Four ways communication strategies need to evolve to support hybrid working

We’re all tired of hearing it, but a year of lockdown has left us with a workforce that’s unrecognisable. Where previously you had a tried-and-tested communications strategy, this same strategy may now prove to be less effective with a population that is not only physically detached, but also suffering from a severe case of lockdown fatigue. What’s more, as the country’s roadmap to recovery unfurls, the prospect of a hybrid workforce has shifted from an academic conversation to reality.

Four ways communication strategies need to evolve to support hybrid working

While there has always been an overwhelming case for personalisation within employee-facing communications, the new population split between remote and office-based working means organisations can no longer get away with treating employees as a homogenous group. Engagement is not guaranteed, and what works for one person won’t work for another. In the battle for your people’s attention, the way we approach communications must evolve. Fast.

To help start you on your journey, here are four ways to ensure your communications strategy can meet the demands of hybrid working:

1. Get to know your new workforce

It’s all very well acknowledging the change in dynamic, but understanding exactly what this looks like is essential to finding a communications approach that works for everyone.

Surveys and focus groups are an invaluable resource here and can be used throughout your campaign (not just at the beginning and end). Establishing when employees check their emails, and what kind of communications are likely to engage them will inform a communications strategy that works for a hybrid population.

A common reservation when it comes to surveys is that they can be time-consuming and inconvenient, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Creating surveys with just a couple of questions allows you to regularly collect feedback, without bombarding your people. Think about the use of polls on your internal platform or embedding the first question into an email. Focus groups will also allow you to capture populations without regular access to the network.

2. Time it right

Once you understand the make-up and preferences of your new hybrid workforce, you’ll be able to consider timing. Everyone knows that timing is key, but it’s amazing how often we neglect this element of our communications strategy.

Have you noticed that your teams are logging on earlier, or working later? Maybe they’re catching up on work at the weekends. This blend of work and home-life means we need to be more considerate about when we communicate.

It’s never been a good idea to send sensitive or action-driven communications at 5pm on a Friday, but now your people receive these messages in their homes, this is more important than ever. The line between home and work is blurring, so make sure you deliver messages within working hours, at a time your people can process and react to them. This may well mean delivering your communications at different times for different populations. 

3. Be sincere

The shift to hybrid working has, in part, been driven by a greater attention to employee wellbeing. The call for flexibility from employers when it comes to family commitments, mental health and overall wellbeing is louder than ever, and for good reason.

In a world where every business, from the local takeaway to your broadband provider, professes to ‘care’, cutting through the noise without your concern coming across as disingenuous can be a challenge. Words aren’t enough.

If you’re telling your people you care, mean it. And better still, show them. Send care packages, offer support sessions, and make the time to listen. If budget is a concern, consider how you already help (whether that’s with the range of benefits you offer, wellbeing resources or flexible working arrangements) and make sure your people are aware of what’s available to them.

4. Don’t just send another email

Emails have their place; they’re quick, convenient and most people have access to them.  But increasingly, they’re the default. Excessive emailing is not a new problem, but the current climate has seen more and more businesses relying on them. The result? People feel bombarded, overwhelmed and any non-urgent emails are filed away and forgotten.

With the shift to more flexible working, it’s apparent emails don’t work for everyone. So, how else can we engage this hybrid population?

Consider exploring a multi-channelled approach. Have you tried integrating social media posts to your campaign? Internal platforms like Yammer and Workplace are ideal for reminders and short action-driving content. Or open the conversation with webinars and presentations. Line managers are often an untapped tool when it comes to your campaign. With remote working, your employees’ circles have shrunk, and their line managers are now even more vital to making sure they are engaged.

Alternatively, use direct mail. As we see more and more businesses opting for the cheaper digital alternatives, receiving something in the post now feels novel and exciting. A physical letter is tangible and lends itself to a leisurely read with a cup of tea. Plus, print is also a great way to engage offline and remote populations.

That’s not to say that emails should have no place in your campaign. If you feel that sending an email is the best way capture your people’s attention, remember to segment your messaging. Consider when the emails are delivered and who they’re delivered to. And don’t forget to tailor your message to best suit each population. Segmentation means you can target the right people at the right time.

Final thoughts

There’s no question that we’re navigating new territory, but that doesn’t mean we need to approach our communications strategies with caution. Be bold, experiment and see this as an opportunity to capture the attention of your people. By asking the right questions and trying new things, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. And in a world that’s so dramatically different to the one we left in 2020, remember, we’re all in this together.

The author is Lucy Goddard, communications copywriter at Benefex.

This article is provided by Benefex.

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