2020 probably stressed your internal communications capabilities and team as COVID hit with the two-one punch of health, and economic impact. Looking ahead, we’re certain that 2021 is going to feel different yet again with uncertainty on health and economics, a continued strain on the mental health of our workforce, and some factors that have been building for years.
Internal communications in mid-sized organizations (generally regarded as $10 million to $1 billion in revenue) have often been irregular at best, leading to a poor aligned workforce and lost opportunity, lower productivity, and higher attrition. A Towers Watson study (Capitalizing on Effective Communication – How Courage, Innovation and Discipline Drive Business Results in Challenging Times, 2010) concludes that companies with highly effective communication practices enjoy 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared with the firms that are least effective at communicating.
The last year has significantly increased the complexity of communication in mid-market organizations in particular by increasing the types of communication needed, trying to extend the reach, and doing all of this with a small communications team that’s usually between one and three people. The typical communication platforms are email and an Intranet that is centered around the idea of “come and get it” but few do. These are two channels that get manually maintained by the stretched-thin staff and result in fragmented conversations instead of one post-one conversation regardless of where it’s being consumed and engaged with (see our post about one conversation).
Remote Work vs On-site in 2021
Anyone who had to work remotely when the rest of the team was on-site knows how easy it is to be left out of conversations, to not get called for that impromptu meeting, or not having the on-site all hands meeting being clear and engaging for those ‘online.’
Remote Work isn’t going away, but after a year of remote work as a first-class citizen, we’re going to be facing a year where a lot of the critical lessons learned, particular for internal communications, could be quickly forgotten. Prior to this latest crisis, remote work was already a rising trend. In a survey conducted by Capita, it was found that 71% of employees would love the opportunity to work from anywhere they choose. They believe that this will provide a better work-life balance and allow them to save on commuting cost and time.
Regardless of the employees’ desires, prior to 2020 very few organizations allowed a significant portion of their workforce to work from home. Companies mentioned a fear of a drop in productivity due to distractions and interruptions as well as not having the technological infrastructure to support this arrangement.
Those issues have been resolved, most companies now have the infrastructure to support remote work and have adapted on the fly the workflows to ensure productivity and accountability. There was simply no choice, the organization had to adapt or perish. This last year has shown us how to engage with them, and the next challenge is about having them properly and fully integrated as we have, hopefully, the option of returning to on-site.
Over the last year, we learned how to use key technologies as a part of our communication channels and the value of having omnichannel communication (See post about omnichannel vs. multichannel). There are three essentials that we’ve called out:
- Using chat and collaborations apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack are effective for quick communications among teams, even if people are down the hall. However, they aren’t good for authoritative or critical communications, we explained the reasons in detail in this blog post – MS Teams and Internal Communications
- Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are the de-facto standards for video conferencing, virtual townhalls, and virtual manager to employee conversations. So if your organization is still on Skype, it’s overdue to be replaced.
- Some Intranet responsibilities and functionality is starting to find a new home in MS Teams and elsewhere, breaking up the idea of what an Intranet has meant and what it’s going to mean – Why have you outgrown your Intranet?
- For communications to be successful, you need a platform that’s built for internal communications across many channels. Publishing across email, the Intranet, Microsoft Teams or Slack, and a mobile app should require no more effort than just posting on the Intranet. The analytics need to be unified, the comments and reactions woven together into one conversation, allowing you to see the impact you’re having and getting the data to improve engagement.
Another insight that was starting to be recognized before 2020, but a bright spotlight was put on it last year, is that the Intranet is not a hub for engagement and is evolving Can we kill the digital workplace hub already?. Even prior to 2020, most employees don’t spend a significant amount of time on the Intranet (Study about Intranet adoption) and now that time has been reduced even further. Your email newsletter is also not able to carry the bulk of your communication by itself because of email saturation reaching a new height. It’s clear that omnichannel engagement, with a platform that understands how to reach all of your workforce, has gone from a nice-to-have to business-critical.
This year is going to be challenging on a number of fronts from whether or not we get to bring more staff back on-site or are we going to be forced back to dominantly remote, to rallying the workforce, to handling the choppy economic waters ahead. Given that internal communications is essential to keeping us all aligned, to keeping us woven together as a single corporate culture, and to helping us know what’s vital and not vital for the company, it’s time that internal communications got the tools to help. With that, it can allow the communications team to focus on what needs to be said instead of how to get it out there.
Internal communications need to be strategic, planned and regular for a midsized company to excel.
If you’re looking for a platform to help make your life easier and connecting you with all of your workforce, give Sparrow a look. We’ve lived the pain, we understand the hopes, and we built a platform for communication professionals that delivers. From Intranets, to Microsoft Teams, to newsletters, and mobile, we know how important corporate communications is. Sparrow – Built for Communicators. Book a conversation with us today.