At the start of 2020, internal communicators were focused on building intranets, navigating siloed communications, hosting in-person events, managing painful approval processes and convincing senior leaders about new opportunities in digital communications.
Now while many of these challenges still exist, the pandemic shifted our focus, introduced new priorities and shined a new spotlight on the importance and relevance of internal communications.
The past year has seen increased attention from communication teams on reaching their employees on new platforms, communicating employee vaccine mandates, handling new covid variants and of course navigating the Great Resignation with differentiating employer brands. With 2021 now behind us, we captured our top keys to success for employee communications in 2022.
1. Find out what worked in 2021 (and what did not)
As communicators, one of our most important responsibilities is listening. Our role is to help provide context and contribute to a workplace environment that is meaningful and relevant for all employees. We need to be in tune with employees to understand how our messages resonate and connect – or not – with employees to do our job effectively.
2. Abandon “one size fits all”
The notion of a one size fits all approach for internal communications is archaic. Employees expect organizations to reach them on their terms and on their platform of choice. For some, this might mean a mobile first approach. For all audience groups, communications must be disseminated on multiple platforms, multiples times.
3. Keep to a regular cadence
If the pandemic has taught us anything, nothing is for sure. In 2022, communicators must continue to button up crisis communications plans on a regular cadence, with proper information and points of contact. Setting aside time for these updates will arm you with greater confidence when dealing with supply chain disruptions or ongoing virus breakouts.
4. Strengthen cross-functional relationships
This pandemic has proved that the best laid plans can be irrelevant in an instant. Demonstrating agility and flexibility when all seems to be going astray will differentiate communicators as leaders and prove the need for the communications function to have a seat at the table. Having strong cross-functional relationships will be critical when needing to change course quickly and influence others to support your recommendations.
5. Facilitate dialogue on mental health
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, prior to the pandemic, 60% of employees thought mental health was a personal matter and assistance from an employer wasn’t necessary. By June 2021, this figure has completely reversed with 62% stating that employers have a responsibility for their employees’ mental well-being. Gallup’s research echoes this data, suggesting that seven out of ten employees are struggling with their mental health. The mental health pandemic is here, and organizations have a responsibility to focus on this, with communications facilitating dialogue between employer and employees.
6. Provide opportunities for honest and transparent conversations with employees
The employee experience will remain a top priority in 2022, with employers focused on attracting new talent and retaining their current workforce. For communicators, it will be imperative to have honest and transparent conversations with employees. Ask them questions, listen, understand their wants and needs – and act! Employees aren’t afraid to leave a job or boomerang back to their previous employer, many even capturing their journey on social media. This will also require an increased focus on communicating a company’s purpose and employer value proposition, helping employees understand why they should care and contribute.
7. Ensure proper DE&I follow through is happening
Companies will be expected to commit and cascade their DE&I plans and actions in 2022. From sharing the CEO’s vision and leadership accountability, communicators must be prepared to help disseminate these communication plans, while ensuring an honest and transparent message reaches all employees. Communication leaders should also be prepared to challenge organizations, ensuring messages are followed through with actions.
8. Communicate with empathy
As the pandemic shows no end, workers continue to face burn out and lines are blurred between home and work, communication teams need to continue to craft all of their messages with empathy. Help leaders be transparent and persuade them to elevate a human touch to their communications in order to connect and engage with employees on a personal level. Storytelling will continue to be an important strategy for employee communications.
We’re excited and energized to kick off a new year and look forward to supporting many of you with your internal communications priorities and challenges in 2022.