Looking at the year ahead, it’s clear that one of the most pressing priorities for organizations will be the ability to effectively communicate. Sharing information well between stakeholders—including customers, employees, partners, vendors, and colleagues—leads to business success. Here are six predictions for 2018:
1. Mobile Communications Reach Tipping Point
While mobile initiatives have become a ubiquitous fixture on annual trends lists, 2018 will be the watershed moment where this technology moves out of the research phase and into the implementation phase for more companies. That’s because mobile allows communication professionals the ability to connect with a deskless workforce. When remote workers are able to increase their engagement with others throughout the company and finally have a voice to contribute, everyone benefits.
What’s more, mobile is the most effective tool to use in crisis communications. Consider the implications of a data breach or compromised network, a problem which rose 40 percent in 2016 according to IdentityForce. When companies use a mobile app, it isn’t affected by the breach since it sits outside of the company network, which allows crisis communications to continue no matter what a hacker does.
2. Remote Employee Well-being Gets Its Due
The first thing we’ll see is growing prioritization across diverse industries to a systematic approach that facilitates reliable two-way communication with remote staff and non-desk employees (NDEs). NDEs are an increasingly important part of a more mobile workforce and have become an integral part of many organizations; 80 percent of the global workforce is non-desk, according to Emergence Capital. Yet the old way of doing business meant that remote workers often lacked company email addresses and had no access to a mobile intranet. This left them at a distinct disadvantage in communicating with their colleagues and managers and retrieving company information.
No longer will this inequity continue. Instead, just as many companies prioritize wellness initiatives for their in-house staff by providing on-site gym access and other employee perks designed to improve well-being, remote workers will now be considered part of the total staff pool with equal needs. A Gallup survey showed that just under half (43 percent) of employed Americans reported spending at least some of their time working virtually, a trend which is likely to continue growing in today’s digital economy. Companies will begin to ensure that deskless employees have a dedicated resource to ensure remote workers are fairly represented and are offered a direct line of dynamic communication to and from their managers and peers. 2018 will be the breakthrough year where success in this area helps companies achieve greater success across their entire business, including productivity, client satisfaction, and bottom-line financial results.
3. Supplementing Internal Expertise with External Experts
Another trend on the rise in internal communications is management inviting external experts to speak at their company. This is a cost-effective alternative to sending employees to conferences, which require a significant investment of time and resources. Besides the
financial and time advantages of this approach, supplementing in-house expertise with outside speakers allows companies to include all team members in the learning rather than only senior leaders, having the ability for guest speakers to tailor messages to your organization’s strategic interests, and providing fresh perspectives for employees.
Conpanies can find local experts via online channels such as LinkedIn or even a Google keyword search. Colleagues may also be able to provide recommendations based on people in their network. Keep in mind that some consultants will provide discounted services if you feature your logo on their website or you act as a reference for them via a press release, case study, etc.
4. Renewed Emphasis on Management Training
In my own experience, when I think about some of the great companies I’ve worked in and with during my career, those that provided opportunities for formal management training stood out as exemplary. One particularly memorable example was a corporate policy that mandated that in conjunction with an employee’s promotion, that employee would be signed up for the next training camp: a mandatory, intensive three-day boot camp for new managers.
Why are management training policies like this so important in 2018? One reason is that over half of communicators (52 percent) report that lack of line manager communications skills is their organization’s most pressing challenge. Yet I believe this challenge goes even deeper than communication skills, since an employee’s direct line manager exerts the biggest influence on the employee experience (EX). If line managers received no formal management training and has no experience or skills in critical areas under their watch such as recruitment, performance reviews, managing conflict, and diversity awareness, how can they create an optimum EX? Look to see more companies devising an in-house bespoke training courses for new managers or partnering with consultants who have expertise in these areas.
5. Data Cleansing Improves AI and Personalization
Personalization in technology will begin to take its place alongside the more well-established consumer personalization already taking place. (An example of the latter is an Amazon shopping experience, which produces unique content and recommendations for each site visitor based on their search history). Similarly, other technology tools will now have the ability to serve users what they want, whenever they want it.
As part of this expansion of personalization services, more companies will adopt the best practice of using clean data to fuel accuracy. This means factoring in a data-cleansing period whenever an organization is ready to incorporate personalization technologies.
6. Chatbots Make an Impact—But Only When You Understand Why You’re Using Them
Are chatbots just the latest gimmick or will they permanently change the face of our digital workplace? The answer about their potential longevity and utility within a given organization depends on whether the goals of using a bot have been thoroughly examined.
As Luke Mepham, a seasoned digital communication professional, shares on his Intranetizen blog, as the technology evolves, bots could herald in a workplace where “there will be less need for ‘real people’ to spend time and effort on simple repetitive tasks or to move between multiple tools to complete complex calculations and analysis.” The key, though, is whether or not a bot has a clear business benefit or is simply being chosen for its “wow” factor. If it’s the latter, then all of the excitement about their potential could end up misplaced, and bots may instead find themselves on a list of disappointing duds rather than trends by this time next year.
These predictions make it clear that 2018 will be a year of change for internal communications. What are you doing to get ready for it?