At the end of 2020, we made our predictions about the trends in internal communications for the coming year, 2021. Now, as we kick off 2022, it’s time to reflect on these predictions to see how they played out in reality.
The realities we explore in this article are based on insights that members of the Sparrow Connected team have gained through conversations with current customers, future customers, and industry-leading Internal Communications professionals.
Prediction #1: Remote Work is Already the Normal
We predicted that in 2021, remote work would already be the norm. It absolutely was. When the pandemic hit in 2020, companies were forced to shift to a remote environment, but even as parts of the world reopened offices in 2021, many employees in jobs that didn’t require them to be on the front lines continued to work remotely or at least partially remotely.
Because of this, companies were faced with the reality that it was time to seriously reconsider and adapt their communications strategies to this new normal of remote and hybrid work because it’s here to stay.
Reality: Companies accepted the new normal and refined their communications strategies accordingly.
For many companies, embracing a model where employees can be 100% remote also meant that their workforce expanded globally since hiring talent was no longer restricted to specific office locations.
Remote and hybrid work on a global scale required internal communications teams to focus on three key areas:
- Onboarding. Onboarding a remote employee doesn’t look the same as an in-office employee. In 2021, companies had to adjust their onboarding communications in order to make it easier for remote and hybrid employees to get to know the company and its processes while also feeling connected and welcome.
- Cultural differences. As companies hired more global employees in 2021, they had to adapt their communications strategies to accommodate multiple languages, time zones, and cultural differences.
- Employee experience. In 2021, having a great digital Employee Experience (EX) became a strategic priority with the ultimate goal of fostering an engaged, productive and loyal workforce without in-office, face-to-face interactions. Internal communications played a significant role in helping facilitate this employee experience.
Prediction #2: Crisis Management and Communication Will Continue to Be a Focus Area
In 2020, when the world went remote, companies had to communicate with employees on the front lines and in their home offices in whatever way possible using the channels they had at their disposal at the time. It was crisis communication at its finest. The goal was to survive and keep the team together.
As waves of the pandemic continued throughout 2021, crisis communication did continue to be a focus area as we predicted. But, the reality was slightly different.
Reality: Companies learned how to make crisis communications more relevant and targeted.
Internal communication has had a starring role in crisis management over the past two years. And as we have learned to live through a pandemic, employee communications have become “less shouting from the rooftop” and more personalized, relevant, and accessible.
One of the things we’ve heard from Sparrow Connected customers is that engagement with their internal communications content dipped as the pandemic carried on. There was just too much noise.
This prompted internal communications teams to think about creative ways to get their messages across effectively without inundating employees with content that they just weren’t interested in or that wasn’t specifically relevant to their role. One of our clients shared a good example of this scenario. A regulatory change in on-the-job PPE requirements came into effect which is something their team of frontline employees needed to know immediately, while employees working from home did not. Rather than a batch and blast approach, they tailored their message and distribution to only the frontline teams affected by the change.
Some of the tactics that companies used to make crisis communications more relevant and targeted to their employees in 2021 included:
- Analyzing employee engagement
- Asking employees for feedback using surveys
- Adopting new channels of communication, including mobile apps
- Developing new playbooks for crisis communications
- Tailoring messages for different audiences and geographies
- Embracing modern internal communications technology
Whether they’ve used some or all of these tactics, the majority of internal communications teams we’ve spoken to say that they improved the way they managed crisis communications in 2021 but believe there’s still room for improvement in 2022.
Prediction #3: The Advent of Internal Communication Focused Platforms
As predicted, the market began to recognize that platforms like Sparrow Connected that are designed specifically for internal communications are incredibly valuable. Not only did the market recognize this, but they took action.
Reality: Adoption of internal communication focused platforms grew significantly.
The days of relying on generic communication platforms or those that combine collaboration and communication features are over. In 2021, we saw a substantial uptick in companies adopting solutions that put internal communications teams at the center of all communications.
The modern-day dispersed workforce demands hyper-focused, hyper-relevant communications in an instant. Meeting these demands requires a platform that is designed for exactly that.
Sparrow Connected is one of these platforms. It leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enable segmentation, targeting, and language translation and optimize the reach and engagement of messages, making it easier for internal communications to connect meaningfully with their audiences.
Prediction #4: Omnichannel Will Become Mainstream
Omnichannel communication was a topic that came up in conversations for us daily in 2021. With companies of all sizes in all industries asking the same question, how do I create my content once and publish it everywhere in just a few clicks?
As the demands on internal communications have risen over the past couple of years (in part, due to the pandemic) internal communications teams have had to look for ways to bring efficiency to their processes without sacrificing the reach of their content.
Yes, Omnichannel became mainstream in 2021. It also made the lives of internal communications professionals easier, freeing up more time for more strategic initiatives.
Reality: Omnichannel made internal communications more efficient.
This is especially true for those companies that adopted internal communications platforms to enable their omnichannel strategy.
Using such a platform means the content is created once and posted everywhere - from the Intranet to a newsletter to Slack to the company’s mobile app, and everywhere in between. Or, if it’s only meant for specific teams or groups within the company, it’s only sent to those audiences that have been defined.
The point is, internal communications stopped wasting time on formatting, reformatting, and cross-posting content. As a result, they gained more time to spend on more strategic initiatives, leading them closer to securing their rightful seat at the executive table.
A Year of Change and Evolution
2021 was yet another year of change and evolution for the Internal Communications field. It was also a year that was ripe with opportunity.
- Adapt communications to a more global, more dispersed workforce.
- Be prepared to communicate in a more relevant and targeted manner the next time a crisis arises.
- Adopt technology that meets the demands of today’s employees.
- Stop spending time on tedious, manual tasks and start being more strategic.
The internal communications teams that embraced these opportunities are on the path to creating a workplace where employees have all of the information they need when they need it and feel connected and loyal to the company.
Stay tuned for a series of articles and virtual events featuring exclusive insights from some of the top internal communications professionals in the world. Follow us on LinkedIn to see the articles in your news feed as they're published.
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