So – you wanna be a communications rockstar? I’m kidding of course. I’m talking about the growing influence that Internal Comms has on the overall business. The fact that, increasingly, leadership teams are waking up to a changing workplace culture and seeing mobile technology as an enabler to more engaged teams.
What does it take be a pack-leader, go-to gal (or guy) and rockstar leader of your Internal Comms department?
Read on, Rockstar…
Internal Comms used to be a one-person show where information only flowed in one direction.
In an interview with Workforce, Dynamic Signal’s Robyn Hannah told readers a bit about the past, present and future of the industry:
- In the past, the definition of internal communication was different, typically stopping at reminders, notices and information blasts as sent by ‘Karen’ or the marketing department.
- Technology has changed the game completely. Audiences, both external and internal, no longer have to hunt for content. It arrives right at their doorstep via notifications, messages and emails. Sometimes too much so!
- Information was made available, but wasn’t targeted. Employees had to search out what they needed, digging through their intranet or portal.
Tracking click rates, engagement numbers (think shares and visibility) and general communication effectiveness have been standing issues for years. Without the proper KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), communicators commonly lacked substance with an inclination towards quantity over quality.
If you’ve been in comms for more than 5 years and ever printed quarterly newsletters, I’ll move on because I’m not telling you anything that you haven’t seen first-hand.
The evolution of technology is flipping communication’s ‘givens’.
This quote attributed to Imogen Hitchcock sums up today’s workplace and employee expectations:
“In this new workplace, teams have less time for office politics. They expect full transparency from their leaders (and aren’t shy about giving feedback when this doesn’t happen!). They want to work collaboratively and require the tools and environment to help them succeed. They want to participate in business decisions and feel a sense of achievement when objectives are met.”
Employees have more of a say today.
Mobility and flexibility are two of the themes in today’s internal communications trends, with remote work and mobile tech making the ‘typical’ workplace something new.
Now, these changes probably didn’t prompt the shift we’ll be digging into next – but they definitely have informed it.
Internal communication is now synonymous with employee engagement. And engagement is a completely different beast than it used to be.
So, where does that leave the Internal Comms Rockstar?
Silicon Republic’s piece on the link between IC and engagement is an excellent read. Here are the high points:
- It’s common knowledge now that engaged employees stay longer, work harder and bring more. Spoiler: the key to great engagement is excellent comms!
- Employees are one of the most effective tools for communicators. Happy ones draw in top hires and spread ‘the word’ sometimes better than you can.
- Touching back on the themes of mobile tech and flexibility: IC pros deliver tailored, personal experiences to employees, with smartphones on top and new intranet-esque solutions. Building this kind of employee experience is easier, and more important, than ever.
Comms rockstars use everything they can – but not too much – to effectively reach, engage and inform their audience(s). 2019 is ripe with great tools, ensuring that one doesn’t have to conform to ‘the best ofs’.
A new bag of tools for internal communication
Yes, No and ‘Meh’ Polls.
- Brief, one-question polls are commonplace nowadays, and rightfully so. (Think smiley face answer keys)
- A great way to gain the pulse on anything and lend metrics/analytics a steady flow of feedback.
- A standardized approach is effective for polls. By keeping a grip on how they are presented, analytics will have a clear, measured trend to monitor.
- Lead to a deeper understanding of what employees want and what is/isn’t working.
Surveys. But better surveys.
- These go further than polls. Gauge impressions on a planned campaign to make the right last-minute tweaks and corrections, or use them with a targeted set of questions to figure something out.
- Use a proven roster of questions like these “12 Indicators of Engaged Employees” from Gallup. Proven questions such as these can quickly show the right people where their employees, teams and even management stand on engagement.
‘Likes’, ‘shares’ and more interactive content via mobile apps
- The ability for readers to interact and be social with ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ truly enhance content’s impact.
- With intranets and social media engrained in our daily lives, we almost instinctively look for a thumbs-up or share icon. They’re there for a reason – they work.
- Learn more from interactive content. Videos, clickable links and photos not only add variety to the flow of messages and notifications, KPI that indicate ‘opens’ and reads help gauge engagement to know if something is working.
Training. Better, more engaging-training.
- Employees are constantly developing new skills. Help them during the work and retention phases with tools that encourage growth.
- Training features that are easily monitored can tell you what’s sticking, what is stagnant and what everyone wants to learn.
- Training is where Internal Comms and HR intersects, but we’re excited about short-burst and video training that takes skills-building from a once-yearly exercise for compliance to interactive content that’s tied to IC strategy.
- Keep up with those metrics: complete, targeted visibility enables IC stars to see who is interacting with what and what their role is.
Measure. Measure. Measure.
Did you know that companies with engagement scores in the top quartile report twice the net profit of those in the bottom quartile? (Source: Engage for Success)
The first step of course is to measure and then benchmark. But, to measure, you have to reach your employees – and if you’re not taking these steps today, you’ll miss tomorrow’s opportunity to optimize those KPIs.
So – what’s next? Moving past these relatively ‘soft’ observations and vanity metrics towards a more advanced, deeper sentiment indicator will make internal comms the influencers that we know we can be.
The road ahead for internal comms is going to be epic.
Integration with AI and automation is coming. There have been glimpses of it, and we all know how much it could help.
Coming back to sentiment and its place in IC, communicators will want to know how their audience feels.
Services like Amazon’s Amazon Comprehend are an example of how AI can work hand-in-hand with existing methods to analyze results in new ways. Pulling data from broken, cluttered or uncategorized text/information can show a user’s sentiment towards content they’re taking in.
With the importance of metrics and analytics for the communicators of today, the only direction from here is up.