It feels like only a few weeks ago I was writing something like this for 2022. But my blog log tells me that it was, indeed, a full year ago. Who knew? Time really does fly when you’re having fun helping people with their internal comms!
So, here are five trends that we believe will shape Internal Comms in 2023.
1. Reducing complexity
With many workforces more dispersed, and work patterns more varied than ever before, many companies have turned to numerous platforms, channels, and services to help them get their messages out to all of their people, regardless of role, shift pattern and location.
On top of this, key strategies continue to expand and diversify, and business priorities can vary from department to department. The number and scope of topics seem to grow on an almost daily basis. It can also sometimes seem that business priorities and the comms they generate must compete with equally important messages around support and wellbeing, rather than snuggling up alongside them.
Information overload needs to be avoided for the sanity of our workers, and to ensure that those fundamental messages are landing as intended.
And so, we think that, for some, 2023 will see a simplification in channels and messaging. This is not to say that multiple channels aren’t needed. In many cases, they really are. Non-wired colleagues must have easy access to critical comms, just as their desk-based colleagues do. And opposing shift patterns should never be a barrier to effective comms.
A health check of your current comms offering is the best way to see where you’re really at. And going external for this is best if you’re to completely avoid (unconscious) bias or favour. It may be that a channel is now redundant, or that two or three can be replaced with one newer, smarter platform. It may be that a ‘newsroom’ approach will work better, bringing channels together and simplifying the output for your people. But, if you haven’t audited your comms for a while, this process is almost certainly necessary.
2. Mental health will remain a key focus
It would be lovely to start the new year with a reset. A switch-off-and-on-again. But world affairs, warring nations, and spiralling costs do not respect such time boundaries. The news is no better now than it was six months ago, and the impact it is having on us all should not be underestimated. The current cost of living crisisand the state of the NHS are never far from the headlines, and are two stories that weigh particularly heavily on most of us.
Add in work pressures (be they tight deadlines, tight budgets, additional responsibilities or shifting priorities) and people can easily feel overwhelmed. Employee burnout is very real and is to be avoided at all costs.
Communicators need to continue to share the positive and uplifting stories, and comms channels remain an ideal resource for sharing resources and offering support whilst reinforcing the importance of everyone looking after their own mental health. There should be no taboos about mental health (and its relative fragility) in 2023. Other practices, such as giving deliberate breaks from internal comms to let our audiences catch their breath, and ensuring comms are properly targeted so we’re not bombarding people with stuff they don’t need to worry about are advisable.
Some employees may need reminding that it’s OK to switch off their digital channels for a short while, especially if they have a task that needs undivided attention, or a deadline is looming. If you share calendars at work, block these breaks out visibly so that anyone with access can see that you are offline for two hours to complete a task.
And remember that internal comms is as much about listening as it is about sharing. Do you have a way for employees to reach out, ask for help, and feedback. If so, does everyone know about it and do they feel comfortable about using them? A 24/7 platform for asking questions and raising concerns can be an invaluable resource for those at every level to feel they have a direct link to their senior leaders.
3. Further improve the digital user experience
Remote and hybrid working are here to stay. For some employees, the only interaction they have with colleagues and leaders is through a screen. This means that the platforms on offer should be easy and enjoyable to use, with full training given whenever a new one is rolled out. Some focus should also be given to the more casual or social functionalities too. Do you offer instant messaging to leaders via, for example, Slack or MS Teams? Is IT support instantly available for all, regardless of location and work pattern?
There should also be additional focus on collaborative spaces. Make it easy for your people to talk shop, swap ideas and share knowledge and best practice within the confines of your own comms ecosystem. Dedicated channels on MS Teams, Workplace, or Slack are more focused and secure than multiple splintered WhatsApp groups doing the same thing, and it gives leaders a chance to keep an eye on the information that’s flowing.
Is there a platform for employee recognition? Peer-to-peer recognition is so simple and yet so effective when it comes to boosting morale and improving employee experience. And that is good for productivity, reduces turnover, and helps you to attract the best talent.
4. Video will (still) be the way forward
I banged on almost endlessly in 2022 about how video is the most efficient and engaging way to communicate with employees. And that is still so true for 2023. A short video will always be more instant, relatable, digestible, and engaging than an email or lengthy memo. Just think about how much more you can say in a 90 second video (especially if it’s accompanied by explanatory charts, infographics, or images) than you can cram into a written comms. And think about how much more authentic, sincere, or empathetic your messages will appear if they are delivered with vocal inflections and facial expressions, rather than as words on a screen.
5. Analytics will gain further importance
There is a world of data available to anyone working with digital comms. I’ll bet what’s left of my Selection Box (which, admittedly, isn’t much!) that your marketing teams already measure the success of their social media posts (in reach, likes, comments and shares) and marketing emails (in clicks and opens).
2023 will see more emphasis on the same within internal comms. And why wouldn’t you want to evaluate the success and reach of what you’re putting out? That beautifully delivered and heartfelt video from your CEO isn’t worth much if only 25% of the workforce got to watch it.
As well as looking at the digital metrics behind published comms, get employee feedback directly from the intended audiences. What is landing? What isn’t? Consider observing comms sessions, briefings, and meetings. Run pulse surveys to see who’s hearing what and how it’s making them feel. Are there patterns or trends to observe? And then use this data to fine-tune your offering.
The trend that isn’t changing is the ever-increasing importance of internal comms and getting them right. Put simply, your internal comms strategy is as important as all your other business strategies. As hybrid working becomes even more widespread, and as the proportion of Millennials and Gen Z in the workforce grows ever higher, effective and meaningful comms are amongst the most important tools you have at your disposal.