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What 2016 (and beyond) holds for Internal Communications.


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Here is our annual guide on what we think are the areas and trends Internal Communicators should be aware of. This years guide outlines 4 main areas that we think are going to be key in 2016 and beyond, along with sub themes and a wealth of hints and tips. We hope it is of benefit, and brings you success with your future internal communications!

Published in: Leadership & Management

What 2016 (and beyond) holds for Internal Communications.

  3. 3. VISION & VALUES 01
  4. 4. VISION & VALUES01 4 GENERATIONAL SHIFT For the first time in history, the workplace is now made up of five different generations. These include: Traditionalists (pre-1946) Baby Boomers (1946-1964) Generation X (1965-1976) Millennials or Generation Y (1977-1997) Generation Z (after 1997) Millenials are now the largest part of the UK workforce with 11m workers representing 35%. They are the next leaders, who organisations need to win over now. (Allianz, 2015)
  5. 5. VISION & VALUES01 5 A NEW GENERATION OF VALUES Arguably any of the older generations would have liked to have lived by the values - to the right - held by the new generations in the workplace. It’s just that now, technology has given new generations the opportunity, ability, and importantly the voice, needed to assert the influence required to create the workplace they expect. Internal communicators need to clearly understand the values and attitudes of new generations, but crucially so for organisational success, they need to focus on bringing them to life... I want to work for a company who share the same values that I hold... Learning and development is crucial for me to achieve ... I like freedom & flexibility. I hold no real loyalty to an organisation ... I want a sense of purpose and to understand how the role I’m performing is helping to achieve the ‘bigger picture’ ... I want to be able to work from anywhere and at anytime ... I expect a digital ‘consumer-like’ experience in the workplace ...
  6. 6. VISION & VALUES01 6 BRINGING VISION & VALUES TO LIFE New generations have ensured that vision and values are no longer the ‘soft topic’ they were once viewed as. The days of long, wafty mission statements created more so as a box ticking exercise and which simply remained as static words, are well and truly over. Today the business benefits of vision and values are clear, but the benefits will only be experienced when internal communicators focus on the below points: Employees need to clearly understand how their individual role contributes to the success of a company vision. Managers make the vision relevant to employees, by directing them on how they should be working day-to-day in relation to the vision. IC need to support managers to best do so. Leaders must provide a strong strategic narrative about the organisation - where it’s come from, where it’s heading, and the way in which it will do so. Leaders must align what they say with what they do. IC need to ensure the vision & values narrative is timely and relevant to internal audiences, by translating corporate talk into a real world story that employees can clearly understand and believe in. Real employees, telling real stories which showcase company values is extremely powerful. Video is a great medium to use in order to achieve this - particularly so user-generated content.
  7. 7. VISION & VALUES01 7 A WAR FOR TALENT The above points, along with global skills shortages, mean employees are now in a position of power, and this has given rise to a: The values of new generations in the workplace - particularly the absence of loyalty to organisations who do not meet their expectations. Innovation being the only sustainable competitive advantage - which is dependent on the application of employee knowledge. Employees finally being recognised as an organisations most important asset. (Urbancová Hana, 2013) A FIGHT FOR TALENT
  8. 8. VISION & VALUES01 8 A FIGHT FOR TALENT For organisations to compete, they need to strengthen their employer brand, primarily by focussing on the values which align with those of potential employees. Importantly, these values can’t be faked. As once new talent has been recruited, it’s then all about keeping hold of it. If an organisations promised values do not meet the expectations of new employees, they will become disengaged and ultimately, they’ll leave.
  9. 9. VISION & VALUES01 9 ATTRACTIVE CAREER CHOICE Talent is being attracted to the ‘meaningful work’ of internal comms! With new generations placing a priority on more meaningful work, the opportunity internal comms offers to help improve the quality of work life, means it is becoming a sought after role. Furthermore, new talent wants to create purposeful work - an attitude that will lead to improved internal communications, and so ultimately, increased effectiveness. It’s exciting times ahead for Internal Comms! I’M SEEKING MEANINGFUL WORK
  11. 11. BENEFITS OF INTERNAL CONTENT MARKETING GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 11INTERNAL CONTENT MARKETING02 11 Organisations have largely been focused on creating consumer-facing content. But leading organisations now understand that the principles of content marketing - that of understanding customers so as to provide them with the answers they need, to strengthen brand perceptions and influence behaviour - should be applied internally, for a number of key reasons: We are in a knowledge based economy, which means peoples ideas and how they manage and share knowledge is more important than how they perform a task. As a result, emphasis must be put on ensuring employees interact with relevant content and are able to collaborate with others based on it. The blurring of lines between internal & external comms, means internal content can easily filter through to external audiences. An internal content marketing approach can help to ensure positive outcomes occur when content reaches external audiences. Internal content marketing helps to give employees a voice, and recognition. This can lead to increased levels of employee engagement and employee advocacy. So a win for both employees and employers alike.
  12. 12. CREATORS & CURATORS For Internal Communicators, curating content will take over from creating content from scratch... GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 12INTERNAL CONTENT MARKETING02 12 Internal communicators now need to take advantage of the ever growing volume of user generated content, and the improved access to it - through social and collaboration technologies - by helping to direct and curate the content. The role of IC will be to amplify the valuable content and stories that they discover, and to steer the conversations around them. Organisations need to understand that they can no longer be the sole creators of content. A single corporate voice is weak compared to the combined voices of employees, consumers and other stakeholders - especially so, in the knowledge era we are now living in. (Ben Edwards IBM, 2013)
  13. 13. INFORMATION OVERLOAD GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 13INTERNAL CONTENT MARKETING02 13 Way back in 1959 legendary business visionary Peter Drucker stated how: Increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century. Organisations are finally acting on Drucker’s advice, due to an understanding that they are now operating in a knowledge economy - as mentioned earlier - and so in turn realise that the only true differentiator between organisations – and the key ingredient for continued success – is innovation. Innovation in; ways of working, products, or customer service, for example. Innovation arises from the collaboration and application of knowledge. But organisations first have to focus on developing knowledge, which is created through experience, developing skills, and yep you got it – information. Therefore, returning to Drucker’s quote, organisations need to focus on information overload, as this is arguably the biggest factor affecting the productivity of knowledge workers today.
  14. 14. INFORMATION OVERLOAD GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 14INTERNAL CONTENT MARKETING02 14 There are two key areas internal communicators need to focus on in order to help reduce information overload: 1. Technological tools 2. Employee behaviour (found in the next section - section 3) Technological tools need to do two main things: 1. Efficiently connect employees to the information and people that matter most to them. 2. Make information easier to consume. It falls upon the internal communicator to identify the correct tools, make employees aware of them, train employees on them if necessary, and then facilitate their use. One notable trend we’ve noticed is the shortening of messages - Twitter like length - which employees can quickly read to see if the information is relevant and so they can decide whether to read the information in full or not. Summarisation technologies appear to be an important tool for the future workplace.
  16. 16. Measurement has for far too long been an area of Internal Communications that has been widely neglected. It’s a sad fact that many Internal Communicators know the importance of measurement, but few actually carry it out. But with the wealth of (big) data flooding the workplace due to things such as social media, and organisations knowing the importance and benefits (competitive advantage) of making sense of it; measurement is no doubt going to rise to the forefront and be of vital importance. Organisations now need to follow similar approaches for understanding their internal audience as they do for understanding their external audiences. GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 16 TIME TO SHINE A BRIGHTER LIGHT ON YOUR AUDIENCE
  17. 17. GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 17 EMPLOYEE LISTENING We all now know that Internal Communications are no longer simply messages ‘pushed down from the top’. Instead, new social and collaborative platforms allow each and every employee to be an internal communicator - meaning internal communications have become what all communications should be: two way. However, it is fair to say that the ears of organisations aren’t working quite as well as they should be. And so they are failing to hear and pick up on all of the valuable information employees are transmitting.
  18. 18. GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 18 Here are some suggestions for how organisations should approach employee listening: Undertake informal listening. This is achieved by listening in on online conversations - social media / forums etc. Also undertake formal listening. This is achieved by running surveys, workshops and focus groups. Shorter, continuous forms of feedback are more valuable for both employees (improved engagement) and organisations (real time actionable insight) than annual reviews are. Information is only of value when it is shared and insights are acted upon. Dedicate time to analyse the information to reveal trends and patterns. After having listened, gathered data, and performed some analysis, it’s time to take action based on your learnings. Importantly you then need to measure your actions to see the impact you have made. EMPLOYEE LISTENING
  19. 19. GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 19 BENEFITS OF LISTENING 1. Listening helps to understand what exactly it is your audience wants and equally as important, what they don’t. For example, content shared on an organisations internal social network may be thought to be great by those creating and sharing it, but those reading it may react in a different way, signalling that it was not appropriate content to create. 2. Listening to conversations relating to certain business decisions can reveal the mood of the workforce, helping to inform any subsequent communications that may be needed and also any other future decisions. 3. Listening can help to identify certain employees or groups of employees who are subject expects and so can help with knowledge sharing, or who may hold strong social influence and therefore can become potential employee ambassadors.
  20. 20. GREATER AUDIENCE UNDERSTANDING03 20 SEGMENTATION A huge benefit of listening is to improve how you segment your audience. The importance of segmentation is clear, as it improves an organisations ability to send groups of employees the right information, in the right place and at the right time - The holy grail of all communications. While traditional segmentation (job role, location etc.) still has relevance; listening enables organisations to act in a more marketing savvy way. And with enough data and understanding, internal communicators can - hopefully one day - take a step further on from segmentation into the realms of personalisation. Personalisation is segmentation stripped to its roots As we touched upon in section two with ‘Information Overload’, the right technology will enable the ultimate goal of delivering a seamless, one-to-one employee experience, in the form of tailored, personalised information and communications. (Yaniv Navot, 2015)
  21. 21. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 21 REMOTE WORKERS One notable audience that organisations have notoriously struggled to effectively engage with is remote workers. Remote working is rising in popularity due to improvements in technology, globalisation, rise in the freelancer economy, and both employees and employers clearly understanding the benefits remote working brings. Arguably the line of communication between remote workers and their manager is where the greatest attention is needed. Visible leaders, who listen, provide feedback and ensure remote workers voices are heard, are crucial. Virtual Reality is something that has the potential to completely transform communication. It could offer huge benefits to remote workers, as any work related environment can be replicated, along with improved connectedness and collaboration with required people. Suggested solutions: - Identify lines of existing communications - Use of social networks & mobile apps - Regular feedback from management - Highlight remote workers success
  23. 23. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 23 DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION The Internal Communications function will continue to be the backbone of digital transformation. As for transformation to occur, the following must be present: Employees united by a shared mission and sense of purpose, and engaged and committed to achieve it. The mind-set of leaders and employees adapted to a digital one - where agility, innovation and a ‘consumer-like’ experience, are clearly understood and valued. Internal communicators drive transformation, by being educators, trainers, and facilitators.
  24. 24. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 24 INNOVATION The importance of innovation for business success has led to a focus on cultural change within organisations. Where once innovation focussed on the somewhat closed process of developing ideas; organisations are now focussing on engaging employees on a wider level, to create a culture that is more open to new thinking. To achieve the desired culture there is a need for increased focus on communications, for which Internal Communicators are of course required. Specifically, IC need to be those who: Increase the awareness of innovation programs. Identify how organisations can engage and drive value from their most innovative employees. Intrapreneurs are the key employees that should be focussed on. Identify and build the channels to communicate innovation success. For the development of any culture, internal communicators need to continually drive employee behaviour over time. While entrepreneurs create and start businesses, intrapreneurs build, grow and sustain businesses (Lloyd Jennings, 2015) An important element for innovation is ‘design thinking’. Something else that IC can help with...
  25. 25. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 25 1. Understand – This is all about engaging with your audience/users/customers. Deep understanding of your users will reveal new insights, giving you new perspectives, which in turn will give you fresh and innovative solutions. 2. Ideate – Here the goal is to generate fresh and unexpected answers by re framing the problem. Instead of focusing on answering the given problem/question, try to focus on creating different questions born from the user insight. Good ideas come from good questions. 3. Experiment – This stage is very much about iteration – create, test, refine. Test your concepts on users to help continue your understanding of them and to give you intelligence on your ideas. Failure should be seen as an important part of the process. is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. DESIGN THINKING (Tim Brown, CEO & President of IDEO) DESIGN THINKING FORMULA:
  26. 26. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 26 DESIGN THINKING Design thinking needs to run through every element of an organisation. But in order to achieve this it needs to be facilitated. This is where internal communications can help. Crucially, design thinking must have a focus on business, avoid getting too caught up on the theory of design. You must be ‘doing’ the design thinking not just ‘thinking’ the design thinking. After all, the goal is for people to take action and change the way they approach problem solving in the future. Organisations need to encourage EVERYONE to apply design thinking EVERYWHERE and EVERYDAY. Internal communicators should begin by being involved in the creation of design thinking facilitation teams; these are made up of individuals from every function within the organisation. Importantly, leaders need to be engaged, principally showing them how design thinking can revolutionise how they approach strategic and operational problems. Training is then required so that selected individuals can help others to understand and adopt a design thinking mind-set.
  27. 27. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 27 EMPLOYEE LEARNING You learn best in less structured, informal ways. Bumping into colleagues and picking their brain, learning from others when working on group projects, or if you’re lucky enough, having a mentor or two who shares their knowledge and experience with you. Learning in this social way works best because predominantly you will be learning things that you need to apply straight away, meaning you are highly engaged in the learning process. Most companies are still providing very traditional learning programs, such as ‘lecture like’ e-learning courses or in-person training courses, where employees simply get credit and recognition for completion. The problem with this form of learning is that it tends to be quite passive, and the learning may not always be relevant or deemed valuable by the employee at that point in time, and so likely that they won’t apply their new knowledge or skills immediately, resulting in employees not being actively engaged. Employees need to be viewed as customers to be satisfied, rather than as students to be pressured into traditional learning classrooms (Deloitte University Press, 2016)
  28. 28. EVERMORE THE SUPPORT STRUCTURE04 28 EMPLOYEE LEARNING Social collaboration technology is what organisations can use to help fuel employee’s social learning, and is therefore where organisations should be looking to invest. In very simple terms, social collaboration technologies can become the central component of the workplace, from which everyone can find and share knowledge, ideas, and best practice, with everyone learning from each other. It gives employees the ability to constantly fine-tune their learning to their ever-evolving needs – whether for personal development, to improve performance in their current role, or to ensure they are equipped to meet any future changes to their situation. Social media, in many companies, has struggled to gain widespread adoption. This has happened not because employees don’t know how to use the tools, but mainly because employees don’t truly understand the benefits of using them. Maybe we are now seeing the evolution of social media at work, with it becoming social learning. Employees will certainly know the purpose and benefits of using the technology – learning - and so there is clear reason for employee adoption. Organisations will still need to foster a culture of social and continual learning, one that encourages employees to make full use of the social tool for learning, development and improved performance - something that internal communicators will be responsible for.
  29. 29. CONCLUSION We hope you found our internal communication trends helpful. You can keep up to date with all of our internal communications thinking at our blog ( To make sure you never miss a thing you can follow us on Twitter @rima_design And linkedIn It would be great to know what you thought about the trends we’ve covered. And of course, if you’d like any further info or help on any of the topics covered then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re a 28 year old independent design agency who specialise in internal communications. We work with a number of large corporate clients and for a couple of them we are also responsible for their in-house design function. To find out a bit more about us then simply take a look at our website or get in touch. About us… | Tel: +44 (0) 207 902 1310 THANKS!
  30. 30. REFERENCES 30 The rise of the Millennials. millennials/ The Content Marketing Revolution. marketing-revolution The dialog between segmentation & personalization and its impact on customer experience not-personalization/ Learning - employees take charge. culture-of-learning-for-employees/?id=us:2sm:3tw:dup3026:eng:cons:032216:de loittetalent:hct16&linkId=22273958 The Importance of Intrapreneurship. intrapenuership/ Internal content marketing to your employees. marketing-for-your-company-target-is-doing-it Competitive Advantage Achievement through Innovation and Knowledge Design Thinking. Design_Thinking.pdf Millennial Loyalty - Winning over the next generation of leaders The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey. file:///Users/treforsmith/Downloads/gx- millennial-survey-2016-infographic.pdf Employee Listening — What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You com/downloads/usa/en/buck/sellsheet/hrc_ss_comm_what_you_know.pdf How to Really Listen to Your Employees listen-to-your-employees Business to employee listening access/resource/pdf/Business_to_Employee_Listening.pdf The secret to employee engagement? Listen development/the-secret-to-employee-engagement-just-listen What Peter Drucker knew about 2020. drucker-knew-about-2020 IBM: Communication and Curation go hand in hand. sites/stevenrosenbaum/2012/04/10/ibm-communication-and-curation-go-hand- in-hand/#77150d71ebff The Most Important Audience for Your Content Marketing: Your Own Employees audience-for-your-content-marketing-your-own-employees/ The War for Talent Design Thinking... What is That? thinking-what Design Thinking... What is That? thinking-what