Internal Communication Priorities: Resolutions for the New Year
Last updated on January 17, 2022 at 10:48 pm
It’s the end of another very unusual year that’s been full of challenges, but also hope. Some organizations are taking the last two years as a rallying cry that the way we work needs to change. Employees need more support. We need more diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need better workplace technology to accommodate the shifts in where we work and to set our frontline workers up for success. And that’s what we want to focus on in this blog. Not all the challenges that we’re all sick of talking about, but the solutions. So, we’ve come up with five internal communication priorities for 2022.
Make Real Change for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Many organizations have made diversity, equity, and inclusion a focus over the last eighteen months. But have we really been moving the needle?
Unfortunately, no. And that’s because we haven’t all made changes to the fundamental systems within our organizations. It’s not enough to just set hiring goals that are more diverse, you might need to change how you search for candidates in the first place. Just like it’s not enough to just say “DEI matters here”. Although that’s a good start, it becomes performative if you don’t back that up with actual resources and real change.
That’s why this is internal comms priority number one. We need to make considerable efforts to create employee resource groups, change how we hire, promote and hire diverse candidates at all levels of the organization, change the language we use to communicate, and so on.
This can be a really overwhelming goal, but there are some amazing resources our friends at Brilliant Ink have put together that can help you get started:
Just Like on a Plane, Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First
The pandemic, labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and everything else that we deal with on a daily basis have taken a real toll. As such, burnout is rising. 52% of employees report feeling burned out. And IC pros aren’t immune.
Over the last two years, internal comms professionals have experienced shifts in what’s expected of them, are communicating on very difficult topics with no precedent to guide them, and are being given more responsibility than ever without a break. Of course, frontline workers are also going without breaks. But more on that in our next resolution. If we’re going to be able to help anyone else with burnout and wellbeing, we have to put our oxygen masks on first. That’s why our second resolution is to start taking care of ourselves.
Burnout is a workplace problem, not an individual one. That said, we can help ourselves reclaim power over our schedules and focus our energy. IC and HR pros are often the ones that help make this kind of organization-wide shift. We need to be able to carve out the time and have the energy to do it. Here’s how I think we get there:
- Learn to say no to stakeholders when something isn’t a priority or won’t contribute to the goals of the business.
- Reclaim our schedules. This can be done by making hour-long meetings just 45-minutes. Block your calendars and don’t let people schedule over this time. Auditing your existing, ongoing meetings to see which ones no longer serve you and deleting them.
- Practice mindfulness regularly. A few of our favorite exercises include: taking a minute to arrive or doing a calming breath routine.
- Use your vacation days. Nothing burns us out faster than not taking necessary breaks to recharge. If you are a one-person team or just a very small team and feel that you can’t take time, then this is a big issue and a sign of a damaging culture. If this is happening to you at corporate, this is definitely happening to your deskless workers and across your organization. And it’s a toxic practice we need to start standing up against.
Focus on Holistic Employee Wellness
Once you’ve taken care of yourself, you can shift your focus to improving employee wellbeing across the board. Internal communication and human resources professionals are uniquely situated to make real change here. Together, our departments can raise awareness of key wellness issues, suggest programs and benefits to support holistic wellbeing, and change the way we talk about key issues like mental health.
Here are ways we can integrate wellness into everything we do and, therefore, retain our teams, prevent burnout, and generally have a happier, more productive workforce.
- Start a “Wellness Wednesday” campaign. We love this tip because it’s FREE. But what we repeatedly talk about indicates what we care about. By making wellness a topic of regular conversation, we show our employees that it matters to us and helps start a dialogue. It’s also a good way to share quick tips. Just make sure you focus on all aspects of our wellness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.)
- Create employee resource groups and hotlines where employees can either seek help or talk openly about their experiences. We don’t do our best work when we don’t have psychological safety. And yet, 80% of those struggling with mental health don’t feel comfortable seeking help or talking about it. We need to normalize these conversations, make them accessible, and create safe spaces to have them in.
Focus on the Human Experience, Not Just EX or CX
Employee experience and customer experience are both critical to the success of our organizations. But we know that the language we use matters and shapes how we think. While I do think we need to focus on creating better employee and customer personas to get better at providing what these groups need, I also believe we need to shift our attention to the human experience. When we think of our employees, in particular, are we thinking about them as just employees that might churn, or are we considering their human needs and experiences outside of work?
- Are you considering how they access information outside of work?
- Do you try to communicate with them in what’s called the Third Space? Is that desirable? Is that causing more harm than good?
- Are you investing in the whole person and not just the employee with wellness initiatives, training, and benefits that would help your workforce with their specific needs?
- Are your employees just that to you, or are you supporting them as human beings with struggles and lives outside of work?
This comms priority requires a simple shift in thinking, but one that can make a big difference when you consider things like the employee experience. You can’t really expect to support employees if you don’t account for the nuances of life outside of work.
Invest in the Right Internal Communication Technology
Too often, companies don’t select technology with the needs of the frontline employees in mind. We often buy tech based on the needs of workers who work at a computer at a desk and then try to make it work for the frontline too…or just let them go without. That’s why one of your internal comms priorities has to be auditing your tech stack and making sure you have the right tools in place.
I often think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when I think about adopting technology for the frontline. Deskbound workers are much further up the hierarchy (usually) because they have their base needs met. They have a computer, internet access, VPN access, and access to information to do their jobs. Your goals for improving tech for these workers might include things like engagement or improved collaboration.
But what about your frontline workers? They often don’t have access to information about the company. Usually, they don’t know who the CEO is or that B company is actually part of the same organization as them. They might not even get messages in real time about operational changes. They might rely on their direct manager for that information.
You don’t really need the same technology for this employee group, right? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs implies that you need to meet basic needs first before you can move up. You have to provide top-down, direct communication to frontline workers before you can worry about anything else. And that might mean buying different technology or using your tech stack differently based on what group is using it.
So, this year, make sure you’re tech shopping with the needs of your different employee groups in mind!
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