5 trends in employee communication
5 trends in employee communication

5 employee communication trends in 2017

What will we see this year, now that Workplace by Facebook has been tested successfully? And after disruption and gamification found their way into the employee communications scene? Here’s our take on five trends that will shape employee communications this year.

By: Solrun Sigfusdottir Øfjord, Communication Advisor (2 January 2017)

When we look at employee communications trends for 2017, the common thread is courage, action and engagement. Also, employee communications (EC) will fetch inspiration from disciplines such as digitalization, business development and statistics.

In 2017, we’ll take a deep dive into these disciplines as our stakeholders’ everyday experiences with new technologies put pressure on us being employee communications professionals as well as innovators and digital wizards.

Consequently, we will need to adapt and execute even faster than today. We’ll need to take disruption and digitalization into account. And we’ll need to act on the fact that our stakeholders expect the same results and documentation from EC as they observe and experience within external communication.

So, here is what we see as five major trends for employee communications in 2017:

1. Business-driven internal comms
Over the past few years, KPIs and performance measurements have become a part of everyday life in many EC departments. In 2017, EC will take it a bit further in a performance direction and be highly inspired by methods from business development and branding.

Just as top management focuses on how to develop a profitable business creating products of value for customers and investors, the EC department will be driven as a business. The EC department will evaluate its business model: What is the core business for EC in the organization? What value should it create? Is it a profitable business? What is the value we add?

Because one thing is certain: When we speak the same language as the CEO, the management will see the value of EC even more clearly. And perhaps budgets will even grow.

2. Many small measurements give the big picture
ROI, big data and measuring impact has been on our lips the last five years. It will remain so in 2017. But now, we break the code on what we as EC professionals historically are rather poor at: to measure the effect of IC. There are two main reasons why measurements gain momentum in 2017.

First, now it is possible to collect quantitative data from platforms other than the intranet, as mobile enabled games and quizzes are becoming a more common part of EC campaigns. We can link data with behavior, to give us an indication of needs and where there is room for improvement.

Secondly, we are accepting that measurements do not have to be 100 percent methodologically correct and true to triangulation, representativeness, validity and reliability. It is okay to take the temperature of distinct elements of a campaign, e.g. the target group’s understanding of a strategy.

And it is better to execute small and more frequent pulse measurements than 360° measurements, as many small measurements together over time will paint the big picture.

3. The leader in front
Communication is one of the most important keys to successful leadership. That is old news. However, it is a trend that managers are becoming increasingly conscious of their role as communicators, and that their communication competencies must fit their management level. In the coming year, we will meet a growing number of leaders who insist on being 100 percent prepared to orchestrate their communication. They will not accept classic cascading frameworks where they inherit a PowerPoint down the line, and have limited flexibility to create authenticity and true engagement.

This imposes great requirements for the communication training of the leaders. A continuing trend is leaders who demand an experience of 100 percent customized communication kits, with step-by- step help guide for engaging, motivational and authentic dialogue with employees. These kits contain engagement exercises, videos, and other items with a creative twist, some of which may never have been seen before inside the organization. Oh yes, we can definitely expect an exciting and challenging year concerning leadership communication as a discipline.

4. Co-creation is the new bottom-up
The target audience is still the center of the communication, but outside-in perspectives will play a greater role in EC. Stakeholders and end-users will be involved early in the development of internal campaigns. When planning a strategy roll-out, the need of the markets will play a greater role than ever before in the bottom-up communication. The methods used are brainstorming, prioritizing exercises and prototyping – methods known from external product development. In other words, co-creation will make a breakthrough this year.

And why now, 17 years after the concept was born? Because digital communication is growing both internally and externally, and in digital communication, co-creating with end-users is an important part of creating great deliverables. Within IC, we are always looking for great arguments for management on how important IC is in creating employer engagement, and an argument that the target was involved in developing the communication deliverables is stronger than quotes from a focus group.

Perhaps the greatest strength of co-creation is that with minimal effort, we can get a baseline on the target group's level of knowledge, engagement and needs. Also, we take the initial steps in implementing the strategic initiatives already in the design (planning) phase because representatives from the target group already are involved and have become great ambassadors.

5. Social intranets as innovation engines
In 2017, social intranets will turn internal communication upside-down, regardless of whether the technical solution is Workplace, Slack, SharePoint or something else. But after two years of beta testing, expect Workplace by Facebook to be talk-of- the-town and lead to more organizations implementing social intranets.

Social intranets break with classic intranets, which showcase professional content and top-down communication. Instead, social intranets focus on employees’ needs for rapid knowledge sharing, support and social community. Moreover, social intranets can break down silos, boost dialog and support knowledge sharing on the terms of the employees. It is a revolution for knowledge sharing and introducing social intranets can become the determining factor in making employees open the intranet as the first thing in the morning.

So, roll up your sleeves – we have work to do. EC is more exciting and more challenging than ever and this year we will prove ourselves as the hybrids we are, juggling communications, facts, figures and technology.