This weeks curator, Laura-Jane Parker, considers the role internal communications should fill for digital-age organisations.

Last week, I was able to take some time away from work to attend a showcase of award-winning digital workplaces from across the world. Internal communication teams have created a huge step-change from the previous legacy intranets. By taking advantage of new features they have created a sort of Vox or Buzzfeed for the enterprise. Teams have worked hard to create engaging content on “dry” topics such as regulatory policies. To do this they borrowed from the digital marketing playbook using viral videos and listicles.

In every case the “after” screenshots were a vastly improved user experience to what had come before. The interface feels consumer-grade at last. There are even elements of a service-led approach being taken, with integrated links to HR self-service workflows. Whilst this is a digital transformation of sorts, part of me can’t help but wonder how much has really changed under the surface? After all, these new approaches are still broadcasting signed-off messages to the organisation. They are dressed-up in slicker packaging, but is that really so different from the top-down memos and announcements of old?

The hallmarks of digital-age organisations is that they are open, collaborative working environments. All employees can discuss emerging topics across (often) fictitious org chart divisions. They do this by forming lateral communities and networks. Leaders are able to connect with the realities of business and maintain engagement with their team. They do this through communicating and behaving authentically online. These types of conversations are where we can leverage the full potential of digital workplace tools and produce real value. But an occasional Ask-Me-Anything is not enough. The behaviour must be embedded in day-to-day work.

Communications teams have an opportunity to be the facilitators of this type of information flow. To do this needs a different set of skills and capabilities to offer to the organisation. Instead of campaigns, think community  management. Instead of broadcast, think curating of employee-led conversation into knowledge that is easy to find. Of course there will be times when broadcast announcements are still needed but they are few and far between. We need to begin curating a distributed digital story for the organisation. One that copes with complexity of the new digital age, but that also engages and aligns employees in a strong transformation vision. Until we do, transformation will continue to progress in islands of disjointed efforts, never achieving its full potential.

To help explore this topic further, I have collected a selection of links on these ideas: