On the 14th of January, we attended the PR Week Strategic Internal Communications virtual conference.

With a packed agenda covering topics such as employee health and wellbeing, engagement amongst the ‘new normal’ and understanding change behaviours to improve employee experience.

Speakers on the day included internal communications professionals from Dixons Carphone, the Environment Agency, Highways England and Workplace from Facebook, sharing knowledge and learnings on keeping teams engaged with fresh and interesting ideas.

The struggles of transitioning to remote working at short notice were of course discussed, but we were happy to hear that the majority of people had gained something from the experience, mainly a new understanding of employee mental health and wellbeing.

We came away with some excellent ideas for boosting morale and incorporating wellbeing practices into our own team that we’re brimming with excitement to share next month.

But, for now, we’re sharing our favourite quotes from the keynote and welcome speech, that certainly put internal comms on the map — even more than it was already!

“There’s a difference between engagement and exhaustion.” 

An interesting and understandable view from Jess Lonsdale, Internal Communications Director at Virgin Media, as we all struggle with creating a distinction between home life and work life, now that our homes are full of our work. The important message taken from this, is that being online all the time doesn’t equate to productivity, and exhaustion is something we need to look out for when working remotely. Jess described the experience of critical workers as ‘relentless.’

“Communication maintains momentum.”

Keeping teams motivated during a global pandemic is probably the biggest challenge businesses have ever faced. Jess continued by saying that being able to communicate effectively keeps teams engaged, with 95% of her team confirming that they know what is expected of them and have a clear outlook of the future.

“Engagement is the most important, vanity stats are not.”

Something that isn’t talked about enough; the presence of vanity statistics. Making our communications efforts measurable is important, but what exactly does ‘measurable’ mean? Take social strategy for example, it’s helpful to know what your competitors are doing online, but does it really matter how many followers they have or how many likes they receive? The answer is not really, because those metrics don’t automatically translate into sales/profit.

“It’s been a game-changer for the communications function.”

Although the pandemic and resulting effects on mental health were hot on the agenda, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Internal communications has been propelled into centre stage, with more employees than ever relying on company announcements, the intranet and online events. Alba Guerra Recas, Global Internal Corporate Communications Director at Puig, rightly called our current situation a ‘game-changer’, seeing remote working and digital workplace tools adopted at an unpredictable rate.

“Remaining human in a very technology-driven organisation.”

Alba also highlighted the benefits of remembering the human side of comms and stressed that ‘Zoom fatigue’ and ‘digital burnout’ are very real things for organisations. It’s vital that we don’t forget we are social creatures and maintain connections despite the ‘complex digital landscape.’ When technology is so much at the forefront of our lives, it can be difficult to realise the ‘why?’ A key thing we’ve learnt is that it’s important to ask ourselves who we’re trying to reach and what message we want to share.

“Wellbeing is moving up the comms agenda.”

Probably the most important and poignant message of the day was this one. Employee wellbeing was important before, but now we’re connecting with our teams in a whole new way, it has become the focus of all our strategies going forward. It’s no secret that until fairly recently, talking about mental health in the workplace, and elsewhere, was a taboo subject. The more leaders and employees of large organisations speak out about wellbeing, the more it’ll become the norm. And that’s an initiative we can certainly get behind.

To hear about our own events, like simplyIC in May and simplysummit in November, sign up to receive our newsletter.

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