Since March 2020, for many people, work is now defined as something that you do and not a place that you go. It’s no longer associated with one particular place. This shift was revealing from an internal communications perspective. When it happened, the imperative was to maintain that sense of belonging and unity which was previously associated with a presence in the office/building. Companies generally worked a lot harder to create a sense of who they were as an organisation among employees. For many companies, this was achieved successfully through effective internal communications.
When many industries were in crisis mode, the status of internal communications was elevated to a new level. Companies felt a greater need to create a sense of unity, belonging and identity among employees. This type of culture was also integral pre-pandemic, however there was less of a spotlight on internal communications when everyone was in the office together and not in a crisis situation.
A key takeaway from how we have communicated internally over the past 18 months is that team members can feel disconnected, even in an office full of people. If companies do not make an effort to really communicate with their employees in a way that breeds that sense of belonging and identity, linking them back to the company values, then you risk a disconnected workforce. This can have a knock on impact on productivity but significantly, can increase the likelihood of an employee leaving the company.
Many CEOs across the globe reached their teams virtually through, for example, weekly videos, podcasts and blogs. The updates had a strong focus on companies’ core values and reinforced their cultures. Their messaging created a more meaningful connection with their teams even though many were no longer in the same building.
A return to office or a move to a hybrid working environment shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity to reduce the time spent on internal communications. Companies are considering carefully how they want to be perceived by their employees, and are taking steps to ensure their strategy and framework continues to support this. In the same way that we all reviewed internal communications and the channels that support it when we moved to a working from home model, this should now be completed again as the model changes. The pandemic simply revealed the importance and significance of internal communications in the success of any business, and how much, in some cases, we were over reliant on the shared office/building to create a sense of belonging.
The impact of successful internal communications during the pandemic has paved the way for a much higher quality relationship between employers and employees. At the core of this has been a strengthening of trust between employees and their employers. This has been two-way and facilitated by improved communications and a recognition that employees can be as productive when working from home.
Internal communications now stands shoulder to shoulder with external communications. As we return to workplaces it is critical that we reset and reevaluate our approach to internal communications, ensuring that we build on what has been created, maintaining the quality, transparency and frequency that has helped to build trust and connection. This will be key to achieving employee buy-in and retention during what is still a very uncertain time.