Today’s technological innovations are helping to break the boundaries of what is considered office space, and in the process, they are changing employee expectations. Thanks to mobile devices, cloud computing and Wi-Fi, more workers are choosing (or being moved to) work-from-home or contract/freelance positions. And as social media platforms continue to connect us and allow us to engage on a global level, employees will expect that same level of engagement professionally at the “office”—no matter where that may be.
According to Melissa Dodd, Ph.D., APR, author of the Institute for Public Relations’ 2019 IPR Future of Work Report*, companies competing for talent in an increasingly global market must invest in internal communications tools—including more robust Intranet platforms—that reflect the consumer experience. This means that, like external communications strategies, they must be able to connect all employees and give them the feedback opportunities needed to help build the relationships, trust and loyalties that lead to employee retention.
But perhaps most important, she says, we must not forget the human element in our quest to keep up with technology. Find out how your employees want to receive company news and communicate with co-workers, supervisors and higher-level management, and meet them where they are.
Best Practices and Tried-and-True Methods
I recently attended a webinar in which Dodd—an associate professor and the assistant director of University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media—discussed the Future of Work report’s many findings, including best practices for communicating with a remote and multigenerational workforce. What I found most interesting was, while expressing an industrywide need for more technologically advanced tools, the majority of communications executives interviewed endorsed going back to the basics: transparent, one-on-one conversations that make people feel part of an organization. The following are takeaways shared by Dodd:
Face-to-face communication is still employees’ preferred method when delivering complex information. Of course, with an increasingly remote and mobile workforce, “face-to-face” may mean phone and video calls.
Project management/team platforms, like Slack.com, represent a best-practice solution for companies to facilitate real-time collaboration among spread-out team members. These platforms bypass lengthy email chains and give users a digital workspace to communicate and share files organized by team, project, client, etc.
Mobile apps with push notifications (news alerts) enabled can be leveraged to provide timely information to employees equipped with smartphones or mobile devices—from company news and announcements to open-enrollment deadlines and safety tips to weather emergencies and crisis communications.
Podcasts/videos provide a medium to make messages from leadership more accessible to remotely based employees.
Consider Employee Preferences
When we discuss diversity and inclusiveness in the workforce, we cannot overlook age. Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2016; meanwhile, says Dodd, one in four employees are currently over the age of 55. Each generation has its own communication preferences, and it’s best to reach them in their own comfort zones—especially since workers close to retirement may be resistant to learning new skills. This may mean, for example, keeping the print newsletter while also deploying a digital newsletter or mobile app.
Need help developing a strategy that ensures no employee is left behind in your internal communication network? Contact AOE today!
*Released in October 2019, the 2019 IPR Future of Work Report focuses on (mostly technology-driven) disruptions in the workforce, how organizations are dealing with those changes, and how they are communicating to a diverse and evolving workforce. The report is based on interviews with 25 executives responsible for organizational/internal communications.