What makes a world-class internal communicator?
For internal communications, the 2020s are proving a trial by fire. The status quo of corporate comms has turned on its head as innovation and agility have become a necessity. Separating the best from the rest, we’re analyzing what sets world-class communicators apart as the new world of employee engagement takes shape.
What does internal comms success look like?
In a world where the quality of communications is under constant scrutiny and the quantity of communications is at an all-time high, comms practitioners everywhere are searching for ways to stand out and shine.
This comes amid an era characterized by disruption and adaptation, where the ability to reflect on what good looks like is often overshadowed by the need to keep pace. But with so much to learn from, it’s important to take the time to review how effective your approach really is and what success looks like in today’s hybrid workplace.
Global crises, resources stretched to their limit, and accelerated digital adoption have ushered in an age where “this is how we’ve always done it” just won't cut it anymore. To take employee engagement to the next level, communicators need to look at what sets truly world-class comms apart in today’s world and refine their strategy based on these best practices.
So, what does success look like in internal comms? What can you do to make the jump up to industry-leading engagement? And, most importantly, what is the difference between world-class communicators and everyone else?
What makes a world-class communicator?
Done right, internal communications can help enterprises make significant gains and align everyone towards a common purpose. Without effective comms, enterprises simply can’t operate as effectively, as research demonstrates:
- Korn Ferry research reveals that engaged workforces produce 98% greater customer satisfaction and 50% higher customer loyalty than disengaged organizations
- Gallup reports that 74% of employees have the feeling they’re missing out on company news
- Deloitte found that 77% of executives believe their companies don’t focus on aligning employees' goals with corporate purposes
Enterprises with world-class approaches to communication are at a clear advantage, and there remains a gap to close between organizations yet to capitalize on the value of employee engagement and strategic alignment.
The answer to what makes communicators 'world-class' can unlock myriad benefits for enterprises and employees alike, so how can internal communications professionals address this and take their comms up a gear?
How to stand out as an internal communicator in 2022
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#1. Strategy is what sets you apart
The most striking difference between typical and world-class communicators isn’t the content, but the thinking behind it. The strategy and decisions behind your communications are just as important as the message itself, as, without a long-term plan to articulate goals, communicators can only achieve so much.
This communications strategy must align with the organization’s vision and objectives, directly tied to shared business goals and desired outcomes. This allows communicators to measure both the success of their strategy and its contribution to the overall success of the wider organization. According to Deloitte’s research 77% of executives think that companies are not focused on aligning employees and their personal goals with corporate purposes.
"World-class communicators outperform their peers in planning and measurement."
Overall, internal comms planning seems to be on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Recent research by Gallagher found that just 31% of respondents say they have an overarching internal communication strategy in place.
Communicators deemed to be world-class, however, report that an ‘internal communication master plan’ covering a period of over a year has been crucial to their success. In fact, this difference between world-class communicators and other respondents was the biggest gap Gallagher recorded.
This suggests that an overarching comms strategy should be the first focus for any communicator looking to make that step into world-class employee engagement.
The ability to look beyond short-term impact and tie comms into a wider narrative – and hold it accountable to measurable long-term goals – is one that every communicator needs to develop to take the employee experience to the next level.
How to supercharge your internal comms
In today’s workplace, effective internal communications are vital to business success. Engaged employees are a company’s greatest asset, but with the workplace transforming at pace, the way we communicate must adapt. This comprehensive guide offers a collection of insights to support internal communicators to supercharge their strategy for the future of work.
#2. Internal communicators are a trusted advisor
Despite its challenges, hybrid work has presented significant opportunities for communicators to cement their strategic position within organizations and widen their scope of impact.
93% of communicators polled in Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2022 report that they have maintained or strengthened their influence within leadership teams. 85% of communicators report that they are viewed as trusted advisors by leaders — a significant increase to pre-pandemic levels of just 64% in 2019.
What sets world-class communicators apart is this relationship with their organization’s leaders and senior stakeholders.
In a recent Unily webinar, we spoke with internal comms thought leaders about how enterprise communicators can stand out. Throughout this discussion, our panelists affirmed the need for internal communicators to embrace their strategic role as “the voice of the people.”
"We shouldn’t be the spokesperson for the organization. We are guiding, advising, and helping our leaders be that spokesperson and helping them formulate views that align with the business mission, vision and need."
Truly world-class internal communicators have the ear of both leadership and their colleagues. Their role represents a channel between leadership and the wider workforce. World-class communicators have a seat at the table when leaders need advice on employee sentiment and communicating change, and the trust of the workforce to act in their best interests when important discussions are taking place.
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#3. World-class communicators partner with HR, Marketing and IT
As crisis communications and change management dominated the early 2020s, no one could deny the importance of internal communications.
Thrust into the unenviable position of deciphering rules and guidelines that changed by the day, you couldn’t have asked for a more effective example of the value internal communicators provide to an organization, particularly in times of crisis.
The resulting renewed support for employee communications today sets the scene for a more aligned world of work, where comms departments can forge more valuable partnerships with the wider business.
These partnerships are critical to taking internal communications to the next level. Human Resources are the function IC are increasingly in collaboration with, but, interestingly, world-class communicators report more recent partnerships with IT and Marketing departments. Building these bridges across departments makes communicating stories from across the business far easier, allows comms to leverage combined expertise from across the business, and offers greater insight into the challenges and needs facing each business function – in turn improving the consistency and relevancy of messaging.
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#4. Leading technology powers influential communications
In today's evolved workplace, internal communicators are constantly battling to keep employees informed, engaged, and aligned. Whether it’s searching for new ways to meet the growing demands of a modern workforce or finding opportunities to achieve more with less, technology is stepping up to support world-class comms with more tools and features than ever before.
Introducing Engagement Automation
With hybrid working now a mainstay of work, the technology you use to communicate will be a key success factor, but which internal communications software is right for your enterprise?
Intelligent content delivery, automated campaigns taking inspiration from the marketing playbook, and connected user experiences across multiple channels; internal communications technology is rapidly changing the face of employee engagement, and it’s ultimately down to communicators to stay in tune with the latest innovations.
Forrester Research recently released their Forrester Wave™: Intranet Platforms report for 2022, a highly respected guide for internal communicators considering their purchasing options in a technology marketplace. According to the report, ICs should look for platforms that:
- Support personalization that is both top-down and bottom-up
- Integrate with essential enterprise applications
- Orchestrate content and communication across employee journeys
The report underpins a growing sentiment among enterprise communicators that a modern intranet is now a backbone of an effective employee comms strategy. World-class communications, it seems, is now as reliant on the technology powering it as it is on messaging itself.
Forrester scores Unily highest for employee communications
Unily was named a Leader in the The Forrester Wave™: Intranet Platforms, Q1 2022 and received the highest marks of any vendor in the employee communications criterion. The report analyses the 12 intranet vendors that matter most and how they stack up.
Unily's platform was named a Leader in the intranet platform marketing place, also scoring the highest score of any provider for employee communications.
"New, cloud-native platforms have shattered the stereotype of static, clunky, internal portals."
Alongside market-leading employee comms capabilities, Unily's ability to integrate widely with third-party applications was called out as a key strength. Today, internal communications teams charged with overseeing intranet projects are required not just to think about the communications capacity of their technology platforms, but the ability to deliver a cohesive digital experience that unites all of the channels and systems employees rely on in their daily work. Furthermore, with the rise of remote working models, the ability to deliver to experiences through mobile devices is a priority. It's not just frontline workers that rely on mobile to interact with workplace communications but the workforce at large.
#5. Agility and innovation are the new in-demand skills
The ability for internal communicators to adapt to change and remain agile in the face of transformation sits high on the wish list of comms departments and organizations alike.
73% of employees affected by workplace change report experiencing moderate to high-stress levels, and those suffering from change-related stress perform 5% worse than the average employee, per Gartner research.
There’s clear value in communicating change effectively, but this also represents one of the biggest gaps between standard and world-class communicators. Gallagher found that world-class communicators rate their approach to change management 20% higher than typical comms professionals, with establishing “a long-term vision for change” and a “compelling change story” proving the greatest differentiators.
This speaks to the importance of agile internal communications and connecting the dots within the change narrative from leadership, embedding this into storytelling to influence the employee experience, workplace culture, and organizational wellbeing.
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.
Power world-class communications with a world-class employee experience platform
Ranked highest on the market for employee communications by Forrester and named the ClearBox Choice for 2021 and 2022, the Unily platform can be the engine behind your world-class communications. To find out more about how Unily powers next-level employee engagement, speak to an expert today.