Changing the Way We Work – For Good
5-Part series that looks to the future of communications in our new work model by Keith Kitani, CEO of GuideSpark
Part 4: A Digital World: Rethinking Communications
In this series, I’ve been writing about strategies we can use to navigate through the new model of work as we strive to align our personal and professional lives with this “next normal.” Companies that have best weathered this pandemic storm exhibit several key characteristics: a change mindset, fast digital transformation, and the ability to keep their employees connected, aligned, and productive.
It’s no secret that the cornerstone of these key strategies is communication – but now, communication itself has also undergone a monumental change. This new work model requires a strategic communication experience. Let’s dive into what this looks like for global enterprises and their employees as they return to work.
Enterprise Communication Landscape – The Next Normal There have primarily been two main components of the workplace communication experience: Communication Delivery and Communication Engagement.
Due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions, many businesses have quickly moved their operations to a digital environment. There’s been a dramatic increase in remote working and limited travel options – all of which means that companies have had to completely change the way they think about communications, and will now need to address their overall communication strategy from a largely digital standpoint.
Looking first at Communication Delivery, enterprise organizations have ramped up their digital efforts to collaborate, conference, and utilize new channels within our changed work environments. While these methods can never truly replace the in-person experience, they’ve given rise to new levels of productivity and the use of many digital tools – which, while they may remain an essential part of the future of work, also create an increasingly noisy digital environment for employees.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. We have never been more in need of collaboration than now – while many of us are isolated in our homes, we need to feel like part of the team in order to stay productive, on task, and somewhat in control of our professional lives. The recent uptick in usage of platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Confluence have helped provide the normalcy of virtual “stand-ups,” online project management, and ad hoc conversations – whether business-related or social.
- As the saying goes, “we can’t keep meeting like this.” Overnight, businesses moved from physical to virtual meetings through Zoom, WebEx, Skype and other web conferencing tools – in fact, daily Zoom users have more than quadrupled since the onset of the pandemic. After working through some initial security and bandwidth issues – not to mention a new phrase, “Zoom Fatigue” – employees everywhere have come to adapt to this new way of meeting.
- Delivery of digital communication has increased astronomically. Core channels like email and text, integrated portals and mobile apps, and even more traditional delivery methods like physical postcards or print materials have been keeping everyone informed, but have also inadvertently created a type of information overload for the workforce. Worse still, the information coming in has not been segmented or personalized for specific employee groups, and has offered very little in the way of context for our diverse and newly dispersed workforce.
Now looking at Communication Engagement, enterprises must evolve in much the same way that consumers have. Common, more traditional use cases for creating engagement include ad hoc, one-time messages to reach employees, for example:
- Peer-to-peer Communication – Information shared between individual employees or among groups. Ideal for day-to-day work, collaboration, and sharing information.
- Live Communication – Digital experiences intended to replace in-person meetings or presentations, generally with video. Great for building a human connection even within a virtual platform, whether it’s an interactive meeting or a one-way presentation.
- Employee Communication – The delivery of information to employees, often including a feedback loop. Typical examples include notifications, ad hoc messaging, and content posting.
But rather than “one-off” communications like these, a strategy where every message is connected and part of a larger conversation will have a much stronger, more lasting impact on the intended audience. And, a communication engagement strategy can be the driving force behind these current trends:
- Change Communication – An emerging approach that focuses on driving strategic employee behavior change through communication. For example, a targeted communication journey designed to drive employee action, alignment, or adoption of a new business initiative.
- Program Communication – The ongoing messaging that many organizations use to describe and drive adoption of their company programs. These communications are moving from individual messages and content to consumer grade experiences, including campaigns and multimedia content.
To truly create engagement with your workforce in a way that cuts through the noisy digital environment, there are three key elements to consider:
- Continuous Communication There is a lot of change happening around the way we work, and new information coming forward every day. Communication with employees cannot be a “one-and-done” event – it needs to be frequent, ongoing, and relevant. Rather than a single message, think about communication more holistically. Messaging can be delivered strategically – at specific times, in an intentional order, and with a thoughtful, ongoing message. And, as more communications become necessary for multiple business initiatives, these experiences can be orchestrated with one another to avoid communication overload.
- Targeted Messaging & Delivery One single approach to communication may not be effective for your entire workforce. Employees are diverse, and they need communication to be delivered in a way that is contextual and applicable to their situation, as well as carried by the channels they use most in their day-to-day workflow.
- Data & Insights How do we know we’re getting through to employees? Communication needs to be measured, and so do the data and analytics derived from those results – enabling you to drive ongoing iteration. With data, you can clearly understand what’s working and what needs to be adjusted, all to ultimately optimize your strategy according to the results you’re seeing in real time.
Combining Delivery and Engagement requires an overall orchestration and management of these strategies, which work in tandem to deliver a compelling, personalized communication experience, and over time drive business value. Agility, adaptability, and willingness to change at the speed of business will come to be critical advantages in this increasingly noisy digital world.
Be sure to catch Part 5 of this series, “Driving Your Change-Ready Organization”, where Keith Kitani will discuss how to empower employees to thrive in this next generation of business.