As 2016 draws to a close, and we turn to face the new, how can we prepare for the challenges the new year will bring?
While bright and shiny new comms technologies might catch our eye like baubles glinting on the Christmas tree, let’s not forget the communications practices that have served us well in the past.
Against a backdrop of a struggling economy, a weak pound, downsizing and closures, the year will be one of extreme change for many. The job you’re doing in December 2016 probably won’t be the job you’ll be doing in December 2017, and going back to basics will anchor your workforce if they feel all at sea.
With that in mind, and inspired by the traditional song, I’ve prepared some well-seasoned internal comms methods to bring us good cheer, and help us sail effortlessly into 2017.
Twelve drummers drumming
Keep the comms coming. Aim for a steady ‘drum beat’ of announcements or news during times of change. People will always think management is not telling them something, so if you can stick to a regular schedule of content in your intranet or newsletter, you might give them some reassurance.
Eleven pipers piping
Resist the urge for broadcast-only during turbulent times. Your audience will want to ‘pipe up’ and have their voice heard. Factor in ways, if you don’t have them already, of enabling employees to comment, question or give feedback on your news, to make sure your employee engagement doesn’t nosedive.
Ten lords a-leaping
You know the ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ saying? If leadership have got tough things to say, they need to get out onto the shop floor and say them. A high visibility factor will be appreciated by employees. Get your leaders seen everywhere and engage with employees.
Nine ladies dancing
There’s no point dancing around the subject. Your audience knows if leadership is bluffing and they’ll lose respect. Honest, regular content production that employees can trust is your goal.
Eight maids a-milking
You cannot over-communicate important information, especially during change; you need to milk it. Repetition is good, but don’t duplicate the message. Tailor it for each channel – your intranet, emails or newsletters – and then also tailor each time to need to re-enforce the message.
Seven swans a-swimming
Like a graceful swan with its webbed feet splashing crazily under the water, so proceeds the comms team through the choppy waters of change. It can be manic producing good quality content to crushing deadlines when your organisation is in a state of flux. But, thankfully, only the final result is visible.
Six geese a-laying
Give people the opportunity to lay fears to rest. They’ll feel better for it. Can you capture their concerns and questions somehow or somewhere and pledge to get a management response? If people can see your business is treating them with respect and making every effort to create a dialogue, this will enable to you to maintain employee engagement.
Five gold rings
Work out what your workforce places most value on and hone in on it. For example, if feedback on leadership calls or webcasts is good, place emphasis on this during difficult times. If readership of the company newspaper is strong, bring out a special edition.
Four calling birds
Say something: it’s better than nothing, so shout out. When people feel so deeply affected by change, they want to hear something. Don’t enable an information vacuum. This will require gentle persuasion to encourage leadership to help provide the content you need for your intranet, email or newsletter.
Three French hens
Is your workforce international? If you’ve got multiple sites, you’re going to want to make sure that the global message is tailored and translated. If not all sites are affected by the change, they still need to be informed of what’s happening elsewhere via their local channels.
Two turtle doves
Doves are emblematic of peace. Be the voice of calm as you filter unnecessary ‘noise’ out for bewildered employees. Whether you are posting to the internet or crafting all-hands emails, try and even the tone in messaging to strike a balance between over-zealous positivity and doom and gloom.
And a partridge in a pear tree
Everyone’s eye is on the big bird and they’re missing the juicy treats. What can you pick to create a drip feed of smaller, relevant pieces of content while everyone is waiting for the big announcement to be crafted? Plus, remember that employees still value operational comms to keep a sense of business as usual.
So, prepare for the work 2017 will inevitably bring by enjoying a break over the next few weeks. Just like the brand new year we’re about to enter, change enables us to seize the opportunities a fresh start brings. Make a resolution to go back to the basics of good internal communications, craft meaningful content and build up from there.