6 internal communications lessons we learned in 2020

2020 was a year full of changes and challenges. For internal communications teams, it was a year of highlighting the importance of employee engagement and finding new ways to stay connected with teams. As we turn our attention to 2021, what are the internal communications lessons we learned in 2020 that we can take forward into the new year?

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What 2020 taught us about internal communications

The COVID-19 pandemic put the importance of internal communications at the forefront, with CEOs realizing that their organizations cannot grow or survive without an aware, knowledgeable and engaged workforce.

Having dealt with the sudden and unexpected shift in business focus, organizations will need to continue down the route of working more flexibly and adapting to quickly changing circumstances in the year ahead.

Internal communications have progressed from needing to be justified, to being essential to the success of an organization in a more remote-working world. In the face of so much change, there were some valuable lessons to come out of last year that internal communications teams can learn from.

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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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#1. Your leadership needs to be front and center

Your leadership team needs to be present during times of rapid change, with employees needing to hear from them. Regularly communicating with the organization via video is a great way to show your employees that leadership are involved and on top of things.

During the COVID-19 crisis, leadership teams have been communicating with their employees more regularly in response to feedback that staff need more reassurances from the top. It’s not essential to have all the answers, but the CEO showing that they’re on top of things is important.

With so much change happening in a short space of time, the messaging can feel like it’s going to be lost in the void, but in any organization, the voice of the leader is the one people will listen to. Gaining the trust of your employees is what matters, and being transparent in your communication is one of the most effective ways to do this.

#2. Two-way communication and feedback loops are essential

Employee feedback is often forgotten about, particularly in the middle of a crisis. But two-way communication is needed to ensure you are sending out the key messages, and you know the general feeling of your employees.

Opening feedback loops will bring greater synergy across your organization and can help you to predict potential issues earlier on. Checking in on your staff to see how they feel by using polls and online surveys will help you to identify any problems, while making your employees feel heard.

Internal communications teams are now having to fill the gap in office chit-chat that moving to remote working models has created. Whereas in the past, getting key messages from employees could often be done in person within an office environment, now the process has to be digitized. Utilize company social media platforms to enable two-way communication and give your employees the tools to communicate with each other and feedback.

With different cities, states and countries having different rules and updates in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to communicate quickly and effectively with employees has never been greater. Apps and push notifications are becoming more important than ever for internal communications teams to be able to get relevant messages out to a remote workforce.


Creating consumer grade internal communications

Sunshine, canine companions and a last-minute Uber dash all feature in the third installment of the Unily podcast. Paul Seda welcomes Unily’s Kaitlin Auriemma, Matthew Boyd, and podcast newcomer Casey Farr to discuss how enterprises can create internal comms that live up to consumer expectations.

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#3. Always have a crisis plan in place

The global pandemic was certainly one of the biggest disasters to hit organizations last year, not least because of how quickly it spread across the globe. With drastic measures having to be taken, and often with hardly any notice, the need for a crisis plan was critical.

While some businesses didn’t even have a crisis plan in place, others found that their existing plan was really put to the test. What we learned was the value of preparation, the need to prepare for the unexpected and the central role of technology in managing crisis.

"During the midst of COVID-19 last year one leader leveraged video within the Unily platform to communicate to employees directly from his home to theirs. This sort of sincerity and authenticity at leadership level simultaneously increases knowledge of goings-on, crisis management, and engagement, and increases a sense of community by allowing global employee audiences to see for themselves that leadership is in tune with employee needs throughout their organization, even amidst global crises."

Chavaz Kingman - Senior Customer Success Manager at Unily
Crisis hub

#4. Streamlining your communications tools into one suite is necessary

Programs like Slack and Teams have grown massively in the last year, becoming essential tools for collaboration and communication in the absence of a physical office, or for organizations with more disparate teams. They plugged a hole during the midst of a crisis, however the challenge now is on how to integrate those tools into a central digital experience, and how to drive the correct usage of them.

Streamlining the landscape with a single point of access is needed to ensure your employees can get the most of out these tools. According to research from Omdia, a consolidated suite or platform is easier to administrate, improves team productivity and reduces costs.

A fully functional intranet platform has become essential, with organizations needing a single pane of glass approach that integrates external systems into one digital experience. Lainie Forde, a Shell Business Analyst, explains:

"Previously we had five different sets of tools. Now it’s combined into one central location, we see that there’s a big increase in usage of the tools. It makes it really easy for users to come back to the tools that they use every day."

Lainie Forde - Business Analyst at Shell
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Centralizing your communications tools will help boost your adoption levels and ensure you can get the key messages out when you need to.

#5. Digitizing internal communications is essential for business success

If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that effective communication underpins the success of a business. Investing in internal communication solutions and futureproofing the strategy is now essential, and digitization is the way to do it.

After the pandemic took so many businesses by surprise, they now need to look ahead and be less reactive. Agility needs to be built into the overall strategy and preparations need to be made for quickly changing circumstances, so that nobody is left on the back foot.

Digital transformation projects were firmly on the agenda last year, and internal communications teams were at the front of the queue. New digital tools, such as employee experience platforms, have become necessary for organizations to effectively communicate with their employees in a world where unpredictability is the only thing you can predict.

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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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#6. Diversity and inclusion is a new focus for internal communications

With the social movements of 2020 resonating in the workplace as well as outside it, diversity and inclusion became a priority. Organizations have been forced to look from the inside out and adopt more inclusive mindsets.

Diversifying the workforce will give you a new perspective and create a more tolerant, culturally sensitive environment. On top of that, research shows that a more diverse workforce increases innovation, leading to better team performances and increased profits.

You need to focus on your internal strategy to ensure you’re including and retaining a diverse workforce. Organizations can no longer push diversity and inclusion down the agenda, not least because of the performance increases that come from having a more enriched pool of employees.

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How to promote diversity and inclusion with workplace technology

Diversity and inclusion is taking a front seat as organizations strive to build back better. Yet, despite many leaders’ best efforts, some equity initiatives are failing to make an impact. How can you leverage technology to take your diversity and inclusion strategy to the next level in the digital age?

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Put the lessons of 2020 into practice

With last year being so unpredictable, a lot of hard lessons were learned. But 2021 is an opportunity to put them into practice and ensure that businesses can take their internal communications to the next level.

To find out how an employee experience platform can help you achieve your goals for the year ahead, contact an expert for tailored advice.

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