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The ‘new normal’ for internal communications: comms in the modern workplace

Communications Strategy
by Linda Rolf
Published on
Remote working

As thousands of UK workers begin the world’s biggest trial of the four-day week, Orchard consultant Linda Rolf discusses the place of internal comms (IC) in the modern workplace, and how the pandemic has re-shaped the way businesses communicate with employees into a ‘new normal’.


Just over two years ago as Covid-19 hit, we started to talk about what the ‘new normal’ for home and work would look like. It was a way of hanging on to our sanity when everything we knew had changed.

Well, we’ve been through a few twists and turns since then. But as we finally emerge from the pandemic, what does the ‘new normal’ at work mean for those of us who work in or advise on internal communications?

There’s no doubt that our role in shaping how an organisation communicates with its people is more critical than ever, whether it’s for a local business, the public sector or a multinational.

This is the year that the Edelman Trust Barometer declared trust in ‘my employer’ to be at an all-time high worldwide while trust in government and the media continues to spiral downwards.

In the UK, trust in your employer is at 76% (up from 71% in 2021), compared with trust in government at 29% (down from 45% - Partygate anyone?), in the media at 22% (down from 37%) and in business at 43%.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents say they believe information from their employer automatically, or after seeing it twice. Only 58% believe what government tells them and only 38% believe their social media feed.

All very encouraging if you work in IC but also a huge responsibility – in a world of declining trust - to ensure your organisation communicates clearly, fairly, accurately and regularly.

Despite high trust levels, this is also the year of the Great Resignation – a buzzword originating in the US where a record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in March. In the UK HR Director reports that almost a third (29%) of UK workers are considering moving to a new job.

Companies offering hybrid or remote working are less likely to be affected, with 28% of workers saying that flexible working policies encourage them to stay in their current job. This week more than 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies start a pilot of a four-day week with no loss of pay. In Guernsey PWC managing partner Evelyn Brady says that its four-day week pilot could transform the island’s reputation and make it a magnet for attracting good staff. And at Orchard we’ve gone for a hybrid working week – core hours for collaboration combined with time set aside for work from home focus days.

Meanwhile Elon Musk’s ‘40 hours in the office or resign’ ultimatum last week to his Tesla employees has been roundly criticised as dangerous by other leaders.

So, what should be the priorities for internal comms in this new normal?

  1. Engaging employees around purpose, strategy and vision remains the profession’s top priority, according to Gallagher’s definitive State of the Sector 2022 Telling the story of where your organisation is heading, after such a turbulent period, and creating a clear line of sight so that people see the relationship between what they do and what makes the organisation successful. And finding new, authentic ways to create a sense of belonging and a true connection to organisational values when it’s no longer so easy to bring everyone together face to face.

  2. Linked to this, adapting your channel strategy to hybrid working is also a top priority – building on the ‘quick fixes’ driven by lockdown to become a ‘digital HQ’, reinventing the way people communicate, collaborate and innovate. The traditional all-staff ‘town hall’ meeting will not be quite so effective when your staff work a four-day week and at least 20% of them are not in the office.

  3. ‘People join organisations and quit managers’ is truer than ever in a Great Resignation. So, no surprise that ‘enhancing people manager communications’ is in the top three priorities in the State of the Sector report. People managers are a critical communication channel in an organisation: are they clear about what you expect from them, are they trained, and are they supported with timely, clear briefing material?

  4. Feedback from your people managers is just part of an ‘organisational listening’ strategy that must also be prioritised. How well do your communications land, do they have the intended impact on behaviour and actions? Do you have a robust process in place for capturing, and most importantly acting upon, employee insights and feedback?

A challenging list of priorities, it’s true. High quality internal communication has always been key to driving employee engagement which drives business success. Now, post-pandemic and facing the Great Resignation, IC in the modern workplace is more critical than ever.

Linda Rolf
Linda Rolf


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