Strategy
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A VIEW OF INTERNAL COMMS IN 2021

The results of Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2021 survey are in. Here, we have pulled out six key findings of interest for internal communicators, but there are plenty more insights to explore within the report.

WORDS: ISABEL OVERTON

 

1st April 2021

Designed to give practitioners an overview of the internal comms and employee engagement landscape, Gallagher's State of the Sector report has this year taken a somewhat different approach to help internal communicators assess where the industry stands after a year like no other.

Gallagher has changed the scope and structure of its annual State of the Sector survey to keep it relevant post-Covid and help readers navigate the resulting holistic communication challenges. In doing so, it has chosen to focus on the following four key trend: digital experience, transformation, employee experience and insight.


Post-Covid trends

70% of respondents stated their organisation would be increasing their focus on mental health and employee wellbeing in 2021.

After wellbeing and mental health, the second highest post-Covid trend organisations will be building on is diversity and inclusion, with 55 per cent of respondents identifying that this would receive increased focus.

Agnes Costa, marketing and propositions director for employee communication at Gallagher, says: “The stats promisingly show that IC is advocating for its people, and the focus on employee experience shows a marked difference to what we’ve seen in the past. If it is to continue and lead to impactful change, collaboration is key.

“We’ve seen signs that IC is partnering more closely with HR and others, but it also needs to link in with line managers on these topics and establish them as another channel for sharing messages.”


Relationships with leaders

66% of respondents believe their level of influence on senior leaders has increased as a result of the pandemic.

“If it wasn’t already viewed as such, internal comms has become a critical role during Covid-19, so it’s only natural that a rise in influence would follow,” says Agnes. “What will be interesting, however, is if it’s here to stay.

“The report shows that 54 per cent of respondents believe that discussing higher morale resonates with their executives when considering the benefits of IC. While this is nice to see, the value of it is hard to measure and all too easy to take for granted during more settled times.  

“ICers need to ask themselves if they’re having the right discussions now to make sure their influence doesn’t disappear when Covid-19 does.”


Change

1 in 20 organisations has no change programme planned for 2021.

Organisations are in the middle of rethinking the way they operate, so change is aplenty. When asked what change programmes were planned for the year ahead, the most common answer was culture change (43 per cent).

Agnes questions how this will actually play out: “Organisations talk a lot about purpose, but feedback shows that it’s often never actioned. For ICers, the task will be helping to make this change a lasting reality.”

Deborah Kelly, content manager at Gallagher, adds: “There has to be a cultural shift within organisations because there’s been one in the outside world. There’s no running away from it if you want to keep your people happy and on side.”


Benchmarking

53% of respondents say they don’t currently benchmark against the industry – but would like to.

Despite its benefits, benchmarking is being neglected – according to the report, only five per cent of ICers currently manage to achieve it consistently and in many areas.

Agnes says: “Without looking outside of your bubble, it will be difficult to determine a long-term vision, as the world around you has such an impact on your own work.”

Surprisingly, over 20 per cent of respondents stated they have no interest in benchmarking at all.

Deborah comments: “Loyalty isn’t guaranteed in your people, so you need to know who you’re up against when it comes to what you can offer. It’s time consuming, but it will pay dividends from an end-to-end employee experience perspective.”


Digital

40% of respondents will be investing resources into improving digital in 2021.

More attention will be given to improving digital (up from 33 per cent in 2020) following a major shift in the way we work. At the same time, there has been a noticeable shift in perceived communication challenges when it comes to digital, with poor internal technology dropping to 24 per cent from 39 per cent, and just 12 per cent claiming that remote workers are a barrier to success.

“It’s encouraging to see the gap lessen,” says Agnes, “but there is still a big difference between what people experience with digital inside of work compared with outside of it.  

Last year, people understandably focused on quickly rolling out what they could to survive the obstacles thrown their way, but this year needs to be spent reflecting on if it’s working as effectively as it could be.

“We know we won’t be going back to the world we had before the pandemic, so it’s time to think of the digital strategy for the long term.”


Employee experience

4 out of 5 of respondents believe internal comms is seen as a key driver of the employee experience.

IC has become synonymous with employee experience, with over four-fifths of respondents agreeing that IC is seen as a key driver of the employee experience in 2021, compared to just 66 per cent in 2020.

The report also found that 85 per cent of respondents agreed that IC plays a critical role in capturing and amplifying employee voice – up from 72 per cent in 2020.

Deborah says: “ICers have become increasingly trusted advisers over the past year and are being seen as advocates for their people, having spent a lot of time relaying and communicating important information both ways between leaders and the wider workforce.”

 

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