2021 – The Year of the Internal Communicator
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, creating a connected organization is paramount to successfully navigating your business through these uncertain times. A well-thought-out internal communication strategy fosters unity and builds connections that enable teams to effective work together, while apart.
A remote-work marathon
Who would have thought eight months ago that millions of office-based employees around the world would still be working from home as we approach the end of 2020? What was intended to be a temporary crisis response to flatten the Covid-19 curve, turned out to be a remote working marathon for many.
When the world went into lockdown almost overnight, there was hardly any time for organizations to effectively plan and prepare for the global pause the corona pandemic inflicted on the world. Businesses had to pretty much enable working from home overnight by adapting their remote working policies, providing technology and access, and communicating essential information and measures to keep everyone safe.
This immediate response signified a typical crisis at first; internal communications were ramped up, meeting rhythms were adjusted, temporary policies were introduced, and the focus was firmly on keeping people safe and calm. What came next, however, was truly unprecedented.
Business as unusual
As lockdown measures eased around the world a few months later and restrictions got lifted, organizations started planning for the re-opening of their offices and the restart of their operations in what became quickly known as ‘the new normal’, despite the fact that nothing about this new normal was actually normal. I prefer to refer to this phase as business as unusual, which seems to be far more fitting.
In this second stage of the global crisis, internal communication was focused on adjusting and normalizing a new way of working. We saw leadership become more visible, organizations humanizing their communications and businesses pivoting their product and service offering . Now that we approach the end of the infamous year that is 2020, this second phase of the global pandemic continues to prolong, and whilst some organizations were able to swiftly adapt, others are still struggling to find the right balance and optimal structure to ensure the health and safety of their people while securing business continuity and sustainability.
Time to step up your internal communications
This is where the role of internal communications is pivotal; this is the opportune time for internal communicators to step up and guide their organization through the change that lies ahead and to help their business weather this storm. Uncertain times call for clarity, focus, information, alignment, line of sight, engagement, purpose, connection and communication; all ingredients of an effective internal communication strategy.
Now is the time to shore up your internal communications because if you think it will all be over when the vaccine is finally available, you’ll be proven wrong. The change that lies ahead for employees, businesses and organizations will extend far beyond the end of this pandemic and will need to be managed strategically through effective and strategic internal communication. Creating a connected organization will be key to success and long-term sustainability, especially when we’ve all felt so disconnected from normal life and each other. Once the worst of this pandemic is over, businesses will either need to transition back to where they were pre-Covid, or move to a more permanent new way of working, and many will not have the same workforce, workplace or organizational structure to do so.
Internal communication will be crucial in managing this strategic and challenging change that’s ahead when this storm finally passes. 2021 will be the year of the internal communicator and I strongly believe that if we step up and effectively meet the needs of employees and the unique challenges of business, we will be able to demonstrate that internal communications – a still often undervalued discipline in corporate communications -has the kudos and ability to deliver exceptional impact and value to business. But we can’t achieve this by doing the same things we’ve always done. We need to commit to building future-proof strategies designed for a hybrid workforce and a digital workplace that are built to embrace the new norms, expectations, realities and technologies.
3 tips for effective strategic internal communications in 2021:
1. Communicate clearly and frequently – step up, not down, your internal communications. In times of crisis, people’s information needs continually evolve and you must be ready to respond to this
2. Build connections within your organization – internal communication has always been about culture, values and bringing employees together for a shared purpose, but strong connections are now more critical than ever for businesses to succeed and sustain
3. Develop your international communication strategy around the digital workplace – we will still need offices, but not as we’ve known them. Many people will continue to work from home or from other non-traditional office spaces and your internal communication needs to be in shape to deliver to this new hybrid workforce
Blog by Anne Bleeker