AB Thinks  →  23rd March 2022

The state of IC: what’s behind the numbers?

In episode 58 of The Internal Comms Podcast, we dissect the results of Gallagher’s latest State of the Sector report, the definitive global survey of the internal comms landscape. Gallagher has been leading this conversation since 2008 and this survey has given IC professionals the inside track on the evolution of our industry for more than a decade.

IC teams are still living through the shockwaves of new challenges surfacing every day and significantly evolved ways of working. The positive from all of this is that internal communicators have become indispensable to mitigating the fallout during a crisis and preserving employee and organisational wellbeing.

Gallagher’s Head of Communications and Change, Siobhan Hammond, sheds light on what this year’s results are telling us about the current state of our profession. Below are some of the key insights from the episode.

What challenges are IC professionals facing this year?

#1 Resetting the agenda
The events of the past couple of years have defined the agendas and focus of IC teams across the world. The great resignation, hybrid working and an element of self-preservation in difficult times have meant switching focus on key issues at a rapid and sometimes unrelenting pace.

As we emerge, we are reclaiming control to guide the reigns of our IC strategy, but the backdrop of this experience is important when we think about what we want to achieve and how employee campaigns and messages will land. Siobhan explains that key themes are emerging around the future of work, and work-life balance, flexibility and mental health are top priorities. In the 2020/21 survey, it was no surprise that 70% of respondents named employee wellbeing as a key trend and this is still vital to remember as we plan and reset our goals.

#2 Disengaged employees
Siobhan emphasises that as organisations reinvent themselves post-pandemic, employees want absolute clarity on what that means for them, as well as for the company’s vision and purpose.

In fact, engaging people around purpose, strategy and values remains the top priority for more than half (53%) of the world’s organisations. The consistency of this result throughout all geographic regions and organisation sizes is a reminder that this is the very essence of internal comms.

#3 IC Resource
Another key challenge Siobhan highlights is a lack of capacity in the profession. The survey identified this as an issue for most comms professionals, with 32% of respondents naming this as a critical concern.

With the recognition of the vital role internal communicators play, it is no surprise that demand for talented IC professionals has increased and reduced capacity in teams that are already under pressure. The scope of projects has broadened and there are more topics and societal themes IC teams are expected to tackle. For example, diversity and inclusion, as well as environmental impact and how organisations are compliant in these areas, are now both an existing and prospective employee concern. Employees and customers are holding organisations accountable, so these complex subjects need time, resources and dedicated roles to make meaningful decisions that have a lasting and tangible impact.

#4 Manager communication
The survey found that 81% of respondents said their expectations of leaders and managers have increased in the past 12 months. And while we’ve become more reliant on increasing digital capabilities, it’s clear that we can’t replace human interaction – people managers are one of the most critical communication channels in any organisation, and this doesn’t change whether the audience is deskless or not.

But are organisations doing enough to support their leaders and people managers, in giving them the right skills and tools to elevate their communication? This channel of communication should not be left undeveloped and will need investment and collaboration with L&D.

#5 Adapting channel strategy
Comms professionals need to approach channels more strategically. The survey found that 39% of organisations see adapting their channel strategy to hybrid working as a priority, but relatively few have completed a channel review (19%) or made the introduction of a new digital or social channel a priority in 2022 (14%).

Channels need to be designed to meet the needs of employees, as well as supporting the company’s vision and bigger strategic goals. An internal channel framework will help leaders and the c-suite achieve objectives, so more needs to be done to raise awareness of this.

#6 Measurement and impact
When asked about what broader themes and skills internal communicators should look to explore, 61% of respondents chose data and measurement as their top response. This is exciting, because there’s a real appetite for data exploration, management and interrogation, which bodes well for the future of internal comms.

But many comms professionals are struggling to find time to do data analysis accurately and to really understand the KPIs they need to measure changes in mindsets and behaviour – not just the reach of the channels, but their influence. Having facts and figures to hand will only support IC teams to raise their game, secure bigger budgets and stay influential in their organisation.