It’s 2012 and I’m walking into a meeting in the Euston head office of the company I work for…
There were about six of us in the room, and a few people dialling in from home. Carol grabbed the spider phone and connected the meeting room to the conference call number, and we waited to hear others had joined on the end of the phone. Bob has joined the call… Mark has joined the call…Bob and Mark didn’t say much in the meeting, and it was clear the people in the room had somewhat forgotten they were there. The meeting ended, people were clear on outcomes and decisions and next steps, and we went about our day.
It’s 2016 and I’m working at home…
My phone rings, it’s our Commercial Director Dan. Dan says to me: “I’ve done two laps of both floors and established you’re not in the office today!”
This was hybrid working, without the hybrid working brand…
These are two stories I told when I spoke at VOICES – The Great Reconnection, an event organised by Staffbase. Watch the full speech.
I often say that a crisis will escalate an existing trend. The pandemic escalated the fact many of us can work from anywhere. Many of us, but not all of us. Not the bus drivers, the train drivers, the factory workers, the police, the nurses, or the doctors. But for all of us, when it comes to talking about the trends in internal communication, it’s impossible to do that without discussing the pandemic and the opportunity it has offered us. It’s more than hybrid working, and we need to pay attention to what we need to do now.
During my speech, I talked through five trends affecting the internal communications industry. None of them are new. The difference is that in 2022, there is an urgency with which we now need to act. An urgency to ensure we are skilled to meet the demands of organisations today. An urgency to make sure we understand people better and an urgency to make sure we are, in fact, moving forward.
Let’s also acknowledge that trends in internal communication don’t move quickly. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when I was writing my book, Influential Internal Communication, I shared the eight golden rules of internal communication taken from Internal Communications – a manual for practitioners by Liam Fitzpatrick and Klavs Valskov which was published in 2014. All of them still ring true today.
It’s easy to feel flat about this fact, but I always say organisations are people. We are complex and our brains haven’t evolved much since we were cave people. So, if we’re in the business of communications, which in turn means we are in the business of relationships at work, which is all about people, it’s ok to acknowledge things won’t change that much!
Here are the five trends in internal communication:
- Employee engagement: one of the biggest challenges for internal communicators this year is disengaged employees. The pandemic has created a shift in power inside organisations and it has also allowed people to re-evaluate what is important. What does engaging teams around purpose, strategy and values really mean? How do we do it? What is the outcome we are looking for?
- Integrated channel strategy: this has always been on the list for internal communicators, but we know that many struggle to create a strategy. The foundations of any strategy should be a content framework, a channel matrix and a stakeholder map. You need all three if this is on your agenda for 2022.
- Line manager communication: this has been on the list of challenges or priorities for nearly 10 years. In 2020 there was some debate about whether line managers are needed at all – they are! What we miss is the creation of a framework for line managers to own. Line managers need some control over budget, resources and people in their team if they are going to have any impact, and we know that isn’t always the case.
- Trust: the importance of the level of trust we have in our leadership teams also remains on the list of trends. Trust depends on relationships and relationships depend on good communication, mutual respect and integrity – among other things. If you don’t have these elements as foundations with the leadership team, build them now. Trust doesn’t happen overnight. What you’ve been through in the past two years, will determine where you start.
- The great distraction: I love this quote from Chuck Gose: “Employee engagement has been the Great Distraction for internal communicators.” There are distinct definitions for employee engagement, employee experience and internal communication. Define them in your organisation. Define the internal communications function and focus on how people feel, what they think and what you want them to do – make it an experience.
So, yes, none of these trends are new for 2022! But what is new is the opportunity ahead of us. The opportunity to define what internal communication is for your organisation, to define your development strategy for you and your team, and to define the culture of the organisation you serve.
It’s time for us to be bold and reimagine work in a completely different way to how it was in 2019. Look at how you can remodel things to be different and better. And stop comparing what you do to others – organisations are all different, organisations are people and people are individuals. If this is the Great Reconnection, we have to remember that.
Find out more about our thinking about trends and the pandemic revolution. Please do get in touch if you’d like to talk about any of the issues discussed or if we can help you reimagine the way you work in your organisation.