StaffConnects VP of Product & customer delivery Ciara O’Keeffe gives her IC trend predictions for 2018

1. Data cleansing for AI and Personalization 

Personalization is already well established in the consumer sphere – think of your Amazon shopping experience. Each person who visits Amazon sees different content and recommendations. Personalization in technology is about serving you up what you want, when you want it, in an instant.

As much as we would like to believe this is done by magic, it is not. Personalization relies on clean data. Sounds boring, I know. Before your organisation starts looking at implementing new technology with the promise of personalization make sure you factor in a period of data cleansing. Your efforts will pay off. This is an especially important exercise when considering M&A activity. Having your house in order before you merge with or acquire another entity will make the transition a whole lot smoother.

2. Mobile

A frequent feature on the trends list for a few years now, mobile appears again in 2018. Some companies have already implemented strategic mobile initiatives but there are still a majority who are in the research phase, trying to understand how mobile can benefit their business. For communication professionals, the obvious answer is connecting with a remote or deskless workforce; increasing their engagement with the company and giving them a voice to report what is happening outside of the office environment. Emergence Capital report that 80 percent of the global workforce is deskless, which represents a significant proportion of each organisation.

On a broader scale, mobile is extremely useful for crisis communications, particularly when a company network is compromised. In 2016, reported data breaches increased by 40%. So far, this year there have been several high-profile breaches, like Yahoo, Xbox, InterContinental Hotels, the NHS and Verizon just to name a few. As a mobile app sits outside of the company network it is not affected by the breach, therefore allowing for crisis communications to happen no matter what.

3. External Experts

In the last five years, comms professionals have become more adept at keeping up with external best practice due to the increase of resources available online such as blogs, podcasts, and attending conferences. Conferences require a significant investment of time and resources but they often return the most value. For companies who can’t afford to send employees to conferences, a new approach is proving popular; inviting external experts to speak inside their company.

There are many advantages to this approach, in addition to the financial and time benefits:

  • including all team members rather than just the senior leaders,
  • having the guest speaker tailor their message based on your strategic interests,
  • forcing your team to take a break from the daily grind,
  • inspiring your team with fresh, external perspectives.

How do you find these experts? Look for local experts via LinkedIn or just a simple Google keyword search. Alternatively, ask your colleagues for recommendations, maybe they already know someone in their network who would be interested in the opportunity. Reaching out to the experts you will often find they will discount their services in return for using your logo on their website or asking for a reference.

4Management Training

According to the 2017 State of the Sector report 52% of communicators think that lack of line manager communications skills is the most pressing challenge. I think the challenge is broader than just communication skills. The greatest influence on the employee experience (EX) is the employee’s direct line manager. If that line manager has never received formal training in areas such as recruitment, performance reviews, disciplinary procedures, managing conflict or diversity awareness, how can they be expected to create an optimum EX?

I’ve been fortunate to work in and with some great companies during my career but companies that offered formal management training stand above the rest. In one company, as soon as an employee was promoted they were booked into the next training camp. It was an intensive and mandatory 3-day boot camp for new managers.

You can devise an in-house bespoke training course for new managers or partner with consultants who are experts in this area. Rachel Miller of AllthingsIC is an example of the latter. You can read an article here that Rachel wrote online manager communication skills.

5. Chatbots

For some they are gimmicks, for others, they are a significant upgrade of the Microsoft Clippy assistant – remember that? Whatever your take, Chatbots are proving useful but only when properly thought through. I fear they may pick up a bad name over the coming 12 months, mostly due to misplaced excitement about their potential. As is often the case with new technology, it can be chosen for the wow factor rather than for a clear business benefit.

Luke Mepham, a seasoned digital communication professional, has shared comprehensive best practice in this area on his Intranetizen blog, which you should review before committing to a bot.

6. Remote Employee Wellbeing

Companies are used to being able to provide subsided meals in the office, on-site gym access and many other employee wellness benefits. In a Gallup survey of more than 15,000 adults, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, a trend which is set to continue. A key question is how can we ensure that remote employees and indeed the deskless employee’s wellbeing is receiving the attention it deserves?

Dedicating resource to specialise in the remote employee category would be a good place to start. As a demographic, they are easy to forget until something goes wrong. Having dedicated resource working with all areas of the business to ensure remote workers are represented should be considered by all organisations. Having a direct line of communication to hear from your remote workers is also vital. Can you communicate with and hear from them dynamically or do you need to create a project group for each new initiative? If you chose the latter, I would suggest working on a new approach.

I would also recommend reading Gallup’s recent article, which highlighted four ways companies are failing remote workers.




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