclusion have often been elusive, but 2020 changed that. The rapid move to a remote and hybrid workforce put internal comms in the spotlight.
Suddenly, IC professionals have a seat at the table, being included in business strategy, and receiving long-requested budgets for staff, technology and training. But it's not all celebration – with this more visible role workloads have skyrocketed, and accountability is at the forefront (more on that later).
Internal communications are increasingly strategizing not only with executives, but also with IT, HR and front-line managers. Everyone has recognized that they are all targeting the same audiences, and that their messages can blend, overlap and reinforce each other. These teams are now working together to coordinate, prioritize and plan messaging campaigns and calendars to the great benefit of employees who used to get separate, sometimes conflicting communications.
Employee experience is key
Employee experience is the journey an employee has with the organization from onboarding through retirement, and it encompasses the workplace, relationships and wellbeing. HR has been focusing on the employee experience for a few years now, but recently internal communications teams are taking up the reigns.
The hybrid workplace offers a new employee experience. It's increasingly remote and increasingly digital, which presents both challenges and opportunities. A positive employee experience demands constant care. It's as much about culture as it is day-to-day tasks. It should be organic, holistic and carry over into every interaction and communication.
Effective internal communication and a good employee experience lets everyone – whether in the office or out – to fully participate, develop and succeed.
Millennials and Gen Z account for a little over a third of today's workforce. These workers are extremely tech-savvy and mobile-dependent. Communicators who want to reach and engage them will need to adopt mobile tech solutions that match their habits and preferences.
Many organizations have either launched or expanded their digital communications in 2020, deploying enterprise messaging apps like Teams, as well as collaboration apps, chat bots and other mobile-friendly tools. Intranets were redesigned to be responsive, everyone got a crash course in videoconferencing etiquette, and internal comms expanded the number of channels it had to manage.
Moving forward, those channels need to be streamlined, optimized and fully adopted by the hybrid workforce. It's no longer enough to post the same message you'd put in an email on your intranet, digital signage or messaging app. For one thing, information has to be organized and searchable.
It's estimated that employees spend on average 2.5 hours a day searching for the information they need. That wasted time doesn't just stifle productivity, it frustrates employees and decreases their trust, interest and engagement with communications.
With the rapid deployment of mobile-first and work-from-home technologies, a lot of organizations and employees have been operating in crisis mode. Now that the hybrid workplace is a certainty, it's time to invest in fully adopting those tools.
The first step will be streamlining and consolidating. Organizations will land on a single platform or the fewest number of apps to serve their goals. In many cases, people have had up to a dozen different digital communication tools their trying to learn, use and maintain. Companies need to find what works and downsize to that. It's guaranteed that apps will expand their features in the future, so successful adoption of the current version is essential so that rolling out updates goes smoothly.
Technology budgets will start to include services to train employees on new tech and tools – not just the buttons and features, but best practices, policies and how they can ask questions and provide feedback. Communicators will need to lead in adopting new technologies to effectively support rolling it out to the organization at large.
An essential component of effective communications for a remote workforce is delivering content how, where and when they want it. Messaging will need to be tailored to the audience and the channel. A one-size-fits-all approach won't work.
More visual communication
Visual communication goes hand-in-hand with digital. As communicators adopt more mobile and online channels, visuals will grow in importance.
People notice and engage with visuals more than they do with text. Intranets, messaging apps, digital signs and other digital channels are designed with visual communications in mind. Internal communications will be focusing more on delivering attention-getting photos, infographics, videos and other visual content. Audio will also gain popularity with more internal podcasts and video streams.
With YouTube the second most popular search engine in the world, video will be more relevant than ever. Everyone has a camera in their pocket and audiences are familiar with, and receptive to, lower production values. In fact, many employees consider informal videos to be more personal and trustworthy.
Every message should be examined to see if it can be presented visually versus text. If something requires lengthy copy, design a visual hook or summary and let people link out to the text. Better yet, tell a story with a staggered campaign.
Focus on employee recognition
With fewer people coming together physically, it's crucial to prioritize employee recognition. Communicators will need to build processes and plans for recognition into their digital channels. If they don't already have them, organizations will need to put peer-to-peer recognition funnels in place, and create a calendar for simple things like anniversaries and birthdays.
Recognition should be on both the macro and micro level. Employees need meaningful feedback and recognition from managers, but they also crave public recognition in front of their peers. All of this helps employees feel more connected to their workmates and the organization. Be sure to call out employee achievements across channels, with a priority on the channels that the person being recognized prefers.
This article was written by Sean Matthews from Digital Signage Today. News Features and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.