The business world is undergoing sweeping changes – organisations both large and small must factor new technologies, disruptive competitors and empowered customers into their plans.
To make the most of this dynamic business environment, organisations need to become agile and responsive. They must anticipate and adapt to changes in the marketplace, in consumer behaviour and in the technology that underpins their business – and react at speed.
In order to navigate this landscape, organisations need to adopt new ways of working – and internal comms has a vital role to play in helping to drive change and encourage more effective collaboration.
To find out how different companies are approaching the challenge of becoming agile and responsive, and what’s working, 106 Communications conducted a survey of 224 respondents drawn from management, internal comms and human resources, presenting its findings at the Strategic Internal Communications conference.
Traditional comms channels still rule the roost – for now
Although there’s a perception that organisations resort to "silver bullets" in order to appear effective, the survey’s respondents overwhelmingly recognised the effectiveness of traditional channels of communication. 77 per cent of those polled considered email an effective channel for internal communications, closely followed by leadership communications (52 per cent), and intranet (46 per cent).
However, the respondents also acknowledged the limitations of traditional channels in enabling organisations to become agile and responsive. When asked what channels will enable agility and responsiveness in organisations, email was only considered effective by 46 per cent of those polled – showing that it may struggle to engage employees as businesses undergo necessary changes.
Enterprise Social Networks, however, seem to be considered a vital tool in developing agile and responsive organisations. While just 16 per cent thought they were effective for general communication, this shot up to 31 per cent when asked what channels would make organisations more agile and responsive.
The survey also found that how organisations approach their internal comms strategy for enabling agility and responsiveness is determined by their size. In smaller organisations, smaller scale meetings were considered more effective (48 per cent of respondents); in larger organisations over over 1000 employees, enterprise social networks and messaging tools (38 per cent) become more significant.
However, it’s worth noting that traditional channels such as email and leadership communications still dominate the responses.
Four ways to make organisations agile and responsive
1 Use data
In order to shape the future of your organisation’s internal communications, it’s vital to provide effective data on the impact of your comms strategy. What employees are thinking and talking about, what channels support meaningful conversation across the business, and what insights you can gather on your audience – all of these can inform your choices going forwards. Effective, insightful data is also vital in driving through changes at leadership level – in order to convince, you need evidence!
2 Focus on behaviours
Encourage behaviours that contribute to an agile organisation by focusing on the real stories that match the organisation’s strategy, objectives and leadership mission. Recognise and reward those role models within the business who exemplify the business culture you’re trying to create – those who’ve made real changes to the way the organisation works, rather than just those who’ve won some work.
Leaders need to play their part and truly lead on the need for change and agility – internal comms experts should help them by building comms capability at all level of the organisation.
3 Facilitate dialogue
Rather than taking a top-down approach to comms and trying to control the message throughout the organisation, internal comms needs to encourage sharing of ideas through two-way conversation. Facilitate communication, rather than broadcasting, and encourage open conversations and information sharing within teams.
Internal comms also needs to be involved early in developing and challenging strategy, and get close to what the CEO is trying to achieve. Leading the messaging from the outset, they need to avoid "fluff" and clearly communicate what’s changing and why – and how it impacts on roles at all levels of the organisation.
4 Employ the right technology
Technology is a vital part of driving change within an organisation, but it needs to be carefully chosen. As the survey results show, traditional comms channels still dominate, and internal comms should be careful to avoid jumping on the latest bandwagon. Instead, invest in technology that encourages agile and responsive operations such as Enterprise Social Networks, digital and video – and show how tech can enable cultural change and education within the business.