Future of internal communications 2021+ part two: 3 key takeaways

In February we bought together a panel of internal comms experts to give advice on how to plan for and navigate internal communications in 2021 and beyond. It proved to be so popular that we bought the panel back together for a part two, where our experts discussed and answered your questions on frontline engagement, managing change, and how to best deal with engagement fatigue. Here are the three key takeaways.

Woman communicating with colleagues through her intranet

The changing nature of enterprise communications

Earlier this year, to help understand where internal communications leaders should begin when planning for the future, we bought together a panel of industry experts and enterprise internal communicators on the front line to take a deep dive into internal communications trends shaping the profession.

The webinar proved to be such a success that we received an overwhelming 50+ additional questions in the Q&A portion of the discussion. So, Matthew Boyd, our own product evangelist and chair of the panel, bought the team back together for a second session.

Kerry Christopher - VP of Internal Communications at Cardinal Health, Jennifer Sproul - Chief Executive at  Institute of Internal Communications, and Ben Reynolds - Managing Director at Gallagher’s Employee Experience & Communication practice, came back to share insights and advice as to how to best keep your frontline engaged, how to communicate unpleasant news effectively, and how to deal with ‘engagement fatigue’.


Future of internal communications 2021+

To help you navigate the new, unpredictable landscape and leverage new opportunities in sight, we've put together a panel of experts from around the globe to gather insights on how to take 2021 by storm with internal communications.

Watch on-demand

The 3 key takeaways you should know

There were many interesting insights and pieces of advice shared in the hour-long webinar, from learning how to keep your frontline engaged, to making sure your employees aren’t feeling burnt out from the amount of communication – so we’ve pulled out the three key takeaways you should know.

#1. Understand how your frontline operates in order to engage with them

The frontline engagement scenario has faced challenges due to the pandemic, and employers have had to adapt their ways of communication because of this. Because of the vastly different natures of frontline teams out there – from pharmaceutical to retailers working on shop floors – when it comes to engagement, it’s not always a one-size-fits-all model.

"Technology is a great way to communicate, but when it comes to frontline sometimes low-tech is a great option. If you’ve ever worked in a warehouse environment, you know you’re on your feet all day. There’s not always time to check email, so you can’t use this as a primary tool to reach people. You need to make sure people leaders have a firm grasp on their role as communicators, and beyond that, make sure information is in a place where employees can find it, packaged in a way that’s easy to share. Home mailers, posters, and digital signs are a great way to reach frontline workers, but most importantly you need to have a strong network of people leaders to reach that group."

Kerry Christopher - Cardinal Health

"In our State of the Sector report, we found that most organizations only woke up to the importance of digital transformation when the pandemic hit. This equalized the employee experience and saw the change in how communicators have had to approach communication. There is significant underinvestment in technology – it’s not necessarily ‘digital is the answer’, we saw that people were just using the technology that was available and were just turning it on. ICs need to understand frontline workers’ roles, how they operate on a day-to-day business, experience this, and find out how best to connect with them. Move away from static channels and embrace multi-channel experiences."

Ben Reynolds - Gallagher

"Map out their experience; map out what they do day to day and find natural points of connection. How do they get manuals and payslips? When do they come together? When are their breaks? When do they do things? Observational research is really important. Line managers are crucial for the frontline – they are the point of contact, trust, and information. Be stealth-like, find your champions, find your people to influence. Work with them and think about how you are involving the frontline in everything."

Jennifer Sproul - IoIC

Colleagues discussing future of internal communications


What does the future of internal communications look like? We need your help!

We are creating an IC Guide that will aim to tackle everything IC professionals have learned over the past year, presenting a definitive handbook for IC teams that can be used in 2021 and beyond – and we’d love your help!

Learn more

#2. When it comes to managing change, transparency builds trust

Internal communicators play a pivotal role in managing change, being the ones that need to look at positioning it to the company, explaining it in a simple way, and taking away some of the fear that comes with change and the unknown.

"It’s important to overcommunicate. The way I like to think about it is when you’re on a plane, you hit turbulence and the pilot doesn’t say anything – you automatically assume the worst. But if the pilot comes on and explains that you’ve hit turbulence, it relaxes people as they know there is a leader there who is in charge. There’s not a one size fits all way about it, you have to think about your audience and how you need to target them to make sure they have all the information they need."

Kerry Christopher - Cardinal Health

"My advice for delivering news is to make sure it has clarity, relevance for the person, transparency, and consistency. For change and bad news, communication is an emotional response, it’s not just a ‘nice to know’ – it causes an emotional psychological response. We need to understand that that’s what we’re trying to do and lean into it. We are resilient, but what we can’t handle are lies and not having a true dialogue. Lean into the fear, talk about it, test the dialogue, find the gaps, and keep going. Transparency builds trust."

Jennifer Sproul - IoIC

Engaging employees through change

In the fourth installment of the Unily podcast, Paul Seda welcomes regulars Kaitlin Auriemma, Kaz Hassan, and Matthew Boyd, along with ‘the hardest working man in intranets’, Glen Chambers, to discuss engaging employees through periods of change. Keep your eyes peeled for an unexpected guest appearance by Michael Pike as well, who proves that the work from anywhere model really is alive and kicking at Unily!

Watch now

#3. Less is more when battling employee engagement fatigue

Now that remote working has been underway for the best part of a year, employee engagement may be starting to slump, so it’s important to tackle this employee engagement fatigue before it begins to affect productivity.

"Coming off the back of what was enforced with the pandemic and looking at what organizations may look like now, there’s a risk some leaders may jump into making decisions that are only good for the short-term, rather than the long-term. There is no exact way to do hybrid working, so people’s expectations have fundamentally changed as to how they work with their organizations. You need to embrace and lean into that and work with what will now be the new normal. Life and work are combining and employees are really thinking about how their work now affects their life. IC professionals now need to step up and lean into how they can impact the overall business performance."

Ben Reynolds - Gallagher

"I think you do have to watch and learn the environment to make sure you’re not overdoing it – you don’t want people to get burned out. We’ve encouraged leaders and managers to have more intimate conversations as simple as ‘how are you doing?'. We need to be more open to having these conversations in this current environment, it’s more important to see how everyone is feeling throughout this time. Everything we do is a lot more deliberate now in this environment. We have to create opportunities, create small talk and be human throughout the day. Less is more."

Kerry Christopher - Cardinal Health

Cathay Pacific: Launching an award-winning mobile intranet' case study flat pages

Case Study

Cathay Pacific: Launching an award-winning mobile intranet

Built on a passion for flight and a commitment to achieving the unthinkable, Cathay Pacific has secured its status as a leading airline for more than 75 years. To connect its workforce of 26k+ employees who are mobile by design, Cathay Pacific launched a redesigned employee experience platform that has earned a spot among Nielsen Norman Group's best intranets.

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You can watch the full Future of Internal Comms 2021+ part two webinar on-demand, here: 


Future of internal communications 2021+ part two

In February we brought together a panel of internal comms experts to give advice on how to plan for and navigate internal communications for 2021 and beyond, now we're back by popular demand to tackle your unanswered questions.

Watch on-demand

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