“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
– Henry Ford
Employees like to be included and appreciated. They like to know their hard work has been noticed and take part in celebrating successes. People also need consistent information about the company to do their jobs effectively. They need up-to-date details about the projects they’re working on and accurate reporting against company KPIs. With flexible working on the rise, and more and more of your workforce going virtual, internal comms (IC) can be the unsung heroes in your fight for universal collaboration.
There are five core reasons why internal communications teams will determine the future of collaboration in the workplace.
1. There is no such thing as a virtual workforce
2020 introduced a new way of working for the masses and, for many, it’s here to stay. Whether your employees are returning to the office full-time post-pandemic or your business is adopting a hybrid virtual work model, most of us now have experience with the virtual workspace. But even though you never see below mid-chest, those colleagues on Teams calls still have legs (although they are probably pyjama-clad). Employees are still humans at work, even when they’re physically distant and the majority of your two-way communications are text or video-based.
How do you address the needs of your very real, very present team? How do you keep them connected over the long haul?
Good Internal Communications (IC) managers are communication experts. They should be able to handle your employees’ new work habits, routines, needs and expectations, taking charge of things like:
- Asynchronous demand for information from employees on different schedules
- Determining the best use of internal comms channels
- Ensuring consistent messaging as employees shift between in-person and remote working
- Creating spaces where individuals can come together with a sense of community, air their grievances, and celebrate successes.
To sustain cross-team collaboration, businesses will have to develop new IC strategies to cater to everyone whether they are in-office, at home, working remotely or on the move.
2. It’s not just about a laptop and a mobile
Your IT team hold at least half the tools for supporting a successful remote working policy. We have all learned the hard way over the past year or more that providing an employee with a laptop and a dongle is not all that is required to maintain a successful, productive remote workforce.
The right technology is, of course, essential and – as well as hardware – needs to include appropriate software for employees to collaborate on projects, communicate freely and access information on-demand as if located in the office itself.
A good intranet platform, specialist internal communication tools, and appropriate digital apps and channels lay a solid foundation for connecting with your workforce. Overlay this with well-planned communication campaigns aligned to company strategies and objectives and values will align. Establishing this shared vision for the future, using technology that works so well you don’t even feel it, paves the way for a strong working culture – even in a remote setting.
3. Join the dots of your company culture
Employees are at the centre of your company culture and it’s up to you as leaders and Internal Communications specialists to support and promote the cultural vision that you have as a business. To boost collaboration, focus on nurturing a culture that encourages open discussion and provides opportunities to nurture these interactions, and provide remote teams with the tools to join in as if they were present wherever possible.
Both formal meetings and informal chats are important for building culture – even when you’re not in the same location. Virtual social hubs, tea-and-cake breaks, ‘pints down the pub’ and activities after company meetings are invaluable, as well as the team meetings, project stand-ups and company briefings that stand as the regular heartbeat of a high-performing business.
As much as 50 percent of positive change in communication patterns within the workplace can be accredited to social interaction outside of the workplace. By promoting a joined-up culture – where you encourage non-structured interaction – you give your staff the opportunity to get to know each other better. This way they build healthy, friendly working relationships, increasing personal engagement and sparking inspiration and motivation.
A culture that encourages cross-team collaboration, is vital for business growth. Bringing a new perspective into a project or business challenge can introduce new ideas and encourage creativity across the team.
4. Shared innovations become new ideas
Encouraging collaboration is a powerful way to stimulate innovation in the workplace.
Embracing individual perspectives encourages creative brainstorming and boosts innovation. Many businesses recognise the value of collaboration and yet there are often still roadblocks that impede working together creatively. These include:
- different opinions
- lack of respect or trust
- poor listening skills
- inadequate knowledge
- lack of alignment around goals
- employee competitiveness
- information hoarding
- departmental silos
An IC manager is ideally positioned to bring your far-flung workforce into an innovative and collaborative space. IC can work with leaders to connect individuals with shared interests or complementary skills, share details of new projects in an engaging and inspiring way, and encourage conversations around big ideas that serve to connect people that might not speak or work together normally.
5. Bring in the experts
Compared with externally-facing Marketing and PR leaders, Internal Communications experts have rarely had a significant presence at a senior level in most organisations. But, over recent years, this largely overlooked lynchpin of employee engagement has become a pivotal part of the business in today’s world of remote workforces and operating models in constant flux.
Increasingly internal and external comms teams are learning to work together to coordinate company messaging. Conveying company news through the press without a pre-emptive internal communication campaign is the absolute anathema of excellent employee engagement tactics.
Businesses are learning they can only gain by bringing IC into corporate communication planning, giving them the opportunity to craft employee-facing messaging and bring their unique perspective into the mix.
Improving communication in the workplace
Long-term, tools and software alone can’t keep your organisation connected. Your internal communications strategies, campaigns and execution are what make remote working, work. The stories you share and the human connection you work together to build is what brings humans together and encourages creative collaboration. IC teams and specialists could be your saving grace in establishing a new, successful company culture that embraces remote working. Use them to their full capacity.