12 areas of expertise communicators should focus on

If you’re keen to assert more authority around the office—and shore up your job security—home in on these hot workplace comms trends.

12 key comms trends

Determining how to attract, retain, motivate and engage talent has become a pressing issue for global business leaders.

Workplace dynamics and corporate cultures are rapidly shifting, and traditional engagement, communication and retention tactics are not as effective as they once were. It’s a new ballgame for employers and employees alike.

All these changes require internal communication leaders to equip themselves with data-backed strategies and insights to deliver meaningful business results. Communicators today must prove the worth of their work and demonstrate how they can create a competitive advantage.

The goal of internal communication has gone beyond keeping employees informed, generating conversations or shaping perceptions. It’s now more about motivating and inspiring employees to work toward a higher purpose and achieving desired behavior change.

Given our industry’s current trends, issues and research, communicators should focus on 12 topics:

1. Measurement and evaluation

How do we demonstrate the value of internal communication programs and campaigns for the organization’s bottom line? How can we incorporate new research and measurement techniques—such as big data analytics—in measuring the outcomes and impact of internal communications?

2. Strategic alignment

How can you align managers and employees with your organization’s vision, mission and strategy—and enhance employee trust?

A recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Visionary Leadership Fails,” discussed a study that showed visionary leadership was a positive force only when managers were aligned with the company strategy. This presents a huge opportunity—and challenge—for communicators.

3. Emerging technologies

Most of us are up to speed on social media and intranets, but what about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, chatbots, augmented reality or blockchain? How can you use new tactics and tech to enhance employee communications and engagement?

4. Executive leadership communication

Some now describe CEOs as “chief engagement officers.” Communicators should become experts in helping CEOs and execs communicate with internal and external publics, online and offline, to establish genuine credibility and trust.

5. Emotions and culture

How can you use the power of communication to build a healthy, attractive and thriving workplace culture? How can you build a culture where people’s emotions are understood, genuinely respected and cared for?

How can you establish a culture of positive emotions, such as joy, companionate love, pride and gratitude among employees?

6. Internal crisis communication

When major news is afoot, what, how and when should organizations communicate with employees? You must communicate quickly, clearly and effectively under pressure—all without alienating employees, of course.

7. Purposeful organizations

How does strategic communications help build a purpose-driven organization? What are the roles of leadership communication in this process? Does your corporate purpose transfer to employee outcomes, such as trust, satisfaction, engagement, retention or workplace performance?

8. Employee advocacy

Now that every employee can voice his or her own opinion online, how can communicators help create positive employee advocacy—and mitigate negative commentary?

9. Strategic change communication

Regardless of your position or industry, eventually you’ll have to deal with change. What, how and to whom should top leaders communicate when change is brewing?

10. Engaging frontline workers

How can companies keep front-line employees informed and connected? What are the most effective venues to listen to and gather feedback from these crucial colleagues?

How can communicators build a sense of belonging and camaraderie among non-desk workers in this age of digital communication?

11. Employee activism

If you’re unprepared for outspoken employee activism, your company could be in for major turbulence.

How can (or should) communicators and execs engage in dialogue with employee activists to address their needs and concerns? How can companies strike a balance among their legal, ethical and business responsibilities?

12. Employee well-being

In what ways does internal communication contribute to employee well-being? Savvy communicators must find ways to contribute toward their colleagues’ mental, physical and emotional health.

What do you think communicators should be focusing on to bolster and better their careers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Rita Linjuan Men, Ph.D., APR, is an associate professor of public relations at the University of Florida and the chief research editor for the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.  A version of this post first appeared on the Institute for Public Relations blog.

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