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
Emoji are now a part of our everyday lives but how and when they are used in communication, both in the workplace and elsewhere, requires care. Just like words themselves, some emoji have connotations and hidden or rapidly changing meanings which have nothing to do with their physical appearance. This makes using them in any type of communication perilous, with the potential to cause offence, misunderstandings or to even land you in court on the receiving end of a prosecution.
Internal communicators are often on the receiving end of a litany of unintentional disrespect which seems to know no bounds. It would be unthinkable to ask a colleague in accounting to ‘Just finance this up’ or a lawyer to ‘Just legal this up’ or a HR practitioner to ‘Just people this up’. So, why is it acceptable to ask an internal communications professional to ‘Just comms this up’?