Happy New Year to you!
As we step into the New Year I wanted to share my perspectives on internal communication trends that I believe will shape the future of businesses and contribute to increased employee engagement.
Talent management and retention will draw even more on the power of internal communication: Attrition is looming as a challenge for organizations, especially in India. With companies on the growth path again(according to a Mercer report 71% of firms are emerging from the recession and hiring is back on its feet). Unlike earlier compensation isn’t going to be the reason for employees shifting companies. Among the key drivers are avenues for growth, opportunities to learn, options to accumulate wealth, get to work on challenging projects and receive real-time recognition. Internal communication therefore will play an integral role in keeping employees aligned and focused on the organization’s goals while emphasizing staff’s role in the journey.
Tapping internal talent for improved engagement: Harvesting internal talent for internal communication is the way forward to manage speedier communication, improve engagement, garner acceptance as well as keep budgets in control. I foresee it leading to lesser dependence on professional agencies and communication outfits. Very often we underestimate the power of what our employees can visualize and create. Co-creation of content and publishing will improve how internal communication is perceived and conducted. The more you involve your employees the greater the chances of acceptance. The key to successful leadership communication and employee engagement is reverse mentoring. Unless leaders take time to learn first hand from ‘next Gen’ they will always feel inadequate and unsure of their efforts.
Social activism and transparency: Employees will continue to seek even greater transparency and trust as boundaries defining organizations blur with social media access and adoption. In this world of ‘Wikileaks’ internal communicators must be able to acknowledge that any communication shared internally may find its way out. Social activism is on the rise and unless employers understand and listen intently to their staff they will continue to be surprised when internal literature leaks out or specific company policies are discussed or appear on social networking sites. Internal communicators have the onus of closely monitoring staff’s participation in social media to gain insights and feedback on what isn’t probably getting shared in-house. All this without encroaching on their privacy. Understanding and converging energies internally to align with corporate goals will be a key priority.
Internal communication consulting for department and unit levels: Employee engagement continues to be an issue with businesses emerging from the recent downturn. Managing engagement at the organization level will lose traction as employees continue to demonstrate closer connection and commitment to their immediate circle of peers and supervisors. Each unit lead will hold immense clout over how aligned the employee in his team is vis-à-vis the firm. Internal communicators will be sought after as consultants to draw out strategies at the micro level as well as provide resources to ‘plug and play’.
Your employee is your internal conduit: Viewing each individual in the organization as a potential internal communication conduit will be an important mind shift internal communicators will need to make in 2011 and beyond. Staff’s immense clout to add context and value to internal communication is currently underutilized. I believe audio and video usage will see a spurt with better technologies, mobile devices and increased bandwidth ensuring information sharing is seamless and faster. Empowering employees to contribute and manage internal communication channels and flow will see an uptick in progressive firms.
Internal communicators as marketing professionals: Convergence of internal and external communication will further break down boundaries and responsibilities. It will mean increased collaboration on projects, enhanced transparency and division of work for a consolidated brand experience. At times internal communicators will need to lead more to ensure maximum value of campaigns and promotions. This could mean having a greater understanding of marketing tricks and tools that can be internally leveraged.
Specialists sought: I foresee increased specialization within the internal communication function with professionals expected to lead cross cultural communication, manage diversity, engage in crisis management, practice storytelling, build a social organization, partner for change and drive communication leadership. What works in one country or region can now be replicated easily with a deep understanding of culture and local needs. Internal communicators will be sought after as cross-cultural ambassadors due to their access to leadership, information and the ability to influence engagement.
Internal communicators as thought leaders: Internal communicators need to create opportunities for their role and get to the table as thought leaders. Getting a seat the table has a lot to do with demonstrating consistent value, building credibility and being a thought leader. Respect for the role comes with increased knowledge of how internal communicators effectively partner with stakeholders to improve information reach, access and sharing. Contributing thought leadership beyond the organization will be an expectation from internal communicators.
Internal communication and employer branding: Building an employer brand will witness greater involvement by internal communicators to craft suitable messages and bring relevant practices for making the organization an employer of choice. Employer branding will extend into recruitment marketing, induction programs, corporate branding and alumni connection to provide a holistic employee experience.
Managing personal brands and personalities within the organizational context: As organizations become more connected and social, employees will look to co-exist their personal brands in the real world and online with their personalities within firms. There is a huge opportunity to tap the power of employees’ personal equity for brand building as well as spreading the good word about the organization’s internal practices.
To summarize, this year will only get bigger and better for internal communicators. I believe internal communicators need to dramatically hone their listening abilities. They will need to get acquainted with newer technologies and be seen as trainers and coaches who have a deep understanding of social media, multimedia and mobile applications.