In September 2022, the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) published its report on the Future of Work Trends, following its previous report in 2020.
As we know, the last two years have been like no other for many of us, with our organisations having to adapt quicker than ever before to the pandemic. All Things IC Communication Consultant Dan Holden joined the launch webinar to find out more and has shared his takeaways below.
The report provides a stark reminder of the challenges that we’ve not only faced over the last two years but continues to do so. The Coronavirus pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and the risk from climate change to name a few.
The 2022 edition of the report highlights eight key trends impacting colleagues at work in the 2020s.
- Technology’s impact on work
- Globalisation and global connectivity
- The age of hybrid working
- Shifting socio-cultural attitudes and intergenerational working
- Changing employment models
- Changing operating and organisational models
- Impact of climate change and resource depletion on organisations and
- Humane organisations.
Now perhaps like me, you might have thought wow! Here are some brief thoughts on what these mean for in-house internal communicators.
Technology’s impact on work
With the pace of technological advances continuing, there is increasing use of technology such as artificial intelligence seeing great use in organisations. Chatbots for example, can replace Q&A sections on the intranet or respond to operational requests from colleagues such as payroll or holiday requests, removing human interaction and potential roles.
We need to help our colleagues adapt to the introduction of technology, helping them overcome fears and worries of being left behind or even having a machine replace their role.
It’s our role to ensure we’re providing that clear and consistent messaging on the direction our organisations are heading, giving colleagues certainty and confidence that they are part of that journey and won’t be left behind.
Globalisation and global connectivity
We have more means to stay connected no matter where we are. Many organisations have seen over the last two years the rapid roll-out of channels such as Microsoft Teams and Slack as a means of keeping colleagues connected. This also puts pressure on internal communication teams as we expect faster access to content at our fingertips.
Whether you’re supporting a small or a large organisation based in a single town or across the globe, internal communication is needed, perhaps more so. Still, we need to be open to adapting our ways of working. Working to your organisation’s strategy, you need to support “multi-directional, information-rich, coherent communication” to ensure colleagues remain connected to the bigger picture.
The age of hybrid working
There is an argument that hybrid working isn’t new, perhaps just confused in some organisations with flexible working. The research shows that more millennials (92%) prioritise working arrangements when looking for new opportunities. The Coronavirus crisis has forced some organisations into adopting new ways of working that either they would have never previously considered or were reluctant to do.
As internal communicators, we must consider at all stages of our communication planning, delivery and evaluation hybrid working. Influences such as how colleagues working from home compared to an office environment potentially have a different lens when absorbing content need to be understood.
Learn more about hybrid working with the All Things IC Online Masterclasss: An internal communicator’s guide to hybrid working.
Shifting socio-cultural attitudes and intergenerational working
With a bigger spotlight on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (D,E&I) as a result of movements including #BlackLivesMatter and Pride, colleagues are looking within their existing organisations and re-evaluating whether the socio-cultural attitudes sit right with them. The report shows that for the first time, some organisations are seeing up to five generations of co-workers exist in the same workplace, unheard before the 2020s.
We have the privileged position as internal communicators to not only be the eyes and ears within our organisations but also the moral compass that holds Leadership Teams to account and questions the rationale behind decisions that affect colleagues. This allows us to help everyone in the organisation feel connected and that they belong at the organisation.
Changing employment models
With “87% of organisations utilising alternative workers to fulfil work objectives”, the traditional workplace model of everyone being an employee no longer exists. Blending employees, contractors and even outsourced teams creates additional challenges in bringing everyone together to achieve the same organisational objectives.
We need to pay closer attention to our colleague groups, tailoring the key messages that need to be shared and how they are delivered. We can’t ignore colleague groups simply because they’re ‘not an employee’. This is why “it’s our business to know our business” to quote Rachel Miller, Founder of All Things IC.
Changing operating and organisational models
The report highlights the increasing shift towards ‘agile’ working and it becoming a mindset as much as it’s already a methodology. With organisations’ challenges, the expectations on colleagues to shift their focus and priorities have increased. Business leaders need their workforce almost to stop one project and start another overnight, working in new teams and with new colleagues.
However much ways of working might change within organisations; the way we wish to stay connected with colleagues and the sense of feeling part of something bigger remains the same. I love this line from the report as for me, it shows the value we bring to our organisations.
‘Internal communication will undoubtedly be the glue that holds these increasingly transient structures together’.
Impact of climate change and resource depletion on organisations
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021 (COP 26) and Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries help to keep the focus on the climate emergency that the world is facing at the forefront of mind in our society. More employees and in some instances, senior leaders as per the report, are looking inwards to see and ask what their organisation is doing to play its part in reducing climate change.
Allowing these conversations to happen in an open, transparent and constructive way gives colleagues a voice, an opportunity to be part of the solution and confidence in the environmental goals of their employer. On a more operational level, we also, as communicators, need to make sure activities, such as reducing travel for cost benefits, aren’t covered up as helping the environment. We are, after all, ethical communicators.
By nature of being human, we seek social networks, allowing us to be heard and seen. Within our organisations, we look for the Leadership Team to be part of a social scene, expecting them to deliver authentic communications that are accessible to all. As mentioned further up this blog, with the increased use of technology, we run the risk of losing the human connections we seek.
Our role is allowing conversations to happen, creating connections, and bringing colleagues together must sit at the heart of our work.
Post author: Dan Holden
First published on the All Things IC blog 19 October 2022.