Trust me, I’m internal communications

TrustRecently, as we’ve started thinking about the future of internal communications here, we’ve talked a lot about trust.

And, after a year of ‘fake news’ and deeply divisive politics, it’s perhaps no surprise people’s trust is becoming hard to win, and harder to keep.

As the world becomes more uncertain, that mistrust and anxiety has understandably begun to spread to the workplace and its leaders. This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust fell for the first time across media, government, NGOs – and business.

This international survey found people simply did not trust these four institutions to ‘do what is right’. Leaders were also judged harshly, with high levels of mistrust in their credibility.

While business remains comfortably clear of the media and government, this is a wake-up call for leaders – and internal communications specialists.

A social leader; a modern, connected business

The phrase social CEO often seems to be used to describe a leader who has a social media account and Tweets occasionally. But it has to be more than that; a social CEO has to blend business skill with the ability to build strong and influential relationships, on and off line, at every level.

They can no longer manage from the top down, or make decisions for the people. They now need to make them with the people too, empowering and listening to their employees and customers.

Internal communications can come in many forms, but the area where I believe this profession can make the most impact is by creating connections, telling an authentic, shared story and helping to build trust in a business and its leaders.

This year we launched Workplace, an internal collaboration network from Facebook, to our 2,000 employees. The rationale was to give all employees a voice, to own their own story and to better connect leaders, teams and colleagues.

There’s a lot to do, but we’ve had some success. One example that sticks with me is one of our employee and training advisors who shared a story of a single mother who he’d helped from being homeless to find a safe, affordable home and setting up a business. It was pretty inspirational stuff.

It may not sound much, but our Chief Operating Officer left a comment saying well done, good work – she mentioned that story to me when we met later that week too.

None of our traditional channels, newsletters, intranets etc, could have brought those two people together in such a powerful, personal way.

Future of internal communications

So as we start to reshape and rethink our approach to internal communications we’re starting to define the principles.

  • An authentic story – our stories must be real and honest, told in an accessible tone of voice
  • Communications is everyone’s job – we’ll create places to get the information they need and support to communicate brilliantly, especially line managers
  • Content that works for you – as far as possible we’ll personalise our content, using more film, animation and infographics to get the message across quickly
  • Smarter channels – tailored content will be delivered to you via your channel of choice, whether it’s your intranet, newsfeed or line manager
  • Connections and conversations – wherever we can, we’ll get people together, on and off line, to build relationships, overcome mistrust and co-create our future

These conversations are in the early stages, but working in internal communications is fundamental to not just building trust in business, but making businesses and its leaders more worthy of our trust.

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