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Why the internal communications function is essential to retaining talent

Business priorities have evolved frequently and rapidly over the past few decades. However, this has proved even more tangible in the last five years, with the Covid-19 pandemic acting as a significant catalyst for the shift in employees' needs and demands.

Many businesses have realised that, to be successful, they need to prioritise their people approach in order to recruit and retain talent.

Company culture, values, employee benefits, working policies, inclusion initiatives and the working environment have all become elements that people put more emphasis on when looking for a new job.

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Internal communications (IC) puts people at the centre, and is therefore proving to be an invaluable resource in demonstrating a company’s authenticity and commitment to meeting these requirements.

Prior to this shift, IC frequently worked predominantly in the background, telling employees what the business thought they should know.

However, as businesses continue to navigate complex policy changes and a workforce demanding better responsiveness to their needs, leaders are now truly beginning to acknowledge the value the internal communications function can bring when they’re invited to collaborate at a strategic level.  


Meeting today’s needs

In 2021, the employee value proposition evolved in response to ‘The Great Resignation’, where a historic number of employees went in search of roles which better matched their values and requirements.

Today, with a great deal of movement still within the workforce, business leaders appear to be recognising the ever-increasing importance of employee engagement and experience in this ‘new normal’. The result of this seems to be a move towards better, embracing the previously under-utilised skills and experience of the IC professional.

The shift in focus to employee retention and acquisition in order to weather the storm and mitigate significant recruitment/training costs left the door wide open for IC professionals to demonstrate the value they bring to organisations in terms of understanding what makes the workforce tick.

Using their employee listening tools, IC can curate the intelligence a business needs to understand and respond to the needs of their employees, and thus create advocates who are prepared to go above and beyond for a company in which they believe.

The ‘meaning’ of a job is proving to be a highly contributing factor for an employee when evaluating whether to stay or leave a role, as reported in PwC’s Hopes and Fears workforce survey in 2022.

The global research found three of the top five most important factors were finding the job fulfilling, the ability to truly be yourself and the team caring about your wellbeing.

The personal nature of these factors, and therefore the strategy required to address them in a meaningful, authentic way, is where the skills and insights of the internal communications team can have the greatest impact.

Our ability to communicate clearly and empathetically, listen and respond to employees’ needs continues to play a pivotal role in a business’s fate.

Employees want to be heard, recognised, and connected to a clear vision with a company whose values resonate with their own. Businesses that do this well ultimately attract and retain the best talent.


Looking to tomorrow

In addition to the internal obstacles that businesses are learning to navigate, there is also a large and increasing number of external factors to manage, and IC specialists remain integral to navigating these.

Creating a sense of purpose and belonging and a culture where teams feel listened to and supported is an absolute necessity in 2023.

Businesses and individuals are currently facing a cost of living crisis, a fierce battle between government and trade unions and continued complexities materialising as an outcome of Brexit alongside a myriad of other challenges.

Therefore, senior leaders must recognise and elevate the significance of a robust internal communications strategy which keeps employees informed and reassured. They need to believe that their leaders understand their challenges, care about their wellbeing and will offer appropriate support.

During the pandemic, employees needed an unprecedented amount of support, so communication had to be frequent, honest and authentic.

Although the landscape has changed, the requirement for businesses to keep their teams informed and reassured has not – and if anything, the importance of a strong IC function has continued to increase.


What next?

In recent years, business leaders have become increasingly vocal about the importance of internal communications. Amid complex internal and external challenges, and with greater visibility in the business, our skills are being utilised more strategically to optimise company culture and support business performance.

However, businesses must continue providing internal communications professionals with opportunities to contribute to strategic decisions and a clear space within which they can operate creatively and confidently.

Most IC practitioners are naturally tenacious, emotionally intelligent and inquisitive, so, given the right space, they can be your most valuable tool in the fight for global talent.

Jennifer Oliver is internal communications manager at electrical infrastructure specialist Enerveo