Employee Communications and the Fight to Retain Employees
— January 10th, 2022
In the midst of the Great Resignation — which shows no sign of abating in 2022 — leaders will call on internal communicators to assist in the effort to retain employees, especially high performers.
Several other trends for 2022 emerge from the pressing need to retain people, including the Employee Experience and recognition. Listening (which I have listed as a standalone trend below) will also be a vital part of how companies retain employees.
One of the criticisms leveled at many organizations is that they have established return-to-the-workplace policies without soliciting any input from their workers...and many employees opting to join the Great Resignation have prioritized their desire to continue working remotely while their employers are insisting on a full return to the workplace or a hybrid model.
Retention will also require communicators to provide counsel to leaders. The effort to retain people is important but so is concentrating on "enthusiastic stayers." After all, shining a light on those who are passionate about the company can have an impact on others who may be open to alternative employment.
The Great Employee Disconnect — And Why Enterprise Communications Are Failing
Communicating with a Hybrid Workforce
For those communicating in organizations that will accommodate some workers' preference to work from home (or wherever) while requiring others to be in the office — and some of them will work from home a couple of days a week — a rethinking of communication strategy and channels will be a requirement.
For the most part, the principles of employee communication has been based on the implicit understanding that everyone comes to work. When the pandemic sent many workers home, communicators improvised.
While there is no denying the value of experimentation, the time for improvisation will end in 2022 as many companies adopt some form of hybrid work as the standard. (I work in a hidebound industry that, before COVID, would never have agreed to any form of remote work.
Today, plans call for three days in the office and two remote for all employees except those whose jobs require them to be on-site full time.)
Our communication strategies must accommodate both sets of workers, which may require new employee profiles (for those who use profiles), new sets of objectives, and greater variety in the platforms and channels we use to reach and engage with workers.
It will also require more communication with managers to help them communicate and engage with members of their teams.
Advocacy and Influencers
Internal communicators have, for the last couple of years, increasingly taken responsibility for their organizations' employee advocacy (or ambassador) programs.
This trend will accelerate in 2022 as more companies adopt advocacy programs and the tools available to support the program become more widely available and less costly.
We will also see the rise of internal advocacy as communicators who have been watching the rise of influencers consider how to replicate the concept within the organization.
Identifying internal influencers will require an understanding of internal networks (such as the people employees turn to when they need help, the people they turn to when they need information, and the ones they turn to when they want to gauge how to respond to an announcement or issue).
Once these networks have been mapped, internal communicators will need to determine the best way to engage influencers as a component of their strategies.
Employee wellbeing has skyrocketed into prominence during the pandemic. Companies need to do more than pay lip service to wellbeing. (That is, "We have a great Employee Assistance Program" is no longer an adequate approach to wellbeing.)
Communicators will need to take two approaches: Drawing attention to programs and opportunities introduced by HR and other parts of the organization and producing original material that helps support employee wellbeing.
(Note, wellbeing includes both physical and mental health, and can also include financial wellbeing.) The focus on mental health — which should include psychological safety — should be a particular priority as the pandemic and working from home has weighed heavily on workers.
As noted above, companies that failed to listen to employee preferences and concerns before announcing their return-to-the-workplace policies have fallen under heavy criticism. Communication (as everyone knows) is two-way.
If it is one-way, it is not communication; it is messaging. Especially with a contingent of workers in remote situations, it is more important than ever that leaders listen closely to employees.
Communicators are well-positioned to expand existing efforts and introduce new ones to ensure employees have a voice. (Employee voice, after all, is one of the four cornerstones of employee engagement.)
While an intranet can continue to serve as a single source of truth — the repository where all communication can be found — it is no longer the centerpiece of communication.
In fact, there should be no effort to establish a centerpiece. Communicators need to identify a collection of channels and establish a matrix of some sort that helps determine which ones should be employed for each internal audience and each category of communication.
We will need to become adept at repurposing content for each channel and making adjustments to the channel mix as needed (including adding new channels as the need becomes apparent or new technologies emerge).
(This is the full version of Shel Holtz's contribution to Poppulo's 12 Internal Communication Trends & Challenges for 2022 blog, which had to be edited due to wordcount constraints).