44 Digital Blog Covid-19’s impact on internal communications in 2020

As the curtain comes down on a challenging and uncertain year, we take a look at some of the ways internal comms has been impacted by Covid-19 in the past 12 months and how we can build on these learnings to help us in 2021…

Internal communication is the lifeblood of every company. It has a pivotal role keeping employees informed, engaged and connected. It makes sure the latest news and information flows in every direction and reaches every corner of the workforce, helping to build a strong, cohesive team.

Yet there’s an argument to say that until this year internal comms was often misunderstood, neglected or even ignored by organisations.

Rate of change

There’s no doubt that each year brings different challenges and a need to adapt to new ways of working, and the pandemic has accelerated that rate of change like never before.

When Covid-19’s impact began to be felt, employees suddenly started to look to internal comms for the latest business news, real-time updates, policy changes and messages from senior leaders to provide comfort and guidance.

Impact on internal comms

The result? Well, the role of internal communications was thrust into the spotlight. It’s given companies the chance to focus on the benefits of internal comms – looking at the way it communicates, what it should communicate and how often it should communicate. The impact on internal comms hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry either – a survey earlier this year found that 90% of respondents said that the pandemic will have a positive or very positive impact on the internal comms profession.

But what impact did the pandemic have on the way we utilised internal comms and how can we use those learnings to our advantage as we plan ahead? Looking forward to next year, now’s the time to really prove the value of effective internal comms in your business…

The shift to a digital workplace

As colleagues adapted to remote working, internal comms tools came under scrutiny. The more traditional methods of internal communication, like posters, newsletters and town hall meetings became less viable, which provided a natural catalyst for digital transformation in the workplace.

This meant a need to have tools in place to communicate quicker and more effectively, and allow teams to work as collaboratively as they could do in person. It also highlighted the importance that digital platforms have in measuring and tracking the latest updates that are sent out – after all, you cannot afford to leave anyone behind when it comes to vital comms.

A survey by Twilio indicated that 92% of companies believe that transforming digital communications is critical to address current business challenges, and 97% said that the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation.

As remote working may become the ‘new normal’ going forward, ensuring your digital platforms are futureproof is essential. That said, there’s no right or wrong answer as the most appropriate platforms are relative to your business. Whether it’s an app, email campaigns, planning tools, instant messaging, or employee engagement software, there’s a variety of tools out there to help you work effectively as a team.

And while tools alone can’t fix a broken strategy or clarify an unclear message, having the right ones in place is an essential part of your internal comms plan.

It’s also vital to keep frontline colleagues in mind by carefully managing digital experiences across different platforms and devices. While you may get fantastic engagement from your intranet that’s intended for an audience working at their desktop for instance, you could in turn be completely alienating the field-based workers who may not have the same levels of access.

Keeping it real (time)

Remember the time when you could send out a mass email, sit back and carry on with your day safe in the knowledge that your message was simply out there?

That probably feels like a distant memory now. The constantly evolving nature of the pandemic provided a stark reminder that companies need to be equipped with channels that can reach people instantly, without fail, wherever they are, through real-time updates and targeted communications.

When you’re communicating change, a delay isn’t just unfavourable; it can also be dangerous. If there’s a delay in communicating important information, people will continue to work and act in a way that could risk their own health and safety.

Next year, remember the needs of your audience and focus on more targeted, real-time communications. Try segmenting your internal audiences to specific comms and personalising messages they receive. This will cut through any uncertainty and minimise irrelevant information. If you’ve got the benefit of a colleague app, use push notifications to get the most pertinent messages across at a time when colleagues need to be aware.

Wellbeing at work

Employee health and wellbeing has often been a focus of internal comms, but this year that focus has increased substantially.

Many colleagues may have felt anxiety, isolation and stress this year, and they’re all topics that need to be addressed with sensitivity. A survey from Metlife in May brought home the impact of the pandemic on wellbeing – for instance, two in three employees felt more burned out than before the pandemic and 38% of employees said that their job or employment status had been impacted as a result of Covid-19.

Creating feedback channels is vital in gauging the happiness of your workforce. Whether it’s a quarterly survey or a quick poll on your intranet, it’s vital to know how your employees are feeling, because after all, a healthy, happy workforce is vital to the success of a business.

In 2021, consider ways that you can provide your team with the tools, guidance and knowledge to support them. Create manager guidelines or toolkits; make sure support mechanisms, such as your Employee Assistance Programme, wellbeing provider and healthcare information is clearly and obviously signposted; and above all, encourage open, empathetic conversations.

In addition, create a single source of truth – while it may feel like the responsible thing to do to send out comms en masse, this can have an adverse reaction and cause further doubt and uncertainty.

Learning and adapting

Internal comms has arguably never played a more important role than in the past 12 months, and as we enter 2021, this is the perfect opportunity to take our learnings and adapt our comms to get the best out of a proactive, engaged workforce.

How has your team’s approach to internal comms been impacted as a result of Covid-19 and how is that helping you looking ahead? Get in touch and let us know!