Employee change fatigue and audience information overload continue to be top challenges among communications leaders, according to the Gartner 2019 Agenda Poll. New this year, leaders anticipate challenges related to adapting to digital trends and technology. To achieve organizational goals, communication leaders have identified three critical priorities for 2019:
- Drive employee engagement and alignment
- Develop content strategy and message management
- Overcome digital communication challenges
“Communicators feel least confident about overcoming employee change fatigue, declining levels of employee engagement, and the mismatch between staff skill sets and organizational demands,” says Karl Schmidt, Practice Vice President at Gartner. “As a result, leaders are focusing on effective change communications and making targeted investments in digital technologies as well as skills development.”
Employee engagement and alignment
At the top for the second year, employee engagement and alignment is critical. Enabling employees to understand how strategic goals relate to their own work is the most important driver of employee performance.
A Gartner survey reveals that 61% of senior executives believe that their company struggles to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and day-to-day implementation. Compounding this challenge is the pace of change at most organizations. With the drumbeat of strategic transformation initiatives, it is very hard for employees to keep up, and the culture of the organization is often blamed for the failure. Culture can help stabilize an organization during a period of change — “Don’t worry, we’re the same company” — but also serve as a barrier to that same change.
Communicators face competition, both internally and externally, for audience attention
For individual employees, it is not enough to provide support through FAQs, strategy presentations and manager training. Instead, identify and leverage employee engagement levels. For employees who are actively engaged, provide information and opportunity for them so they can draw connections between organizational goals and strategy and their work. For the less engaged, provide encouragement and opportunities, sometimes through manager direction, to allow them to interact directly with company strategy.
Content strategy and message management
Content lies at the heart of everything communicators do, but increasing numbers of contributors are creating content and dissemination channels are proliferating. This makes it harder to prioritize content strategy and management. “Communicators face competition, both internally and externally, for audience attention,” says Schmidt. “Ineffective messages not only frustrate communicators, but often leave audiences overwhelmed and confused.” To ensure effective content, focus on these four key steps:
- Prioritize. Realize others are producing content and determine what content should be repurposed.
- Plan. Identify desired audience outcomes to uncover obstacles that you can address preemptively.
- Produce. Look for opportunities to work with other teams when creating content and use stakeholders as both the audience and potential messengers.
- Publish. Consider the natural consumption and channel preference of the target audience, including the long-term potential use cases.
In a digital world, communication leaders strive to stay on top of the latest trends such as developing digital content capability and adapting current communication norms to evolving digital trends. More than ever, communicators wonder how they can integrate new, digital channels into internal and external communications activities.
To keep pace, build employee digital acumen and a baseline understanding of new technologies. Employees who better understand the opportunities and implications of technologies that impact their audiences are better positioned to identify opportunities to successfully leverage them. When evolution is necessary, experiment with different digital media and channels to identify which channels best reach, engage and influence stakeholders across the spectrum, externally and internally. Aim to integrate a variety of technologies (apps, social media, etc.) into the channel portfolio — not just to improve communication, but to enable employee-to-employee networking and collaboration.