How Communication Trends are Impacting Employees

Whether you are striving to develop an organizational culture that makes unions unnecessary or want to strengthen employee engagement and operational performance, you need to understand the internal communication trends. The reason is simple: technology and employee expectations about employment continue to change how employees and management can and should communicate. The days of group emails and paper communication being sufficient internal communication are long gone because onsite and remote employees want regular, meaningful, and informative two-way communication that uses current digital technologies.

The leadership communication best practices based on internal communication trends are founded on developing high-level communication skills and utilizing technology to establish two-way communication with employees to meet various goals like streamlining workflows and delivering training opportunities, developing positive employee relations, and preventing union organizing, to name a few. Internal communication pervades every business strategy because creating authentic employee connections throughout the organization is the key to successfully managing change and thriving instead of surviving in the continually changing business environment. 

Internal Communication Trends

Going forward, the internal communication trends will accelerate because of the importance of two-way communication between employees and management at all organizational levels. Digital communication tools are the heart and soul of effective communication today, but it’s also just as important to remember the human factor. 

As Gartner so succinctly states, “Employees want a more human employment value proposition: They want employers to recognize their value and provide value to them on a human level. Monetary compensation is important for surviving, but deeper relationships, a strong sense of community, and purpose-driven work are essential to thriving. This is the value that employees expect their employers to provide.” 

Your internal communications should consider efficiency and the human factor at the same time. Digital communications can engage employees or isolate them, depending on your communication strategy. Following are seven internal communication trends that balance technology with humanity.

Develop communication systems that reach all employees in hybrid work models 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote office workers made up a small percentage of the workplace. During the pandemic, emergency policies and procedures were put into place. After employees began returning to the workplace, many wanted to remain remote workers or agreed to hybrid work schedules. Now you need to ask if your organization has developed a comprehensive internal communication system that consistently and equally reaches all employees wherever they are working.

mobile internal communication

Utilizing mobile internal communication as an efficient way to keep all employees informed

More employers are using mobile internal communication because of its enormous benefits. For example, messaging can reach all employees simultaneously, avoiding trickle-down communications. IRI Consultants define trickle-down communication as a leader sending a communication to people working for him or her. In turn, the appropriate people in that staff group communicate the information to their staff. 

The problem with this form of communication is that you don’t know who fails to get the message. What if the communication doesn’t flow all the way down to the frontline supervisors or employees? A considerable communication gap is created. Mobile communications can eliminate the communication gap by ensuring all employees get the same information. It also can close generation gaps. The different generations have different communication styles, but the vast majority of employees of every generation still in the workplace have a smartphone. If someone doesn’t, it’s likely your business can supply it. Mobile technology is a sound business communication tool. 

Mobile communications open up new forms of communication via text and online access to an enterprise system, but employee apps are ideal communication tools. They can manage almost any type of communication you build the app to handle, from Human Resources communications about benefits changes to supervisor communications about work goals to CEO communications about mission, goals, change initiatives, and labor unions.

Mobile communication technology can also improve the workplace culture, strengthen employee engagement, promote collaboration, give quick access to employee training and leadership development platforms, and quickly get information out to onsite, remote, deskless, and field employees. The employee app creates a critical two-way dialogue which is a key to avoiding unionization. In addition, messages can be personalized when necessary, and workplace metrics are provided.

You can expect increased use of mobile technology in the workplace from now on. Though many companies are using mobile apps for internal communication, they should revisit their approach to determine if mobile communication is being fully utilized to achieve maximum benefits. Chances are there are many ways your company can expand its strategy for connecting with employees.

Melt the “iceberg of Ignorance” by including frontline supervisors in the communication of clear organizational goals for strategic leadership alignment from top to bottom

According to IRI Consultants’ communication experts working with management in various industries, frontline supervisors are often excluded from some internal management communication systems. The “iceberg of ignorance” persists despite the availability of internal communications technologies. The theory of the iceberg of ignorance is 30 years old but is still relevant. Developed by Sidney Yoshida, it says that frontline workers know 100 percent of organizational problems, supervisors know 74 percent, middle managers know 9 percent, and senior executives know 4 percent. It’s a perfect setup for union organizing to begin.

Supervisors have the most direct connection to employees, and even a 26 percent knowledge gap contributes to organizational problems or failures.

  •  Supervisors lack the information to communicate honestly with employees, so employees decide to talk to labor unions about the lack of transparency.
  • Supervisors have difficulty keeping their team goals aligned with core organizational goals.
  • Supervisors are excluded from communications that strengthen and reinforce core organizational values they are expected to model.
  • Employees recognize the disconnect between the supervisors’ and senior managers’ decision-making.
  • Supervisors miss important labor relations guidance, which can lead to Unfair Labor Practices and union organizing.

Frontline supervisors are being given new attention as the leaders who can build trust in management, increase employee engagement, identify employee needs before they become major issues, ensure the organization’s core values are communicated, and implement employee initiatives as planned. 

The internal communication system should empower your frontline supervisors to become effective communicators. We talk about empowering employees, but empowered supervisors are needed to develop positive employee relations. Assess your internal communications procedures and ensure your frontline supervisors are included in the internal communications strategy as necessary to enable a high-performance level as better leaders.

employee well-being and mental health

Communicating concern for employee well-being and mental health

Do your internal communications play a role in employee well-being and mental health? As Kathryn Mayer on projectHR discusses, mental health is directly connected to workforce resiliency. One of the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic as employees returned to work in a hybrid work model is that employee health and mental well-being are top concerns. Your employees want to feel good about their work, the workplace, and their relationship with management. Your internal communications should allow employees opportunities to share their current well-being status and mental health issues. The experts at Intranet Connections suggest: 

  • Conducting wellbeing-focused employee surveys
  • Having your managers and supervisors make time for periodic one-on-one check-ins
  • Communicating work boundaries to avoid burnout
  • Reminding employees to take breaks
  • Leaders avoid communicating with employees during their personal time 

Encourage employee voice to discourage “quiet quitting” 

The labor market shortage will continue into 2023, which means employees are more willing to leave jobs at companies where they believe employers fail to meet their needs. However, tens of millions of workers stay in their jobs with the expectation that they can improve the workplace for everyone. The pace of unionization is accelerating as retail workers, warehouse workers, healthcare workers, and workers in other industries, including tech, feel empowered to initiate change. 

A viral TikTok post has encouraged the idea of “quiet quitting,” too. This is a concept in which employees only do the absolute bare minimum at work to avoid burnout and make a statement about being unwilling to do work they aren’t compensated for. Amina Kilpatrick at NPR wrote, “Quiet quitting is in line with a larger reevaluation of how work fits into our lives and not the other way around. As Gen Z is entering the workforce, the idea of quiet quitting has gained traction as Gen Zers deal with burnout and never-ending demands.”

Internal communications between employees and managers need transparency. Your employees need an active voice and feel comfortable speaking up about issues of potential conflict, like compensation. They will talk to labor union representatives if they don’t feel free to communicate with managers. Your organization should assess the feedback opportunities given to employees for content and authenticity. 

Refine the quality of internal communications to connect disparate thoughts and ideas to manage change better 

A Haiilo Research Report compiled survey responses from leaders around the world attending the IABC World Conference 2022 and found that 71.8 percent believe that “change management and change communication will play a significant role in communications strategy in 2023.” In the past, communications professionals entered the change process at the end by reporting change initiatives to please the leaders in charge of the change initiatives. Now they are becoming active participants in the change initiatives, embedding communications into the initiatives from the start. This will help leaders better connect various thoughts and ideas to drive change and improve the quality of internal communications. 

Include the digital technologies that employees expect and enjoy

There is growing utilization of digital technology tools to make two-way dialogue and training and development opportunities more efficient and interesting at the same time. People like information delivered quickly, efficiently, and in bits. For example, your leaders can use chatbots and employee pulse surveys, and Human Resources can use texts for links to HR information. Your leaders can access eLearning programs that are accessible on demand. Videos are popular because they share information quickly and in an entertaining way. Using virtual reality for training and communication is rapidly becoming an employee engagement strategy that is particularly appealing to game-loving younger employee generations.

This internal communication trend could be called “mix it up” communication.

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Reevaluate Your Internal Communications for Effectiveness

As employee feelings of empowerment grow and labor unions push to take advantage of a pro-union environment, there is a risk that more businesses will discover union organizing is taking place. Couple this with employee expectations for having a strong employee voice, and the internal communication trends have significance beyond promoting organizational efficiency and better operational performance. Internal communication becomes an employee engagement and empowerment process. 

There is so much going on in the internal communications arena that knowing where to begin assessing your current process and identifying the best way to adapt to changing employee needs can be challenging. Contact our team of experts at IRI Consultants, we'd love to provide the expertise to help you efficiently tackle such vital goals.

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.