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11 Ideas How to Rethink Internal Communication in 2017—and Boost Your Employee Engagement

Communication is often about change. As a consequence, internal communication is a field that requires constant rethinking.


In 2017, with millennials moving into management positions and Generation Z entering the game, it's increasingly important to remain in control of the messages you send, keep brand promises, empower middle management, and enhance transparency.


Internal communication is set to grow in both its relevance and in the number of people working in the field. In fact, a 2016 survey by Ragan Communications found that IC budgets are the ones most likely to be growing.


Considering these developments, what ideas should you be taking into account in order to stay up to date in 2017?


Internal communication 2017


#1 The Need for Speed

The trend in messaging points toward brevity.


In a recent study, the Pew Research Center showed that people under the age of 35 feel "the need for instant gratification" and the "loss of patience." As Internet speeds increase, people are less willing to wait for websites to load, videos to buffer, and colleagues to respond to their messages.


While the idea of instant communication isn’t new, the reality of its meaning has changed because of the hyperconnected lives we live today, where so much is happening all at once.


Internal communication in the workplace is no expectation. “In order to connect and reach the new workforce that consists mainly of Millennials and Gen Z, messages need to be brief, precise, and are ideally no longer delivered over email." 


Speed means more and better targeted operative updates, which means that communication can no longer be run from one person to many, but instead must be dispersed simultaneously among numerous people. It's not a bad idea to empower and enable local, part-time editors who can share day to day updates and deal with questions and feedback.



#2 Company Culture

Young businesses—especially startups—place more and more value on company policies and culture. Why? Because their workforce demands it.


Gen Z and Millennials are looking for companies that align with their values, commitments, and aims. HR leaders consider culture and engagement their number-one challenge according to a recent study by the Deloitte University Press.


Consequently, in 2017, the bond between IC and these core values will be growing stronger. It’s therefore not only important to include core values in your internal communication strategy, but to highlight the ways in which to best execute them.


How? By practicing what you preach, integrating your culture into your own behavior, and leading by example. Your culture should be more than just a few words on the wall, it should lay out actionable guidelines and promote a genuine feeling of family. Implementing such a culture starts with a hiring process in which "team fit" should be just as important as actual qualifications. The process also includes clearly communicating the values of your company, and it goes as far as changing the physical office environment so that it aligns with the company's views and enables the best employee experience.


In addition, team events, trainings, and employee benefits will help to spread your ideas but will also determine what your employees think and how well they react to the culture.



#3 Working From, Well, Anywhere but the Office

According to a study by PWC, employees of all generations value flexibility in their jobs. This includes scheduling and office setups, but also the location where they work. Already, one out of three Americans are freelancers. 


"According to a Gallup study in 2015, 37% of employees said they had worked remotely at one point in their career, compared to 30% in 2006 and just 9% in 1995."  In addition, IBM found that independent workers are typically more engaged, autonomous, and collaborative.


This development has lead to what's being called the "Gig-Economy." Half of the American workforce will be doing gigs, and gigs alone, in 2017.


The challenge for internal communicators will be to find the best ways to communicate with these remote workers, not only keeping them in the information loop, but integrating them into the company culture.


It's important to acknowledge the needs of a dispersed workforce and engage them through multiple channels that will reach them no matter where they are. Such channels include apps, text messages, push notification tools, and social media.


Mobile communication solutions will enable you to connect freelancers and non-desk workers across departments and locations, while still ensuring engagement and inclusion.



#4 Video

"A picture is worth a thousand words" is a popular saying, but did you know that one minute of video content is in fact worth 1.8 million words, or the equavalent of 3600 pages of text?


Posting a video not only increases the likelihood of views and shares but also raises the understanding of your product by as much as 74%. In addition, a consumer behavior survey by Hubspot showed that over half (55%) of their users report consuming entire videos, compared to 33% for interactive articles and only 29% for blogs.


When asked what kind of content they would want to see more of in the future, employees stated the following:


Video trend internal communication 2017


Video should be at the top of your list when considering how to get more complicated topics across to your employees. It is very likely that a majority of internal communication, from trainings to important news and announcements, will soon be run over video.



#5 Employees as Content Makers

In line with the video trend, Millennials and Gen Z also have a high demand for authenticity. Like company culture, this quality has come to identify the employer brand. Authenticity can be implemented through employee content.


Employees are becoming the most important voice of a company. Social advocacy programs encourage staff to share their thoughts, updates, and ideas, and they provide them with a voice.


This voice is not only more authentic than that of any manager, but it also gives different locations and employees worldwide the opportunity to express themselves. Additionally, content shared by employees receives eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels; brand messages reached 561% further when shared by employees.


Making your employees your content marketers supports the decentralization taking place in the workplace and it adds a peer-to-peer level to the top-down culture in communications. Putting your employees first will improve your employer brand.


In order to encourage your employees to share and take part in the conversation, your internal communication channels should focus on spreading content that directly affects and interests them (which is all the more likely when it's coming from their own ranks). In addition, make the communication interactive by enabling comments, sharing, and liking.



#6 Peer-to-Peer or Horizontal Communication

While peer pressure might force you to watch Game of Thrones, peer-to-peer communication can actually have a productive and powerful influence on the way your employees work.


Peers provide constant feedback and encourage further collaboration, two central aspects in driving employee communication and teamwork. Horizontal communication spreads knowledge within a company and takes work off a manager's hands because he or she no longer has to communicate through different departments or send messages more than once.


The effective communication that results supports knowledge management, spreads insights, and helps people exploit their talents.


Internal communication departments should work on supporting such peer-to-peer collaborations by rewarding teamwork, encouraging sharing, and setting team goals. Additionally, team events that promote your company culture will also create a feeling of unity and encourage interpersonal relationships.


As a bonus, these relationships are proven to be the one thing that can make work as enjoyable as our free time!


Free eBook What's the best internal communications tool for 2018


#7 Reach (Through Apps)

Communicators constantly strive for greater reach because reach means relevance. Your aim should be to include and engage all of your employees no matter how remote.


It's for this reason that you should constantly be looking for the technical and creative digital solutions that can best deliver an IC concept and ensure employee engagement. There are lots of different channels to choose from, but apps are the one clear trend. Apps are mobile, digital, and they often support push notifications, which are a game changer when it comes to transmitting information.



Apps trends, internal communication apps, internal communication 2017



If you'd like to know more about the different channels you can use to reach your employees, you can read a relevant blog post here.



#8 Gamification

Gamification can enhance productivity and help align your company's goals with those of your employees.


Not only can game-based learning processes help companies to make sure that their employees retain important information from their work-related training, but goals and objectives are also made crystal clear, especially when steps for achieving them are plainly laid out. Colleagues have the opportunity to push and challenge each other and they can be rewarded for their achievements.


In addition, because we do it almost constantly, work has become part of our personal lives. Carrying emails with us on our smartphones and being connected to the internet at all times means never being offline—never really stopping—often working from home or at late hours.


In order to support this evolution but avoid creating a generation of burn-outs, it's important to make work fun and engaging. A relaxed work atmosphere will result in satisfied employees and dissolve the top-down structure.


Gamification can be included in any part of the daily working life, but a good example is in the onboarding process. Onboarding can be made easier and more fun by transforming it into an information treasure hunt. With solutions like this, the employee not only meets his or her new coworkers but also gets to know the premises and feels rewarded when a piece of information is found. And who doesn’t love a treasure hunt?



#9 Measuring

According to a recent Ruder-Finn report, only 16% of companies are satisfied with their ability to measure the effectiveness of their internal communication.


Measuring internal communication and engagement is difficult, but with both of these topics increasing in importance, so is the need to accurately gauge their efficacy and quantify your return on investment.


Measuring your internal communication helps target and increase efficiency. In 2017, live metrics will grow in importance and we will be able to measure more directly and precisely than ever before. Think incoming requests, intranet usage, and reach.


In addition, measured numbers can be used in two ways: to convince managers of a topic's importance—making its strengths and weaknesses more clear—and to better understand the interests of your employees.


Having numbers at hand will enhance concrete ideas and assist any efforts to round up support.



Measuring internal communication, quantitative and qualitative methods




#10 Internal and External Communication Are Blurring

Internal and external communication are inextricably linked, regardless of where your teams sit or to whom they report. It’s essential to keep both audiences in mind when crafting your messages, even if you're forced to alter your tone or focus. You should never say something to one audience that you wouldn’t feel happy telling the other.


But don’t give up on your internal communication channels because external ones are so overwhelming. You need a working channel that you can control and measure in order to clearly state your company's message.


Organizations need to establish a fast, interactive, and reliable channel to reach all employees. Fast and interactive means digital, and what digital means today is mobility. As in many other cases, a combination of new procedures, skills, and technology is necessary for creating trust and transparency. This enables companies to remain in control of the messages they send, as opposed to leaving information open to individual interpretation.



#11 Emojis

Oh Emojis. We all use them, but are they appropriate for business comunication? The discussion here ranges from opinions that say their use is unprofessional, to those who find them extremely useful.


The fact is, emojis are widely understood, and they can address people no matter what language they speak. They connote a feeling of familiarity and they can help you to brand and advertise your company. Their wise use is a definite trend in 2017.


Furthermore, emojis offer a unique possibility for connecting with younger workers, and their use shows that you're flexible enough to adapt communication to the demands of your audience.


While they might not necessarily be the best choice for your next sales deck, emojis can certainly offer one more enriching way for internal communication to connect with people worldwide.


Communication is key, but the extent and speed at which it is made is constantly widening and accelerating. 2017 promises to bring yet another wave of digitization to the internal communication industry. Be prepared!


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If you'd like more information on how to digitize your employee communications, contact us or read more here:

Written by Sina Kaye Lockley

Sina is a communication specialist at Staffbase. She wants to help companies engage their employees and find ways to make work more fun. She writes about internal communication, mobile employee engagement and how to use an app in today's evolving workforce. She religiously reads one book a week and sleeps with pen and paper next to her head.