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Everything you can expect from internal communication in 2018

Internal communications has reasons to be happy. The field is coming of age, solidifying its position and enjoying a better rep in organizations. Its main goals this year are to learn how to measure its efforts and gradually establish itself as a strategic advisor to businesses. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is also set to play a key role.

In this post, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the internal communications trends I believe are set to unfold in 2018. Some of them build on past processes, while others have only just taken off. To satisfy customers, it is essential to find more efficient ways to employ social media and new digital tools for internal communications. Considering how rapidly we have been changing the way we use digital information, we will have plenty of opportunities to learn to take advantage of new technologies.

Communications is business

Let me start off on an optimistic note. By many indications, the emerging field of internal communications will see organizations increasingly appreciate its importance in 2018. This is a European and, in fact, a global trend. Industry blogs and everyday practice show that internal communications is now showing more confidence in the world of business. Internal communications units and teams increasingly reach beyond their initial roles as the little brothers of PR and HR. A report by Gatehouse, a British agency specializing in internal communications, which summarizes the sector’s performance in the preceding year, notes that a staggering 84 percent of the surveyed internal communications professionals are confident that internal communications units have a precisely defined set of goals to pursue within companies. Poland is no exception. We are professionalizing the sector, raising standards and moving beyond day-to-day operations towards strategic planning and supporting the achievement of pre-defined business objectives. This affects the way internal communications is perceived by management boards, which increasingly recognize that internal communications units are capable of delivering solutions that are strategic and add value to business.

Leaders can count on us

Any informed business leader knows that committed co-workers are key to effective management. Dedicated employees make processes and operations run more smoothly. Communications is a centerpiece of the organization culture of engagement. Needless to say, the building of such a culture in companies should start with the leaders. The trends have been positive for years now, as organization heads begin to see communications management as more than an abstract concept. An overwhelming 75 percent of respondents in last year’s Gatehouse poll pointed to cooperation with leaders as one of their priorities. In turn, Aon Hewitt’s reports from two years ago clearly show that engaging company executives and having them engage lower-level employees, critically affects an organization’s success. Thus, major emphasis in internal communications has been placed on supporting leaders. That emphasis is certain to grow in time. Engagement building in companies is having its day in the sun. While the emphasis on internal communications by company leaders does not diminish the importance of the bottom-up approach nor that of supporting grassroots initiatives, IC is clearly a very different animal.

Gatehouse State of the Sector Magdalena Selwant-Rozycka - pic1

Raport Gatehouse – State of the Industry https://www.gatehouse.co.uk/stateofthesector/

Should we be anxious about the GDRP?

Certainly not. One should nevertheless be aware that the changes in legislation will particularly affect HR, PR and marketing. In Poland, the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Protection of Personal Data (GDPR) is scheduled to come into force on May 25, 2018. The new rules will mainly govern the liability of the organizations that process data and handle data inventories and citizens’ rights. Internal communications in organizations is responsible for regularly processing the data of employees, co-workers and external entities. This makes GDPR essential for the sector. The new regulations will be vital for persons responsible for competitions, company events, and relationships with employees’ families. Any activity that relies on data processing, and, for instance, uses people’s images – whether in the form of videos or still photographs – will be affected by the new laws. No need to be worried though: just remember that the laws are coming and make sure you are well prepared to comply. Stay in touch with your in-house legal service, which is likely to have already launched preparations for the legislative change. And if it hasn’t, it is high time that it did!

We are multimedia

Today’s internal communications professionals speak with one voice: we must open up to multi-channel communication, master new communication tools (applications), and test them in practice. There is no escaping this challenge as the world of communications tools is moving forward. For more than a year, live broadcasts on social media ranging from Facebook to Instagram, have been gaining popularity. Video blogs and short reports are big with rank-and-file employees and managers. The companies where the daily flow of ideas and informal relations among employees is central, are happy to experiment with new tools. Thus, in the advertising and PR business, Slack is replacing Skype and Messenger. In internal communications, we increasingly make videos, multimedia tutorials and presentations. For many of us, this is still the time to try out new ideas. We are testing alternative solutions, asking ourselves whether we should keep the IC function in-house or outsource the production of appealing materials (such as films) to external experts. Our reliance on multimedia is expected to grow further over the course of this year.

Is integrated communication possible?

Do I upload information related to my business on social media as an independent individual or as an employee? Are the readers of this post merely acquaintances or are they my brand’s customers, observers or consumers whom I happen to know personally? There are no simple answers here. In today’s communication, and especially in social media, boundaries are blurry. Unofficial messages blend with official content, private with professional, commercial with that unrelated to any interests. Today’s employees maintain an online presence through social networks, applications and blogs to express themselves as individuals. Ever more readily, they bring their Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Snapchat experience to their job. That experience can be useful. The communications activities of today’s employees are vital for sales, marketing, PR and HR. The biggest challenge faced by the sector is to integrate communications management. The debate on just how to address it will unfold over the course of this year.

Talk about changes

Our skills are valued today and are going to be increasingly treasured as organizations transform. Digitization is changing work culture, business models and relations among employees. Amidst this dynamic, proper communication can prevent chaos. Companies experiencing change can use communications to bring back clarity and security to employees while providing leaders with the tools they need to revamp processes. The trend of management boards receiving the support of the internal communications function in transforming their organizations will become prominent and critical in 2018.

Managers need attention

The response of line managers, their influence on employees, their enthusiasm and commitment are all paramount. Their opinions, guidance and commands – given directly to employees – turn out to be much more effective than e-mails and official messages on the intranet. This makes it all the more upsetting to hear that the perceived communication skills of line managers are inversely proportional to their business competencies. Therefore, communications competency development in this group of workers will always be crucial for internal communications experts. In fact, the improvement of the communications skills of line managers is nothing new – it has been a constant internal communications priority for years. This trend is expected to continue in 2018.

Constant search for tools

For years, the industry has explored ways to best measure communications effectiveness. Metrics have never been on our side. We are well aware that our activities are not a direct contributor to the bottom line. And yet, it is still essential to identify a set of sensible indicators to measure our performance. It is not only about having internal communications make itself visible in the company, but also about really pulling our weight. “Nearly 40 percent of internal communications pros said they were only measuring a few communications efforts or weren’t measuring at all. Most (59 percent) were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the measurement their employers used. Lack of time, tools and budget were all major pain points”, says PoliteMail Blog devoted to internal communications.

I am confident that comms people could benefit greatly from the experience of marketers, who get increasingly better at measuring their performance. Such measurement is going to remain an internal communications priority for years to come.

Aon report Magdalena Selwant-Rozycka - pic2

Aon Hewitt report Global Trends in Employee Engagement – link to report

 


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