11 Trends That Will Shape Employee Engagement in 2024
We’re (happily) waving goodbye to the rollercoaster that was 2023. But internal communicators should be bracing for another whirlwind in the new year.
After a year of numerous mass layoffs and the (uncomfortable) rapid rise in artificial intelligence (AI), the world of work in 2024 is bound to have more curveballs for communicators.
And wouldn’t we all like to know what could possibly happen next?
Our team has worked with hundreds of companies, employees, and communicators. Now, we’re taking those insights and looking ahead to predict what the world of work has in store for internal comms. Spoiler alert: AI earned several spots on our trends list.
Read on for 11 trends (in no particular order) that internal communicators need to brace for in 2024.
1. Communicators Will Champion Company AI Efforts
Everyone’s talking about artificial intelligence (AI) — especially communicators. And with good reason. AI is expected to grow 37.3% annually from 2023 to 2030. That means if communicators have been ignoring AI, they won’t be able to soon.
FOBO, or fear of becoming obsolete, is growing among Americans. According to a new poll from Gallup, 22% now say they worry technology will make their jobs obsolete — up seven percent from 2021. Yikes!
But here's the good news: communicators can become AI champions. Right now, leaders are looking to find the role of AI within companies. It’s up to communicators to show employees how it makes their lives easier.
As communicators, our job right now is to help leaders explain their plans for using AI. We can create a space for folks to try it out safely and paint a picture of a future where AI supports us, not steals our jobs. No need to be an AI expert yet – just be a champion!
Focus on getting comfortable using it and understanding how the tools in your company’s tech stack might be integrating AI features. You can create process docs and help ensure your people maximize the power of the tools your company pays for. Tools like ChatGPT and Jasper AI can ensure that you spend less time crafting text and more time focused on understanding the needs of your employees.
The bottom line? AI is not going anywhere, anytime soon, so it’s safe to say AI deserves a spot on the trends list. Brilliant Ink has an AI resource center for communicators who want more information and a place to start.
– Ann Melinger, CEO
2. The TikTok Era Will Hit Internal Comms
You know those short, snappy, and fun videos with catchy tunes? Well, those TikTok-style videos aren’t going anywhere in 2024. In fact, you can expect them to make their way to internal comms. We're talking bite-sized information and entertainment that's so ingrained in our daily scroll that it's practically a language of its own.
Short-form content is not just a trend. It’s becoming the norm for how people consume content. Think about it. Internal comms tends to adopt modes of communication that mimic how employees consume information in their personal lives.
Leaders and communicators alike will be harnessing the power of this super-engaging content format to foster further connection with employees. Picture it: a world where employee communication is efficient but also delightfully entertaining — a blend of quick wit and visually captivating.
With more companies adopting employee apps to reach people on mobile, this type of content is right around the corner for organizations.
So, grab your ring lights and iPhones because, in 2024, we're making TikTok-style internal comms the coolest thing since sliced bread.
– Claire Turk, Senior Manager, Creative Services
3. Data-Savvy Communicators Will (Cautiously) Harness AI For Analysis
In addition to championing AI, communicators can leverage AI as a powerful co-pilot to understand and act on employee communication preferences.
For data-savvy communicators, AI will not just be a technological tool but a trend-spotting virtuoso. It can be your tireless partner that delves into vast datasets of employee preferences, engagement history, and communication channel nuances. This is a major time-saving benefit for communicators.
But AI is not flawless. It's critical for communicators to recognize that AI has its limitations. While it can excel at identifying high-level trends and patterns, it lacks the context and lived reality about your employees and company culture. Those nuances are what translate data points into truly actionable insights. Human communicators bridge the gap.
In the future, data-savvy communicators will learn to dive into data points and train AI to be more accurate. For communicators, the work will be learning how to get the insights you need from AI and pairing that with your emotional intelligence and workplace context.
Communicators control AI; it doesn’t replace you. Shift your focus to learning how to tell stories with the data and information you glean from AI.
– Jackie Berg, Head Of Research & Business Development
4. Companies And Employees Will Battle Over Flexible Work
The flexible work tug-of-war between employees and employers will rage on in 2024. And right now, the job market has taken the anchor position. Through the pandemic, we saw remote work prevail out of necessity. Rapid job growth and a strong economy gave power to employees who didn’t want to give up the flexibility that remote work afforded them.
By 2022, companies lacking flexible work options were losing the competition for top talent. But faster than we could whisper “quiet quitting,” the job market cooled. Then hiring rates dropped by more than 20%, and employers dusted off their return-to-office plans with confidence that the tides had turned. In fact, a whopping 90% of companies say they’ll return to the office by the end of 2024.
If you find yourself having to create a return-to-office communication plan, demonstrate your value as a strategic advisor by partnering with leadership on managing through change. Make sure leaders understand employee sentiment around flexible work arrangements. Share the risks of taking those options away and best practices for returning to the office.
Equally important, facilitate discussions between leaders to help them align on goals, rationale, and business benefits. Opening the door for dialogue between leaders will pay off in so many ways — from spotting gaps and building cohesion around shared goals to surfacing and solving the underlying concerns of your people.
As the economy continues to fluctuate and the flexible work power struggle continues, internal communicators need to expect the unexpected. Keeping up with trends and brushing up on change management strategies should be on all our 2024 ‘to-do’ lists.
– Patty Rivas, VP, Strategy
5. The AI Robots Will (Ironically) Make Comms More Personal
Internal communicators have always known the limits to company-wide messaging. Even if there are emojis 😉 and lots of punctuation (!!!), broad messaging can feel, well, broad. It’s anything but personal.
As we look ahead to the new year, internal communication professionals are poised to witness a new trend: leveraging AI for crafting personalized messages tailored to unique employee audiences. Personalized communication will mean more engaged employees.
After all, as we often say at Brilliant Ink, “If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.” You need to know your employee personas and then speak directly to them. With AI, this long-held IC best practice now becomes possible and scalable.
The deployment of AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants can also offer real-time, personalized interactions to address individual employee needs quickly. Gone are the days when someone in IC, HR, or IT answers each employee's email. This means those teams all have extra time to focus on higher-leverage activities that help achieve business objectives.
Embracing AI in 2024 promises to be a pivotal trend. It can elevate internal communication to new heights of relevance and engagement. But only for the teams that take the leap to use this new (and sometimes scary) technology.
Be sure to check out Episode 43 of the Cohesion podcast, where Carolyn Clark and Shaun Randol talk about all things AI and comms.
– Sara Forner Howland, Head Of Strategy
6. Organizations Will Need To Rebuild And Rally After Mass Layoffs
Sadly, 2023 is now synonymous with layoffs. We saw a startling 198% increase in layoffs, compared to January to September 2022. For organizations and communicators steering through these challenges, 2024 will revolve around rebuilding and rallying the remaining employees.
Communicators will be on a mission to rally their people. Your task will be to authentically inspire and support employees amidst the emotional rollercoaster. In this uncertain journey, your role will be crucial in helping the team bounce back.
Communicate with empathy and acknowledge the impact of layoffs. You’ll need to address the disruption of layoffs and acknowledge the additional strain on the smaller team. Spend time emphasizing the value of those still on board. They’re looking for reassurance on their impact on company goals.
Rebuilding takes time. However, transparent, empathetic communication goes a long way to reignite passion and engagement across your employee base in 2024.
– Sonia Segal-Smith, Senior Manager, Strategy
7. Employee Burnout Is On The Rise
The world of work, especially in the corporate space, has never quite returned to pre-pandemic "normal." This is despite the return-to-office mandates by companies that want employees back in office.
As we've mentioned, while 90% of companies say that they'll return to the office by the end of 2024, 67% of employees feel that going to the office requires more effort.
And unlike the pre-pandemic days, now that workers understand how taxing that 30-minute commute can be, we're going to see a rapid rise in employee burnout. Couple that with rising living costs, ongoing layoffs and everchanging technology, workers feel like they're on a perpetual rollercoaster ride.
Communicators will need to be mindful of how employees are feeling and ensure they communicate in ways that resonate with a frustrated population.
In the post-COVID era, employers need to meet their teams where they are and consistently put employee well-being front and center to avoid widespread burnout.
– Lauren James, Director, Strategy
8. Companies Will Rethink Benefit Offerings
Communicators, get ready to partner closely with human resources in the new year. The tough combination of employee burnout with the demand for flexible work arrangements means 2024 is going to be the year of rethinking the company benefits packages.
According to Mercer’s recent Health and Benefit report, "With health benefit cost expected to jump 5.4% this year due to inflation-driven price increases, employers are focusing on cost management. At the same time, enhancing benefits to help attract and retain workers remains a priority for many."
A generous parental leave policy and high-quality health care packages are the new table stakes. We're going to continue seeing wellness benefits become increasingly popular. Think: gym memberships, stress management programs, meditation apps, and more. After all, physical and mental heath go hand-in-hand.
In 2024, companies will look to communicators to clarify the Total Rewards offerings and benefits packages to employees. Because without that, the trend for your company might be employee churn.
– Lindsay McCleary, Head Of Operations
9. Employee Recruitment And Onboarding Will Need A Values-driven Approach
2023 was a tough year. While we’re hoping 2024 is better, it won’t be without its own set of challenges. For one, we’ll see a higher focus on recruitment and onboarding strategies.
According to Harvard Business Review, 32% of new hires leave within 90 days if they don’t think the company culture is a good fit, and Zippia found that 88% of employees believe they weren’t given a good onboarding program.
Can we make it better? Yes — new year, new strategies! It’s time for internal comms to partner with HR and shift recruitment and onboarding into high gear by focusing on culture and connection. These first two key moments in the employee lifecycle are more than check-the-box tasks.
Building and maintaining a strong culture starts with the core values. Communicators are well-positioned to lead the charge on clearly defining or redefining company values.
(Hint: If the values are generic, like “integrity,” then it’s time to take a second look.)
Once you’re armed with a values-based approach to onboarding and recruitment, you can build a strong connection with new employees from the start. The result? You’ll retain top talent who align with your core values and strengthen your company in the new year.
– Maira Sarwar-Sheikh, Director, Strategy
COMPANY Values RESOURCES FROM BRILLIANT INK:
- A Brilliant Guide for Creating (and Promoting) Core Values in the Workplace
- How To Align Your Corporate Values With Behaviors
- Creating Company Values That Are True to Your Culture
10. Sustainability will take center stage
In 2024, internal communications will play a pivotal role in embedding sustainability into corporate culture.
As highlighted in the Gallagher’s State of the Sector report, many organizations lack a clear and well-communicated Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.
This gap presents a unique opportunity for IC professionals to make an impact by making sustainability initiatives understandable for employees. But this isn’t just about sharing information. It’s about inspiring action and fostering a culture of environmental responsibility and social awareness.
When employees understand and connect with their company’s sustainability initiatives, they’re more engaged and motivated. With a workforce increasingly seeking employment that aligns with their values, clear and compelling communication of ESG strategies will be vital for attracting and retaining purpose-driven talent.
Moreover, IC can drive a collaborative culture by inviting employee contributions to sustainability efforts. This will ensure these initiatives are both meaningful and grounded in the realities of the workforce.
– Rowena Diaz, Director, People Operations
11. The Need For Communication Governance Is Coming Back With A Vengeance
Truthfully, the need for communication governance never went away. But right now, and in 2024, it’s having a noteworthy moment. We’re seeing more and more IC teams re-visiting and re-evaluating their governance strategy.
What else? Communicators are also noticing where information isn’t circulating effectively within teams and are actively playing a role in addressing it with best practices and recommended guidelines.
The information burden numbers from Gartner back this up:
- 57% of employees and managers say they often receive multiple communications about the same or similar topics at the same time
- 47% say that the company communications they receive are unrelated to their day-to-day responsibilities
- 38% say they have to do extra work to keep up with the amount of information they receive at their organization
- 33% say that their company communications are often inconsistent or internally conflicting
We’re seeing the same information overload with clients as well. Our recent work finds us knee-deep in various projects with IC teams that are dedicated to establishing and strengthening communications governance.
In 2024, employees will demand streamlined communication, freedom from information overload, and reduced inefficiencies. It’s up to communicators to cut back on the time it takes employees to find the information they need in the new year.
– Becky Sennett, VP, Research