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The power of connection and value of internal comms in a hybrid world

22 July 2022

The world of internal comms has seen a huge shift in recent years. The pandemic caused charities to flex to remote and hybrid working and we now rely on digital more than ever – with teams communicating and sharing work through various online platforms. The role of internal comms has become paramount in to all these changes – bringing teams together and navigating uncertainty in an authentic and transparent way.

At our ‘The evolving world of internal communications’ conference, we delved into the changes, challenges, and what the future of internal comms may look like. Here are some of the top takeaways to inspire your teams…

Internal comms brings people together

There’s a lot to be said about the power of connection, and this is where internal comms shows its true value. Covid-19 highlighted how crucial this is to charities – in keeping teams informed, influencing external messaging, and revealing how individuals work and communicate in different ways.

Dr Clare Mills, director of policy and communications at Charity Finance Group described how “internal comms brings together people, knowledge and insight from across the organisation, and its tools to shape the way we share and support each other and it’s a framework for building confidence.”

A theme of connection was also voiced by panellists during a discussion on the changing face of internal communications. Jess Noble, strategic internal communications manager at RNLI explained “It’s about connecting people to each other, connecting people to the organisational purpose, and comms is a method to do that…we need to build relationships really where it matters as…we are guardians of our organisational voice.”

But, with most charities now working in a remote or hybrid how can we help people feel connected?

Craig Scott, senior manager internal communications at National Trust suggested “Creating a connection to cause and having a discussion space to make them feel as if they’re physically connected.” And Lucy Ferrier, internal communications manager at St Mungo’s recommended: “finding ways of connecting people that aren’t all about what you do at work every day…do something for the people.” Anne-Marie James, EDI manager at Age UK expressed the importance of being flexible and making sure information is readily available “think of really creative ways to engage with people…be mindful of the time of day and what medium.”

The panellists also suggested you:

  • Work together to ensure there’s a joined-up approach and help people feel part of the bigger picture
  • Get creative by using different ways to connect and make them interactive and accessible
  • Make sure messaging is consistent and core values are embedded throughout
  • Listen to staff, act on feedback and explain how those changes are being made so they feel part of the culture

Learn and continue adapting

When it comes to measuring the impact of internal comms it’s vital to step back, look at the bigger picture and assess if all teams are working towards the same goals.

Noha Al Afifi, director of fundraising and communications at Arthritis Action recommended seeing measurement as “an ongoing continuous process” and to “learn and continue adapting and keep listening”

Here are some tips to put this into action:

  • Find what metrics work for you like employee satisfaction or staff retention
  • Don’t just rely on tracking and measurement
  • Benchmark with other organisations
  • Work collaboratively with others
  • Demonstrate impact with storytelling
  • Focus on channels that are most effective and serve your goals

Engage through change

We’ve all seen great change in recent years. Leonie Harper, organisational change manager at Mind defined change as “the process in which an organisation changes its structure, people, processes and systems and culture.”

But, throughout the uncertainties we’ve faced we’ve all learned that change isn’t always a bad thing. It can be an opportunity for all of us to develop and better support our beneficiaries. The challenge lies in that there’s an emotional side to any change and if employees aren’t engaged then this can lead to disinterest or resistance. Leonie brilliantly explained that “good communication can win over hearts and minds and that’s what ultimately leads to successful change.”

So how can we engage through change?

  • Engagement is a two-way process – involve staff in the change and allow them to help shape it
  • Help teams understand what the change will look and feel like for them – try storytelling
  • Always consider staff wellbeing through change – be authentic, empathetic and human and highlight decision makers and resources
  • Keep communicating with consistency and clarity
  • Focus on a single message at a time – what is most important
  • Create feedback loops, then monitor and make adjustments

Regarding the feedback loop challenge Nicki Dyson, head of internal communications and engagement at Smart Pension suggests enlisting ‘Engagement Champions’ who can “provide valuable insight into how comms is performing across the business”. They can share the main messages with teams, adding excitement and interest, while also gaining invaluable unfiltered feedback, identifying issues to help improve your engagement strategy.

Changes can create a lot of uncertainty so wellbeing must be kept in mind. Suggestions from Shanara Hibbert, workplace wellbeing engagement officer and wellbeing & mindset coach from University of Hertfordshire’s included:

  • Find your allies
  • Connect with people authentically
  • Share your wins across the organisation
  • Challenge your mindset and set boundaries for yourself
  • Focus on what you can control and communicate challenges and solutions

The conference highlighted that internal comms cannot be seen as an afterthought as it has a vital strategic role to play in shaping both organisational culture and purpose. Communication is a two-way street and listening to teams can increase engagement and ensure everyone is on board with the company’s vision and goals, ultimately leading to greater success.

So that’s your starter for ten but there were also lots more great tips and advice shared throughout the day. So, keep an eye out for this event on demand soon.

We have also collated all the #CCInternalComms action for you below and there is plenty of further workplace advice to explore via our Worklife hub.

Banner Image: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Adel Hanily

digital content officer, CharityComms

Adel is the digital content officer at CharityComms, managing the social media channels and supporting content planning. She has a background in various sectors including event ticketing, PR, and charity content. She is passionate about communications and helping those with personal or physical barriers to succeed.