It’s going to be a big year for internal comms, but what can you expect to see? These are the internal comms trends we believe will shape 2023.
If we’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s how vital internal communications professionals are to an organization.
Businesses of all sizes had to rely entirely on their internal comms teams to keep their workforces aligned and engaged when everyone suddenly switched to remote work in 2020. And internal comms’ importance at the heart of the organization is only increasing: 83% of Chief Communication Officers say their influence within the C-Suite is growing, according to a recent Gartner study.
But the last few years have also shown us that no two years are the same when it comes to internal communications. After all, if someone had told you in January 2020 what internal comms would look like by the end of the year, would you have believed them? Probably not.
Now more than ever, IC professionals need a finger on the pulse of the industry. They need to understand what’s coming and deliver the best possible comms experience for employees. With that in mind, we’ve put together this article to share our predictions for the top internal comms trends for 2023.
The state of internal comms in 2023
2023 is set to be an important year for internal communications, for three main reasons:
At the start of the year, the Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that as many as one-third of the world’s economies would go into recession this year. She also added that it would “feel like a recession” even for those that don’t.
In these dire economic circumstances, many employees are worried about their jobs. And tech firms from Microsoft to Meta to Salesforce to Amazon have already announced layoffs this year. Given that we’re not even at the end of Q1, employees are right to be concerned. This year more than ever, there’s a strong need for comms that are open, transparent, and considerate of the existential stress that many employees are facing.
A growing desire for flexibility
The past few years have changed almost everything about the way we work – and we’re not just talking about remote work. There have also been huge, seismic shifts in the way employees think about their jobs, as well as their values and priorities.
IC professionals need to understand that everyone isn’t necessarily working in the same place, at the same time, or even in the same way as each other — and account for these differences in their messaging.
A need to communicate around global events
The COVID-19 pandemic. Brexit. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Rising inflation. In 2023, there’s a lot for employees to worry about. Because of this, it’s getting harder and harder for employers to stay quiet about global events — and there’s an argument that they shouldn’t.
This means that the role of internal comms has changed – or at least expanded. IC teams are no longer just there to communicate about the company’s latest new client, policy change, or strategic plans. They also need to become almost journalistic, reacting to external events in a way that’s sensitive, informed, and centered around employees’ needs and concerns.
7 internal comms trends to be aware of this year
So, what will internal comms look like in practice for the rest of the year? Without a crystal ball, we can’t know for sure. But we can give you our best guess based on what we’re seeing now, and our experiences over the past few years.
Here are our seven predictions for the biggest internal communications trends of the year:
- Increased importance of data and analytics
In these times of economic uncertainty, businesses need ways of accurately tracking things like productivity and efficiency. They also need to be able to communicate their goals and targets in these areas to their workforces – and ensure the message gets through.
But there are two problems with this. First, these kinds of numbers are just… boring. Let’s face it: very few employees find emotional connections with their team productivity targets. Efficiency metrics do little to spark inspiration. In fact, especially in data-driven organizations, employees already see so many numbers every day that these sorts of measurements can begin to lose meaning altogether.
Second, tracking employees’ work in this way can backfire spectacularly by making them feel scrutinized, micromanaged, and pressured to overperform. At a time when many are already worried about losing their jobs, this should (obviously) be avoided.
In 2023, internal comms can and must solve both of these problems. This will involve taking dry statistics and figures and using storytelling to turn them into a format that actually connects with employees. The idea is to inspire them to do their best work by tying it to the company’s mission – not by making them fear for their jobs.
- The employee journey: IC through a marketing lens
Many of today’s employees are disconnected and disengaged. And the internal comms department’s most important job is getting them engaged and aligned with the company mission. In many cases, that means that IC teams need to think like marketers. One way that we may see this trend present itself this year is with the rise of the “employee journey” model.
The idea is straight out of the marketing playbook, and it’s quite simple. The “customer journey” approach to marketing looks at a customer’s interaction with a company as a series of connected moments. They then work to add value at key points in the journey to improve the customer’s experience. The employee journey does the same thing for employees.
Usually, this means mapping out the typical employee lifecycle and identifying the make-or-break moments that have the most impact. Adding value at these key moments can boost retention and build a happier and more engaged workforce.
- A continued focus on employee wellbeing
Employees have been through a lot these past few years. As a result, businesses have (quite rightly) devoted more time to focusing on the physical, mental, and emotional health of their workforces than ever before. In 2023, as employees continue to be affected by world events and the unique stresses of the remote or hybrid workplace, wellbeing will remain a key focus.
In practice, this might mean using comms channels like internal blogs and intranets to share resources on healthy work practices. It should also mean establishing channels where employees can seek support, and – most importantly – creating an environment where it’s not taboo to prioritize mental health.
For example, creating communications to help employees to “switch off” in the remote era could be useful. Another simple change that IC can make is to think about the time you send out communications. Scheduling things outside of the workday can give employees the impression that they’re expected to check in out of hours – even if this wasn’t your intention.
- Stronger connections between teams with a focus on the employee experience
Historically, employee experience (EX) has been the realm of HR and internal communications. But in the post-COVID world, it’s become such a key focus that other departments and individuals have a stake in it too. This means that we may see cross-functional EX teams made up of HR, IC, IT, middle management, office managers and more.
Businesses’ growing reliance on digital tools is another reason why we’re seeing increased collaboration between different teams. For example, implementing a new platform like a company intranet might involve IT, internal comms, HR, finance, and various other stakeholders across the organization.
- The changing role of IC in change management
In the past, when it came to change management, the internal communication team’s role was simple: report on the changes to the rest of the organization. These days, though, we’re seeing IC play a much more active role in the implementation of change processes.
The most successful organizations ensure effective communications are baked into every change management process from the start. Importantly, these communications are built around the needs of the employees that will be impacted – not just written to please project leaders.
Since these employees’ needs are not always obvious to the people leading the changes, internal comms teams will have to collaborate with everyone from senior leaders to individual employees. This ensures that they’re communicating in a way that makes sense to everyone.
And IC’s role doesn’t stop here: they can also help with managing employees’ responses to change through things like surveys, polls, and focus groups.
- Employee listening: more than just a buzzword
‘Employee listening’ was one of those buzzwords that really did the rounds in 2021 and 2022. But in these turbulent times, employees’ needs and expectations change rapidly, so it will continue to be an important internal communications trend in 2023.
Smart IC leaders know that employee listening is the closest thing they have to seeing into the future, because keeping a close eye on how employees are feeling allows them to spot new trends while they’re still emerging.
We’re not just talking about the traditional annual survey here – although that can still be helpful for a broad sense of changes over time. What really makes the difference is conducting regular, focused listening activities, which result in more precise, more valuable insights. Think regular engagement surveys, polls to seek feedback on specific issues, and even focus groups to go even deeper.
Another useful trick? Dive into your intranet analytics. Finding out exactly how employees are using the IC resources you’ve provided can tell you a lot about their needs – especially as they change over time.
- Segmentation for more streamlined, more effective comms
In 2023 more than ever, different groups of employees have extremely different needs. For example, those people working entirely from home need different messaging from those who see their boss in person every day.
And the past few years have also widened the gap between desk-based employees and frontline staff – who have historically been left out of the conversation when it comes to internal comms. At the same time, almost everyone is doing more with less this year. And busy employees don’t have time to sift through comms to find out which ones are relevant to them.
All of this means that in 2023, IC teams might have to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to communications, and take a more targeted approach instead. This means splitting your employees into different audiences and ensuring the only comms they receive are truly relevant and valuable to them.
2023: the year of people-centric internal communications
In 2023, employees are constantly overloaded with information. The average company uses 75 different technologies – and this rises to 200 for large organizations. In a recent survey by MailButler, 36% of respondents said they receive 11–20 emails a day that require their attention. Twenty-one per cent said they receive 20–40, and a staggering 20% said they receive more than 40 every day (and remember, these are just the ones that require their attention).
That’s a whole lot of noise – and it’s the IC team’s job to cut through it. Among all of that extraneous information, there’s really only one way to ensure your communications get employees’ attention: people-centric comms.
People-centric communications focus on people, not job titles. That means that they take into account every employee’s personal circumstances and where they are in their employee journey. People-centric communicators are not afraid to take a stance on global issues or encourage their employees to do the same. Above all, the purpose of people-centric communications is to help every organization build an open, collaborative and transparent culture where employees feel safe, valued, and heard.
Of course, all of that is easier when it’s tied together with an internal communications platform that’s designed to go to the very heart of an organization – like Workvivo, for example.
Workvivo is a social intranet like no other, whose purpose is to capture your organization’s beating heart and become the place where your employees live online. They’ll go there to find information, collaborate with teammates, provide their feedback to management – and even connect on a personal level.
And the whole thing works because it’s not just another software platform: it has people at its center. Want to find out more? Book your free demo to get started.