Lack of communication is one of the main causes for change processes failing. Shaping change successfully and getting everyone on board is more business-critical than ever before. Internal communication plays a key role here, because only if the reasoning, goals, and framework for change are transparent from the get-go, can everyone involved be on board.
But what does this have to do with new trends?
Internal communications, too, must constantly evolve to meet the increasing demands of transformation processes — and above all, to really bring everyone along on the path of change. That's why, together with my colleague Stephanie Flügel, Senior Communication Consultant at Staffbase, I have recorded for you what will be important in 2023.
The seven most relevant trends for internal communications are summarized below.
1. Internal Communications as a Key Partner in Change Management Processes
Tool rollouts, strategy changes, skills shortages, employee resistance, delivery bottlenecks. . . . These are just a few of the keywords related to the current challenges associated with change in organizations.
Internal communication is a key factor in either the success or failure of any change process. The ability to communicate strategically has a significant impact on the design, implementation, and sustainability of these changes. If executives and CEOs haven’t already gained awareness of this by 2022, then internal communicators should make it clear in the new year.
The importance of internal comms is no longer in question. Especially as our world becomes increasingly complex. If companies want to ensure long-term survive in such a dynamic and uncertain environment, they require effective internal communications.
The IC Department as a Change Companion for All Employees
Although many managers now have internal communications on their radar when it comes to change processes, one important group unfortunately often does not: employees.
When change processes are imminent in the company, most employees think first and foremost of managers. But they forget about the IC department. In 2023, it will be an important task for internal communications to build their reputation as a company-wide power for managing change.
However, communicating change processes is not exclusively an IC responsibility. A number of departments take part. Internal communication should make change visible and manage employee response. But the support of executives is needed in order to develop a shared view of a particular issue and gain the trust of employees and middle-management. They are the key and they should be empowered to communicate change processes appropriately. This way, everyone feels involved and internal communication can focus more on its essential tasks.
2. Reducing Complexity: An Important Trend for Internal Communication in 2023
Complexity is one of the most significant characteristics of today's VUCA world. The number of alternative key strategy points is constantly increasing, and one decision immediately determines the next. This enormous interconnectedness makes it difficult to establish how business priorities interact. With all these decision variants, conflicting interests and dilemmas grow. It becomes difficult to maintain an overview at all.
This also affects companies. There are numerous elements that contribute to complexity in organizations:
- Company size and structure
- Number of business units
- Number and location of sites
- Diversity of the company
- Employment type of employees (e.g., desk vs. non-desk workers)
This increasing complexity also has an impact on internal communications. The number of topics keeps growing. Likewise, more and more channels are being used to reach the most diverse target groups in the best possible way. We see complexity reduction as a trend for internal communications in 2023. This will help regain a little more control over complicated structures.
Many see the newsroom approach as a way of bringing channels together and making more streamlined messaging easier. With a central newsroom through which all messaging runs, miscommunication or contradictory information can be avoided.
In addition, we observe that the current focus of IC often concentrates on three to four major subject areas or topics in order to avoid overload and confusion. After all, if internal communications loses its overview, employees are also confused. With a well thought-out topic architecture and a centralized communications control, complexity can be mitigated.
3. Working With Analytics Is Gaining in Importance
The increased complexity and measurability of internal processes also highlights the need to understand these complicated interconnections. Analytical stats and figures now fill two supporting roles in IC.
First, they help verify the effectiveness and sustainability of your actions. The increased use of dashboards and identifying metrics in IC demonstrates how well action plans are being adopted. Platform-oriented solutions allow detailed overviews and reassure internal communicators that their messaging works.
Second, the current economic situation brings issues of efficiency and productivity back into focus. In 2023, IC will help communicate metrics for enterprise-wide strategies and holistic processes on an emotional level. The increased use of data sets that showcase productivity rarely has emotional value for employees. IC must provide contexts that help executives communicate complex topics in understandable ways.
Fear of numbers, fear of mathematics, fear of comparability, fear of transparency, fear of performance control. I believe that this is something that resonates with many people in their daily work. The question is: Can internal communication help to break down emotional barriers here?"Oliver Chaudhuri of HIRSCHTEC in this year’s German Trends-Webinar
In data-driven companies, we see so many numbers every day that they lose all meaning without any contextual interpretation, emotional translation, or good storytelling. Number-oriented approaches often bring a fear of comparability and performance control.
Internal communication helps to reduce these fears. Due to the ongoing conversation with the workforce and the ability to gain their feedback, IC can also increasingly derive operational and strategic recommendations for action-planning. Metrics should ultimately be less about testing and more about learning. IC helps to optimize strategies based on these insights.
4. 2023 Will Be the Year of Better Relationship Management
We are certain that relationship management will be one of the top trends in internal communications in 2023. In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis each corporate department was still doing their own thing. But in 2022 there were already signs that departments were moving closer together and even joining forces in a greater number of projects.
And that’s a good thing! Internal communications must continue receiving the recognition it deserves and be consulted on communications issues. Other departments increasingly understand how IC helps to keep messaging sustainable and effective.
HR is looking for support from internal communications particularly with regard to the topics of employee experience and employee self-services. Meanwhile, more and more IT departments are involving IC in the development of the digital workplace.
This interface management is essential for the existence of any company, because it has a considerable influence on the overall corporate culture. If this collaboration does not take place, services and resources often remain unused because employees aren’t even aware of their availability.
Unfortunately, this collaboration is not common practice everywhere. External communication in particular is oftentimes still in a completely different sphere than internal communication. However, the boundary between the two is becoming increasingly erased.
Our hope is that in 2023, IC will cultivate its relationships, engage in interface management, and engage in exchange with stakeholders from other departments.
5. Working Across Departments: Internal and External Communication Continue to Grow Together
Not only are the various departments moving closer together, but the nature of communication must also be more targeted and sustainably planned. Internal and external communications should align their messaging for all target groups. This requires a well thought-out strategy and its joint implementation.
The boundaries between internal and external employer branding have always been fluid. But new newsroom formats and the steady transition of social aspects into digital spaces demand an ongoing conversation about holistic messaging for both. It seems essential that departments dealing with corporate policy and culture issues, stakeholders, and company products and services also communicate with each other.
This collaboration plays a major role not only in everyday events, but especially in VUCA contexts:
The expectation to respond to significant global events will only increase, and ICs will continue to become more journalistic. The lines between internal and external comms teams will continue to blur as a result, as they work together to react to external events in a sensitive and informed manner."Lottie Bazley, Advanced Internal Communications Consultant at Staffbase in The Evolving Communicator: A Guide to 2023
The responsibilities of internal communicators have expanded considerably in recent years. They cover far more topics than just information about the company. In times of crisis employees want to be informed. The last thing they need is contradictory statements from internal and external sources. Successful collaboration and development will strengthen the organizational resilience of companies.
6. VR Technology on the Rise: Will the Rise of 3D Content Begin in 2023?
As new communication technologies continue to evolve, they are beginning to be integrated into internal communications as well. Does 2023 pave the way for virtual reality content in IC?
VR formats don't just affect the metaverse. Alternative formats for executive comms, change communication, recruiting, or onboarding in particular seem likely. With new hybrid work models and those that increasingly allow working from home, the need to bridge distances is growing.
VR workrooms can provide a remedy: Quite comfortably, people can sit at a shared conference table without leaving their own home.
IC will increasingly develop immersive content to complement two-dimensional content. The increased neurological engagement of these formats might also help better engage employees and improve the communication of complex issues and products.
However, we are only seeing the beginning of this trend, as even the use of video content in internal communications remains limited in many companies. We'll keep you posted on the state of VR formats in internal communications over the next few years.
7. Mental Health and Digital Wellbeing Will Remain a Hot Topic in 2023
Mental health is becoming a reoccurring theme in the community — both from the organizational angle of ICs trying to help employees process the latest disastrous news headline and from the side of the ICs who are busy trying to get everyone else’s support while they’re at their breaking point. Being the conscience of an organization is a huge task; ICs are doing it everyday and it’s taking a toll."Kyla Sims, Principal Audience Engagement Manager at Staffbase, in The Evolving Communicator: A Guide to 2023
Employees are increasingly affected by world events. This fear has not let up after the slowing of the Covid-19 crisis, especially given recession concerns and the ongoing war in Ukraine. It will stay important to keep mental health in mind when doing any IC planning in the foreseeable future. Internal communicators will continue to pay attention to their own mental health and specialize in sensitizing employees to the topic.
Another form of mental strain affecting employees in their everyday tasks are the ever increasing number of digital tools. For many people, learning how to use them and integrating them into their daily work routine triggers digital overload.
To reduce stress, people working in a digital work environment need to reevaluate how they engage with these tools and how to schedule their work in ways that lessen the threat of burnout due to technostress. Here's a tip from our colleague Melanie:
Blockers help against blockage. By that I mean scheduling time blockers in my calendar. I allow myself at least one of these per day, for about two hours. And before you ask — my lunch break is not one of them! The blockers are clearly marked in my calendar and all my communication channels are set to 'absent' at that time."Melanie Lanick, Team Lead Global Customer Marketing
You could provide your employees with tips like these. Use your communication to make it clear that it’s no longer taboo to take care of their mental health, and to give them concrete tips on how they can learn to manage their digital exposure.
Another thing that can help prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed: Take a break from sending out internal news every now and then and give employees a chance to take a breath. There's no point in overwhelming them with information. Even if we love the attention of our audience, we also need to give them the chance to take a break from the barrage of information.
Remember: communication must be relevant to the recipient and help them, not overwhelm them. Maybe ask yourself more often in the new year whether your contribution needs to reach everyone in the company. Might a smaller group of recipients be sufficient?
Consult with your team or other stakeholders on how best to implement these tips. A well-sorted editorial calendar can help enormously in scheduling appropriate breaks and making them visible on the screen.
The Focus of Internal Communication Shifts to People in 2023
With the trends from last year in mind, one thing in particular strikes me:
In 2023, the focus of IC will fall more on people and their needs. Whereas in the past the focus was primarily on establishing new technical solutions, this year will be more about how we as a society, a company, and an individual manage to keep track of everything in the complex maze of technology. We need to learn how to withstand the enormous digital influence we now face and how to deal with constant change in the best possible way.
On top of that is the desire to feel reconnected (as the VR Workrooms suggest). We will combine the strengths of different departments and build a sustainable relationship with other company divisions? Numbers can also play more of an emotional role in the new year.
We're excited to watch how employee communications evolve in 2023. We’ll keep you updated.
Internal Communication: These Were the Trends in 2022
- CEOs are prioritizing communication and taking a leading role in its practice.
- Communication is becoming more immediate — and more personal — than ever before.
- Internal communication is moving toward a multi-channel approach and reaching employees where they are.
- Email is still an important strategic channel for internal communication.
- IC is using internal influencers strategically.
- Internal communicators are learning to occasionally hit the comms "pause" button.
- Listen up! New dialogue formats are flattening hierarchies in the new world of work.
Did we forget something? What do you see as trends for internal communications in 2023? Feel free to slack us in Comms-unity and tell us what we might have missed.