Talking all things IC and engagement

16 May 2023

There is no better way to start the day than talking all things internal comms and engagement with a group of brilliant professionals over coffee and brekkie.

Last Thursday, we had the pleasure of being joined by internal comms leaders from leading companies across the finance, travel, legal, retail, service and food industries. We hashed out some of the biggest challenges facing internal engagement, and discussed creative solutions and persistent trends in the workplace. Jazz Hanley, Workvivo, also joined us for the event, opening up the discussion around the infamous topic of the future of work and the rather intriguing notion of the Digital Workplace.

Back to basics

A significant conundrum facing many IC professionals is managing that ‘noise’ across channels. With pockets of engagement and others checked out, it was time to share and learn more about how people have got creative.

Frank Dias, QBE, realized that most of his organisation are skim readers. As such, they altered their content and channel approach so that crucial information can is there in a couple of sentences with links to in-depth articles.

Thinking frontline first Samantha Fletcher, Ocado, shared her experience of developing a podcast tailored to deskless workers. With two drivers as hosts, this podcast has created a space for difficult questions whilst keeping a down-to-earth and humorous tone.

Attention then moved on to segmenting audiences, and an interesting consensus was found regarding the absence of communications for middle management, with channels focused specifically on senior leadership or the wider workforce. It became clear this was an issue cutting across all industries.

Is the future hybrid?

With JP Morgan’s battle to get people back in the office full time making front page news, it was unsurprising the future of hybrid came up as a main point of discussion. Expectations around how and where we work have changed. Paul Osgood, Clifford Chance, made the point eloquently that previously we had to go on-site to access machinery to do our jobs – that’s not true anymore and Covid was the first time we realised that! It’s hard to justify returning to the old model. Whilst some organisations are happy with a blended approach to meetings, others mentioned that their companies prefer people to either be all online or all in-person.

Flexibility appeared to be a major drawback for returning to the office with the idea of the classic ‘9 to 5’ feeling outdated. Since Covid, people have been more focused on prioritising a work-life balance that allows them to make time for hobbies or interests. Most agreed that if companies want to get people back into the office, they need to consider why and leverage a unique experience in the office without going overboard with bells and whistles. Internal communications are crucial for this shift.

In the case of Gen Z employees, some around the table raised concerns that they were missing out on learning through osmosis and exposure to people across the team and business. The point was raised that there is a responsibility to articulate these almost intangible benefits and be transparent with more junior team members about how they can get the most out of office time.

Visible and personal leadership

It wouldn’t be an Internal Comms breakfast without a discussion around authentic communications and visible leadership. Covid-19 opened the door for leaders to have a chance to be themselves, allowing their colleagues and employees to get to know them on a deeper level.

A major theme that came through was how IC teams need to empower and encourage leaders to find the communication style that suits them, tailoring communications to fit different personalities rather than trying to force fit them into a communication box. As someone stated, not everyone enjoys being in front of the camera, and just because they are leaders doesn’t mean the only way you can be visible is by being filmed.

De-mystifying the ‘ivory tower’ is a clear priority for some of our attendees particularly organisations with a majority frontline workforce. Lauren Boyle shared some inspiration of how GAIL’s Bakery has attempted to combat this perception by getting their leadership and corporate function to work a shift at a bakery, to understand the day-to-day reality and needs of their workforce.

A focus on digital real estate

The final course was served by Jazz Hanley, Workvivo. Jazz introduced the ‘digital workplace’, a concept that reimagines the workplace away from our outdated habits, pulling together the data, applications and collaborative tools that are the building blocks of our modern workplace. Despite recent workplace innovations, the idea of a ‘digital real estate’ for many remains a concept rather than a reality. Many agreed that connectivity throughout the workforce would improve if the same time and energy put into a physical workplace induction were invested in a digital workplace induction.

Why not take a read of Jazz’s weekly newsletter “Building the digital workplace” to learn more?

Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to an insightful and engaging discussion, it’s always brilliant getting internal comms pros across industries together.

Like what you hear and want to be part of the conversation? Get in touch to reserve your space for our next IC event in September!

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