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The Future of the Workplace: How new ways of working will transform IC priorities and channels.

There is definitely something in the air at the moment when the topic of the workplace arises. A whole lexicon is springing up around organisational priorities when it comes to offering employees "the workplace of the future", whatever that means. In an average meeting / brainstorm / casual chat in the staff kitchen on the topic, the word "flexible" comes up about fifty times, followed closely by "remote". A lot of handwringing can then follow about the technology required to achieve a utopian workplace and then inevitably a wry quip about how, "Robots will probably be doing all our jobs in 20 years anyway". Only in a select few of these organisations does anyone ever raise the issue of the impact on internal communications.

Communications Arms Race

In the race to adapt to the changing face of workplace communications, the general view surrounding our audience's expectations is that they are requests and not demands. Without a doubt these are fast becoming serious demands which will impact both our ability to communicate and our employer brand. Our reticence is primarily attached to budget and the ability to invest correctly in the right technology while simultaneously overcoming the shackles of legacy systems, IT impasses and a general malaise around the imperative nature of the conversation.

As part of our own research into the field, we surveyed hundreds of IC professionals from the across the UK and uncovered some ugly truths under the surface of this debate.

  • 85% believe investment in the latest technology is vital to remain relevant to their audiences
  • 58% assert that they do not have the right technology to communicate effectively across the business
  • 56% indicate there is no sign of the required investment coming through over the next few years
  • When asked if they use Software, websites or Apps banned by their organisation to communicate effectively (think WhatsApp, WeTransfer etc.) 78% said they did so every day.

This final stat sums up the general level of inertia we see at organisations to get to grips with new workplace communication realities. This number, if we're all honest should be much, much closer to zero than one hundred, and yet I'm sure it's something to which we can all relate

We're entering the perfect storm as things stand. Our employees are becoming less and less tolerant of the gap between their personal experience of communications and workplace systems and content styles. The expectation from our team members is that our communications are mobile, led, available anywhere and highly personalised with clear and easy applications to their own roles. In numerous instances, organisations are struggling to meet this 2019 base level requirement for internal comms. A quick glance toward the future reveals a whole new set of expectations and required technologies years not decades away.

The New Internal Communication Reality

With the unstoppable move toward flexible and remote working, personalisation and tech assisted messaging, our employees will demand, not request, to be part of a conversation which involves evolving platforms. Over the next few years, our audience is going to expect our workplace communications to incorporate both augmented and mixed reality communications. Using the mobile device as a portal, our teams will expect to be able to hover their phones over static IC content and receive rich image content that is role specific. Looking at leaps forward such as Facebook Spaces and HoloLens Holoportation, our audiences will want real time comms conversations in virtual spaces and the support from IC to facilitate it seamlessly.As machine learning develops rapidly, internal comms will be expected to provide virtual interfaces, managed autonomously that can provide business related communications responsively. We're already seeing the technology deployed for their personal use through Google assistant and comparable technologies. Our people will undoubtedly expect meaningful integration with their own AI's at work to provide a seamless experience.

The Deloitte millennial survey recently attested that behind an organisation's purpose and work-life balance, the level of available technology is cited as the driving factor behind seeking employment elsewhere. To some extent, we expect our team members to walk through the doors of our offices and forget the rich, intuitive, tech-driven comms experiences they have every single day in their personal lives and navigate our antiquated systems from 9-5. If the dam hasn't burst already, it is most definitely about to.

In the live communications space, remote delegate participation and virtual delegate presence are going to become the internal event organiser's primary concerns over the next few years. We will need to cater communications for people who aren't really present. As things stand, "hybridised events" and webinars fall well short of the required engagement levels we will need in the next few years. We will need to cater communications for those attending virtually, those attending in virtual spaces and for those who have chosen to be virtually present in the real event space itself.

More Opportunity than Threat

While some of the changes and necessary adjustments coming just down the line may seem daunting, especially where budgets are concerned, in order to remain viable as communications entities within our organisations, we have to start to reframe the narrative from one of expensive luxury to indispensable investment. The investment required now will allow us to create a platform for engagement in new digital and virtual spaces. This will, maintain engagement with our teams, promote global collaboration and attract the very best of the next wave of talent into our business. If we can change the perception, we can ensure that our future workplaces have communications that match expectations and safeguard our purpose for years to come. 

Reflections on what matters to me at work
 

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Wednesday, 16 October 2019
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