Internal Communications has become one of the most important foundation strategies for every top-performing small business. So, in 2020, what’s happening in the world of internal communications trends – and what do you need to know when reviewing your communications strategy? Here at MyHub, we speak to hundreds of small-to-medium-sized businesses about this topic. Here’s our take on the eight internal communications trends you need to know about in 2020.
Internal Communications Trends 2020
1. More Personalized Communication
The trend towards more personalized communication isn’t entirely new. It first appeared on the radar a couple of years ago. However, what is new is the level of expectation for personalized communication – especially from Millennial employees.
The makeup of the workplace is now more varied than ever before. The traditional one-size-fits-all approach to internal communications is no longer where it’s at. Generic newsletters and all-staff emails are failing to hit the target. In fact, when there’s already so much information out there employees, and especially Millennials, are simply not interested in being on the receiving end of irrelevant corporate information. Communication has to speak directly to the employee, their role or their team.
Millennials and Gen Zers are used to being digitally connected in their personal lives. And increasingly they expect the same in their professional lives. However, they are also used to personalized social media feeds and communications platforms that reflect their interests. And it’s the demand for this level of personalization that will be a significant trend in 2020.
Those small businesses that are one step ahead tailor their internal communications to suit the different audiences within their organizations. Communication channels are built around employee segments or personas within the company. This allows for more customizable configuration and a better employee experience. In fact, it mirrors what staff members are already experiencing in their personal lives outside work.
Creating opportunities for your staff to receive more personal content is easier these days thanks to digital tools. Most internal communications technologies allow for group targeting – by location, function or team. Forums and chat allow staff to participate and contribute to content relevant to them.
2. Increased Use Of Mobile Communication Channels
We’ve heard much about the mobile-first approach, but in 2020 our prediction is we will be hearing more about mobile-only.
In 2018 over 52 percent of all worldwide website traffic was done on mobile devices compared to 31 percent just three years ago. Mobile technology is now a feature of our everyday lives.
In addition, far more of us are working flexibly, remotely or in non-desk roles than ever before. According to the latest statistics telecommuting alone has grown by 115 percent in the past decade. Small businesses need to take account of these new ways of working. Innovative communication channels are required to connect these workers and promote a cohesive workplace culture.
In 2020, we are likely to see even more small businesses radically rethink their communications to reflect this reality. Company apps, intranet software, messaging tools – even organizations’ social media channels – are also been used as corporate communication channels. Company messages and important announcements are delivered directly to the employee’s smartphone for anytime, anywhere access.
However, the challenge for small businesses is to come up with a truly integrated mobile platform. Ideally, mobile communication channels should offer a single sign-on gateway into the business. And it should be possible to share and consolidate information in a simple and intuitive way. The last thing employees want is multiple screens and several different passwords on the go to access company information. The best mobile communication tools make things simpler for employees, not more complicated.
3. Increased Push For Consumer-Grade Communications
As we’ve seen, the consumer world within which we interact daily is shaping our expectations at work. Consumer-grade internal communications trends mirror what we see in our personal lives. This means increasing use of video, visuals and interactive elements. Staff members passively receiving corporate announcements has become a thing of the past.
Employees now expect to comment on and share corporate communications. Small businesses should look at incorporating this into their internal communications. We predict in 2020 increased use of desktop alerts, real-time updates and multi-media capability. This could see a blurring of the lines between internal and external communications as companies keep up with the demand for information.
4. Multi-Directional Communications
Most internal communications are still top-down. Senior leaders and managers decide on what employees need to know. However, often there is very little communication being fed back up the line. In consequence, staff feel as though they don’t have an organizational voice which also impacts on employee engagement. In addition, sideways communication between teams or peers is virtually non-existent.
Expect to see organizations spending more time listening to their staff in 2020. Opportunities to provide feedback, share insights and comment on internal communications will help achieve this. In addition, rather than a long annual staff survey, snap polls allow employees to easily share their views.
We also predict there will be more emphasis on community communications or peer-to-peer conversations. Collaboration tools like intranet software will blur the divisions between teams and promote joint working. Online staff directories and social intranet features will support your staff in reaching out internally. This ability is just as important in small businesses as it is in the big corporates. In fact, with small businesses embracing freelancers and telecommuters, it’s even more important.
In 2020 your small business needs less top-down and more multi-directional communications throughout the organization.
5. Increased Data Analysis And Data-Driven Approaches
Internal communications is one of the few areas of business that has largely been left to happen organically. You may have data on your all-staff email open and click-through rate. Perhaps you ask staff in the annual survey about their preferred communications channels. And that’s probably as far as it goes. That’s all about to change in 2020.
With every aspect of your business operations already being driven by data, it’s now the turn of internal communications. New technology communication platforms make it possible to collect a wealth of data to inform your communications strategy. You should be able to see at a glance when and how employees are using the internal communications channels. Metrics could include the following:
- which channels are working best for employees
- how many people took action as a result of the message
- the percentage of employees who open or interact with corporate communications
- the percentage of staff who confirm they have read urgent messages
- the most popular days and times staff are accessing communications platforms
- how staff are accessing communications channels – mobile or desktop
- the number of employees who open and respond to snap polls or surveys
- the number of interactions in terms of shares, likes, comments etc.
These are just some of the metrics you should be collecting and analyzing in 2020. However, it’s not enough to just collect this data. You also need to regularly review the data and take any necessary action. For example, if email receives poor metrics, then maybe it’s time to stop using it for most of your internal communications. Keeping on top of this information will be critical to the success of your internal communications next year.
6. Less Text And More Video
Visual communication is the way to go in 2020. Our behavior on social media tells us much about our communication preferences. It’s well documented that visual posts receive more likes, comments and shares than text-based ones. In fact, research tells us that on Facebook, images are responsible for 75 to 90 percent of an ad’s performance.
And the same applies to internal communications. Employees are more engaged with visual communications than text-based ones. Corporate messages come across as being more authentic and credible when they are delivered by real people. And the good news is, we’re not talking about expensive, high-production videos here. The quality of everyday smartphones means we can all access video as a low-cost, high-quality communication tool.
7. Storytelling Takes Center Stage
Marketers have been telling stories to build trust, increase brand awareness and customer loyalty for years. However, only recently have businesses woken up to the potential of storytelling in internal communications. Humans are hard-wired to connect with stories, which resonate emotionally with us like no other medium.
We anticipate seeing more corporate storytelling in internal communications trends next year. It could be used to discuss your small business pain points and showcase solutions. Storytelling can also be used to bring to life the work of teams. And you can apply storytelling to add meaning to the company mission. And don’t forget to include visuals for a very powerful combination.
8. More Demand For Instant Communication
The once-a-week staff newsletter, even if it’s a mobile-friendly visual feast, won’t cut the mustard anymore. News websites, Twitter and smartphone alerts mean we have grown accustomed to instant communication.
We now expect the same at work. Your staff members don’t want to spend time sourcing news. Nor can your small business afford to have employees waste time on unproductive wild goose chases. Quick, easy, instant access to communications is imperative. Employees that logon only to see the same news blog feed for days on end will become disengaged. It’s vital that as a small business you update the news feeds at least once a day.
What’s more, as with the social media platforms we know and love, bite-sized snippets work best. Snippets are quick and easy to digest. And a click-through link can provide additional detail for those that need or want more.
Internal Communications Trends 2020: Key Messages
So, the bottom line is that 2020 will be another busy year for those responsible for internal communications. If you’ve been charged with reviewing internal communications, then as a recap, here are the main trends to consider:
- Introduce tailored communication ideally at the team level and better still at the individual level.
- Make sure your communication channels are mobile-friendly.
- Introduce consumer-grade internal communications for more social interaction.
- Develop multi-directional internal communication (and not just top-down).
- Mix it up with more visual elements.
- Introduce storytelling for enhanced engagement.
- Keep communication fresh and update it regularly.
- Ensure internal communication is driven by hard data rather than hunches about what’s working.
Internal Communications And Intranets
Intranets have much to offer small business internal communications. Versatile, flexible and with single sign-on access, intranets are multi-media, visual platforms. What’s more, social intranet features allow for the interaction that employees now expect.
But the best part is that intranets are a cost-effective solution. The MyHub intranet comes with unlimited data storage and users, all for a modest fixed monthly fee. This cost certainty and return on investment are essential for small businesses.