Two predictions for staff comms in 2016 – what they mean for your business

Welcome to the second of two posts about predictions for employee communications for 2016 made by UK practitioners. In the first post, I looked at what the commentators had to say about CEO communications and horizontal communications among staff. This time, it’s the turn of projects communications and the use of video for engaging employees.

Internal communications predictions 2016 - Jaki Bell Eden Lighthouse Internal CommunicationsDecisions, decisions…

Intranet specialist Wedge says this must be a year of change for the way projects are communicated within organisations. He notes that central internal communications staff are becoming ever-more strategic in their approach but that project communicators are still stuck in the days of churning out decisions and results rather than engaging people in the process.

“It would be better to share progress, rather than only decisions, and discuss plans and ideas, rather than only informing people of results,” Wedge notes. (You can read more of Wedge’s article in the e-book Where’s Internal Communication Headed?, released last month by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC).

Are you introducing big changes in your organisation this year? The way you involve and communicate with your staff ahead of the project and as you go along can make the difference between success and failure. There’s no shortage of examples of new IT systems, HR databases and the like that just don’t deliver the benefits the organisation hoped for. Not because there was anything wrong with the systems per se, but because staff simply didn’t buy into them, resisted them.

Communicating change is a huge topic in itself, and one I’ll be coming back to regularly in this blog, but for now here are five reminders:

  1. If you’ve started planning your project, you should already have begun planning how you’ll engage with staff about it. Once you start thinking about how you’ll inform and involve your staff, you’ll probably find you’ll want to change a few things about your project plan, like timings.
  2. Break your staff into groups when you’re considering how and when to communicate with them (audience segmentation, to use some comms jargon)… those who’ll be most directly affected by the project, those you need input from, those who just need a vague awareness the project’s going on.
  3. Think about the information that needs to flow between the project team and these groups of staff… what input do you need from employees? What information will they need from you?
  4. Plan out how will you reach staff in each of these groups. Think about what communications channels can they access and also think about their preferences… how do people in these groups like to receive information?
  5. Think about what information people will need from you at various stages in the project. Timing is everything.
  6. Remember that change at work is very personal to people and recognise that some people hate change. You must make sure that your communications plan gives people opportunities to ask questions and get proper answers. Sometimes face to face is the only way. Don’t forget that if you’re making changes that affect people’s jobs, you have legal responsibilities, too.

The rise and rise of video

More than 90% of internet traffic nowadays is video. People want to watch videos to learn how to do things and to keep informed, as well as to be entertained. Why should they expect any less when they come to work?

For the past few years, commentators on internal communications have predicted that use of video to communicate with staff will rise… and it has. In a recent blog post, Jane Revell from communications agency Headlines looked back over the challenges that internal communicators grappled with in 2015, which she said included “using video more effectively for internal communications including animation, vox pops, vlogging and mobile to add extra depth to online content”.

It’s a dead cert that video will continue to be a focus for internal comms in 2016. Leaving aside the fact that people like to receive information by video, it’s a format that has great potential to help you. And you can do it yourself – most modern compact cameras and smartphones can record adequate quality video and there’s editing software free with most computers and devices, from iMovie to Windows Movie Maker.

Here are just 3 ideas for how you could use video:

  • Short, regular videos by the head of the organisation are a great way to keep staff informed about the really important things that affect everybody, like how the company’s doing against its goals and any big changes coming up.
  • ‘How to’ guides aren’t just for YouTube… record a short video to show your staff how to do something like reset their password or submit expenses online.
  • Help staff get to know more about the company and their colleagues with short videos about the work of different people and departments

In conclusion

I hope this short series of blog posts has got you thinking about some ways to improve communications with your employees in 2016. Feel free to share this post with anyone you think might find it useful. If you’d like some help with your employee communications, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line or call for an informal chat.