Internal Communications in 2024: Advice from 10 Industry Leaders

As we step into 2024, industry leaders are reshaping the narrative, offering invaluable insights that transcend conventional norms. In this blog, we delve into the wisdom shared by experts who are revolutionizing internal communications, providing a compass for navigating the ever-evolving dynamics of the corporate world.

Internal communications have evolved beyond mere dissemination of information; they are now pivotal in shaping organizational culture, fostering engagement, and driving success. Now, we find ourselves at a crossroads where traditional approaches are being challenged, and innovative strategies are taking center stage.

1. Time to rethink the way we approach learning within the digital workplace

Traditional approaches to mandatory e-learning often result in superficial engagement and limited knowledge retention. However, Sharon O'Dea advocates for a shift towards a more flexible, on-demand learning model. 

"On-demand learning enables employees to access learning materials precisely when they need them. Whether faced with a new project, a novel task, or a specific challenge, employees can quickly find and engage with relevant courses or resources.”  

Continuous, on-demand learning is more effective in addressing the evolving demands of the future workplace. The flexibility of accessing learning resources when needed allows individuals to integrate learning seamlessly into their work and personal schedules, promoting a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability. Not only enhancing job performance but also contributing to employee satisfaction, loyalty, and overall organizational success. 

2. Communication is not a one-time act

Tara McDonagh reminds us that communication is not a one-time act. It's crucial to measure whether or not the message truly resonated with the audience, rather than simply assuming it was communicated. After all, communication is not just a one-time act; it requires careful thought, including audience segmentation, message and messenger selection, channel considerations, bundling relevant content, repetition, and measurement.

"Take a moment to assess how you shared the information, the target audience you aimed for, the primary message you conveyed, and the channels you used to reach that audience.”  

Remember, if the audience doesn't absorb the message, it's not their problem but rather a strategy or execution problem. Take ownership of the issue and strive for accomplishment, not just completion.

3. Do not underestimate the importance of engaging employees and connecting frontline employees with the head office

Traditional communication methods like bulletin boards fall short in engaging today's frontline workforce. Tara McKinney suggests using an employee app that provides real-time updates, celebrated milestones, and showcases company progress visually, enhancing employee engagement. Allowing to bridge the communication gaps and create a shared sense of accomplishment.

"I think that management in many companies forget that they sit in all these meetings where a lot of information is shared, and the key points are then rarely communicated with the rest of the company. ”  

4. When getting a piece of content approved, ask for fact-checking

According to Joanna Parsons, a valuable tip for getting written content approved by subject matter experts is to frame the request in a specific and focused manner. Instead of asking for general feedback and inviting potential rewrites, it is recommended to ask for fact-checking specifically. By doing so, the subject matter expert's responsibility is limited to ensuring the accuracy of the facts and content, rather than providing input on style, tone, or formatting. 

“You are not asking their opinion on the style, tone of voice or formatting... this is your wheelhouse as the comms expert, as you know what your audience needs and how best to communicate with them. “

This approach allows the communication expert to maintain control over the overall communication strategy, as they understand the audience's needs and the most effective way to convey the message.  

5. Stop thinking of your employees as a single audience

Mike Klein challenges the one-size-fits-all approach to internal communications and highlights that now is the time to fully stop thinking that our employees are one single audience.

“The biggest mistake I see organizations – and internal communication pros – make is their insistence on delivering messages to all employees, even when they are relevant to only a few.”

As a result, this leads to information overload and a dilution of critical information. Take, for example, when a Project Management Office sends out jargon-filled emails or cheesy videos to "inform all stakeholders." Instead, it's much more effective to identify the relevant employees, create a smaller distribution list, and deliver messages specifically to those individuals. This way, the information is targeted and more likely to be absorbed.

6. Heart first leadership 

To truly lead, David Grossman mentions it is important to master the art of storytelling. Storytelling can be a valuable tool for leaders and individual employees alike. Especially in an era of information overload. Frequently, what employees lack is context and meaning - elements that hold significant potential to engage them emotionally and drive them towards action.

“Leaders who make the most significant impact on their teams – and get the best results – are the ones who tell unforgettable stories and have a unique ability to connect with employees by being more human.”

Craft narratives that resonate, inspire, and create a shared vision. As David Grossman says, the ability to tell unforgettable stories will forge a collective understanding within the teams, driving motivation and commitment.

7. There’s no substitute for getting out there and experiencing people’s REAL day-to-day

“We all know you should NEVER launch a product without fully understanding your target audience, right? Why, oh, why are we not this rigorous with internal audiences? “

This sentiment is not just lip service for Jessica Roberts; she has walked the talk, delving into the real-world experiences of diverse audiences. From spreading salt at 4 am in a gritting van to working in a recycling plant, assembling sofas, operating a supermarket checkout, and navigating the chaos of a busy call center—Jessica's approach is hands-on and immersive.

Her varied experiences form the foundation for understanding the intricate details of what audiences truly need, want, expect, look for, and value. In the context of successful internal communications, Jessica's question gains significance as she advocates for the same level of diligence internally as we invest in understanding external markets before launching products. This oversight is a missed opportunity within many organizations.

8. Being heard is not about how much noise you make

Jenni Field advocates the mantra "Less is more," urging brevity in communication. All while simultaneously underscoring the significance of empowering employees with choice and prioritizing the audience over approvers. A crucial revelation surfaces in distinguishing between employee engagement and internal communication, while the ongoing challenge of perfecting the hybrid work model is acknowledged. 

“There are always competing priorities for communication teams, but focusing on the relationships at work and the outcome you're looking for will always be key.”

The struggle against irrelevant content and channel proliferation, promotes a more quality-centric approach. The indispensable role of repetition, presented diversely, is highlighted by Jenni as a cornerstone for optimal audience understanding. These insights serve as a compass for communication teams navigating evolving workplace dynamics.

9. The importance of thoughtful departures

Hebba Youssef underscores the importance of thoughtful departures, urging organizations to plan goodbyes carefully to avoid public drama. Unity, good governance, and mastering the art of saying goodbye are crucial elements in navigating the communication dance.

“The lack of proper planning and comms about this type of departure can backfire VERY quickly and VERY publicly. ”

Here's what we can learn from this: Stick together as a team, tackle any board dysfunction head-on for a healthier workplace, and plan those goodbyes carefully to avoid public drama. Keep it short and sweet, be a friendly guide as you navigate the communication dance in today's ever-changing corporate world. Success comes from unity, good governance, and mastering the art of saying goodbye.

10. You’re going to have to get used to posting. A lot

Daren Jennings draws attention to the common thread among generations—being tech natives with a penchant for short-form content. The advice to get used to prolific posting is rooted in the understanding that the modern audience, from Millennials to Gen Z and beyond, is accustomed to consuming information in bite-sized formats. If internal communications are restricted to lengthy newsletters or infrequent long articles, organizations risk losing their audience's attention.

First it was the terror of the dreaded Millennials, now it’s Gen Z, in a few years it will be another generation. But what all of these groups have in common is being tech natives who consume a huge amount of short-form content in their personal lives. 

To maintain engagement, internal communicators must adapt to the rhythm of frequent and concise content delivery, ensuring that the message resonates with the fast-paced, content-rich environments that define contemporary digital communication.