Addressing the Top Communication Challenges of 2021
We’re already halfway through the year. How did that happen? But this is always a good time to reflect on how things are going. What we prepared for might not have anticipated how the year is actually going. That’s why we want to get real about the top communication challenges of the year so far and what we can do about them.
Challenges We Predicted Accurately
We certainly predicted a few communication challenges accurately this year. The first is continued communication of DEI Initiatives. It’s been difficult to get leadership buy-in and adequate resources to drive this important work. As usual, programs like DEI and employee wellbeing are falling into the laps of IC pros. And although we have a role to play with advancing DEI efforts, this needs to be something our leadership stands behind and that receives adequate staffing and budget. What can you do?
- Educate your leaders. People need to understand “why” we’re doing something to be bought in. And there are great resources out there that will help you make your case.
- Ask employees what they need. If nothing else, having data specific to your organization should be a wakeup call. And giving your employees a voice is always important, especially since we’re talking about creating more inclusive workplaces.
Another challenge we planned for is COVID-19 vaccine communications. The challenge here is defining your stance. Is it mandatory? Are you going to incentivize getting the vaccine? What about helping to educate your employees? Figuring out your stance is key to putting together a comprehensive communications plan. If you need help with this, check out this resource.
And last, we anticipated a need to keep up the leadership comms momentum. A great thing that came out of 2020 was that leaders stepped up and often got behind the camera more often. But as the world starts to get vaccinated and things feel more “normal,” it might be difficult to keep your leaders engaged and understanding why it’s still important. Our advice:
- Include questions about leadership comms in your pulse surveys.
- Show leaders the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, which says it’s critical for companies to be a source of truth and trust for employees.
Communication Challenges We Couldn’t Predict
But just because we got a lot right in our planning, there’s always challenges that pop up throughout the year that you can’t predict. This is why it’s so important to create strategies and processes that plan for the unplanned.
The first communication challenge we couldn’t predict: COVID-19 variants. If you are still providing education and information to your workforce regarding the pandemic, this is a new element to factor into your strategy. And if you aren’t communicating about this, it might be important to start due to the staggering amounts of miscommunication out there.
Another challenge is the growing gaps between countries regarding COVID-19 response, case, and inoculation rate. Especially at global organizations, your employees are not all having the same COVID-19 experience. Many countries are still experiencing huge spikes of cases or are seeing a much slower rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine than the United States. If our communications are targeted and aware of these stark differences, you might struggle with additional strain on your workforce. And it’s important to not lose sight of your wellbeing and support programs for frontline workers who still haven’t gotten a break.
Second Act Predictions
So, where does that leave us? We believe in continual planning and being agile in our strategies. What better time to update our predictions and strategies for the second half of the year?
Here’s what we think we should be preparing for:
- Continued uncertainty regarding COVID-19. Will COVID variants set us back? Will there be vaccine FOMO for employees at global organizations?
- A wave of turnover. Especially if we don’t act now, not taking a stand on key social issues or treating our employees better could result in mass resignations.
- Budget pressure continues as businesses start to rebound. Your ability to be resourceful and to invest in the right technology to create employee-focused programs will be critical.
- Metrics will continue to matter. Leaders are going to be looking for wins across their company, so sharing your successes regularly will be key.