In this inspiring Q&A, our Internal Corporate Communications Manager, Lauren Patton, shares her tips on more effective communication in the workplace, why she’s not a fan of email, and how the right technology can give your teams the edge.
“Don’t hold on to the old ways of doing things. The most dangerous phrase is, ‘
This is the way we’ve always done it.’ It doesn’t work. The world is changing.
Work is changing, and we have to change with it.” – Lauren Patton
Q: How do you think internal communications has changed over the past couple of years, particularly with the post-pandemic rise in hybrid working?
One of the most significant shifts is that internal communications finally has a place at the table. Before the pandemic, internal comms was something that some companies saw the value in, but others treated it like the problem child that nobody really knew what to do with.
If you ask people who do my job in other places, they’d probably agree that getting to leadership and having them really understand why they need this function is so important. It improves the employee experience and the bottom line – if internal communications are done well.
I think technology has improved a lot, even in the years before the pandemic. But even now, email is still the go-to for many companies. I’m not a big fan of using email. At Appspace, I can count on one hand the number of corporate communications I send through email a month, which I know isn’t the norm. When it comes to effective communication in the workplace, there are better tools that allow us to send communication easily and in channels that make more sense. For example, our company intranet doesn’t send you notifications unless you have personally asked it to do that. One of my top internal communications tips is to think about how you send your messages – and how they’re received. Think about quieter channels.
When the pandemic started, everybody wanted to communicate everything because they couldn’t just walk across the hall to talk to someone. And it quickly became overwhelming. I wouldn’t even call it ‘information overload’ because it was all important information. But it was so much noise, and people had to tune out for their sanity’s sake. Today I think you’ll see a push for more strategic and quieter ways of communicating so the truly important stuff stands out, and the rest is more self-service.
There’s a lot to be said for empowering all employees to be communicators. It’s not uncommon for internal communications teams to be small. It’s also not unusual for them to be scrappy. But these teams can’t – and shouldn’t – do it all. Communication improvement in the workplace comes from empowering people – helping them learn to communicate more effectively and take ownership of their messages.
In the past, internal comms was about a lot of top-down communication. Now you’re seeing more grassroots communications where employees have a voice without having to go through 700 layers of approval. And you’ll see that reflected in the technology. The communities in our own intranet allow employees to post whatever they need to. They don’t need to go through me or a formal channel if they’ve got a question. They can put it out there and find a colleague who will say, ‘Oh, I’ve got a good answer for you.’
Q: What internal communications tips do you have for the new hybrid workplace?
I think it’s important to give team members a view of what’s coming. We designed our Monday newsletter to be brief, and it’s essentially a look-forward for the week. A lot of newsletters tend to be a roundup of what’s already happened, but we wanted to cover everything our teams need to know going into the days ahead.
On that note, we also have a regular management call with our senior leaders. I put together a summary of that call for the rest of the organization. We call it all Pulse Point. It’s a chance for leadership to share wins and challenges. We’re not shy about what gets included, either. We let everyone know if things aren’t going to plan and what’s happening to try and remediate that. A lot of my work focuses on increasing transparency from all parts of the organization, especially from leadership. Getting leaders comfortable sharing that information is essential.
Q: Do you think technology has changed the game in internal comms?
The technology we use is improving all the time. Platforms like Appspace can do a lot of different things in one simplifying tool instead of various point products. That’s something I see a lot of now, and it’s helpful for employees and IC teams. Employee apps or mobile-first intranets are important, especially now. In the past, internal comms focused on the typical corporate employee – somebody who sat at a desk. We need to go beyond that.
In many industries, plenty of people never sit at a desk. Some employees don’t even have company emails because they work on a shop floor or in a factory, and they might miss out on a lot of information.
I also think different functions are beginning to meld with internal communications – diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, and employee well-being/ engagement/experience.
We’re taking a more holistic view of engagement and how communications play into that, which is healthy! I would call that an innovation. I think that’s something we’ll continue to see in more formalized and structured ways as work evolves.
Q: If you were to give just one internal communications tip, what would it be?
I’ve got two!
First, don’t hold on to the old ways of doing things. The most dangerous phrase is, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.’. It doesn’t work. The world is changing. Work is changing, and we have to change with it. We can’t be afraid of that.
The second is that we need to embrace asynchronous communications in the new world of work. Effective communication in the workplace means that people need to hear or see messages when it makes sense for them – and that isn’t the same for everyone. This is especially important for geographically diverse organizations. If I receive an all-company message during my work hours, my Malaysian colleagues get it in the middle of the night.
Everyone has a part to play in adapting to asynchronicity. Everyone has to be involved for communications to be effective. It can’t fall solely on a corporate function. It has to be part of the organization’s DNA.
Find out more about what Appspace can do for your internal communications team.