The past 18 months have underlined the importance of internal communications. Since the first lockdown started, employers have had to adapt quickly, helping staff to embrace working from home and adopting new technologies seamlessly to help organisations survive these uncertain times.
For many of us, it was the most intensive working weeks we have experienced. Rapid re-thinking of working policies happened everywhere from large multi-nationals to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with HR and internal communications professionals at the heart of everything. Yes, the pandemic has been a huge disruption for everyone, but it has also underlined the importance of effective communication. Research has shown time and again that open and effective channels of communication promote strong company culture which, in turn, is critical to long-term success.
Employers need to keep employees engaged and supported, however, this often relies on organisations having detailed and comprehensive processes and plans in place, which should detail how employees communicate, and be available for input across key departments such as HR and senior leadership.
Successful strategy and preparation will allow businesses to respond appropriately in times of crises, and most importantly, provide the reassurance to employees that their businesses can flex and adapt when faced with a period of long-term uncertainty. Over the past 18 months the news has been filled with stories of employers addressing serious issues and going the extra mile to support staff through innovative communication campaigns. We’ve also seen employers coming up short and upsetting both customer and employees.
Developing a clear business strategy backed up with insight and data is a great first step. Although, ensuring it is successful requires staff to implement the plan and deploy the appropriate tactics. Winning hearts and minds is vital as only when staff understand the thinking behind the vision will they really put their heart and soul into making it happen.
My advice would be in order to boost employee engagement, conversations shouldn’t be limited to purely essential work-based updates; create some fun channels too. Businesses often worry that productivity will drop when homeworking is implemented, but work-life balance is essential to keeping motivation high. Employees will likely be suffering from a lack of social interaction, so try and re-create some of that where you can.
For example, during the lockdowns, at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), we created channels within Microsoft Teams for colleagues to share pictures of their pets, cooking tips, wellbeing advice, online meditation, and exercise sessions. By implementing work-life balance channels such as these, it can help employees switch off from any work-related stress and engage with colleagues. CIM has also given back to its employees and shown appreciation and acknowledgement to staff during these times by providing rewards such as Amazon gift cards and chocolate gifts at Easter. Providing little things like these, can really go a long way to ensure employees are kept front of mind of a business and that they feel engaged and motivated to work for the organisation.
James Delves is head of PR and external engagement at the Chartered Institute of Marketing