5 Internal Communication Strategies to Get Through the Pandemic

5 Internal Communication Strategies to Get Through the Pandemic

Last updated on August 24, 2021 at 01:41 pm

Although it feels wonderful to say “2020 is finally over”…the pandemic really isn’t. IC professionals are now faced with a new set of challenges that they haven’t had to tackle before in their internal communication strategies (like mass vaccine distribution). And who knows what’s next? Comms teams are just as busy as they were back in March 2020. And healthcare professionals know better than most that there is still hard work to be done over the next six months to a year from now. 

Our hope with this blog is not to be all doom and gloom, however. But rather, we want to share the top five things that we think internal communicators should be doing now to get their organizations through the challenging next few months. Although IC professionals are feeling burnt out, so are frontline workers who have tirelessly worked all year without an end in sight. We need to rally and give them the support they need.

Help Your Frontline Managers

We already know that the role of the frontline manager is critical to retention, employee engagement, safety, and so much more. But these managers are exhausted. And they could use a little more help than usual right now to share key messages and rally their teams.

You can help them by:

  • Drafting clear talking points for their shift meetings / team huddles
  • Creating a place where employees can share feedback and ask questions
  • Recognize them every chance you get

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

One great thing that came out of the pandemic was that leaders really got it. They saw the gaps in the lines of employee communication and that frontline workers didn’t really have direct channels for comms. They realized that they needed to step up (and get behind the camera). And IC pros began to adapt their internal communication strategies to include more leadership messages. 

Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas! Continue to encourage your leaders to keep up a regular cadence of messages to the frontline. And continue to innovate. Start a CEO coffee chat. Accept questions each week and then have your CEO do a rapid-fire answer session. And keep the recognition flowing from the top. One best practice that we saw our clients excel at was ensuring that their senior execs were consistently communicating and being as transparent as possible. Leading with humanity became a winning strategy, and that’s only going to continue into 2021.

Take Your Internal Communication Strategy Mobile

If you haven’t already taken this big leap, 2021 is looking like your year. We encourage companies to have a variety of channels because diversifying your channel mix helps meet your employees when and where they need access. This will help you reach your (now remote) deskbound employees since face-to-face communication is no longer an option. And mobile is the most accessible channel for the frontline workforce. And the reality is, as our personal lives become more mobile and agile, employees are going to expect the same technology at work. 

If you think your workforce won’t want a mobile communication tool, think again:

  • 8 in 10 digital minutes are spent on mobile. And 9 of 10 of those minutes are spent on apps (Marketing Charts).
  • Currently, 74% of employees feel like they aren’t receiving important messages and information from their companies (Trade Press Service). 
  • Only 13% of employees report using their Intranet daily. 31% say they never do (Prescient Digital Media). 

And our client Veterans United conducted exactly this kind of research before they made their decision to go mobile. They found:

  • Smartphone ownership is only rising. 92% of people aged 30 – 49 and 96% of people aged 18 – 28 own a smartphone now.
  • On average, smartphone users have 63 interactions on their phone a day.
  • 50% of Americans own a tablet that can use apps.

Personalize Your Message

This isn’t just a marketing best practice to increase email open rates and conversions. Within an organization, a targeted, personalized message is even more important. 

We talk about employee engagement and how disengaged employees might just tune out messages. But it’s key to look at why that might be happening. Imagine you’re a nurse within a hospital system—you’re on the front lines and every day you are bombarded with COVID-19 updates on top of the regular updates your hospital system sends out. Now imagine that you get the same email as every other frontline healthcare employee and you have to scroll down to the part for you—the messages for nurses. And now imagine that you don’t even have your own email address and you have to access that information on a shared computer. 

Would you pay close enough attention? Would you always have time? And would you feel cared about, like your organization understood the needs of your job? 

And we dare to label these employees as disengaged. When really, when this happens, we have failed to meet our employees where they are. 

But it’s not just about targeting. I think a lot of organizations have realized that it’s important to separate out the messages to groups (e.g. doctors vs. nurses vs. non-clinical staff). But are those messages personalized? Are they coming from a place of understanding? Of empathy? Do you understand what their role demands? Do you know what that group of employees thinks, feels, and needs? Or do you address them just like anyone else? 

2021 needs to be more about listening to all your employee groups and taking action.

Invest in Employee Listening

To accomplish the sometimes daunting task of personalizing your communications to employees (especially when you, yourself, are overwhelmed and burnt out), you’ll want to invest in employee listening strategies and technology. 

Our Director of Client Success and Strategy Amy Jenkins said it best:

“Companies have always spent so much money on listening to customers and putting things out through marketing channels to get a sense of how people are feeling, what actions they’re taking. I’ve seen a shift over the course of the last year of organizations going, ‘what are employees thinking, feeling, doing, and how do I apply that to what we’re doing internally?’”

Amy Jenkins, Director of Client Success and Strategy, theEMPLOYEEapp

Well, we need to continue to push this trend forward throughout 2021. It shouldn’t take a crisis for companies to want to understand how their employees are, what they need, and what they think. Some of the best ideas can come when you open up to your frontline teams. And we know that tapping into the employee voice helps IC pros tailor their messages and create content that truly resonates.

Internal Communication Strategies: What’s Next?

While we aren’t out of the woods yet, there is finally a light at the end of this very long, crisis tunnel. And hopefully, when we emerge, we will be better, more empathetic, more productive, more agile organizations. We are comms experts here at theEMPLOYEEapp, so maybe we’re a bit biased but…we know that strong internal communication strategies will make all the difference. To learn how we can help you improve your communications impact, request a demo today.

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