If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that a well-strategized internal communication plan can make the difference between employees feeling confused, anxious and disconnected or integrated, prepared and able to adapt to any organizational changes that come their way. And while internal communications are becoming increasingly digital in today’s “new normal,” they’re still a vital way to ensure employees are engaged, aware of the company strategy, and confident in their role in carrying it out.
As we settle into 2021, planning ahead and creating a communication strategy can help your employees stay motivated during uncertain times, align your communication goals with the overarching business strategy and foster a culture of inclusion — regardless of where employees are located. Here’s how you can implement it accordingly:
Take an Internal Communications Audit
When accurately conducted, an internal communications audit can generate insights that lead to improved business outcomes. That’s why they’re usually a great place to start. Internal communications audits also illuminate which previously deployed communications were successful and which ones require fine-tuning. Here’s a simple step-by-step auditing method:
- Assess the scope of the communications audit; what are the top communication priorities moving into 2021?
- Interview executives and leaders to gather this information.
- Gather employee feedback on which communications worked and which didn’t.
- Analyze existing communication channels for efficiency and ease-of-use.
- Synthesize findings and propose recommended actions.
Understand Your Audience
It sounds so simple, but, above all else, understand your audience. Take a deep dive into who each segment of your employee audience is, what motivates them, and how they search for and receive information. From this place of insight, it’s easier to create the right messaging and pair it with channels for optimum delivery.
Align Communication Goals with Company Goals
Creating and tracking a strategic plan is a fairly widespread business practice. An internal communications plan should be no different. By sitting down with leadership and executives to gather input, you can ensure the plan has been shared up the chain and aligns with the company’s strategic goals. Additionally, by having employees and managers bought into the process, it makes it easier for them to be engaged in the outcomes. And finally, if you’re not crystal clear on what you’d like to accomplish with your communications, it can be difficult to allocate a budget that covers all the costs.
Create a Common Language
Use the communications plan as an opportunity to list out your company’s products, services and other vital information for consistency across communications. This way, you’re using the appropriate terms and messaging as an organization.
Use Omni-Channel Communication
Omni-channel communication meets your employees exactly where they are, allowing you to quickly and efficiently change your messaging across channels. As each stage of your strategic plan unfolds, omni-channel communications can help you transition the messaging accordingly so your employees stay informed and up-to-date in real time.
Fine-tune Crisis Communications
You may have already dusted off your organization’s crisis communications plan at the onset of Covid-19, but refining your overall crisis communication strategy is equally important. Who are the strongest spokespeople? Which managers require message training? Are there weak spots or pain points in your policies? Use this time to flesh out the details and sharpen the messaging to be prepared for the year ahead. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we must be ready to adapt on the fly, and a well-drafted crisis communication plan is a crucial foundation from which to start.
Let Leadership Leverage Social Media
Coworkers, managers and executives have become frequent guests in our households thanks to video conferencing platforms like Zoom, WebEx and Teams. It’s a great time to capitalize on this dynamic by engaging employees right where they are. Let your leaders flex their people skills with self-recorded videos, virtual town hall meetings and even virtual open enrollments where they can interact with employees authentically and keep them feeling connected.
Take Advantage of Technology
Seventy-seven percent of CEOs see the pandemic as an opportunity to build on their use of digital collaboration and communication tools. And there are plenty of options to choose from! Here are a few communication platforms and concepts you can use to engage with your employees, share information and connect the entire workforce:
- Company intranets
- HR apps
- Video communications
- Collaboration platforms like Yammer, Slack or Flowdock
- Internal newsletters
- Employee surveys
- CEO blogs
- Onboarding centers
These tools are an intuitive, user-friendly way to communicate internally in real-time. They facilitate collaboration, communication and the dissemination of vital organizational information.
As we make our way into the year ahead, there are some things we simply can’t know for certain or control. All we can do, from an organizational preparedness standpoint, is to rise up to every challenge and change with communications that are a) tied into strategic goals b) tailored to the optimum channels, and c) ready to adapt on the fly.