Have annual employee comms plans had their day?
— June 11th, 2021
Adaptation has been a critical characteristic of many successful organizations, especially over the last 18 months.
Being quick to understand the situation at large and adapt while keeping employees informed and engaged along the way seems to have set the inspiring companies apart from those averse to change.
So it comes as no surprise to hear how Internal Communications is adapting and rising to this challenge, uncovering previously untapped opportunities to bolster their value-add and reputation in the process.
How to build a communication plan for a hybrid workplace
In the Effective Measurement workshops that I’ve run this year, I’m increasingly hearing that quarterly communication planning is becoming more commonplace and favored over the annual plan.
Have annual communication plans had their day in this new world of innovation and adaptation?
First, let’s be brutally honest here. How many hours have you slaved over the creation of your annual comms plan, going back and forth getting senior leadership buy-in and sign off, only to adjust it, partially scrap elements or even completely rewrite it part way through the year?
How many times did you honestly refer to it for guidance and direction? How much of your plan is relevant at year-end and how much of it was delivered? Or is your annual plan sitting unloved in an online folder only to be remembered, frantically, as performance review time looms (or by reading this article!)?
Annual plans are the strategic foundation of IC’s work and focus. Or were. Maybe there’s good reason these days to change to more frequent planning cycles and embrace the opportunity and relevancy that this approach offers.
Poppulo’s guide, ‘8 Trends in Progressive Organizations’, suggests the business landscape is moving from planning and predicting to a more experimental and adaptive approach.
Even without the humongous change that hit us all with Covid-19, we never knew or could predict the future anyway. We waste so much time and resources in creating annual and long-term plans that try to predict a future that will always be uncertain.
Is it not better to use our energy and resources to look at trends, experiment, and try new things in order to remain more relevant, engaging, and dynamic on a shorter-term basis?
Annual communication plans do have their place for setting the strategic vision, mission, and cultural tone to which all IC efforts can be aligned, but they lack an opportunity for creativity and informality that post-covid cultures have edged towards and employees now expect.
Quarterly plans, by their very nature, are more agile and therefore offer the opportunity to try innovative approaches, see if they work and then adapt or try something else if not.
Imagine weaving measurement and evaluation into the very core of your day-to-day work, especially coming from the angle of curiosity to see how things can be improved or what best practices you might land upon.
Imagine knowing you can course-correct or take advantage of unforeseen opportunities to improve the communication experience within months, not years? It paints quite an exciting opportunity!
With the human cost of burnout and overwhelm being commonplace in IC due to the rising demands and need for IC, quarterly planning places more sense of focus and ownership on committing to and delivering relevant goals.
They can create much greater buy-in, motivation, and a sense of job satisfaction within the IC team too because the plan and its activities will be more timely and realistic. 90-days seems an achievable timescale to work within and much less like a mountain to climb.
We are moving into an era that is less about command and control and more about freedom and trust.
Patriarchal, top-down strategy and goal setting are what we’ve been used to, but quarterly planning plays to building more trust and ownership for doing the right thing for the business and employees, adapting as needs require, or the data shows and having the creative and professional freedom to execute communications in an empowered way, not a controlled-from-the-top kind of way.
Trust in employees is becoming non-negotiable. Perhaps trust in IC is why quarterly planning is becoming more popular.
Strategic plans have a place for giving guidance like a compass does and will likely be here for years to come.
However, the agility, innovation, and relevancy that quarterly plans offer do have an undeniable lure.
I wonder when detailed annual comms plans, in the way we have become accustomed, will finally be blown a kiss goodbye in favor of the new kid on the block.