Internal communicators are the new influencers

A new age of employee communications brings influential reach to workforces and true business impact

Internal communicators are the new influencers

Did you know internal communicators have a super power? It’s that people trust them and the information they share. It’s true, and this fact puts the role of internal communicators as the new influencers in the spotlight. And just like Thor’s hammer has the power of lightning, IC professionals now have power and influence as trusted advisors to leadership. 

According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, communication from employers is considered the most trusted source of information. This is a very important role to play as events around the world impact companies and the humans that show up for work every day. Employees are looking to their organization’s to hear the truth about what is going on in the world. They are increasingly concerned with an array of issues, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, recession, DE&I, energy costs, job security, an ongoing pandemic, crime, war and supply chain issues — to name just a few. 

These and so many other events over the last couple of years resulted in IC professionals finally receiving the recognition and visibility they deserve within their organizations. They’ve also been given the opportunity to show their worth, becoming trusted advisors to senior leaders and trusted sources of information for employees. In fact, results from a recent Staffbase Internal Communications Maturity Assessment survey shows that 69% of the 1,600 participating IC professionals say their work in internal communications is taken seriously and respected by senior managers in their organization. This means a majority of business leaders know they have a partner in employee communication, a partner with the skills, knowledge, tools and strategy to help them inspire and lead people with their vision. 

In this heightened role, internal communicators also serve to amplify the voices of employees, providing a direct line of communications that let senior leaders know what their employees are thinking about, worrying about, and talking about. 

Lindsay Theile, senior director, Global Internal Communications at Walgreens Boots Alliance, spoke recently at the 2022 VOICES Conference about the importance of being “one source of truth” for all within an organization. “With COVID, and more recently our full office reopening, having one source of truth on the intranet where people can go for everything” was paramount. Theile also mentioned that it’s important for comms professionals to have more transparent direct communication with all levels within an organization. 

Influencers move people

According to Bret Roberts, internal communications coordinator at EDA Contractors, who also spoke at a session during the VOICES NYC conference, “By serving the needs of the employees, we’re serving the needs of the company.” 

I agree with that and I’d like to add my belief that communication moves people, and people move companies. Both are essential in these times of change. When internal communicators have a finger on a workforce’s pulse and have the tools they need to enable and inform employees throughout an entire organization, communication becomes more than a megaphone for announcements, it transforms company culture, creates positive business outcomes, and enables business leaders to guide employees through uncertain times.

Just seven short years ago, there was very little being said about employee communications by analysts, researchers and journalists. The most revolutionary thing was listening to employees, getting feedback and iterating messages accordingly. There was a huge gap between the importance and potential of employee comms technology. 

Fast forward to 2022 and analysts like Gartner are recognizing the importance of employee comms to drive organizational transformation. There is no doubt that 2022 has brought a new age of employee communications, where the function is no longer measured by clicks and engagement, but by the IC team’s ability to influence and create impact.

Technology making a difference

Looking at the state of employee comms technology, there is a complexity barrier to get over.. IC pros today face a huge amount of channels: Intranet, email, digital signage, employee apps, newsletters, SharePoint, Teams,Viva Connections, etc. 

When thinking about this, Adrienne Hoyt, vice president, Internal Communications at CNN, described comms during the 2022 VOICES Conference as “like a Rubik’s Cube” where comms professionals have “a lot of the pieces that we need, we’re just constantly moving it all around based on the situation, and the leaders, and message we’re trying to send.”

And thanks to social media, the work of internal communicators has become so much more difficult because every time employees look at their smartphone they are bombarded by different versions of reality. It’s so hard to cut through the clutter of information and misinformation, to be heard and actually be able to align people on the same page with the same view of reality. 

If people can’t ever agree on the same view of what is going on right now, it’s really hard to function as a team, a department or as a company. This is why it’s so important for communicators to be respected influencers in order to align people, get through to them and help set the company on its path to the future. Today’s advances in internal communication technology, like employee communications management platforms, serve to empower business leaders and communicators to drive transformation through internal comms insights, strategies and solutions. 

These advances in internal comms solutions have saved communicators valuable time and effort. And they have allowed communicators to specifically target their comms through multiple channels that reach employees in ways they prefer to receive their company communications, whether they’re in the office, at home, on the factory floor, or on the road. A few short years ago, this kind of internal comms reach was hard to accomplish. But reach like this is now more important than ever as employees seek truth in communications and comms professionals embrace their new roles as influencers.

Frank Wolf is  co-founder and CSO of Staffbase

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