How to achieve Goals of internal communication virtually


Commitment

How can internal communication support to convince employees to get involved virtually?

  • To inform employees about organization’s goals, values and future developments, corporate events such as virtual town hall meetings with the opportunity to ask questions can help. In addition, virtual dialog formats with executives, such as CEO home stories, can create proximity.
     
  • Shared virtual lunches or online escape room games can help compensate for the lack of face-to-face contact.
     
  • Showing recognition, appreciation and support, e.g. through the awards for special achievements, can also promote employee engagement.


Employees motivation & engagement

How can internal communications enable managers to increase their employees' motivation in a virtual work environment?

  • Internal communicators are increasingly taking on the role of coaches for managers. These communication trainings are designed to implement a trust-based leadership style and the improvement of the communication skills.
     
  • Regular meetings between managers and communications experts to discuss challenges and solutions together are helpful. In addition, reminders with tips to help to motivate their teams more easily in their day-to-day work.
     
  • Surveys can also be conducted to identify the needs and concerns of their own employees.

"Transparency, relevant content for different target groups and interactive ways to communicate are key. When our colleagues react, ask questions or comment – we have to respond adequately. Ignoring them is the worst you can do.
Today, we in Communications need to address challenges and problems proactively. We are not just senders of company messages. That is the past. Today, we give guidance, explain the context and consult leaders."

Birgit Ziesche, Head of Global Internal Communications, Henkel


Participation

How can internal communications ensure that all employees can participate equally in a virtual setting?

  • Internal social media play an important role. Internal communications should provide dialogue formats through the intranet and internal social media so that employees can comment on, like and share contributions.
     
  • In addition, in the case of dialog formats with managers, employees can use a voting system to decide which questions are asked.
     
  • Publishing blog posts from employees and video statements from the CEO with a comment function can also lead to more employee participation.
     
  • Virtual workshops on specific topics and in small groups create additional opportunities for employees to exchange ideas.


Cohesion

How can internal communication support to achieve cohesion among employees?

  • To help employees feel connected to the organization despite a lack of interaction, virtual events are important.
     
  • Virtual after-work drinks, virtual yoga, and virtual cooking can all help employees to feel a sense of togetherness.
     
  • It can lead to an improved sense of community, when everyone involved in online meetings turns on their camera.
     
  • Relationship-oriented, supportive, appreciative communication is crucial for creating a sense of community and cohesiveness for e.g. building a common identity by using the word “we”.

 

How satisfied are employees with the organizational info they receive?

Further topics:

 

Key findings of the study

  • Potential: The study suggests that communication professionals see digital nudging as an interesting and promising method to increase the effectiveness of communication activities. Learning about digital nudging could be useful even if the method can’t be applied by communication professionals directly.
     
  • Application possibilities: Most interviewees hadn’t yet implemented digital nudging themselves. But the interviewees identified the following applications as particularly promising:
    • Supporting digital transformation
    • Encouraging learning and development as well as knowledge sharing
    • Increasing compliance behavior, especially regarding cybersecurity
    • Improving employees’ health and well-being
       

  • Challenges:  The applicability of digital nudging depends on whether the organization uses digital platforms that allow for customization, if there is leeway regarding corporate design, and whether ethical concerns can be sufficiently addressed.

 

Methodology

The research was conducted by Prof. Dr. Sabine Einwiller and her team at the University of Vienna. It comprised four successive phases:

  1. Literature review of academic and practitioner-oriented literature on virtual internal communication and collaboration.
     
  2. In-depth Interviews with 16 communication experts from different German and Austrian companies were conducted virtually in March and April 2021, approximately one year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe. The aim was to find out about objectives, challenges and suitable communication measures in times of virtual internal communication.
     
  3. Semi-structured Interviews: 60 employees in Austrian or German organizations were asked how they experience the changes to virtual and flexible working and how they perceive internal communication measures in this regard.
     
  4. Two online surveys of 1,000 employees were conducted among people employed by Austrian or German organizations with at least 250 employees.
    - The goal of survey 1 was to investigate the perception of internal communication and its effects on an organizational level. 
    - Survey 2 addressed communication and collaboration in teams.

Sixteen internal communication experts from these organizations were interviewed in March and April 2021. 

Research background

How to transform internal communication to a virtual work environment?
This was a question often asked when discussing the results of the Communications Trend Radar 2021, a research project recently completed by the Academic Society for Management & Communication. The study describes five key trends from society, management and technology that will influence corporate communications in the near future. The virtualization of communications was one of them. 

 

Research team

  • Dr. Sabine Einwiller is the professor of Public Relation Research at the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna.
     
  • Julia Stranzl, M.A. is a research associate at the Department of Public Relations Research at the University of Vienna and a member of the Corporate Communication Research Group (CCom).
     
  • Daniel Wolfgruber, M.A. is a research associate in the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna
     
  • Jana Brockhaus, M.A. works for the Academic Society for Management & Communication as a communication manager.