Shall we start with the bad news? Employees' expectations are rising all the time: They want internal communication that's current, relevant, helpful, and unexpected.
Luckily, the good news is that there are more interesting ways to communicate than ever before. So those of us who make a living communicating with employees have a lot of options.
But we can't be complacent. We need to understand what employees need, then constantly remake our programs so we break through the clutter and give employees great communication.
Here are 10 trends to get you started. Want more? Check out this infographic.
1. The quest for convenience
Nearly 80 percent of American consumers say that convenience is key for a positive customer experience, according to a PwC survey. But, as I mentioned, when employees bring expectations to work, they're often disappointed by how communication is delivered--slow, complicated, and way too difficult.
What to do: Listen to employees when they say, "Make communication easy. Simple. Useful. And help me save time by designing communication that's targeted and convenient." For example, rather than creating content that employees have to struggle through, be clear about what they need to do.
2. No one-size-fits-all
Generation, culture, gender, race, geography--no matter how you define it, diversity in the workforce is more prevalent than ever. For example, in many organizations, up to five generations are currently working together.
What to do: Guess what? The more diverse employees are, the more varied their communication needs. That's why you need to thoroughly understand employees' preferences, and then build your communication system to fit every size and style. For instance, provide a variety of methods, including push (email), on-demand (apps), and face-to-face (town halls).
3. More and more mobile
The past decade has seen the steady encroachment of mobile devices into every aspect of people's lives. As Brian Wieser of GroupM writes, "The distinction between mobile devices and any other internet-connected devices has been rendered mostly meaningless. Advertisers ... now presume that most of their messages will reach consumers' mobile devices." The next frontier for mobile? Inside organizations, since mobile creates equal access for every employee.
What to do: Make sure communication works as well on mobile as it does on bigger screens. Sound obvious? Many leaders (Baby Boomers, we're looking at you) still prefer long written communication. It's high time to make communication short, snappy, visual--and to dramatically increase the use of fast-moving video.
4. The rise of remote
If you're wondering where your colleagues are right now, here's the answer: working remotely. In fact, remote work grew 44 percent over the past five years. And 80 percent of U.S. employees say they would turn down a job that didn't offer flexible work arrangements.
What to do: Show remote workers that you care by designing communication that includes them. How? Embrace technology so all employees have an equal experience. For example, run your next town hall meeting so that it's completely virtual--everyone is remote. And use techniques like video, polling, and chat to engage every participant.
5. Old news
Journalism is changing: According to a 2019 Rand Corporation report: "The media ecosystem has experienced a rapid technological evolution over the past three decades. These digital-age changes have revolutionized how news content is produced, consumed, and disseminated."
What to do: Rather than reporting "news" stories that are not interesting (or new) to employees, focus on information that helps employees be more successful at work. For example: "How to set performance goals" or "What this award winner can teach you about improving quality."
6. Activism on the march
The vast majority of U.S. workers believe they have the right to speak up, whether they are in support of (84 percent) or against (75 percent) their employers. Employees want to express themselves about social issues (such as LGBTQ rights, gender equality, and the environment) or work-related issues (such as pay, sexual harassment, and discrimination or treatment of workers).
What to do: Once you help leaders understand that open dialogue is actually a good thing, create ways for employees to express themselves in a safe and productive way. Develop forums, such as town halls or social message boards, for employees to speak up. And encourage leader participation--and action--so employees feel heard.
7. Managers unbound
Organizations may be focused on helping managers learn technical skills, but the top priority should be soft skills--innovation, change management, and communication--according to a survey by Udemy for Business. That's because managers are more important than ever for getting the best out of their team members. And technical competence doesn't help managers motivate.
What to do: Play an important role in developing managers' skills in key areas like storytelling, listening, and facilitating dialogue. Since managers are too busy to take a traditional course, develop on-the-go learning that integrates skills development into managers' day.
8. All about experience
Uh-oh, trouble. Leaders are starting to worry that, in a tight labor market, it's getting harder to attract and retain talented people. So organizations are focusing on the employee experience, defined as what employees encounter, observe, and feel while they're at work. Almost 80 percent of executives worldwide rate employee experience as important to their organization.
What to do: Bring your organization's employee experience to life. Instead of pushing content, use the channels you manage--large meetings, intranets, social networks, events--to connect people, facilitate interactions, and build connections.
9. Well-deserved recognition
It's a no-brainer: Employee recognition plays a vital role in improving engagement. However, organizations are falling short in delivering the credit employees crave. Forty-five percent of employees say they have been not recognized in the past six months.
What to do: The best people to deliver meaningful recognition? Managers, of course. And you play an important role in helping managers improve their skills. Create tools and advice to show managers why recognition is important, and suggest a variety of ways to praise and encourage their direct reports.
10. Quest for community
In a pressured world, employees are seeking more from their organizations than a paycheck. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, one thing employees value about their companies is community. "Community is about people: feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others," the authors write. "It drives our sense of connection and belongingness."
What to do: You are in the best position to create a sense of community for employees. After all, you manage platforms--like the intranet and internal social media--that serve as a launch pad for building community. And you influence leaders, who can turn venues like town halls into interactive forums. Yes, creating community takes effort--even rethinking your role--but the results are significant.