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5 internal comms trends to focus on in 2021

The 2020s have already earned the title as the decade of disruption. As workplace change continues to accelerate, every savvy internal communicator is looking ahead to future-proof their strategy. But what exactly are the forces of change that internal communications must prioritize in 2021 and beyond?

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The rise of internal communications continues

For many internal communications teams, 2020 has been a year unlike any other. As COVID-19 catalyzed unparalleled disruptions and caused workforces to disperse, the spotlight shifted to corporate messaging. Suddenly, every employee began to look toward internal comms for real-time updates, policy changes, and messages from senior leadership that would provide guidance during moments of challenge.

As a result, the pandemic proved to be a defining moment for the profession. 90% of internal communicators believe that COVID-19 will have a positive impact on their field and two-thirds of respondents have noticed that leaders are increasingly looking to them for guidance.

With all eyes now on internal communications, teams must go the extra mile to ensure their strategy continues to engage. However, cracking the code for compelling internal communications is no easy task, particularly as the world of work changes at an unprecedented clip. Consequently, every internal communications team must ask themselves the same question: what are the trends that will revolutionize our strategy in the years to come?

Digitalization paves the way for the omnichannel era

While there are several trends that promise to transform the future of internal comms, there is also an overarching shift already under way: the transition to omnichannel comms. In years past, many internal comms strategies relied on segmented mediums, like a printed employee magazine and email. However, modern messaging approaches take advantage of next-generation technology to unify communications and create a single source of truth for all employees.

When it comes to launching an omnichannel strategy, intranets have emerged as a vital tool for internal comms teams. Modern solutions provide a central hub that makes it easier than ever to launch integrated messaging experiences that mirror what your colleagues have grown accustomed to as consumers. Given that digital social and collaboration tools are linked with a 20% increase in employee satisfaction, a next-generation intranet can prove to be your secret weapon for boosting engagement and creating compelling internal comms.

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5 internal comms trends to keep on your radar

We are beginning the next chapter for internal communication solutions. As teams prepare for a new era characterized by greater dispersion of the workforce, priorities for 2021 and beyond should include:

#1. An emphasis on sustainability

Sustainability is rising to the top of every leader’s agenda, and with good reason. Empowered by the United Nation’s ‘Green Recovery’ initiative, enterprises everywhere are striving to build back better by reimagining their workplace practices. Many staffers are likely to welcome these changes, given that nearly two-thirds of employees assert that they want to work for a sustainable employer.

Participation is needed to make a lasting impact, and that’s exactly where internal communications comes into play. Currently, 57% of employees believe that they need more information about their company’s environmental goals and 65% would turn down a job based on a company's sustainability record.

As the go-to source for company news, internal comms can take the lead on educating employees on sustainability issues and securing their buy-in on new initiatives that may change the way they work. From a blog series on equity to video content that explains your environmental goals, take advantage of your intranet to create an integrated messaging campaign that will distinguish your employer as a leader in sustainability.

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#2. Wellbeing takes a front seat

Amidst heightened uncertainty and rising workloads, it’s no wonder that workplace stress is climbing. As much as 73% of the American workforce reports feeling burnt out and 35% attribute it at least partially to COVID-19 circumstances. This can spell disaster for leaders, as burnt out employees are likely to become disengaged workers, who cost their employers 34% of their annual salary.

Luckily, the right approach to corporate messaging can help keep stress levels at bay and empower your colleagues to reach out for support. Start by opening up feedback channels like social forums and pulse surveys to gain insight into employee sentiment.

Once you have a picture how your colleagues are feeling, collaborate with HR to launch or enhance your employee wellbeing offerings. In addition to a hub on your intranet dedicated to health and stress management, incorporate a more human touch throughout your messaging. By emphasizing a people-centered approach that takes your colleagues needs and concerns into consideration, you will build the foundation for a compassionate culture.

#3. The age of digital transformation has arrived

While digital transformation has been a priority for some time, the disruptions of 2020 are a powerful accelerant. 8 in 10 organizations fast-tracked some part of their digital transformation in response to the current environment.

However, a lack of digital dexterity promises to sabotage even the most strategic transformations. To thrive in the digital era, employees need both the ability and desire to use technology to drive better outcomes. Unfortunately, only 9% of employees exhibit these capabilities, which are associated with high digital dexterity.

Internal comms holds the key to powering superior digital transformation by creating a shared understanding of what it means to the business. Regularly discussing your enterprise’s digital business narrative can more than double your colleagues’ digital dexterity. To get the ball rolling, start by announcing your organization’s transformation plans via a blog post or video content and consider tailoring future messages based on your colleagues’ existing capabilities and attitudes.

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Guides

7 steps to futureproof your internal communications strategy

As leaders reimagine their world of work, it is internal communications that will lead the way in aligning the workforce against this vision. Future corporate communication strategies will be decidedly inclusive, agile, and digitalized. To succeed in this new era, internal communications teams will move towards an omnichannel approach that brings the consumer experience into the workplace.

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#4. Putting the frontline at the forefront

As an internal communicator, frontline engagement is likely already on your radar. For years, enterprises have struggled to effectively communicate with their deskless teams. However, in the 2020s, improving frontline engagement has become non-negotiable.

From your grocery clerks to manufacturing workers, frontline employees have kept your business operating, even in the face of disruption. Despite the crucial role they play, the digital experience for many frontline employees isn’t up to par. 86% of leaders note that frontline employees need better technology-enabled insights in order to make important decisions and improve productivity.

Futuristic internal communications strategies will go the extra mile to ensure frontline teams have the tools needed to reach peak performance. For many, a mobile responsive intranet can prove to be a game-changer by providing a direct channel of communication from the head office to the shop floor. Take advantage of push notifications and alerts to quickly communicate updates to these highly mobile colleagues.

#5. The need for numbers reaches a peak

Measurement continues to be a thorn in the side of many internal communications teams. Only about half of industry professionals report using measurement to explain the value of comms to executives, while just 43% use data to lead their decisions.

Teams that aren’t tracking the efficacy of their approach are missing out on a major opportunity. Particularly as budgets tighten in response to the pandemic, internal comms should utilize metrics around employee engagement and productivity improvements to gain buy-in from leadership.

These same measurements can also play a crucial role in forecasting new priorities. 72% of internal comms professionals who measure data use it to inform future strategy, in turn ensuring more agile approaches to messaging.

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Make 2021 the year for future-proof internal comms

As you prepare for year 2 of this disruptive decade, does your internal comms team have the tools and capabilities needed to continuously evolve? If you’re looking to level up omnichannel messaging with a next-gen intranet, discover how Unily can help transform your comms strategy.

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