The New Now: Top Tips for Employee Communications in 2022
— March 24th, 2022
“Our people are physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired”— this is what a client said to me last week and it made me stop and think....
As the clock has whirred forward from March 2020, when the world was plunged into lockdown and companies made the mad scramble to get as many employees online as possible, we can see a clear shift in corporate perception of internal communication from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
So, as organizations are refining their work location model—hybrid or otherwise—there are many changes that we can expect in the coming year.
The question is… as internal communication professionals, are we poised to seize the day and carve out new areas of expertise or will we be relegated to the covid-comms squad or the return to office fun police?
Now is the time to streamline, regroup and reset so we can continue to make a worthwhile impact. Let’s look at team, projects, and organizational communication priorities for the coming months.
The Great Resignation—Time to Rip Up The Comms Playbook
First, check-in on yourself and your team. Where are you right now?
Fresh, unpublished research from the Centre for Strategic Communication Excellence and Antenna. The "So, How Do You Really Feel" survey shows that our mental health as communicators has suffered over the past year with 66% reporting a decline in mental health since the start of the pandemic.
Check-in with your team (and yourself) to see if they need a refresh, a switch in role, a holiday, or a new project. There is more organizational change on the horizon and we need to make sure that we are fit, regroup and reset to tackle the new challenges coming our way.
If we don’t take care of ourselves and our team, how can we deliver to our people and our clients?
Re-orient yourself to:
- The diversity, inclusion, and sense of belonging mindset. This does not mean focusing on gender etc. but rather looking at a sense of belonging in all aspects of the workplace, regardless of where or what time of day someone works.
- Doing even more with less. This means prioritization and equipping your internal clients to serve themselves whenever possible.
- Being digital.
An internal communication audit—big or small, but preferably quickly—will help identify your problem spots and how you can streamline. You can get an external consultant to do this for you.
Focus on the projects that matter now, not yesterday
Furthering the employee digital experience
Bring your people along with your digital changes AND keep your tech team focused on the end-game.
Many organizations have implemented MS Teams, employee apps or provided their people with new technology without setting up clear governance on how to use the new channel. Scarily sometimes (even in 2022!) there is still no adoption strategy in place.
It takes time and ongoing effort to make sure that no employees are left behind and unable to participate (again, inclusion mindset). I have seen this with many clients, where they have a legacy product for video conferencing and are transitioning to a collaboration platform.
Without a clean shift to streamlined channels, the employees stick to their personal preferences, and then it all becomes a mess. Worse still, technology glitches. I have experienced and have had so many complaints from colleagues when going from Skype call to a Teams call and audio equipment goes on the blink.
Enabling middle managers
While strong leadership through the start of the crisis was essential, we need to make sure middle managers and team leaders are trained and supported in good communication practices.
Executives in Diane Gehrson and Lynda Gratton's 60-company survey say they need to focus on coaching, communication, and employee-wellbeing today and I would say the biggest gaps and greatest impact are felt at the line manager level, keeping their teams connected, productive, and well.
I see opportunities for us to partner with HR on training modules and upskilling managers on communicating with a dispersed or hybrid workforce. As the saying goes, people join a company and leave a manager.
With the sea change and Great Resignation, we can make an impact here through upskilling others. It can be as simple as running training with managers on how to effectively use the communication tools and channels within the organization to being a sparring partner or coach for a manager who needs that extra support.
Going external for this can be quite helpful for managers who might be new to a role or those who need to be challenged in their way of thinking.
Organizational communication tips for right now
Build the trust from peer to peer
The recently released 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer shows a very different story from pre-pandemic. "My Coworkers" (74%) and "Scientists" (75%) are most trusted, while government officials and journalists are the least trusted.
This means that we should play on peer storytelling and focus on helping our people connect and share, rather than going for the CEO approach that was ideal back in March and April 2020.
Streamline content and avoid information overload
Right now, I’m hearing that it is important to over-communicate. This is not true. Communication should always be strategic. It should not feel overwhelming or ‘noisy’.
If there is a pause in communication, then it should be deliberate. If you are having an ongoing dialogue, then make sure your colleagues don’t feel like 20 different people are trying to speak with them at once.
When my two boys are trying to hold separate, non-stop conversations with me at the same time, my head hurts. Imagine how bewildering it feels to an employee to have ongoing chatter from different areas of the business, all demanding attention. Equally so, don’t ghost your people. If they expect information, then be consistent.
Be bold, be consistent
Our people are craving consistency. Predictability. As we go in and out of seasonal lockdowns, with ever-changing rules and regulations, the more consistency we can give in when and how we communicate, the further this will go to building comfort and trust.
Continue to give context and be the sense-maker
Contextualizing is more important than ever. With an increase in channels and an increase in the speed of change, it is tempting to pump content through all channels without stepping back and playing the connector role. Help employees make sense of different but related pieces of information.
What does this look like? Central communication roles have the privilege of working across different areas in the business. A large part of my last in-house role involved identifying overlaps in content and working with two or more different business areas to produce half the number of pieces of content.
If you are a consultant, then bring this value to the businesses that you work with. If you work with consultants, then invest in long-term relationships with people who can work across your business and help you join the dots.
Personalize your comms
Personalization can help reduce information overload. Even basic segmentation based on location, language branch, and job type can help reduce the irrelevant information being sent out. You will keep your people more engaged if you help them feel like you understand what interests them.
Think about communicating locally in a global world. This is where we need to be driving the digital employee experience.
Listen at an organizational level
The technological boom gives additional opportunities for organizational listening. Data, statistics, insights, focus groups. Use it.
Our people are our greatest asset, and this year looks to continue to give us unexpected challenges. There are practical things we can do to initiate improvements and be the connectors between different business units and teams to drive this change.
This year is different from 2020. Let’s streamline, regroup and reset to make it a good one.