In the first roundup of asking internal communication experts and influencers ‘’what is internal communication?’’ we were given insight into the evolving world of internal communications. I won’t go into too much detail around the learnings from that specific post but they do give us an in-depth view of internal communications along with the challenges faced in the sphere today.
We were so inspired and eager to dive deeper into the topic we decided to ask a whole new group of internal communication experts a new set of questions. The idea was simple: Different companies, at different industries and of various sizes naturally have different internal communication needs; but what about their top communication priorities?
With a new challenge set, we went ahead and asked 14 experts what are some of the challenges internal communications managers face today? How do they prioritize with so many tasks to focus on? Just like any job or position you can’t tackle everything at once and expect results. There has to be prioritization and making these priorities an ongoing goal that drives your internal communications.
So, here we go: 14 internal communication experts on their Top 2 Priorities. Let’s dive in! 🚀🚀
⏱️ In a rush? Here’s a quick video summary👇🏼
Internal Communications today is a key component of the strategy of companies to ensure they reach their business objectives. The two key priorities in Internal Communications are:
1. To keep employees engaged
In today’s market place disaffected employees leave quicker than in the past to other companies due to the high turnaround of the work marketplace. This is especially true for companies under a business transformation plan like Radisson Hotel Group with our five-year plan. The only way to ensure that the business objectives are reached is by informing in a frequent, transparent and effective way to our employees. Engaged employees are more productive, happier and contribute better to the company.
”We are what we communicate, we communicate what we are.”
2. To build a strong employer branding
What we are is what we transmit to others. Companies succeed when they communicate externally being true to what they are and how they communicate Internally. This is why I think that the key to achieve an authentic and inspirational employer branding is internal communication. We are what we communicate, we communicate what we are.
Dani Buijtenhek – danibu
1. Leadership focus and training on communication
Good communicators are easier to work with, which makes for a more pleasant experience all round, increases cooperation and fun. It leads to more effective use of everybody’s time and, ultimately, better business results.
Whatever their job titles, executives lead the way their employees behave, and whether or not it’s in their job description, they have a responsibility to communicate effectively with all who turn to them for guidance.
Companies, whose leaders acknowledge the need to communicate effectively with others, will stand out from competition. Leaders who are (willing to invest the time and money to be) trained to provide inspiration and education will bring out the best in themselves and their teams.
Whatever their job titles, executives lead the way their employees behave, and whether or not it’s in their job description, they have a responsibility to communicate effectively with all who turn to them for guidance. Leaders should be aware of their positions as role models, who influence the flow of values and behaviors through the organization. The better leaders are (trained) at communicating, the more extensively their teams are engaged, which results in more effective and efficient performance by the entire organization. Working with HR and Comms teams, companies should design leadership trainings that resonate with every kind of professional leader, irrespective of how aware they already are about the importance of communication skills in their role. Trainings that cover different aspects of the communication and presentation skill set are an investment that pays high dividends.
2. Aligned content, appealing to all senses
Explaining company strategy, programs or projects in a simple, understandable way throughout all channels is key! So, how to disrupt overly packed business agendas with some mental breathing space and easy-to-remember content? Communication really is about presenting messages in a sound bite worth remembering. After all, audiences are made up of people, and people want to be entertained!
Audience attention requires a thought-through content plan and message consistency in every blog or newsletter. Work together with all teams to determine the strategic themes, then define how to cascade them in a snappy way, and finally have communicators and creatives create an interactive toolkit, with video being the ‘king’s discipline.
Anika Bhuiyan – JTI
In a constantly evolving world and diminishing attention spans, emotional intelligence and technology and the fusion of the two are the topmost priorities for internal communication. When you introduce the human factor in all communication materials and propagate the message using trending tech media, you see the results in your engaged, informed and excited colleagues.
Marjorie O’Connell – AkzoNobel
1. Top-down communication is not dead
As an internal communications professional, I am lucky enough to be able to take a peek at various organisations in the Netherlands and what I see is that top-down communication (i.e. from senior management) is still highly important. For organisations going through or having recently gone through a transformation, a regular information flow from senior management can significantly improve the morale of employees ‘left behind’. In situations such as these, the senior leader still needs to be a role model in thought, word and deed – demonstrating the new behaviours required of all employees whilst sharing his/her experience with the new way of working for example.
”So my message to internal communicators, if you don’t measure what you are communicating, then don’t bother communicating at all!”
2. Communication analytics is on the up
In light of the digital age we currently find ourselves in, I cannot emphasise more the importance of measuring communication activities. Measurement on both the quantitative side (how many times was a post read? a message opened? how many clicks?) and the qualitative side (which channels appealed most to the target audience? which content works?). For example, as Community Manager a.i. at RVO (Netherlands Trade Agency), we recently set-up a user panel to test the new social intranet and online community environment among other things. The panel consists of +/- 30 employees from various levels and functions within the organisation. It is a permanent feature of the governance of the new social intranet at RVO and, in my opinion, an unmissable instrument to measure whether the intranet in question is actually relevant for its users/internal target audience. So my message to internal communicators, if you don’t measure what you are communicating, then don’t bother communicating at all!
Andrea Greenhous – Vision2voice
The only priorities that matter for internal communicators should be business priorities. If your company strategy is to win market share through innovation, then internal communication should support building a culture of innovation. If your organization needs to transform in order to stay ahead of the pack, then internal communication should be focussed on building an organization that is agile and resilient.
”It’s never about announcements, the number of clicks, or even how much engagement you achieve, it’s about driving business results.”
It’s never about announcements, the number of clicks, or even how much engagement you achieve, it’s about driving business results. Your strategy should be purpose built and aligned to support business priorities. The good news in all of this is that because a strategy is about making choices and not being all things to all people — it means overworked, under-resourced internal communications teams can (and should!) be more deliberate about the work they do.
Advita Patel – The Comms Hive
The role of an internal communicator has evolved over the years with the introduction of technology, social media and a constantly changing culture. The way people communicate with each other, the choices they make about where they work and the way they want to receive information has changed significantly. This means we need to be smarter with the work we deliver in order to stay relevant. With this in mind there are two key priorities internal communicators need to focus on, developing their business acumen and building their trusted advisor relationships – both of these go hand-in-hand.
Without understanding the business you are working in you will struggle to make any sort of impact with senior leaders. You need to be able to understand the industry, what’s important to the leadership team and the key priorities for the business. Being able to speak in their ‘language’ will help build your credentials and trust within the organisation. Bring this knowledge together with the information you know about the workforce, you will be able to advise and guide effectively which in turn will help develop your trusted advisor status across your business or clients.
Brad Whitworth – Hitachi Vantara
”Your audiences are diverse and you need to meet them where they are instead of expecting conformity to some norm that fits no one.”
Move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. For far too long internal communications’ focus has been on the all-employee audience. We’ve rarely (if ever!) had the budget, the time or the technology to target subsets of the population at large. So we’ve done shotgun communications for the broadest possible audience which often end up in the electronic trash can. Your audiences are diverse and you need to meet them where they are instead of expecting conformity to some norm that fits no one.
Measure everything you do. All of us need to become much more comfortable with metrics, data and analysis – even though our comfort zone is words and not numbers. Are you snagging baseline measures before a campaign and gauging its effectiveness afterwards? Critical. Are you measuring more than outputs (clicks, audience size, dwell time, etc.)? While those are certainly a good start, you also need to capture business-related outcomes (quality improvements, voluntary attrition, Glassdoor ratings, employee engagement) to prove that your communication has an impact on the bottom line.
Daven Rosener – Green Megaphone
Leading an internal communications function is by no means easy. As a leader you can be the glue – making the collective work of our teams sticky and cohesive. But you can also be the gap filler, stretching to fill an expertise void on your comms team or within the broader leadership team of an organization.
From my vantage point, here are two priorities for internal communication leaders to consider:
”Communication planning is much more than a document to organize our work. It’s a collaborative process with our clients and how our team members can become the communicators they were meant to be.”
1. Create the work world you want (and not the one you get) – plan by plan.
Creating internal communication momentum is not cookie-cutter work, especially when the discipline is not well understood. Further, our value can be easily diminished if we’re not in the room when important initiatives or corporate strategies are launched. The path to solve the challenge of not being understood is to make communication planning a consistent part of our work. If educating our clients about our strength is key, each plan is a working case study and an opportunity to demonstrate a consistent and disciplined approach to our work. Communication planning is much more than a document to organize our work. It’s a collaborative process with our clients and how our team members can become the communicators they were meant to be.
2. Understand the business and the business problem you’re trying to solve.
Strengthening our knowledge and understanding of the business helps us navigate critical discussions and increases the ease in which we can have effective conversations with our clients and leaders. We need to speak their language and not expect them to fluently speak our language as communication professionals. How will we understand if our strategies and tactics succeed if we don’t understand the business problem we’re trying to solve? Seek to understand this first before jumping into execution gear. We need our clients to know that we are here for the business, and that we mean business.
Vija (Valentukonyte) Urbanaviciene – Telia
As someone said, the war for talent is on, and talent has won it. Organizations have to really think hard about how to attract and retain the best people. The remuneration package is not enough, organizational culture is often more important when choosing whom to work for. That is a priority for IC professionals as well – how to make sure you help create a strong organizational culture, and how do you empower employees to spread the message. The line between external and internal communication is blurred when it comes to employer reputation, and the attention span of people in the digital age is even shorter, which brings new tools into play. All of this makes it even a bigger challenge.
”…line managers are some of the most powerful communications channels in the organization, yet there is so little attention paid in supporting them in becoming the best communicators in the world…”
Another priority that seems to be nothing new, but it is becoming more and more important, and we, IC professionals, have seemingly not yet cracked it (as Gatehouse and other research shows) – line managers are some of the most powerful communications channels in the organization, yet there is so little attention paid in supporting them in becoming the best communicators in the world – motivating and training them, providing coaching support. I can also say line managers are not always seeing the benefits of good communication. That’s a pity – I believe that would really make a difference!
In an ever-changing global work environment where no day is the same as the previous one, internal communicators play a critical role in not only adapting to technological advancements but also in engaging a diverse workforce and enhancing communications continuously. The top two priorities for internal communicators, however, remain less about technology alone but more about the recipients of the messages: employees.
”The workforce is becoming increasingly decentralized, and internal communicators need to ensure that messages appeal to all categories—especially contractors or those who work from home.”
1. Localization is key
This is particularly important for organizations with global offices. It is not common for the headquarters to roll out global “one voice” communications to employees. However, what works for one location will not necessarily work for another. While the underlying objective and essence of the message should remain within a company’s brand identity, it is important to remember that one size does not fit all. Local communicators need to be assertive about how employees in their region digest information, not only in terms of language and style, but also medium.
2. Inclusive communications
It doesn’t end once communication content is localized and appropriate communication strategies and channels are identified. The workforce is becoming increasingly decentralized, and internal communicators need to ensure that messages appeal to all categories—especially contractors or those who work from home. Their absence from the office location should not make them feel isolated about what’s happening in their office. On the contrary, aligning all employees, regardless of their work status, will give everyone a sense of belonging. Internal communicators need to take a step back and consider such aspects while working with leaders before embarking on an effective communication strategy.
Jennifer de Vries – ATB Financial
Internal Communications is an exciting place to be these days. With the focus on customer experience across industries, we need to “up our game” on the employee experience and show the strategic asset internal communications brings to the organization. For me, as an internal communicator, this means prioritizing audience segmentation and increasing our metrics for 2020.
”Our business partners are making decisions based on data, we need to show them we are too and our recommendations are based not just on anecdotal advice.”
Our employees see how companies can make the customer experience personal, they should experience that from their employers at work. Information overload is a common theme, and part of the reason for that is our inability to effectively target the right message to the right person.We need to get better at personalizing messages and customizing the channels/tactics we are using. With this we’ll better influence not just the message, but the whole communications experience for each employee, cutting down on the noise, and working to better inform, connect and inspire employees with the organization and their employee experience.
Improving metrics is not new. But being good at capturing our outputs and out-takes is just the first step. We need to increase our ability to show the outcomes and tie into the business goals. Then it is showing the story of those metrics and better explain what those numbers mean for our clients and business partners. Our business partners are making decisions based on data, we need to show them we are too and our recommendations are based not just on anecdotal advice. I’m really looking forward to digging in what type of metrics we can pull out to show our impact and further support and grow what internal communications brings to the table.
Elisabeth Wang – Piedmont Healthcare
It is whatever your organization’s priority is. If internal communications does not align its priorities with those of the business, we have no purpose.
The second is to make sure that communication within your organization adds value and can facilitate achieving its goals for those priorities. This means creating and managing the tools, resources and processes that will deliver the right message at the right time in the right way.
Gael Adams-Burton – Siemens
Put simply, employees want to be treated like grown-ups. They value honesty and openness and they want greater transparency. Ditch the spin tactics and ‘overtly corporate’ style of communicating in favour of being more human.
2. User Experience
Make it easier, quicker, relevant, interactive and fun. The tools and channels we use internally to communicate with employees need to keep pace with advances that are being made outside of the workplace. We’re increasingly competing for our employees’ time and attention, so we need to step up our game!
Steve Crescenzo – Crescenzo Communication
”Far too many companies are ignoring the mobile audience, or shrinking their intranet, putting it on a phone, and calling that “mobile access.”
1. We need to be ahead of the move to more mobile communications. Far too many companies are ignoring the mobile audience, or shrinking their intranet, putting it on a phone, and calling that “mobile access.” Communicators need to have a strategy in place that blends the right technology with the right content to deliver customized information to our various audiences.
2. Communicators need to define their strategic focus and STICK TO IT. Too often, we let ourselves be pushed into the role of a glorified Kinkos—there to “fill orders” for internal clients. We need to establish ourselves as strategic partners to the business, and then fight the battles necessary to earn and keep that status.
Top internal communication priorities summarized
There you have it, top priorities that some of the brightest internal communications experts are currently tackling. From all of this we can clearly see some overlap on the priorities, so let me summarize it for you all:
- Understanding the Business: this point was shared by many of our experts from many angles, whether it’s understanding the industry, business goals or strategic focus. Internal communications must cater to the exact goals at hand and that is achievable by fully understanding the in’s and out’s of the business.
- Make Leaders Great Communicators: Great leaders should always have great communication skills so they can thoroughly deliver information down the organization.
- Improve and/or adopt Analytics: Measuring data should be constant and always improving. Not just measuring the data but specifically business related data to help quantify a business decision or measure the success of business.
- Engaged Employees: Today’s employees want options and freedom and it shows with the amount of switching happening between jobs, positions and working abroad or from home. Companies must understand their employees and deliver personalized, relevant communications just the way we’ve learned to expect in our lives as consumers. Your employee’s expectations don’t change when they walk into work.
- Create Engaging Content: We are bombarded with content from all corners and channels. A lot of people in the comms world have been associating this challenge with our attention spans being shorter than ever. I don’t believe that to be true. 15 years is not long enough in the context of evolution to impact our attention spans to that extent. We simply have a hard time making decisions. If we’re given too many options, content; we struggle. Give your employees relevant information and only relevant information and the impact on engagement will be tremendous.
- We are mobile. And so should your communication. We live in a highly personalized digital world that has no boundaries in and out of work. If we can serve our employees with relevant highly personalised information that allows them to do their job better and understand how their role plays a major part in the company’s success, the result is a committed and engaged workforce.
And the top 2 internal communication priorities are:
We had a few priorities stand out over the rest, therefore our Top 2 priorities internal communications faces today are:
#1 ‘Understanding the Business’, your communications should align every employee, office-based or remote, with company goals and visions as well as help them understand how their individual contribution plays a part in the overall company objectives. Which ultimately has an impact on employee productivity, staff retention rates and profitability.
#2 ‘Improve and/or adopt Analytics’ is critical for internal communications if they want to move from a tactical group to a strategic group within their organizations, and will allow you to prove the impact of communications.
Would you agree or disagree with these priorities, let us know!? 🤔🤔
Before ending this blog post I want to give a big THANK YOU to our experts for their contribution and maybe we will be back in the not so distant future for more internal comms insights.