Internal Communications and the Return to Work: 1 Do & 1 Don’t
By Nicole van Esselstyn
Internal communications teams are leaning on their basics and shoring up their foundations as they plan now for the best way to support employees this fall. Coming off the height of the pandemic and the usual disconnect over summer, communicating well with employees is arguably more important now than ever, which is why many professionals are focusing on tried-and-true methods.
Here’s one do and one don’t to help make your internal communications more effective.
- Each employee in your organization experienced the pandemic differently. Understanding the range of emotion and experience will help employees feel valued, seen and heard.
- Your employees will experience another transition this fall, even if their workplace isn’t changing. You can’t separate professional, societal and familial changes from the person.
- Industries in critical roles have been running on adrenaline and grit. These employees’ real needs may just be emerging, and cracks in policies, processes or personnel that weren’t seen or couldn’t be addressed need attention now. Revisit or continue opportunities for connection that have worked in your organization in the past such as holding Zoom or in-person happy hours or treating employees to lunch by hiring a food truck.
As communicators, keep empathy front and center in your internal communications, creating pathways to hear from employees and personally connect with them.
If you don’t have a way for employees to share input and express needs, create one and promote it. Feedback loops are a foundational component for internal communications and can be as simple as an email inbox, Yammer post, push notification on an employee app or an intranet page. If you do have one, assess its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments, then remind employees how to use it. Work with HR to promote your Employee Assistance Program, Employee Resource Groups and other work-life benefits.
By now you’ve probably gotten quite good at making and distributing videos. Create a video featuring your CEO thanking employees, acknowledging the past year but focusing on what’s to come. If your employees are in a central location, it’s time to have that in-person town hall again with your CEO and allow for a Q&A (or hold a virtual town hall). This will give insight into what’s on employees’ minds.
As you focus on communicating in an empathetic way, employees will feel their needs are important, their voices matter and that the organization isn’t tone-deaf as it continues to move forward in business.
- Even if your company’s work continued throughout the pandemic, your employees will need to be reminded of what’s happening with the organization – especially if you brought on new employees or added new products and services in the past year.
- For those who have been working remotely and will continue to be, don’t assume they love it, are good at it or getting what they need from their leaders or your communications.
- Don’t think you are immune from employee burnout or loss of staff. Beef up employee recognition efforts that you know have worked: send care packages to employees, create a festive “welcome back” atmosphere at the office or expand your flexible work options.
Lean on your internal communications strategy to guide and direct your path, or create one if you don’t have it in place already. Determine three objectives to meet between September and December, figure out how you will measure them and then use all your basic tactics and channels – email, intranet, town halls, employee app, closed-circuit TV, daily huddles, etc. – to support them.
It can be tempting in times of change and transition to create more change, but internal communication professionals are holding off on new methods, preferring to rely on foundational tactics and channels. This is a great way to hold steady and bolster communications, as long as doubling down on these tried-and-true methods are approached with empathy and no assumptions. If so, employees will more successfully navigate the adjustments they will face again this fall, a benefit for them and your organization.