2020 has thrown up numerous challenges for businesses with two UK lockdowns, a furlough scheme and an economic downturn. Yet, those who have survived thus far and are doing all they can to ensure workers remain COVID safe face yet another issue - that of the communications challenge.
Ensuring all staff, wherever they are based, are receiving the information they need to complete their jobs quickly and efficiently has become more difficult now COVID-19 has forced UK businesses to adopt a blended workforce model - a mix of in office, at home and deskless working.
Now more than ever, it has become imperative for businesses to get better at communicating with their workforce. Yet, with so many challenges to overcome, where should they start?
Consumer tech trends
While it might seem counterintuitive to look at consumer tech trends as a starting point to improve business communication, this just isn’t the case. All employees, wherever they work, are first and foremost consumers and should be engaged as so.
Technology has changed the way consumers and organisations interact however, too few businesses are using it to help better understand and build a relationship with staff. Technology has made it easier for consumers to shop, raise a complaint and even communicate with each other, and it’s these trends which need to be studied and applied in the workplace.
The good news is that many of the strategies and learnings business leaders can adopt to foster better workforce communication are right before their eyes. By looking at the way consumers are interacting with technology it’s possible to identify best practices and strategies to build from.
For example, when focusing specifically at mobile phones, the way consumers interact with them has vastly changed in a short amount of time. The real-estate on our screens is becoming more limited with users spending less and less continual time on their apps with the average smartphone user checking their device 63 times a day and, within this, 32% of people checking their applications from 1 to 10 times a day.
Alongside this, smartphone users are spending 50% of their app time on social and communication apps and almost 70% of millennials state social media apps are among their most used, proving that, while the time spent on applications may be decreasing, communication is still front of mind for consumers.
Businesses need to use this information to their advantage. Knowing communication is key for employees in both their personal and professional lives is a start, and proves the importance of getting it right. But when looking at phone and app use, it’s clear distraction levels are high, causing people to spend small amounts of time on apps at any one time. This distraction is only set to increase and so businesses need to become better at fast effective communication.
When looking at ways to improve this, implementing an effective communication solution is vital. It’s no good however, just investing in a solution and hoping it will work, blindly sending out communication without knowing who sees it or sending every bit of communication to every employee despite its relevance. Instead, it’s about implementing the right channels or apps alongside training and education for teams on how to use them correctly.
The human factor
One of the most critical factors of an effective communications plan is authentic and sincere communication. With face-to-face interactions no longer a viable option for the millions of people working from home, this another challenge for businesses and something which needs to be thought about when implementing a communications solution.
The need for human interaction will never go away and, for companies which truly want to engage their workers, it’s important to encourage authentic interactions. While technology will get the message to the people it needs to go to, humans can ensure it’s the right message. This is a vital consideration for businesses looking to better engage, support and communicate with their workers in a way that is real, sincere and, when needed, empathetic and this is where humans and communications technology need to work in unison.
When coupled with human interaction, the right communications platform will transform the relationship between workers and employers. When looking at which solution to implement however, businesses need to be aware of how their workforce acts as consumers to truly understand what they need from this platform, the services they will get most use out of, and how it can make them more productive. It’s not always about choosing the solution which has the most functionality, and by truly understanding the individuals who will be using the platform and choosing a solution which suits their needs, businesses will truly be able to engage their workers.
With COVID-19 and the working from home ramifications of the UK lockdowns having no real end in sight, it’s now time for businesses to start looking seriously for a communications platform which will allow them to incorporate the human element, while delivering strategic communication that reaches its intended audience and empowers all staff.
Ross McCaw is CEO at OurPeople