What should the priorities for internal communicators really be in 2022? They should not be the point issues which routinely appear in the annual predictions for the profession. It’s time for us to take a step back and get back to basics, or to discover the basics if we don’t know what they are.
There are many ‘single points of failure’ in internal communication practice, which have the potential to stop us in our tracks and render what we do ineffective. Leaders can be one of them, but properly defining and understanding a SPOF in internal communication is the key to overcoming it.
Some internal communicators would claim that the rapid adoption of new digital channels and platforms during the pandemic has enabled them to usher in a new transparency and authenticity in how leaders communicate with employees. But has it, really? The rise of the anonymous question in these online encounters has implications for ethical internal communications practice and consequences for organisational cultures everywhere.
There have never been more ways to listen to employees. Industrialising the practice of listening to employee voice and feedback is now easy, but it is another thing entirely to properly operationalise it and act on it. Organisations can’t claim to be properly listening to employees until both of these things are in place. Until they are, internal communicators and the leadership teams we serve will remain tone deaf.
We need to develop a better internal communications ecosystem to support our profession. An ecosystem where there is a symbiosis, co-existence and more co-operation between all the actors in it, and a little less commercial competition, so we can properly harness the power of our collective.
There are lots of gaps that are barriers to ‘getting on’ in internal communication. The practice vs. theory gap, the career expectations and reality gap, the geographical opportunity gap, and perhaps the biggest, the gap between professional frameworks and recruitment. Mind the gap.
We often think of ethical internal communication issues in the context of big events such as a crisis or exposure of organisational wrong doing. In fact, we encounter ethical issues every day in the routines of internal communication practice and tactics, including the ‘all staff’ email. If we are to really do the right thing for both employees and leaders we need to stop seeing these issues as an inconvenience to be ignored or overlooked, and as an ethical communication problem to be properly resolved.
What will it take to reassure and persuade employees to confidently emerge from lockdown and return to their usual workplaces as these begin to reopen? This is not just about messaging and tactics. Internal communicators must also maintain ethical practice against the backdrop of an emerging ‘gaslighting’ campaign which seeks to change our perceptions of the pandemic and its consequences.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic internal communicators have been adding our experiences of what it is like to practice during a significant historical event to the vast digital record of our times on social media and the internet. What will this historical archive we are creating say about what we did and what our purpose was during these difficult days, who will feature in it, and will it be a past imperfect?
It’s been the week from hell for internal communicators. However, the impacts of the coronavirus crisis have a silver lining for our profession. We should act to seize the opportunity which has been presented by the outbreak and not let it slip through our (washed) hands