How Business Communication Is Set To Change In 2021
About a year ago, work and life as we knew it changed dramatically almost overnight, and many of us are happy to leave the infamous year that was 2020 behind. However, the start of 2021 hasn’t been that much different when it comes to work and life, with many countries going back into lockdown, schools having to closing again, and people being asked to (continue) to work from home. In this we blog we explore why, and how, we believe companies will need to change their business communication strategy in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result of Covid-19, we saw a surge in businesses accelerating their virtual and remote workplace policies and practices in 2020 to adapt to this new normal we’ve found ourselves in. This made companies and workplaces more mobile, flexible, tech savvy and connected. As a corporate communicator and founder of a fully virtual agency by design, it’s been fascinating to witness this change and to see more entrepreneurs and corporate leaders acknowledge the long-term viability of virtual working – not just for employees but for customers and other business stakeholders as well. From my perspective, this development has been in the cards for a while and Covid-19 just accelerated this inevitable change. With remote and virtual work now firmly embedded into daily life for many, the question is what does this mean for effective business communication in 2021 and beyond?
The virtual way forward
Whilst virtual and remote working practices were initially seen and implemented as temporary measures in response to a global crisis, businesses now need to start thinking about what they need to do and change to embrace and facilitate the digital workplace as a permanent fixture in the business culture through effective business communication. They need to ensure all the tools and processes are in place to achieve company goals, streamline productivity and maximize efficiency whilst empowering, connecting and supporting their teams. This is no small feat, and this transition needs careful consideration, detailed planning and cross-functional and organizational collaboration to realize.
In one of our recent blogs, I talked about 2021 being the year of the internal communicator and the need for organizations to step up their internal communications to effectively meet the needs of employees as they navigate these uncertain times. This is part and parcel of the change that lies ahead for business communications, which I see unfolding around the central theme of Connection.
Connection is Critical
Although we will unlikely see a shift to permanent and complete remote working as a result of Covid-19, many companies are rethinking the traditional workplace and the role of the physical office in particular. Leaders around the world are considering hybrid workplaces that combine physical presence and virtual collaboration. This needs a rethink when it comes to structuring teams, organizing workstreams, optimizing customer service and fostering teamwork as well as an overhaul of the business communication strategy.
Regardless of the chosen future workplace model, the key to success will be the ability to build and maintain strong connections, both internally and externally. Whether it’s the connection to the company vision and annual business objectives, your most loyal customers and prospects, important project milestones and KPIs or to each other as fellow human beings, connection is critical. For business communication this means tools, channels and platforms shouldn’t just be adjusted to be suitable, they need to be redesigned to be fit for purpose in a hybrid environment with the ability to reach, inform and engage people instantly wherever they are, fusing face-to-face and digital communications seamlessly.
Here are three key considerations to help shape and pivot your business communication strategy in 2021 and beyond given the major workplace shift we’re seeing across sectors and geographies:
• Remote work doesn’t mean we’re always on(line) – Become more intentional in your internal and external business communication and differentiate clearly between time-sensitive and regular communication to give people the opportunity to connect, participate, contribute and react based on their schedules and time zones (Just because they are home doesn’t mean employees and customers are connected 24/7!). This may mean a reconfiguration of your meeting and written communication rhythms to ensure your audiences can be reached at the appropriate time and on the right channel.
• Be attentive to your audience – As a result of the global pandemic, we have seen an influx of new communication platforms, tools and channels and an emergence of new technologies that promise efficient and effective business communication. Before deploying all the latest and greatest in your business, be mindful of your audience and how you connect with them. Make sure you understand the communication channel and format preferences of your internal and external stakeholders in detail and build a communication channel map that serves their needs as well as those of your organization. Remember bigger is not always better and the latest may not always be the greatest!
• Mind the (business) communication gap – As we intensify the use of digital technologies and communications, we need to become extra mindful of potential communication gaps. WhatsApp messages, social media & blog comments or voice / video messages can very easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted or be shared without the right context. Sensitive information might not be best communicated via a social media broadcast or during an all-hands call during which the communicator has little control over the broadcast quality, as well as limited access to non-verbal cues including facial expressions and verbal reactions from the audience. This requires detailed planning, testing of important messages as well as regular engagement with your internal and external stakeholders to ensure the employee and customer experience journeys are carefully and mindfully mapped out and delivered through empathetic and effective business communication.
By Anne Bleeker, Co-Founder and Managing Director of In2 Consulting