Just last month we were still in the grips of 2016, captivated by political change and an unfortunate number of celebrity deaths.
The holidays have since passed, and the new year is in full swing. I, for one, wouldn’t blame anyone feeling the pressure of being back to a regular schedule. After all, January is more than halfway done, meaning we’re almost a third of the way through Q1! Oh, how time flies when you have goals to meet.
This is not meant to inspire panic in anyone. Of course, we’re not actually that close to the end of the first quarter. However, there’s an important point to be made here: time can, in fact, get away from you. It has a way of doing so, and for that reason it’s important not to wait on undertaking any important initiatives for 2017.
Everyone starts out the year with an ambitious set of goals, but how often are all of those accomplished? Unfortunately, many of the ones to fall by the wayside are in the arena of communications.
Companies view communications and culture as two very difficult institutions to change once they’re in place. They find themselves stuck in their ways, though they know the benefits to changing.
Those benefits are well documented. According to one Towers Watson study, companies with highly effective communications practices see 47% higher returns to their shareholders.
Starting 2017 with action
There’s no better time than now to kick those communications ambitions into high gear and take action. Not only is it the beginning of a new year, but we’re living in a very exciting time for communications.
There are abundant new collaboration tools and technologies allowing us to communicate in ways that we never could before. We’re able to measure our communications’ effectiveness for the first time, thanks to big data analytics.
Not all of these developments are new, but the ways in which we use them have not been fully developed up to this point. Finally, we’re beginning to understand how a lot of these technologies and methodologies will be actually used in practice.
2017 is looking like a year when a lot of changes in internal communications, which have been on the horizon for sometime, come to full fruition.
Here are 8 of the trends we see in internal communications for 2017.
1. A new world of video
We’ve written about video before in our discussion about CEO blogs to inspire your internal comms. Video blogs from executives have been rising to prominence among internal communications circles for some time. They offer an innovative way to communicate with employees, existing in a much more bite sized format and allowing communicators to put a friendly face and voice to the information that’s being shared.
We also know a lot about the effectiveness of video communications. One Forbes study said that 75% of executives watch videos on business related websites at least once a week, while 65% said they visited vendors’ websites after viewing a video.
A separate study, from Hubspot, shows that 55% of users finish watching a video through to the end, compared with only 29% who report reading blog posts in their entirety. This is especially important in the workplace, where communicators feel the difficulty of competing for workers’ attention.
Add to this the fact that 2016 saw the rise of live video broadcasting over social media, from Facebook to Instagram. This adds a completely new dimension to the possibilities of video communications. Just as the position of video in general is being solidified, a new landscape of possibilities is making itself known. Who knows where this will lead in the future?
2. Workplace… Does it belong in the workplace?
2016 saw the release of Facebook’s new Workplace, originally called Facebook at Work. The platform is almost identical to the standard Facebook network, but there are explanations for how each feature can function in an office environment.
This has reignited the debate around the usefulness of purely social technology for work. There are notable shortcomings, and the format does not fit perfectly to its new use, especially without features actually adapting to better accommodate the platform’s new environment.
This year will surely see a renewed interest in Enterprise Social Networks in general and debate around Workplace specifically.
3. Altruism oriented messaging
It’s no secret that Millennials are seeking out careers with companies that they see as furthering good, compassion, and altruism in the world. Working for a cause and not just a paycheck is extremely important.
In fact, 50% of Millennials say they would accept a pay cut for a job that aligns more closely with their values. That’s some serious commitment to ideals.
Internal communicators should take note here. Messaging that focuses on company policies and perks simply isn’t enough. Not that those are bad by any means, but in order to reach a large contingent of the workforce, you need to bring altruism into your messaging.
Making clear the company’s commitment to social good will take you far.
4. Beyond employee engagement lies experience
We know that employee engagement is an issue. This isn’t a buzzword of 2017 – it’s been on the lips of professionals for a few years now. Yet, this still seems to be something with which organizations struggle.
Let 2017 be the year that your company focuses not just on engagement but on employee experience. Experience is all encompassing, including aspects as diverse as physical environment, technology, culture, and more.
It goes beyond engagement, but make no mistake that engagement is profoundly affected by employee experience.
Moreover, thinking in terms of experience helps overcome one of the biggest engagement hurdles companies face. Namely, the struggle to measure engagement.
Employee experience as a broad category expands what companies can measure to things that are much more easily quantifiable, such as number of calls to IT about a particular piece of software to indicate its ease of use. Once work is understood as a holistic experience, it becomes clear that there are many things to be measured that will affect engagement.
5. The importance of mobile
The importance of mobile has been evident for some time now, but it’s only going to grow in 2017. Partially, this is due to what we already mentioned with Facebook’s Workplace. A bevy of work related apps continue to change how teams operate, and more of them will be accessible over mobile.
In 2015, 40% of employees wrote in a Pew Research Center survey that they use their smartphones for work. Yet most of them did so without their employers’ knowledge. That’s an indication that while we understand the importance of mobile, not enough organizations are acting on that knowledge. Keep your eyes out for that to change in 2017.
6. Remote work and the gig economy
This is related to the rise of mobile, but it’s bigger than that.
53 million Americans freelance, making up 34% of the total workforce. By 2020, it’s estimated that that number will rise to 50%.
Not only are more Americans working from home, more Americans are employed by contract as opposed to a full time position. This means managers need to work extra hard to be inclusive and make sure these workers know that they’re valuable members of the team.
Having a high number of contract workers on a team also means having new employees more often and adjusting the onboarding process accordingly. This all adds up to the communications practices for the average team changing drastically. This is an ongoing trend, but expect to see major changes over the next year and continuing into the future.
7. Emphasis on security
Much of the responsibility for preventing disaster rests on employees, and more data incidents are caused internally than many companies realize. This means that workers in every department need to have a very good understanding of cybersecurity protocol.
In addition to keeping their data safe, employees need to understand the procedure the company follows in case of an incident. This is necessary in order to avoid chaos.
Internal communications departments will have to work in tandem with IT to craft their messaging to include security in a way that not only engages employees but includes all the necessary information. This isn’t an easy task, but it’s a necessary one and will only continue to be more so moving forward.
8. The integrated digital workplace
The app economy continues to give us tools to address every obstacle companies face. From project management, to gamification, to chat, our computers and mobile devices are getting ever more cluttered.
These apps all have the potential to be extremely helpful, but when taken as a whole they present a problem not previously accounted for. With each additional app used, the energy wasted searching for information among them all increases. The potential for lost information and knowledge increases as well.
The solution to this that many businesses are utilizing is to have a single digital space where all of their apps are integrated – or better yet, one piece of software that accommodates all of their needs.
Intranets are an example of this technology. They also address all of the other trends in this piece. Intranets are likely to experience a renewed heyday in 2017, and I would highly recommend keeping an eye on that market.