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Hard to believe it's already time to discuss 2023 employee communication trends. Time flies, and things change, but the one constant is the importance of getting employee communication messaging and delivery right. Internal communication links employees and leaders and employees to each other. It is a key driver of employee engagement, an enabler of positive and supportive change, and a path to developing a satisfied and productive workforce with a collective voice.
Your organization must constantly adapt to new technologies, a younger workforce with different expectations about effective workplace communication, constant disruption, and aggressive labor unions in the pro-union environment. Understanding the key 2023 employee communication trends is a forward-thinking strategy for staying competitive in the labor market, retaining talent, and developing strong employee engagement. Some communication tools are classic and never go out of style, but they must be blended with communication innovations to keep your organization's communication strategy and tools relevant.
There is a diversity of communication tools available today. Some have been used for years, but that doesn't reduce their importance or effectiveness. They support the things that never go out of style, like keeping employees informed, aware, and engaged. They are used to develop positive employee relations, streamline work processes, manage a union organizing campaign, and reinforce the company's mission and purpose. The classic internal communication tools are not trends. They are enduring.
The classic communication tools are expected to remain in force for quite a while, even though digital communication systems are now common.
The 2023 innovations in employee communication are a mix of accelerating 2022 communication trends and employee communication trends that are clearly forming through a better understanding of the transitioning workforce and the communication needs in the ongoing dynamic period in which constant change is a given. Baby boomers are retiring, millennials are moving into many of their positions, and Gen Z is entering the workforce in more significant numbers. The younger generations and technology are the main drivers of the 2023 employee communication trends. A lot is happening at once, so the following are some of the more prominent communication needs for 2023, but not all of them.
CEOs are making themselves more visible because external stakeholders want executives to demonstrate their commitment to corporate values and social responsibility. The external activism has led to the CEO being more communicative internally to ensure messaging alignment.
At one time, the innovative CEO was the one who walked through the organization, chatting with employees (now called leader rounding) and holding morning breakfast meetings. They remain good communication tactics, but as organizations become more dispersed, communication through technology emerges as the primary communication strategy. The 2023 employee communication trends include the CEO taking a more active and direct role in sharing and reinforcing the corporate mission, values, strategies, change plans, social responsibility, and more. They also personally recognize workforce efforts that carry a lot of weight with employees. CEOs are posting on LinkedIn and Twitter to promote the corporate brand and recognize employee accomplishments, and internally are making videos, recording podcasts, holding virtual meetings, and personally attending staff meetings.
The short-form educational video, like those posted on TikTok, appeal to younger employees who want information delivered quickly. The videos can engage people looking for a job and enable employees to share their employee experience. The short videos can also boost the employer brand when posted on social media. Many don't realize that short-form educational videos can help your leaders share information with staff members or present brief explanations for training purposes. "The long-form video has a time and place, but the short-form video rules the day, and all the social media platforms are built for video. Keep your messaging singular in nature, meaning one or two points max and a call to action, even if that is a link back to the website." says Walter Orechwa, Director of Digital Solutions at IRI Consultants.
"Websites are now the core or foundation of your communications platform, and "social media" channels are both the two-way conduit and the delivery mechanisms directly to the palm of employees' hands. Smartphone technology and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are where everyone communicates, gets news and information, participates in social activism, and third parties organize your employees." says Orechwa. He continues by saying, "The message is clear; unions are using these platforms to engage, market, organize and get cards signed electronically without employers catching wind of it until the petition arrives on a Friday at 5:00 p.m." You must get on these platforms to level the playing field.
TikTok has some unique features that make it particularly useful as an engagement tool. We have previously shared our thoughts on business use of short-form educational videos and TikTok in a previous blog, TikTok for Business: Boost Employer Branding with Short-Form Video.
Employees want more control over the messages they need to receive and read to do a good job and how they receive those messages. One way to give them that control is to use multi-channel internal communication tools aligned with employee needs. For example, remote employees need an app, and project teams need collaboration ability for hybrid team members' participation by using a platform like Microsoft Teams. A multi-channel intranet can communicate with all employees by enabling the publishing of a message to different channels at the same time, i.e., emails, mobile apps, internal newsletters, and so on.
Employee personalized learning is training that is customized to meet their needs in terms of information, delivery method, access, and time to complete. Personalized content in learning and training systems is enhanced further in interactive eLearning systems. Employees can advance at their own pace and focus on areas where they need more time to master the information. No one likes sitting through information at a pace they find boring. Personalized content delivery is also possible through webinars that include live or prerecorded content, virtual reality for corporate training, gamification, and, eventually, artificially enhanced learning programs.
Regularly asking engagement questions lets employees know your leaders care about their work experience and how they feel about management. In 2023, management will do more than administer scheduled engagement surveys and pulse surveys through apps. They will enhance their ability to monitor external platforms like Glassdoor to find out what job candidates, employees, and ex-employees are saying about their experience with the company. The collection of structured and unstructured data at the same time can deliver a lot of information and allow you the opportunity to measure results against goals.
The 2023 employee communication trends also include a stronger focus on leadership communication skills development and emotional intelligence. Like their employees, technology has changed how employees communicate, and your leaders need always to stay informed and proficient. However, this means more than simply using communication tools. They must know how to utilize them to achieve the highest employee engagement level and to improve the employee experience. They must better embrace the human side of communication.
Sarah Smith, Communications Consultant for IRI Consultants, says, "What never goes out of style is interpersonal, face-to-face—even if it's virtual—communication. When building out a communications plan, consider at what stages in the rollout a back-and-forth conversation will better convey the message over an email or other communication that may leave room for misinterpretation and leave no room for feedback."
Embracing the human side includes having face-to-face conversations with employees and sharing personal weaknesses, mistakes, and areas where they know improvement is needed. Employees are remarkably understanding when they realize managers and supervisors are also always on a learning curve. Your leaders also need to let employees tell them what communication tools they need to be their most productive. Audio and video content boosts visibility, and your leaders will need dedicated communication sites so messaging is not lost in the crowd.
The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report revealed that employees rank communications from their employer as the most believable among a range of information sources. In conjunction with this, Sarah Smith also shares "Simultaneously, there is increasing general distrust in information from other sources. That will not change quickly, but this means employers are at an advantage when it comes to cementing their position as a reliable and trusted source of information. In the coming year, organizations have an opportunity to leverage the trust their employees have and build on it by doubling down on the commitment to transparent communications. Now is the time to prioritize internal dialogue with your employees."
There are some things to consider that will impact employee communication in 2023. How each organization ideally addresses the 2023 communication trends depends on things like workforce demographics and workforce structure. Getting the internal communication system right is crucial to success and to creating an environment where unions aren't necessary.
Walter Orechwa asks, "What is the fastest-growing media audience? Podcast listeners. What used to be auto shop chat on talk radio for geeks is now mainstream and one of the best ways to loop your employees in on all things company. Start one, develop a cadence, which can be as short or long as you want, stick with it, build an audience, and POST it everywhere."
Younger workers don't separate personal from work and expect their employer to communicate at the same level their favorite brands and causes do. The 2023 Employee Value Proposition (EVP) will need to incorporate the ability to communicate with employees with popular tools like employee apps and organizational websites accessible through apps. They want to use work communication platforms that are designed like platforms the brands use in terms of ease of use, speed, and options. "Employees expect their employer to communicate in responsible, professional, innovative ways, much in the same way their favorite brands and causes do. They don't want to be marketed to, but they do want to see the intention behind decisions. Effective, timely communication can help employees feel more connected to the mission." continues Sarah Smith of IRI Consultants.
Younger employees also want communication tools that make collaboration easier and give access to management for feedback purposes regularly. The semi-annual engagement survey or quarterly meeting is inadequate. Employees expect (even demand in some cases) two-way feedback. It's common for employees that start union organizing drives to claim management doesn't care what they think about operations or that they have no interest in learning what it really takes to manage work responsibilities successfully. They say this because leadership doesn't ask, or even when they do, they don't really listen, and there is no feedback given to employees. It's a communication mistake that can destroy employee trust and employee engagement.
Communication should embrace more than work assignments and leadership directives. Employees want their employers to communicate with them in a human-centric manner by using communication tools for recognition and collaboration and supporting employee voices with empathy.
The hybrid work model has been in transition during 2022 as companies and employees come to an agreement on the number of remote work days and appropriate communication with remote employees. Just because managers and supervisors can contact employees 24-7 via mobile technology, for example, doesn't mean they should. A crucial 2023 employee communication trend is developing Human Resources policies concerning communication with remote and hybrid workers, among other issues. Remote work accelerated during the pandemic, and it was often without much thought to longer-term consequences and impacts because of the necessity to keep work flowing. Now the hybrid work model is formalizing, and supporting policies should formalize as well.
Communication tools should include learning and development opportunities because these are top priorities for people choosing a new employer. The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found learning and development opportunities were a principal reason that 29 percent of Gen Z and 39 percent of millennials chose to work for their current employer.
Humanity matters. Employees want technology that supports wellbeing; they don't want health and wellbeing ignored for the sake of doing business. The communications company Haiilo surveyed 50 internal communication thought leaders and found that 74 percent believe employee wellbeing is a top priority in 2023 and that communication must embrace the needs of new hires and existing employees. It's another way of saying you should not design your communication system to please only the people new to the organization or that you want to attract as job applicants.
Furthermore, employee apps are custom to your organization and can focus on positive employee relations. It's a great internal marketing and employer branding tool filled with custom content that is updated weekly, especially since employee voice remains one of the most important needs of current and new employees. In 2023, the companies that give employees a strong employee voice are the ones that are more likely to create a positive organizational culture.
Employees are inundated with messages now from a variety of communication channels, and that can lead to unique burnout or message fatigue. Digital overload is a real thing. There is Zoom fatigue, notification fatigue, Slack fatigue, and others. Keeping messages relevant and reasonable in terms of quantity is highly recommended. Send communications to all employees when it's an organization-wide issue and select groups when not everyone needs to get the message. You should learn the communication needs and preferences of employee segments and focus the communication based on the needs. Technology needs leveraging to provide employees with what they need for work performance and wellbeing, like opportunities for social interaction and feedback loops.
To prepare for 2023 employee communication trends, it's important to do a communication assessment. You have to develop employee segment profiles, conduct engagement surveys, determine the type of communication of most importance to each segment, and develop diverse communication channels.
Your internal communications system determines how well you achieve employee engagement and how well you convey and reinforce your employer brand. It's also one of your top avenues for widely sharing your message during union organizing when the people who listen and understand its true meaning are the ones who reject unionization. Developing the most effective communication system for your organization is not a simple task anymore. Our team of experts at IRI Consultants can assist your organization with developing your unique story and messaging for success.
With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.