Bright Ideas

6 Disruptive Trends Within Internal Communications for 2019

Rasha El-Shirbini

Head of Strategy

  - [email protected]

Rasha El-Shirbini

Head of Strategy

[email protected]

 

 

Last week, while the Cannes Lions 2019 was the hot topic, it was all kicking off in the realm of Internal Communications.

Our team attended the GIC Internal Communications Conference in London, where 42 private and public sector leaders in internal communications shared their experiences and successes in their departments. If you missed the Internal Communications Conference, fear not, fresh have got a fantastic summary for you!

Here is a list of the 6 top things that are hot right now, with great examples provided directly from some of the amazing leaders within the world of Internal Comms and Employee Engagement.

6 Big Internal Comms Topics for 2019:

Being More Creative: Up-Skilling Teams.

Internal teams have always known that communication needs to be creative to get that cut through. But now they’re up-skilling their own teams to bring more of that creativity to all of their content output. Companies talked about how they’ve built a team of diverse abilities from editing, to journalism, to design- all to ensure the internal comms were just as engaging and creative as the external comms the business puts out.

Britvic’s small but mighty Employee Communications team have embraced video in an innovative way, using simple editing techniques to produce rich content, so their colleagues can hear and see from their leadership team, in a more authentic way. Their pragmatic and engaging approach has allowed people to be themselves in front of the camera, moving away from rigid scripts and let their personality shine through.

“When filming in house and with a small budget, keep it simple, be real, let personality shine and be bold with your ambitions. The physical delivery mechanism matters every time – so keep asking, can people see it easily and can you measure it?!”

   – Rachel Dies, Head of Employee Experience at Britvic.

Do The Right Thing, For Your Workforce.

Almost all of the 42 leaders agreed that there was no magic formula, no easy fix and no one size that fits all. Some channels just don’t work for all teams and you can’t expect them to adopt them so easily.  Sian Jones from Bank of England stressed the importance of piloting any scheme first as they did when introducing their internal social media platform “Bank Exchange” with tech partner Beezy.

With the ultimate remote workforce, covering 7 different time zones, Deborah Smith, Senior Internal Communications Manager at Skyscanner, talked about how the teams found tools like Zoom help them encourage more video face to face meetings, making teams feel more connected.

Leverage Data And Leadership Will Follow.

The importance of data and clear metrics to establish what works and what doesn’t was a message that resounded throughout the day. Some in the industry believe that CEOs don’t want to hear how their teams feel. This view was challenged at the conference, with speakers claiming that in their experience, CEOs made the time to listen to both the good and the bad. Providing execs with hard facts supported by data helped win support for particular initiatives, while the use of outside experts to help identify the important data sets can also add tremendous value.

A survey quoted at the conference found that 2 million employees showed the more visible a leader was, the more engaged employees are and the less likely they are to take time off sick. The findings also showed that over 70% of employees trust leaders who focus on face to face experiences such as townhalls, team meetings and walking the floor. Levels of trust declined significantly for employees who only experience leaders communicating through email or other one-way channels. The survey results found that geographically dispersed organisations could increase trust in leaders through interactive digital solutions that still allow employees to have conversations with leaders.

Nurture Story Tellers And Simplify The Story

The power of storytelling is not the sole domain of marketing and brand departments anymore but applies across all levels of a business. Vicki Davies at Highways England identified that, like many organisations, their teams’ communications had become “acronym-heavy”.  By encouraging all teams to drop this habit, and embrace the art of storytelling, communication there has become more relatable to everyone.

Others made a conscious decision to strip back communication to one key message a month, but to deliver that in the most amazing way. This not only cut down on the noise that colleagues are exposed to, but it also allowed the internal communication’s team to focus all their creative energy on how to deliver each theme. From whisking teams away on immersive experiences, to surprise mariachi bands, to holding “Beat the Expert” gamification style video sessions. Less is more, especially if done in a disruptive and fun way.

Finding and leveraging company advocates was also a large trend. Companies and public sectors spoke about the importance to set a framework for volunteer champions around the communication, culture or brand departments, with regular meetings and set tasks to achieve together. This view was shared by Auto Trader’s Head of Internal Communications & Events, Lauren Heathcote, who campaigned for managers to recognise that once people volunteer, job descriptions and time management needed to be adjusted to allow champions to help tell the company’s stories.

Empowerment And Freedom 

The days of corporate communication are over; authenticity resonates better, sticking to a rigid tone of voice has dissolved, and companies advocate a more friendly approach and promote ways to best achive psychological safety. Companies are also finding ways to give back to colleagues with no strings attached and embed new cultural norms, in radical ways. Paul Downey, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at MoneySupermarket Group did just this. His campaign for the “Freedom Pot”, a £300 pot of money that every employee could spend on their own choice of growth and development, no questions asked, resulted in 90% of the organisation taking up this new initiative. People used their freedom pot in such surprising ways, from taking an artistic course through to learning sign language, whatever their personal goal was, MoneySupermarket Group supported it in order that they could bring their whole self to work.

“The Freedom Pot gave everyone the power and freedom to decide for themselves what development they needed and the means to get it. It has been instrumental in transforming our culture to a more inclusive one, where everyone is valued and enabled to flourish.”

– Paul Downey, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement, MoneySupermarket Group.

 

At Skyscanner, Deborah Smith recognised the benefits of empowering colleagues globally to lead communication initiatives. Their open communication approach means all staff have freedom to communicate and organise initiatives, with the support of the internal comms team and a network of global comms reps. They also encouraged their wider teams to create interest-based channels where they could build communities – further connecting with colleagues on the other side of the world.

Think Outside The Box 

And finally, finding ways to remove barriers and making sure everyone is included has been a big mission for most companies right now. Heathrow’s Neil Barnett pushed to launch a free secured wifi network to all colleagues across all sites to ensure they didn’t risk using up their personal data allowance when engaging on work platforms and consuming rich content.

At pladis, Steve Hargreaves saw that his colleagues on the factory floor couldn’t take their phones in with them, they worked with Seenspire to make use of the TV screens around the building to display news feeds and keep all colleagues updated at the same time around the office.

We’ve integrated our internal social platform content with our TV network, enabling employee-led content to own these channels which is a step-change in how we view the purpose of digital signage in the workplace.”

Steve Hargreaves, Internal Communications Manager UK & ROI, pladis.

Autotrader’s Lauren Heathcote spoke about how simple solutions that can be right in front of you. After realising that telesales teams were missing out on video communications as they couldn’t play audio, the simple addition of subtitles solved the problem. Mindaugas Bazys, Morrisons GDPR Communications & Engagement lead, agreed and also spoke about their latest data and GDPR initiative, it was imperative colleagues where kept updated and visited the microsite that hosted all the information. Mindaugas found a perfect solution, using the online portal where the teams accessed their payslips! The success has been incredible, proving that sometimes the solution is right in front of you.

Well, there you have it,

lots of exciting viewpoints shared by the amazing speakers at the GIC’s Internal Communications conference. Other key topics talked about were about fostering trust as well as authenticity and no matter how far artificial intelligence and automation goes, the human element will always be required to assess how best to connect with a work force.

We want to thank all the contributors to this article, such great insights and it’s fantastic to be able to share these! If you would like to collaborate and share your experiences in the world of Events, Communications and Employee Engagement, please do get in touch!

 

 

 

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