IC: Make 2021 the year to move mountains through great collaboration
— February 2nd, 2021
2020 was a hell of a year for Internal Communication (IC) practitioners.
You had to write and rewrite, plan and take corrective actions, organize events and then move them to virtual space, communicate crisis, and add some new words to the corporate vocabulary (social distancing, furlough, isolation, to name a few).
Now that we’ve got the first month of 2021 behind us, though unfortunately not Covid, I believe that what IC achieved as a business-critical function during the crisis last year lays a great foundation for us to be an even greater force this year by closer collaboration with the C-suite and our colleagues in Corporate/External Comms, Marketing and, most importantly, HR.
Beating change fatigue: How to recharge embattled employees for 2021
Even though you might feel you had enough of contact with them already, the start of the year is a good time to reflect on the past year's collaboration, and how you can move mountains together in 2021.
The Communications function cannot work in isolation. Before the pandemic, communicators would often complain that they are brought into the conversation too late, when all strategic decisions are made already; you know: “ just compile and distribute comms".
During the pandemic, due to the nature of this crisis, internal communicators were brought into the spotlight – suddenly this function became critical to keep employees safe from the virus, engaged while working remotely, and productive while surviving the lockdowns.
Dear IC pros, this is your moment – use the momentum gained and strengthen the relationship you have built during this period.
Here are a few topics you may want to cover with each department.
The CEO and C-Suite - help them convey the focal points
The goal of these conversations is to build bridges: understand what keeps the leaders awake at night and bring your insights on what matters to the employees right now (including safety and mental health). It’s important to ask questions that should matter to the whole organization, such as:
- Where are we (as a business) trying to get to by the end of this year?
- What does success look like? What does failure look like?
- To achieve success, where do we have to win this year?
- Where are we not even planning to fight? (it is sometimes more important than winning)
- Why is this our choice?
- If we failed, what could be the reasons for it?
My in-house experiences show that we tend to dive into the content straight away, before understanding the big picture. Now when consulting I cover the big questions first, since usually people are drowning in content, and focus is priceless nowadays.
Effective comms equals less content and more context. Communicators’ mission is to articulate the context clearly to the employees because this helps to land the messages more effectively.
The HR division - make plans to have projects together
They are your partners in crime, almost every day. I have so many stories when it worked much better when HR and IC plan initiatives together at the very start - the objective-setting part.
It helps both functions to get out of their boxes and make ambitious goals happen, such as:
1) Updating employee programs. Whether it's a new onboarding, referral, or rewards system, there is a chance that they will need creating, reviewing, and updating.
For these changes to effectively land on employees, IC is the best partner for HR to influence how these processes should look like. For example, onboarding events in one organization used to take a full day of presentations about different departments. In the world of hybrid workplace and Zoom-fatigue, it is a very hard way to engage.
An example of a new solution could be a new joiner passport, that indicates quests to set meetings, try out new systems, listen to customer service calls, etc.
Add a gamification aspect and reward the new joiner who is the first to complete all the quests. Done!
2) Organising virtual work. There is already a new trend in the market – companies are hiring a person who is a "Head of Remote work", which is a person between HR, IC, and IT disciplines, who ensures the best employee productivity and experience while working remotely (or in hybrid teams).
That just proves the point that there is a benefit in working cross-functionally, as you may not only spot the issues before they come up but also invent a solution that has never existed in the past.
You can always say “well, this is not our area, it's HR”, but if you block yourself from these things, you're not able to influence them either. It's more effective to get involved more than needed at first.
3) Delivering bad news. While HR drives this process, communicators can provide a safe space for leaders to practice and get feedback on the comms they are giving to their employees. And in today’s world, we know very well that it is never a goodbye, it is a “see you later!”
Marketing - employee and external communication go hand in hand
Customer acquisition, employer branding, and reputation – these things are very much interrelated nowadays. What if all your employees were both - good salespeople and brand ambassadors inside-out?
With the changes that the pandemic has brought to the media (it has become expensive), owned channels start to matter even more, and it is worth discussing the potential synergies with the marketing department.
Even more – if you involve your employees in not only understanding your product but also loving your brand and advocating for it – they will not only help the business but also will have a better sense of belonging to the company. It is a win-win-win.
What is the biggest power of a communicator? It's being the glue that sticks the whole organization together into one consistent piece.
I hope you use your superpowers fully in 2021!