5 Key Internal Communications Takeaways From VOICES 2023
If you didn’t have a chance to attend VOICES 2023 in New York City, the biggest employee communications event this side of the Mississippi (think Coachella for internal communicators), I won’t lament on how much fun you missed. Instead, here’s our attempt at capturing our biggest lightbulb moments, soundbites and revelations that stuck with us long after famed journalist Soledad O’Brien walked off the keynote stage.
Kudos to Staffbase for once again organizing a conference that did not disappoint! Between the beautiful venue, artistic food presentation, low-pressure networking opportunities, super fun vibe and exceptional speaker lineup (that included our very own Nike-clad CEO, Ann Melinger, bridging the gap between corporate values and Formula 1 racing), the bar has been set high.
While we couldn't include everything we learned, here are some of the biggest things that stuck with our team (in no particular order):
1. BECOME TRUST CONDUITS
Living in a time when distrust is the default emotion, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer found that a whopping 77% of people trust their employer. In fact, business is now the sole institution seen as both competent and ethical. As Peter Parker’s wise Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
As internal communicators, we have a responsibility to uphold employees’ trust with authenticity, transparency and reliable information. We are not mere order-takers – we are strategic advisors to the country’s most trusted leaders.
As social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy shared, “Trust is the conduit for influence; it's the medium through which ideas travel.” If that’s the case then we, as internal communicators, are the conduit for trust. – Patty Rivas, Vice President, Strategy
2. Drive Authenticity in Recruitment
During the recruitment process, the hardest thing to articulate and unpack is who you actually are as a company. Does that mean you should communicate what you think candidates want to hear? As we all heard from AJ Vaughan from the E1B2 Collective, and Lizzie Gohier with Lightspeed, not at all!
Make time to speak to your employees and get positive and negative feedback out and in the open. And during the recruitment process, be transparent about it! It’s okay to tell candidates, “We haven’t figured this out yet, but we know our employees want this, and we’re working on it.” This simple communication will go a long way in showing candidates who you are. – Maira Sarwar-Sheikh, Director, Strategy
3. Presence Begets Presence
Our body and mind are in constant communication, so we can only show up as the confident, self-actualized individuals that we are, when we truly feel that way inside. What does that look like?
As Amy Cuddy shared in The Art & Science of Great Leadership Communication, presence reveals itself when we believe our own story, we convey confidence (without arrogance) and we communicate harmoniously. Luckily, she also shared tips on how to reverse engineer power so we can feel it and believe it.
Her one simple tip – take up space.
Physically, walk in an expansive way, adopt a neutral expansive posture (the opposite of slouch) and speak slowly to take up more temporal space. All these physical indicators will allow you to tap into your own personal power more easily. And the best part is, when we get it all right and feel personally powerful, we give those around us permission to shine as well. – Shazia Jivraj, Senior Strategist
4. Crisis Communication Starts at the Top
Today, crisis communications are unfortunately becoming commonplace. In The First 24: Starting the Conversation During a Crisis panel discussion, Samantha Hillstrom (Blue Apron), Alison Gillis (South Shore Health) and Susan Griffin (South Shore Health) spoke to the importance of bringing your leaders along in the conversation and being intentional about which crises to address.
While internal communicators are often producing the content, it is imperative that your leaders understand and support the messaging. Ultimately, they own the conversation, and there is a great need for their empathy and compassion.
Since there seems to be a new crisis every week (from police brutality, pandemic impacts, recession, gun violence, etc.) it can be overwhelming trying to write and dispense messaging for every tragedy. Not to mention, it can be difficult for employees to consume, as well.
Samantha and Alison shared these tips to help you decide if you should make a statement. Start by considering your employee population, then assess the saturation of recent crisis comms, and evaluate how the crisis impacts your industry or purpose. These checkpoints allow your comms to be relevant, digestible and impactful. – Mylanah Gordon, Senior Manager, Project Management
5. Meet Employees Where They Are
As internal communicators, it’s easy to get lost in the details of what C-suite leaders want to communicate to employees. But to truly make a difference in positioning yourself as an expert in all things internal comms you need to get to know your audience and how they want to be communicated to.
How can you do that?
As we heard in The First 24: Starting the Conversation During a Crisis session, you need to meet employees where they are, have informal conversations and find opportunities to build relationships with your employees. Not only will this help you build trust among your team, but it will also guide you in creating communication that is authentic to your audience. – Maira Sarwar-Sheikh, Director, Strategy
Our team had a blast at VOICES 2023! We walked away with valuable insights to apply, creative ideas to test and lots of new connections. As we continue to advocate for trust and authenticity in the employee experience, we’re thrilled to see the passion for people and learning in our community of internal communications. If you need help bringing any of these strategies to life at your organization, let's get in touch!
We’re already eagerly looking forward to attending VOICES 2024, and we hope you will join us! You can pre-register now and encourage you to read Staffbase's employee communication blog to keep up with all their brilliance.
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