The future of employee communications
I recently participated in a panel on employee communications with two seasoned professionals in the public relations sector. We brought perspectives from corporate, academic and agency settings in a variety of sectors. Our backgrounds differed, but our message did not. Welcome to the future of employee communications, where the paradox is everything, and nothing has changed.
If you have ever been responsible for employee communications, you know it’s not only about sharing information; it’s about building trust, making collaboration easier and inspiring action. We recognize first-hand that it can be a tough grind to get the attention of senior leaders, as well as keep the attention of employees. But when the pandemic hit, chaos ensued, and executives turned to us to figure out how to communicate with employees. At the same time, employees turned to us for information and updates, recognizing the value of internal communication efforts.
Three years later, we have the attention of company leaders and employee communications is acknowledged for the value it brings. But today, we are still rethinking employee communications. With the rapid shift to remote work, online meetings and virtual events, face-to-face communication has been replaced by virtual communication—and the need for digital communication tools has skyrocketed. This shifting landscape still requires re-evaluation of what we once knew as employee communications. Ensuring remote employees are connected, informed and engaged is the need of the hour.
Here are five trends to pay attention to:
1. The rise of remote work and its effect on employee communications
Due to the pandemic, remote or hybrid work has become more the norm than the exception. Working from home used to be a luxury but is now an everyday reality. Employees want more flexibility and well-being support. A survey by the World Economic Forum found that more than half of employees want more hybrid virtual-working models; 51 per cent of people hope for greater work-life balance; and mental health support is top of mind for workers. If you are offering a hybrid model, employees expect you to give them the resources they need for success.
Remote work has created a paradigm shift in how companies operate and communicate with their teams. The shift toward remote work has created new challenges in employee communications, such as heavy reliance on digital communication tools. The lack of in-person collaboration can at times lead to miscommunication, resulting in frustration and confusion. To ensure effective communication in a remote work environment, clear communication guidelines and protocols are helpful. Employees should know what tools to use and when. Companies can also encourage open feedback, by creating virtual spaces where employees can collaborate and share their thoughts.
2. The continued importance of face-to-face communication
Technology has played a crucial role in enabling businesses to communicate with employees, no matter where they are located. While digital communication has many advantages, there are also some pitfalls that need to be addressed. With a variety of communication channels available, it can be difficult to choose the right one for a particular message. Skip the tendency to add too many channels. Stick to the ones that offer the best all-in-one solutions. Similarly, look into what’s preferred by most of your employees—foster two-way communication by sending out a survey to find out their communication preferences.
To improve digital communication, communicators need to focus on providing clear and concise messages, with short and sweet content and links for those who want more detail. Alternatively, video content offers a highly engaging format of digital communication. It helps key messages better resonate, as they can be more personalized and authentic. It is no surprise that video format has increasingly become the preferred way to consume information. That’s why the format has been used more recently by senior leaders and C-suite executives to deliver messages to employees internally. This further adds to the flexibility of digital communication—not only as a valuable form of employee communications for remote workers, but also as an engaging one.
That being said, digital communication should complement in-person communication, not replace it. Employees should be encouraged to have face-to-face conversations whenever possible, yet still be provided with a virtual alternative whenever necessary. It is up to leaders to find the right balance between in-person and digital communication and create a culture of transparency.
3. The role of leaders is as important as ever in employee communications
It’s no secret that effective communication is key, whether in business or personal relationships. Topping employee wish lists are leaders who embody a culture of open communication and model the behavior they want to see within their teams. Effective communication styles can vary depending on the specific needs of each team, but leaders who prioritize active listening, empathy, and encourage diversity of thought are likely to see improved outcomes. And when it comes to cultivating a culture of transparency, sweeping changes may not be necessary. Simple actions, like openly sharing company plans and objectives, can go a long way in building trust across the board.
4. The benefit of putting employees at the heart of communications
If you have customers, you probably have a “customer-centric” business model. The employee equivalent is placing the needs of employees as the focus of your company’s operations and decision-making processes. For example, more than ever, employees want to know that the company they work for lives its values and in some way promotes social good. If our messages are to speak to them, we must first listen and understand their preferences for input and feedback to communicate how we contribute to their wellbeing that of the communities in which we live and work.
This means involving employees in the creation and delivery of communications and empowering them to share their ideas. Employee communications is not a one-way broadcast, but a two-way dialogue that respects employees as the most important asset of an organization. Other practices include involving employees in engagement sessions, where they can contribute to shaping the vision and mission of their organization, plus defining or evolving its purpose and values. Organizations that do this with authenticity will not only foster understanding and trust but improve recruitment and retention.
5. The importance of measuring employee communication strategies
At Crestview Strategy, you will often hear us say: if it isn’t measured, it didn’t happen. For employee communications to be effective, we must measure the impact of our efforts. Setting metrics for success allows us to identify what is working and what isn’t. Once you have this information, use it to continually update your strategies. This may involve using data to identify precisely where your strategy is falling short, adjusting your messaging or implementing novel communication programs. Regular analysis will help you develop effective communication strategies that meet the evolving needs of your team.
So, there you have it—the future of employee communications in a post-pandemic world. Digital communication will continue to play a significant role in creating a collaborative workplace, and authentic, open two-way communication builds equity with employees.
Stay tuned for further insights from Crestview Strategy senior leaders on employee communications.