The way that human beings communicate with each other has probably changed more in the last decade than it has in our entire history as a species.
At its core, internal communication refers to how people in an organization share information with each other. Traditional forms of employee communication in frontline industries like hospitality, manufacturing, construction, and retail include top-down, one-way forms of communication like bulletin boards.
Relying on paper-based, top-down communication just simply doesn’t work well if you’re trying to reach frontline workers (who make up 80% of the global workforce). You can’t measure how many employees stopped to look at a bulletin board. You can’t guarantee that corporate messaging will be correctly relayed to frontline employees.
Most importantly, traditional communication methods don’t allow you to listen to your frontline employees. Open feedback loops lead to stronger products, teams, and better customer service.
Fortunately, there is a digital revolution happening for internal communications. Frontline workers who were often left out of corporate communications are now being given mobile-friendly solutions. This digitization of the non-desk workforce will also play a key role in helping businesses recover and rebuild after COVID-19.
With that in mind, here are some emerging internal communications trends that will dominate frontline industries in 2020.
1) Empower Frontline Employees Through Digital Enablement
Empowering frontline employees with the tools, technologies, and resources they need to be more efficient will continue to gain momentum, especially for businesses trying to rebuild their operations after COVID-19.
A recent report titled, “The New Decision Makers” by Harvard Business Review, reveals how businesses can leverage mobile technology to empower their frontline employees.
- 85% of survey respondents say that their organization will be more successful when their frontline employees are empowered to make decisions in the moment
- 86% said that frontline employees need better technology-enabled insights in order to make these important decisions
- 72% said that productivity increased when they empowered their frontline employees
“Frontline employees have become the new user base for digital tools.”– HBR, “The New Decision Makers”
These findings show that empowering frontline workers through digital enablement is a pivotal step towards building a high-performing organizational culture.
Here are some benefits we’ve seen in our own customers after digitally enabling their frontline teams with Beekeeper:
- Reduced coordination time for frontline managers (we’ve seen this drop by as much as 99% through the use of Beekeeper). One customer has said, “I can make 50 phone calls and not get the same result that I can in just 35 seconds on the platform.”
- 91% improvement in frontline team performance
- As much as $50,000 saved in reduced printing costs
2) Increased Demand for Operational Communication
The need for operational communication is growing.
According to the latest Gartner market guide on employee communications applications,
“Operational communications is an emerging domain within the ECA market. Whereas the focus of organizational communications is on enterprise-wide scenarios and is typically more broadcast-oriented (with some levels of feedback and peer interaction), operational communications is more laterally focused within a certain related span of business activities and involves more group and peer-to-peer interaction.”– Gartner, “Market Guide for Employee Communication Applications”
Operational communication typically focuses on the following areas:
- Work management
- Logistical coordination and workflow
- Work-related policies and procedures
- Mentoring and professional development
- Knowledge sharing
Companies look for internal communication tools that offer the following functionality:
- Support for content management
- Campaign scheduling
- Task management
- Approval workflows
- Delegation of roles
These features can either be offered natively through the app itself or available through an integration.
3) Prioritizing Employee Recognition
As the frontline worker labor shortage continues to make employee retention a serious challenge, companies have begun prioritizing employee recognition as part of their internal comms strategies.
In 2019, the world was shaken when the Business Roundtable announced that their new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation prioritized investing in employees over generating long-term value for shareholders.
This move reinforces the cultural and corporate shift towards creating a more human, connected experience for all employees.
Further data on the impact of employee recognition programs support this:
- Companies with employee recognition programs have a 31% lower voluntary turnover.
- 50% of employees believe being thanked by managers improves the relationship and builds trust with their higher-ups.
- 90% of employees who work in organizations with effective rewards programs said that “my work makes a difference.”
4) IT Teams Seek Platforms That Are Secure, Customizable, and Extendable
Gone are the days of having siloed SaaS platforms where users are forced to juggle multiple logins, passwords, and apps. The next wave of internal communication tools will need to have three essential components in order to get buy-in from IT.
- Enterprise-grade security
- Customizable platform through endless personalized configuration capabilities
- Extendable through a robust ecosystem of app integrations
With GDPR now in full swing and the recent passage of its CCPA equivalent in California, it’s more important than ever for companies to prioritize security when selecting their internal communications technology.
Additionally, personalization and extendibility will also play a crucial role in the selection process. It’s no longer good enough to have a stable, well-designed, stand-alone employee app. Integrating with your company’s existing tech stack will be a must-have.
5) Emphasis on Organizational Alignment
Breaking down silos and creating a more cohesive, cross-functional organization is the ultimate goal of any internal communications manager. In order to achieve complete organizational alignment, frontline employees will need to be more included in internal communication.
A frontline worker can spend up to three hours per week looking for information they need to do their job.
At the same time, frontline managers can spend as much as 85% of their time coordinating between corporate headquarters and their frontline teams.
Between frontline teams and their managers, the combined amount of time spent searching for information becomes a massive operational roadblock for the company.
That’s why addressing the disconnect between frontline teams and corporate headquarters will be a top priority for internal communications managers this year.
True organizational alignment has several benefits. Here are just a few:
- Increased agility
- Streamline internal processes
- Encourages knowledge sharing
- Saves time
- Improves overall morale
Internal communications have come a very long way in just a few short years. What was once a tedious, manual process that revolved around memos, bulletin boards, and overflowing file cabinets is now sleek, digital, and super fast.
True internal communication has the power to transform an organization if leveraged correctly. The operational benefits of connecting a disconnected workforce are endless.
New exciting developments in internal communications technology are emerging on a regular basis. We can’t wait to see how internal communicators will leverage the power of advanced automation, AI, and more. The future of frontline internal communications will certainly be a digital one.
Want to Learn More About Internal Communication Trends from 2019?
Read on to see what’s changed. Click on details below to read internal communication trends for 2019.
In two action-packed days, Gartner’s latest Digital Workplace Summit brought together business leaders from around the world in London to share and discuss how to improve employee communication, so that it will shape the 2019 digital workplace.
The keynote presentation placed particular significance on why digital transformation demands an intentional digital workplace strategy. Simply implementing new technology isn’t enough; companies must assess how every portion of their workforce will be impacted while ensuring it’s adequately modeled and communicated out.
With unemployment rates at historic lows across every industry, the need for investing in an efficient, centralized digital workspace for both fostering employee engagement and as a key component of retention is imperative. We identify the top internal communication trends surfaced at the conference, and how to leverage these insights as you evaluate and re-tool your internal communication strategy in the new year.
Hear how Jennifer Pappas, Internal Communications Manager for Wireless Vision uses Beekeeper to streamline her team’s communication.
Conference Highlights and Trends for 2019 With the Biggest Potential Long-Term Impact
Throughout the conference, thought leaders demonstrated why the future of work depends on an ethos of workforce digital dexterity, and how internal communications will continue to be technologically-driven in 2019.
Ways to improve Communication in an Organization: Focus on Company Culture to Scale with Success
One of the hottest topics during the Summit revolved around barriers to scaling––the biggest of which is company culture. Any new technology rollout strategy thus needs to consider both the bigger scope of the tool, and be prepared to demonstrate tangible examples of why the new systems will impact each department for the better and how. Without the proper training, rollout, and integration into your larger company values, vision, and mission, the introduction of new technology and systems won’t be as successful.
As a result, in 2019, we’ll continue to see companies working to solve the ever-present challenge around building a thriving and successful company culture, and searching for ways for technology to aid this quest. The first is identifying the problem areas, but how do you know what those are? This is where an operational communication platform comes in, to help laser-focus on the employee experience, and to equip your workforce with the resources they need to do their jobs better and faster.
Best Ways to Communicate With Employees: Cultivate Your Workforce’s Digital Dexterity
According to Gartner, digital dexterity involves a company’s the ability and desire to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes. Prioritizing digital dexterity touches every part of your company, starting with talent recruiting all the way to continued education opportunities to keep your workforce proficient in and up to speed with technology innovation to keep your business competitive and to learn the best ways to communicate with employees.
Digital dexterity has a specific impact on today’s frontline workers, whose work needs to reflect the technological savvy to best respond to our increasingly digital-centric consumer landscape. Investing in an operational communication platform that can gather analytics on your workforce provides an essential window into where your employees excel in terms of skill sets and what proficiency gaps need to be addressed.
For example, reviewing your analytics dashboard could show high activity on a recent post about a new operating procedure or training video for a new system. Finding the post has an abundance of comments with questions from employees is an indicator that additional training might be needed and can help find future workforce knowledge gaps more quickly.
How to improve Communication in an Organization: Employee Experiences Should Mirror Consumer Experiences
Most business strategies aim to tailor their product to consumer need and desire, and rightly so. When it comes to their employees, however, why aren’t companies embracing this same strategic thinking to crafting their digital workplace and culture? And how to improve communication in an organization?
One highly-effective way of treating your employees like customers is to adequately assess and improve the workplace. Actions speak louder than words. Take measurable steps to show your employees that your company genuinely values the quality of their work and work life by internally applying the same level of care and concern that is practiced externally.
Pursue an Increasingly Harmonious Digital Workplace
In a harmonious digital workplace, your workforce can go between the digital applications they use for work with ease. What exactly contributes to the “harmony” in harmonious? Emphasize mobility and limit the noise between digital workplaces to better support activity-based working. Put another way, a communication platform should posses the capabilities to segment workstreams and minimize distractions from other groups within your organization.
For example, HR shouldn’t be getting notifications to check the messages in a chat designated for the sales team. Communication streams can be tailored to focus on aspects of the business that directly affect and relate to the customer experience, and gather employee feedback on them. A consumer-centric culture enables employees to both stay focused in their work environment and to use the workplace tools they want and need to use everyday to improve staff communication.
Embrace AI to Boost Operational Communication and Employee Experience on How to improve Staff Communication
Rather than a cultural disrupter to avoid or technological hurdle to overcome, the speakers at the Summit emphasized the key role AI will play in streamlining the future workplace from the employee experience to operations. In addition to identifying how machine learning can be applied to daily activities, 2019 will continue to deliver more sophisticated ways to deploy AI for increasingly more complex tasks.
The benefits of this include automation and delegation of time-consuming work to AI to free up your workforce’s energy to focus on other tasks. Integrating AI into the workplace also provides an opportunity to improve the employee experience by merging the ultra-efficiency of machine learning with the unique human-specific intelligence required for tasks such as data analysis.
Want to go back even further?
Click details below to discover internal communication trends from 2018
To see how internal communication trends compare with and have shifted from last year, read below to see the key technological topics we identified for 2018.
This year, we had the privilege of attending CEB/Gartner’s Internal Communications Summit in London, where business leaders across many industries gathered from around the globe to share insights and pave the future of workplace correspondence. Over the course of two days, high level delegates convened to take a dive deep into the various ways in which internal communications will technologically evolve in the immediate two to five years.
Prevalent throughout the conference was the changing attitude towards the strategic importance of internal communication, with a strong focus on providing outcomes instead of output. This consensus mirrors comments made by research scientists Peter Weill and Stephanie L. Woerner in their 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review feature in which they observed, “Most of the productivity increase seen in organizations nowadays originates – directly or indirectly – from digitization and big data analytics. […] the future of internal communication should be determined by the needs of future employees.”
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear to executives that investing in a centralized digital workspace is a core pillar of fostering employee engagement. When the backbone of an organization is rooted in a rich sense of purpose and positive company spirit, a workforce will be far more likely to perform at their peak to execute upon any deliverables at hand.
2018 Trends With the Biggest Potential Long-Term Impact
Many trends were discussed that will help organizations run smoother and more productive operations, including ways to improve communication in an organization.
Mass Digital Migration with Mobile Apps
It is reported that 80% of our time on our mobile devices is spent using an app. With this metric in mind, CEB Summit attendees hypothesize an increasingly widespread adoption of mobile workplace tools that give employees instant access to company news, operations tools, workflows, communication channels, media sharing, and beyond.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Programs
With the rise of mobile communication apps in retail, manufacturing, and other industries comes the expectation that messages will be responded to in real time, or at the very least, in a timely manner. While it is up to your company to establish rules of engagement so that employees don’t burn out or rack up overtime while dealing with off-the-clock internal communications, it’s also important to make the digital workplace app as accessible to all employees as possible. For many, this means using whatever mobile phone is in their possession. It is of critical importance, then, to ensure that the digital workplace provider you find can function on a wide variety of devices.
The Importance of Engagement
Throughout the Summit, the critical importance of fostering high levels of workforce engagement came up again and again. Employee engagement leads to rich company culture, a vested commitment to the success of colleagues, and a sense of pride working for a brand that cares about its people. Summit attendees observed that just as managers value the ability to provide timely and productive performance feedback to their teams in real time, more junior employees value the ability to give bottom-up feedback to the company leaders.
The consensus among conference-goers was that feeling heard helps workers remain connected to their colleagues, and that digital workplace platforms allow workers to meaningfully connect with colleagues that they may not interact with otherwise. Hosting digital interconnectedness within in a robust, well-design multimedia forum is a surefire path to employee satisfaction.
Anticipated Budget Trends for 2018
Throughout the event, many budget trend forecasts for 2018 were brought to light. Despite all the noise around what we may or may not be able to expect to see next year, the four anticipated trends below are certainly ones to watch:
Strategic social spend is a great way to stay on top of digital marketing trends. Allocating resources to explore the current roster of popular social apps allows companies to constantly put their best creative foot forward. Thinking long and hard about your company’s public persona will help you further define your key verticals and customer cohorts, ensuring that all digital marketing efforts going forward are supported by hard and fast data.
As mentioned above, the importance of carving out time and resources to perfect employee communications processes was a common and emphatic sentiment we heard throughout our time at the CEB Summit. Apart from budgeting in resources to procure and onboard the tool itself, it is important to assign a core internal stakeholder to all digital workplace management, troubleshooting, integrations, and usage trainings.
As SEO and SEM technology continues to iterate quite rapidly, spending time and resources to refresh and perfect web copy, meta tags, and backlinks will likely prove to be a worthy arena of spend for most organizations who rely on e-commerce or digital word-of-mouth in any way. Building a strong visual and written corporate identity will encourage both employees and customers to feel proud of their association with your brand.
Whereas digital experience platforms will become an increasingly important fixture for ensuring employee engagement, maintaining a traditional CMS or intranet hub will continue to be a tried and true method to host more static company assets.
As Maya Angelou noted, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This sentiment echoed throughout all the remarks made by our esteemed colleagues about the communities and cultures they aim to foster within their organizations. We walked away from the Summit feeling more optimistic than ever about the future of internal communications.
At every turn, attendees across the board made it clear that companies must start thinking about how they can expand company correspondence programs and technologies to encourage productivity, community, and mutual respect among their entire workforce population.
Budgeting resources and time to onboard new digital tools and analytics will help ensure that employees feel a fundamental connection to the company mission, and to each other.