Paul Barton, ABC
As we look toward the year ahead, we can expect some big changes driven by the global economy, a shifting culture and advancing technology. These changes bring unique opportunities to internal communications professionals who choose to embrace them and seize upon the opportunities they bring. Here are 7 predictions for the road ahead and the direction I believe we should be steering.
1. There will be an increased need for stronger internal branding and employee engagement.
In the run-up to the American Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton supporters showed a concern for representation of minorities and women, Bernie Sanders supporters questioned capitalism and showed a mistrust of corporations, and the populist wave that swept Donald Trump into office showed a deep distrust of traditional powers. Similar sentiments were revealed in elections around the world. Are there groups in your organization that are fearful, mistrustful of management or concerned they don’t have a voice? Internal Communications, MarComm, PR, HR and Community Relations will need to work together and integrate messages in ways they haven’t had to in the past to articulate the employee value proposition, demonstrate a commitment to diversity, and validate corporate responsibility. Caution: If messages aren’t deemed authentic, they will be immediately disregarded.
2. Mobile technology will be even more prevalent.
Smartphones, tablets and pads will continue to replace desktops for more and more employees.
Internal communicators will need to place a greater emphasis on workplace apps and scalable webpages, and focus less on traditional intranets. That said, desktops will still be with us a while longer in many organizations so communication will need to get up-to-speed with IT’s plans.
3. Virtual work teams will continue to grow.
More and more organizations, including those in very traditional industries, are choosing to work virtually. Virtual team members must continue to seek better ways to communicate and collaborate with one another. Those who lead virtual internal communication teams will need to place a greater emphasis on inspirational leadership and less on oversight management. There will need to be an increased focus on quality outcomes and less emphasis on quantity outputs.
4. The amount of information and the pace it flows will continue to grow.
Internal communicators will continue to find their greatest contribution to be in filtering and prioritizing messages, and putting them into proper context for an always overwhelmed and often confused employee audience. Internal communications will need to be more strategic and more integrated with other organizational communication endeavors.
5. Video will continue to grow as the preferred channel for most internal communications.
Companies like First Solar and Honeywell that have turned to video as a primary channel of internal communication are leading the way. Internal communicators will need to become well-versed in video production technologies. Another huge opportunity for internal communicators is fully optimizing the video capabilities of digital signage. The leadership of some organizations may have difficulty accepting the new reality that authenticity of video content is vastly more important than cinematic quality.
6. There will be a greater demand on internal communications to show its impact on business results.
Economic uncertainty will continue to put pressure on internal communications and other non-revenue producing areas to demonstrate their worth. Internal communicators will need to find workable metrics and determine the best ways to report their outcomes in unassailable, meaningful and digestible data. Ditch the text-heavy Word docs and replace them with colorful data-driven Excel charts to tout your successes to the leadership in your organization.
7. Enterprise social networking will continue to grow in importance.
Many organizations have a need for more peer-to-peer communication, more lateral integration and more virtual collaboration. ESNs that enable comments and sharing provide a great solution. Internal communicators will need to embrace, facilitate and enable this technology, and work with IT, HR and others to develop the policies and procedures that support it.
There are many difficult challenges and many exciting opportunities on the road ahead. So, fasten your seat belts internal communication professionals – here comes 2017!