As our working lives continue to transform due to the pandemic, winning over employees’ hearts and minds has never been more important for organisations. Sequel Group’s head of video, Claudi Schneider, outlines the key areas where internal communications is meeting the challenges of a new rise in employee power.
I remember thinking in March 2020 that Covid was a small blip and we’d be back to business as usual within weeks.
But as those weeks turned to months, and now years, there’s one certainty amongst the uncertainties that the pandemic has thrown at us: there’s no going back to how we used to work, or how we communicated.
Internal communications proved its value to leadership and organisations throughout the pandemic. From those early days of scrambling to connect and reach dispersed audiences, often through self-shot film and untried and tested tech, and then the relentless and ever-changing communications to keep employees informed and engaged, many IC professionals can look back with pride on their achievements.
And now, although communicators are more certain of the ‘where, why and when’ of how to best connect with our internal audiences, the pandemic has revealed new challenges for IC.
And the biggest change is in the rise of employee power.
In the new working environment and changed economic climate, organisations are having to work harder than ever to retain people. Power is shifting away from the employer. The perks, great office space and social elements of pre-pandemic working alone are not enough to encourage people to stay in their jobs.
Because workers are looking for more meaning in their work. The opportunity to reflect during the pandemic has led to a re-evaluation of a personal sense of purpose. If a third of our lives are spent at work, then that work needs to offer more than just a pay check.
Purpose is a crucial part of day-to-day work engagement. Research says that more than 70 per cent of people want to work for an organisation that is socially and environmentally responsible, meaning it’s vital for businesses to have both a supportive culture and a clear and compelling purpose
Internal comms has a direct influence on clearly articulating purpose and to help employees to answer the question: “Would it matter if I wasn’t here?”
We do that by making sure that purpose is meaningful to each employee and is explained simply; by finding and sharing visual and written stories that bring purpose to life; and by using our storytelling skills to connect the dots between employees’ individual purpose and the wider business purpose.
Employee power is also opening up more channels for feedback and listening.
In our client work we see that organisations are far more keen post-pandemic to find out what their people are thinking and feeling.
There are more regular surveys and collaborative channels and platforms, but there’s also more focus on old-fashioned ‘talking to people’. Facilitating and enabling discussion offline and online is one of IC’s great skills. Our role makes it easy for us to work across an organisation, to talk to people on the front line, in senior management and leadership, and to channel valuable information up and down a business.
And it makes a difference. Colleagues who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work according to a Salesforce survey. When there’s more open, two-way communication, then organisations see better engagement, satisfaction, and productivity scores.
The growth in employee power is also evident in how firms are prioritising wellbeing.
COVID-19 blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives in a way that left many employees on the verge of burnout, impacting physical and mental wellbeing. The Centre for Mental Health says that up to 20 per cent of people in England are likely to need mental health support as a direct result of the pandemic.
As we adapt to new ways of working – many of us adopting a hybrid work approach – internal communication is helping firms to consult with employees, then to clearly communicate and engage them with new workplace strategies.
It’s great to work from home and not have a long and costly commute; it’s also great to work at home if you have the space to work effectively.
But working remotely also significantly impacts wellbeing, and if you’re working at home and on endless Teams or Zoom meetings; it’s not great for building firm relationships with colleagues, especially if you’re a new employee, and feeling that you’re ‘always on’ or working longer hours just to keep up is not a positive or sustainable in the long term.
But there are positive signs of change. Research from one of Sequel’s clients, Bupa, found that nearly 30 per cent of UK business leaders are making employee mental health a priority.
This is resulting in more investment in wellbeing campaigns and in increased communication to raise awareness of new policies, resources and initiatives that support better employee wellbeing.
Looking forward, the role of internal communication will continue to be paramount – an integral part of an employee’s experience from the moment they are recruited to join an organisation. Organisations that embrace share their purpose and important messages in a compelling and relevant way internally will ensure they build a culture where people feel connected, supported, and able to deliver their best and develop.
To find out more about how Sequel Group support clients with compelling insight, content and technology please get in touch – sequelgroup.co.uk