Payroll, employee relations and IT support – these are just some of the functions that leaders are depending on to keep their organisations running and their people motivated. Another department that falls into the above category is the internal communications team, responsible for getting across those vital business messages.
A 2020 survey carried out by the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) found that 2 in 3 leaders were looking to internal communicators for more guidance during the pandemic. Furthermore, 83% of respondents felt there had been a positive impact on trust while almost half (49%) felt that employee engagement had improved. The role of the internal communicator cannot be understated, especially in times like these.
So, just what are those messages? While there will inevitably be a certain amount of business as usual comms, the IoIC survey also revealed that employees by far and away look for information on three main areas: 1) remote working/business continuity, 2) guidelines on staying safe and 3) positive and uplifting leadership. They also want to know what the future holds, the return to office life as thoughts will inevitably drift to summer holidays.
‘Access to key information’
“The danger is not to over communicate and keep messaging consistent. You have to strike the right balance as you have to cut through the noise,” says Julie Griffoulière, Communications & Digital Director at Morgan Philips Group. “Whether on town hall company calls, social media posts, internal newsletters or the intranet, we showcase all the great work that’s going on and ensure that everyone has access to key information, both work and wellbeing related.”
At the heart of all communications during these unprecedented times must be an underlying sense of empathy and consideration for what employees are going through. Everyone has their own set of circumstances, therefore whether via verbal communication or email, companies must put employee health at the top of their priorities. Given the ongoing uncertainty, people need to feel reassured.
As a recent article on the London Business School website reminds us, appreciation and gratitude are fundamental during a lockdown scenario. Employees, who might already be struggling with anxiety and or other personal issues want to feel valued - the behaviours of their managers and leaders can have a detrimental effect on morale. “Not only can these actions and words energise individuals, they can also boost loyalty and retention,” adds Griffoulière.
There are a lot of challenges ahead for leaders, not just navigating the present but planning for the future, for example drafting and sharing remote working and return to office policies. It's not surprising that the workload had increased for 71% of internal communicators during the lockdown – and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.