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How to keep people at the heart of internal comms in times of change

26 March 2021

Finding ways to connect with others in a way that makes them feel seen and heard is important. For charity communicators, this pursuit of forging meaningful connection is the very thing that motivates us to keep seeking out new and effective ways to communicate with those around us – including our colleagues, peers and volunteers.

But the pandemic has changed the landscape in which we communicate. So, one year on from the start of social distancing CharityComms gathered the sector together for a seminar where we asked those leading the way in our community how they have been using internal comms to its best effect.

With ideas covering how internal comms can be used to help support wellbeing and communicate change, as well as its role in helping shape the future of the workplace, our ‘internal communicators, the time is now’ speakers had lots to share. Here’s some of the highlights:

It’s very much not a one size fits all approach

With internal comms people playing an important role as a conduit between senior leaders and staff and volunteer groups, the past year may have felt like an endless cycle of crisis comms. But as RNID’s Niamh Merrigan pointed out at its heart the last few months has really been all about making sure people feel informed of changes being made, while understanding everyone processes things differently and supporting their wellbeing in the process.

Niamh’s tips for using internal comms to support wellbeing…

  1. Keep it relevant – internal comms needs to adapt as people’s situations and experiences do. Make sure you are addressing emerging themes and issues by shifting and flexing as and when needed and make the time to ensure your messages are inclusive, consistent and concise.
  2. Keep it personal – ideally, your internal comms should prompt conversations and raise awareness and this is particularly important when it comes to addressing staff wellbeing. Creating opportunities for colleagues to get to know the person behind the role and how they might be feeling. Using blogs or video updates could help create space to normalise conversations around staff mental health.
  3. Keep it fresh – when it comes to how to combat change fatigue and inspire people to continue their journey to good mental health you can’t just rely on what may have worked in the past. Empower people and create opportunities for them to tailor how they access useful resources and approach taking care of their wellbeing at work.

Maintaining a people focused approach to communicating change is vital

Communicating organisational change isn’t always easy. So, as RSPCA’s Abbi Moore reminded us it’s important to remember when conveying what is happening internally that it’s not just about what the change means to the organisation (or charity), for the staff and volunteers themselves it’s about what the change means to them. Plan your comms around the key stages staff individuals will go through – from the awareness of why it is needed and developing a shared understanding, to becoming actively involved – and then encourage engagement throughout the process.

Abbi’s tips for encouraging engagement by staying people focused…

  1. Don’t wait until full information is available – let people in on what is happening so they can see how they can be a part of it.
  2. Focus on two-way comms (especially if communicating difficult news) – make sure to involve people in change and take them on the journey.
  3. Consider impact on individuals – empathy mapping can be a good way to understand audiences (even internal ones) and how they think and feel, and enable you to acknowledge the emotional aspect of change on people.
  4. Avoid overloading by targeting your comms – consider people’s individual comms needs, how they may perceive messages and any potential problems that could distort or negate what you are trying to convey.
  5. Allow time for people to digest info but don’t leave gaps – think about change and adoption curves and give them space to process while also making sure to keep them engaged.
  6. Encourage feedback and act on it – make sure to ask for feedback on things staff can really influence though as ignoring what they take the time to feedback on could create frustration.

There is no perfect blueprint for what the future of the workplace looks like but listening to your people is vital

Let’s face it none of us truly know what our permanent future workplaces will look like. The covid situation is ever changing and all we really be certain of is things are unlikely to be the same as they were before the pandemic. Jamie Angus, PDSA’s Organisational Development and Engagement Manager, highlighted to us how important it was to keep listening to staff about what they want given that people’s expectations have changed during this prolonged period of working from home.

Jamie’s tips for keeping those channels of communication open…

  1. Try polling staff – regular poll surveys can help provide opportunities to understand what staff want.
  2. Use the feedback you get to make brave decisions – if you are asking people what they want, you can use that to make tough organisational decisions, say if your workforce want opportunities to work from home more going forward you may adopt a hybrid workplace in the future even if that is a big step change for you.
  3. Work together to map out the future of working – by involving different levels of staff you can develop core principles that work right now and may help guide the organisation in future.

Whatever our working future holds, one thing is clear – the need for strong communication will always be vital and internal comms in particular will play a big role. Talking to teams and listening to what they have to say is essential as it is the people within our organisations that make them what they are.

To find out more about the vital role Internal comms plays now and in the future catch up on the seminar on-demand now.

You may also like How to make short term comms solutions a part of long term strategy too.

Image: Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Christine Fleming

Head of digital content, CharityComms

Christine is the head of digital content at CharityComms in charge of the commissioning and editing of all content on the site as well as leading on the project management of the new look best practice guides. A former journalist with a background in online news, she has a masters in Global Media and Transnational Communications and is passionate about comms and helping charity communications thrive.