4 hot topics for internal communicators in 2015

Mobile, gamification, visual content and social media are sure to be key factors this year. Here’s how your internal communications can benefit from them.

To help you better engage your workers, here are some trends, technologies and philosophies that could transform internal communications in 2015 and beyond:

1. Visual communication

Although email, intranets and employee newsletters are still important, many organizations are moving beyond them with visual communication.

Organizations are sharing photos of employees at events, volunteering or celebrating milestones. Organizations are also creating infographics, a visual trend I love. Infographics can make any subject interesting. They are great for conveying complex information—such as leadership changes or company benefits—in a simple, eye-catching way.

Organizations are also connecting with employees through video. Videos have become easy to create, especially given that almost every phone has a camcorder.

Photos and videos should feature real employees, workplaces and events. Many HR experts and forecasters agree stock photos are on their way out because they seem insincere. This dovetails with the transparency trend, which involves making messages less polished and more human.

2. Mobile

“BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a grass-roots movement that is happening in your organization whether you like it or not,” writes Shel Holtz, an organizational communications expert. Some employers issue mobile devices to employees; many workers simply use their own.

This presents an opportunity to send internal communications via text message. It also enables employees to access the intranet through their mobile devices. Organizations must make their intranets and emails mobile responsive so employees can read them without having to zoom in and scroll around (one of my pet peeves).

With text messaging, there’s nothing to design. Open rates are usually high, because the message goes to employees’ phones, not their (probably crowded) inboxes. Text messaging also gives employees more chances to see and engage with the message.

3. Social networking

As with many other aspects of business, social media is seeping into internal communications.

More organizations are using enterprise social networks such as Yammer, Chatter and MangoApps. Social networking engages employees, helps them collaborate, lets them learn from each other and is often more productive and efficient than email. Engagement is important—Gallup found nearly 70 percent of American workers are not engaged in their jobs.

Some organizations are also speaking to employees through public social media channels. UPS has led the way with its @UPSers Twitter account, which “celebrates the heart and soul” of the company-its people. I’m also a fan of Marriott, which poses questions to its thousands of employees on Facebook with no fear of inappropriate or snarky responses.

These are bold moves, and workers appreciate them. Both peer-to-peer communications and real-time responses will be part of internal communications’ future.

4. Gamification

Gamification is the one of the latest trends in corporate wellness and employee rewards, and we’re seeing it in internal communications, as well. Organizations can reward employees for simply reading or sharing internal communications with their peers (using an enterprise social network, perhaps).

You can create quizzes based on recent messaging and publicly recognize the winners. You could also give prizes to employees who live the organization’s values.

Accenture is implementing some of these ideas in its Spain office. The company created a solar system of company values on its intranet. It created a game to help employees reduce their carbon footprints, an initiative that wouldn’t have worked as well if it had been presented in a brochure or email.

Accenture also turned its recognition program into an internal communications tool. It recognizes individuals and teams, and is based on the organization’s values, which are communicated through a video and blog.

“Level of participation is higher when the initiative entails gamification, beating participation in other internal communications initiatives between 30 percent and 50 percent,” says Paloma Cabrera, Accenture’s director of marketing and communications.

Which of these four elements can your organization use?

Jody Ordioni is president of Brandemix. If you have been involved with an employer branding initiative, add your input to the 2015 Employer Branding survey. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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