6th May 2021

From Zoom to boardroom – Internal communications that work in a hybrid world

by Sophie Cole

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It feels like things are slowly getting better, doesn’t it? Soon, we won’t have to treat our colleagues like they’re harbingers of plague and will be able to hug Gran without worrying we might kill her. There are also many positive signs that the days of remote working for our safety are numbered (touch wood).
Some employees have thrived at home, while others have done their best to struggle through, especially those homeschooling on the side. And for business leaders, it’s been tricky to strike the right balance with internal communications. Do you host more meetings/send more emails to keep everyone connected, or trust your employees will come to you if they need information? None of the options are ideal – but then again, neither is a global pandemic.
Yet as we move into a hybrid way of working, which JLL found at least 53% of global employees will, there will be even more obstacles to great communication. Hosting an in-person meeting could make remote workers feel left out, but it seems strange to have half the team chatting through their devices when they’re just a desk away. But with a little bit of internal communications magic, we believe there are lots of routes to a happy hybrid destination.

Building great culture through connection

Communication is one of the cornerstones of great culture. It can make the difference between apathy and empathy towards an organisation and make your employees more likely to do their best. CIPD found that strong communication can improve performance, wellbeing and even staff retention. It’s surprising, then, that a third of UK employees say their managers are bad at keeping them informed about key management decisions.
Thankfully, building and implementing an excellent internal communication strategy doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are some things to consider when communicating with a hybrid workforce:

  • Inclusivity – It’s important that your employees don’t miss out on vital information because of physical absence due to time zones, different working patterns or being based in more than one location. Make sure important updates are distributed in a way that’s accessible to all (such as email or via your company’s server/portal), rather than being discussed and left in a meeting.
  • Fostering connections – Do you encourage connection and interaction among employees? You might think you do, but it’s vital you’re vocal and supportive to keep your teams working in harmony. This will only become more important as different types of working become the norm.
  • Recognition – It’s been a tough time for everyone, but many frontline workers were disproportionately affected. As such, some are feeling more than a bit disillusioned with their employers. Your internal communications need to make all workers feel appreciated, connected and motivated to keep them happy (and productive).

Using internal communications strategically

Platforms and software like Slack, Zoom and Teams swooped in to save the day last March. Now, even Dave from accounts, a self-confessed and vocal technophobe, has managed to get on board. And after a year of connecting and communicating in a whole new way, our preferences and habits have changed – potentially for good.
For example, technology has made it easier to open conversations to a broad audience. Livestreams, virtual conferences, Q&As and other interactive digital events allow people to engage on their terms. They’ve replaced old school broadcast communications that only allow for a one-sided conversation.
Looking for some inspiration on how to engage employees on their terms, wherever they are? Here are some great examples:

  • An internal podcast – Everyone’s at it, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get in on podcast mania. The conversational, human feel of a podcast could help listeners feel like they’re part of a casual chat and allow them to catch up on need-to-knows around other commitments.
  • Video updates – A well-scripted, widely distributed update on the company’s monthly or quarterly progress is friendlier and easier to digest than reams of text and can feel a lot more personal. It’s also a lot less daunting than broadcasting important information live, particularly if you’ve got something tricky to report.
  • Use your portal – Adding lots of concise, informative and engaging content to your internal platform will allow employees to catch up on their own time. No more meetings-that-could’ve-been-an-email = happier staff.

Winning the global talent war

Your pool of talent is no longer limited to the people within an hour’s radius, meaning you can pick the best talent from across the world. But even after you’ve overcome the onboarding challenges, getting your communications to transcend borders and language barriers is another hurdle.
You need to prove that you’ve got a global outlook and understand the challenges unique to each region to make remote, global staff welcome. In some areas, such as India, remote work is the only safe way to operate, while other places such as the US and UK are hosting some in-person events. There’s potential for a huge communication chasm to open if you don’t make an active effort to keep everyone connected.
It’s essential that you keep talking to remote team members and make them part of everything you do, no matter what’s stopping them attending physically. If you’re not going to make it easy for someone in Malaysia, Australia or Peru to dial in or catch up via detailed summary notes, you could lose a talented team member.

Prioritising internal communications

Internal communications might not be as sexy as adverts or outbound marketing, but they’re vital to a successful communications strategy. Your employees are your greatest asset, so don’t treat them like they’re an afterthought, even if it’s unintentional. Finding ways to engage with and appreciate the people who have stuck with you will really pay off. If you put your team first and show them that connection isn’t just a buzzword to you, you’ll reap the rewards.
We know nailing your internal communications strategy can be tough. As a trusted content partner to businesses worldwide, we can help shape and produce content that consistently delivers a great outcome. We also love to chat, so get in touch to see how we can help with your internal comms.