Three ways the employee audience has changed forever
The genie's out of the bottle - there's no going back for employee-geared communications...
Emily Bell’s recent (and brilliant) Hugh Cudlipp lecture prompted me to reflect on how the seismic changes in the way we consume, share and create information are impacting the internal communications landscape.
Like breaking the three-minute mile, it’s the nature of progress that every innovation changes expectations, so that the norm is instantly outdated. For example, Amazon’s next day delivery offer has upped the game for all online retailers, and business models are being hastily re-worked to meet the consumer’s freshly minted need. Given that employees are also consumers (and consumers are employees) who can now access, debate and share across multiple networks, many traditional internal communications approaches and tools are now regarded as relics of another era, and just as useful. Here are the three big changes that we’ve spotted:
- Content: the way we consume news has changed; the traditional article survives, but has been supplemented by summaries, lists, infographics, video and more. We’re seeing this reflected inside the businesses we work with; employees want a broader spectrum of content-type and to be able to personalise what’s pushed to them. This means that an audience who is used to bite-size and visually impactful content will more readily press delete on a long email, whether it’s from the CEO or not.
- Context: Businesses are being forced into successive waves of transformation, requiring them to become ‘change agile’ as employees adopt and adapt new working practices, processes and strategies almost continuously. Research has shown that businesses that provide their people with a wider frame of reference on an ongoing basis are more change agile, as employees can more easily make sense of, and even anticipate the next big change, and as they have a holistic picture of the reasons for strategic decisions, they’re able to commit to them more readily. A flow of information from both inside and outside the business is increasingly essential.
- Access: at H+K’s last D2 event, Helen Lawrence from Twitter explained how analysis of rate of tweets revealed that, against expectation, the biggest peaks weren’t in response to shared national/global events, like a football match or popular TV programme, but were dictated by the rhythms of daily life – the commute to work, the mid-afternoon lull etc. As people’s working patterns become more flexible and teams increasingly virtual, the merging of personal and professional can only gather pace. So we need an ‘always on’ model of internal communications to meet the desire to engage whenever, wherever, however.
This is an exciting time for us as communicators, content-creators and culture-shifters. The genie of traditional ‘internal communications’ has been well and truly let out of the bottle, never to return. We’re shaping a new landscape in employee communications that has the potential to change how we work and how we live.