How many conversations have you had in the last few weeks about supporting a permanent shift to flexible and hybrid work?
This topic has come up in nearly every client and peer conversation I’ve recently had, and rightfully so.
As disruptive as the shift to remote work was a year ago, the long-term move to flexible and hybrid work will bring different challenges to leaders, employees and communicators. At least this time around, we can see the change coming and plan for it.
But where and how do you get started in thinking about internal communication in a flexible work world? Here are some ideas to get you started.
First things first – employee needs and business objectives
To create the best communication experience, start by putting employees first. By that I mean, taking the time to understand their communication preferences, needs and expectations and how these have changed in the last year.
You can use quantitative and qualitative tools to understand what communication employees value, where there are gaps to close and opportunities to refine your approach. Then combine these insights with channel analytics to understand reach and usage and create a more detailed picture.
When you have a good handle on where employees are at, revisit your business and communication objectives and ensure they speak to your leadership teams’ strategic priorities. And don’t forget to connect with important partners such as human resources and information technology and solutions teams to understand if there shifts in their approach and priorities that might impact communication.
Review channels and refocus investments
With the rapid shift to remote working last year, many communication teams had to quickly introduce and embrace new channels. If you now find yourself in a situation where you have more channels than you know what to do with and they are not all up to scratch, don’t despair.
As you reassess employee needs and business objectives, it is a great time to review your communication channels and rethink how and where you invest your time and budget. Don’t be afraid to remove communication channels that are not working for your organisation.
Make sure you also consider the mix of channels in your organisation. Are you only relying on broadcast communication, or do your channels also support self-service, collaboration and conversation?
Reconsider frequency and routine
A recent report released by Microsoft shows how the digital intensity of workdays has increased in the last year. Between February 2020 and February 2021, the average time spent in MS Teams meetings more than doubled, not to mention the increase in emails the average employee receives.
Before the pandemic, organisations were ‘noisy’ with many messages competing for employee attention. One year later and communication overload is leaving people exhausted and overwhelmed.
As you refine your approach, take a good look at the frequency of messages and communication routines in your organisation and consider where adjustments may help to lighten the load for employees and make communication more impactful.
In a world of flexible work, we will connect, communicate and collaborate in different ways and at different times. To be successful, internal communicators will have to strike a balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication and think carefully about the communication support that is offered to leaders and line managers.
Learn about biases
Whether through socialisation or the way our human brains have evolved to save energy by taking decision shortcuts, biases are real, and we all have them. Importantly, our biases affect how we process and interpret information and influence our decisions and judgements.
As you plan to support communication in a hybrid world, take time to learn about the different biases and identify those that may show up more frequently in your organisation under flexible working conditions.
To get you started, the Inclusion Initiative at the London School of Economics developed a hybrid working dictionary of behavioural biases outlining the behavioural biases that will most likely impact hybrid working.
Measure, measure, measure
For many organisations, the shift to hybrid working will bring unknowns that will require adjustments to be made in how we do things along the way. If you have a considered approach to measurement implemented, the data and insights will help you determine what is working and what is not to support decision-making on where and how to make adjustments to your approach and plans.
And don’t be afraid to engage in thoughtful experimentation. As we enter this next phase of hybrid working, experiments backed-up by measurement can be extremely useful in helping you refine and improve communication efforts.