Head of digital Scarlettabbott
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How to bridge digital internal communications skills gaps

Thanks to lockdown, internal communications (IC) and HR teams became remote working access, podcaster and tech gurus – but is our new, broader remit an evolution or a temporary fix? If the digital genie is well and truly out of the bottle for communications teams, what should they prioritise as demands grow and budgets shrink?

4th Nov 2020
Head of digital Scarlettabbott
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Virtual talking with friends, colleague and using video chat conference. Remote learning or work. Home quarantine or prevention of coronavirus infection (virus covid-19). Group of people smart working
iStock/scyther5

There’s a meme that asks, ‘who accelerated digital transformation in your organisation? The CEO, the CTO or Covid-19? ‘

It holds more than a grain of truth. This year has seen us get to grips with digital platforms such as Teams at a record pace. For businesses heading into lockdown, there was simply no choice but to quickly forge ahead, learning as they went. With little opportunity to reflect as we keep driving forward, communications experts risk continuing without a plan.

As we continue to work from home, the digital workspace seems here to stay. This means normalising digital collaboration, regardless of where you work.

It’s tricky to plan ahead when we’re trying to keep up with an ever-changing situation – and our roles as communicators will never quite be the same. Now is the time to take a moment to look at what’s been changed by the pandemic, to take the learnings and lessons of lockdown and make sure that we address the skills gaps that have stood in our way. Here’s how you can get ahead and check in on your business.

Take time to reflect

A lot of 2020 has been a whirlwind of reactivity to accommodate ever-evolving restrictions, juggling business as usual, reassuring messages, new operational changes and ways to keep everyone connected. As digital platforms become commonplace, there will be lessons worth learning.

Consider where your channels and platforms have supported you throughout the year – and where they missed the mark. Ask yourself:

  • Are the ‘favourite channels’ for internal communications still the favoured way to hear news?
  • What classic communications channels are falling flat? Can they evolve to survive, or do they need to be retired?
  • Who’s looking after, curating and nurturing the new online communities that have cropped up across the business?
  • Have shadow IT solutions – for example, WhatsApp groups not approved by IT – popped up to ‘bridge a gap’? What can be done to make sure rules aren’t broken?
  • Events, away days, social activities underpin an organisational culture. Are these getting support to make sure that they can still bring people together online?  

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Get strategic

As we continue to work from home, the digital workspace seems here to stay. This means normalising digital collaboration, regardless of where you work.

Our digital strategies will have to evolve to match these needs, so now is the perfect time to consider how you can make your strategy fit for purpose.

Also, have you had these conversations with other stakeholders around the organisation? While you’re flexing your digital muscles, see how HR and IC teams can use their digital platforms help amplify important messages, as well as supporting the wider business strategy.

Audit your resources

Your new digital working solutions likely fall into one of two categories: an incumbent platform, ramped up to meet the demands of our new ways or working, or something that was brought in fast to plug a gap. Either way, it’s important to understand what you’re working with and whether it truly meets your needs.

Digital platforms that have been part of an organisation before Covid-19 often have just a fraction of their features switched on – meaning you could be missing out on a wealth of free resources to help support your communications efforts. Compile an audit of your platforms and channels, noting how effective these have been.

Map your skills

A robust digital strategy needs skills in digital delivery and a nuanced understanding of online communities to bring it to life. Right now, digital competency in IC has never been so essential. To keep up with 2020, we’ve all honed our digital prowess along the way as we’ve learned new digital tools quickly.

Take some time to understand what you and your team are capable of, where you want to develop and where external support would boost your digital delivery.

It can be daunting to work with a new digital platform while understanding how it can help you deliver your objectives. Here are some helpful steps to make sure you get the most out of a platform and upskill yourself at the same time:

  • Most platforms come with starter resources. Find them and take time to understand the key features and functionality of the platforms, exploring how each might support your IC activities.
  • Digital platforms often mirror apps and websites we use in our personal lives. Can you apply learnings from your everyday digital usage to these internal platforms?
  • Create closed groups on the platform and play. Invite a few peers into them, too. Put the platform through its paces in a safe, controlled testing space.
  • Talk to your digital savvy colleagues. Ask them how they’re using the platform and dig into their experience to inform your own understanding of the platform – and how it’s used in your organisation.
  • Create expert groups or empower digitally savvy peers to become digital champions who’ll provide localised support and guidance.

If your business is paying for a platform, you may have a dedicated customer success manager (CSM). Connect with them to help support your understanding of the platform and how it can support broader IC goals.

Make your case

Our jobs, remit and understanding of digital platforms have all grown this year. We all know the importance of digital workspaces – but there’s only so much resource available.

If you and your team feeling like you’re at the tipping point, with budgets, time and abilities being impossibly stretched in an area beyond your comfort zone, now’s the time to pause, reflect and speak up.

Have a conversation with senior leaders about the direction of these platforms across your business. It’s the perfect chance to talk about the present, future and what support you need to create a channel and platform suite that isn’t just fit for purpose – but one that helps people excel in their role, no matter where they are.

Interested in this topic? Read Why digital transformation is key to weathering a recession.

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