Reimagining Internal Communications in 2021

Employee or internal communications has not been the top priority for a majority of organisations over the last few decades. It is something that is known to be a good to have, is mostly sidelined and is not the one that got much importance before 2020.

The pandemic in 2020 put the spotlight on internal communications. With billions across the world forced to work from home for months (a large number of organisations are still letting their employees work from home), companies realised that it is extremely important to communicate frequently and communicate well with their employees.

Rise of internal communications

The year 2020 was a game-changer for internal communication teams across organisations. The unexpected disruptions caused by the pandemic led to the rise of dispersed workforce, that could not meet for months together. The unprecedented series of events, in turn, fuelled companies to focus their energies on corporate messaging. Almost overnight, internal communications evolved from just sending some tactical emails, to becoming the key channel for reaching out to the remotest of employees and ensuring that they are well aware of the latest on Covid, feel they are taken care of and are in sync with the business vision and goals at all times. Internal communications emerged as the key channel for real-time and important updates, policy changes, as well as messages from the leadership that could keep the team members motivated in the crazy year.

While it seems like that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, internal communication continues to amongst the key priorities for organisations, irrespective of their industry or scale of operation. This is because the workplace is expected to evolve and hence, leaders understand that communication will be the key to keep all team members on the same page.

Communicators will need to continue to think differently and communicate regularly to ensure that the organisation has an engaged workforce.

Here are the top trends for employee communications in 2021:

Focus on the human connect

The era of just focusing on pushing one’s team to burn the midnight oil for the simple objective of getting the work done is over. Today, the organisations need to be more human in the way they deal with their employees. A good leader needs to be flexible and human. The year 2021 will see more organisations and leaders focussing on ensuring work-life balance for their employees/team members.

Also, in 2021, companies will be expected to focus more on ensuring a sense of belongingness to the organisation. The focus will be on collaboration and team bonding and hence, better communication. The closely knit teams will be those that will deliver best results in the times to come.

Employee wellness is important

The year 2021 will see organisations’ continued focus on employee wellness. As the pandemic dies out and employees return to workplaces, organisations will be expected to ensure that they communicate to their employees that they are taking all the necessary care to ensure that employees are safe.

Also, mental health will be a key focus area as organisations will invest more time and effort to help maintain mental wellbeing of their employees. Organisations will need to ensure that employees are not stressed due to increased uncertainty, rising workloads and other challenges. Burnt out employees can be disastrous to the organisation and hence, companies should leverage internal communication to ensure such situations do not arise. Employees should be well-informed about the people they could reach out to, in case they need support or guidance. Feedback channels like open forums, one-on-one conversation channels, skip meetings will become important so as to get a better understanding of employee sentiment.

2021 will see more organisations emphasising on and adopting a people-centered approach that takes employees’ concerns into consideration, with the objective of building the foundation for a compassionate culture.

Communicating the brand’s purpose

Purpose is the key- not only for external stakeholders, but also for internal ones. In 2021, organisations will need to have a clearly crafted mission and purpose as well as communicate it well to their employees. Today, purpose is more powerful and relevant than ever before and hence, it should be at the heart of all employee communications. Companies will need to leverage various channels to communicate their purpose to employees- intranet, one-on-one sessions, emailers, townhall etc. Leaders will have to take the lead and communicate the brand’s purpose and long-term vision to their team members.

Also, leaders should highlight how the employee is integral part of the organisation. This will ensure better employee connect, higher levels of engagement and in turn, help build employees as the company’s ambassadors.

Technology to help stay connected

While employees are expected to be back at their workplaces this year, technology will continue to play an integral role in pushing relevant communications to employees. Companies and leaders will continue to use a mix of emails, newsletters, townhalls, virtual meet ups, team collaboration tools, mobile wellness apps as well as interactive digital platforms to stay connected with employees or communicate about an urgent development.

Leveraging newer channels

With Millennials and Gen Z being the majority of the workforce, communicators will have to find innovative ways to gain interest and attention of employees. The year will see communicators using videos more extensively to connect and communicate with employees. Building specific social media pages for employee interactions and updates can also be a good idea. Also, some communicators might leverage new age tools like podcasts and gamification so as to better engage the employees.

To conclude, internal communications took centrestage in 2020 and it will continue to be an important lever for organisations in 2021 and beyond. Organisations will invest a lot more to ensure employee connect and stickiness, and leaders will play a key role to make this happen. The need to communicate quickly and effectively, and across channels will continue to be the key. The mantra for successful internal communications will be to clearly outline the brand’s purpose and leverage multiple channels to connect with diverse set of employees. Communicators should focus on 3 key areas – communication, collaboration and learning, to build an engaged workforce.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha heads PR and Communication at BharatPe. She has over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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