Sunday, 18 December 2016

Don't say we didn't tell you...

Everyone makes predictions at this time of year, don’t you find? People turn into the employee engagement equivalent of Mystic Meg with a set of sound and apparently sensible projections of what lies ahead for our profession in 2017.

Well, we don’t see why we shouldn’t jump on the bandwagon, so here are a few thoughts on likely events over the next 12 months, and what communicators can do about them…

1. Communicators will continue fighting for attention
Despite all the surveys and statements suggesting employee engagement is a priority for leaders, communicators will still struggle for time, attention and budget. As a profession, we will need to articulate an ever-stronger case, clearly and persistently, to help us turn stated priorities into actual practice.

2. Employee advocacy will become all the rage
This is, surely, a case of the emperor’s new clothes, but ‘advocacy’ is being cited more and more as the end-goal for engagement efforts. The volume of this commentary will increase in 2017. Let’s accept that, forget it rebadges common sense and make the most of the attention the idea generates to help us succeed.

3. We’ll stop generalising about generations
Not really. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention. We’re bound to see plenty of further surveys and infographics purporting to offer wisdom on the contrasting needs of different generations in the workplace, not least so-called ‘millennials’. Surely finding the overlap between all ages based on attitude, mind-set and behaviour is a more fruitful pursuit? Can’t we all focus more on that?

4. Employer brand will enjoy a renaissance
It’s not about attraction. It’s not about recruitment. It’s not even about retention. It’s about all these and everything else that shapes the experience of current and potential employees, in every area in and around an organisation. We’re going to see this broader and more integrated view take a greater hold in 2017. It will mean communicators and HR need to work together ever-more closely and our organisations will be all the better for it.

5. No-one will know what to do about Brexit
Despite the flood of advice on communicating re: Brexit, our profession does not know any more than anyone else and we may not have any greater insight for much of next year either. There is so much yet to be determined that even the most ardent advocate of ‘what if?’ scenario planning would struggle to cover all the bases. Far better at this stage to focus on what we know and can control, now, and communicate little and often – even if it’s to say the same thing.

6. Email’s not going anywhere
There are so many new and emerging messaging and collaboration tools that it can seem overwhelming. And when we’re uncertain or confused, we default to what we know and trust. So while technological innovations offer exciting opportunities, they aren’t about to expel email from our lives.

7. We’ll be more appy than ever before
Despite prediction no. 6, we’ll continue to embrace more and more apps as a profession. The choice will keep growing, from those designed to help us reach remote workers to ways of enhancing performance management. But we’ll need to remind ourselves that apps aren’t the solution for everything, for ourselves or for our people. Otherwise we’ll lose track of what we’re seeking to achieve and apps will become like the wallpaper on our smartphones.

8. Facebook will help ESNs take root
Workplace by Facebook will spread through the corporate world and signal that Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) have become business tools, not just communication channels. A familiar and intuitive platform, plenty of potential for development, reassurance over security and no ads: a formula that looks set to make Workplace a real success.

9. We’ll still talk about evaluation – but won’t crack it
Is the employee engagement survey dead? Is Net Promoter Score more insightful? Are pop-up questions more effective? Should we employ a blend of many methods? The discussions will continue to ebb and flow, but when it comes down to it, as a profession we still won’t have established evaluation as part of ‘business as usual’. Something that we simply have to address.

10. We’ll stop making predictions…
Ah, but we can’t, can we? We love them and they make for headline-grabbing articles and blog posts. Let’s count the number of ‘top five’ predictions or lists we see next year, shall we? We’ll try and make sure Sweet Comms isn’t too guilty…