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Inside Insight: The Impact of COVID-19 on Internal Communications

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Inside Insight: The Impact of COVID-19 on Internal Communications

We have carried out our Inside Insight research for almost a decade, and each year has highlighted small but progressive changes within the function. We completed the research for the 2019 edition, but before we could publish the results, Covid-19 hit the UK. We realised that our research, which had over 400 responses, was now severely outdated. This presented the opportunity to compare how exactly Covid-19 had impacted internal communications. So, in the second half of 2020, we followed up with a secondary survey, which had nearly 300 respondents.

The challenges that internal communications faced in 2020 has been unlike any other moment within the function’s history. It was a pivotal year – the move to an onscreen world brought an onslaught of new issues: setting up employees to work remotely; keeping engagement levels high when apart and the creation of new digital channels. The work done by internal communicators helped to bring the function into the spotlight. For the very first time, some senior leaders were beginning to understand exactly why internal communications is a vital part of every organisation.

Covid-19 was not the only challenge that the internal communications function had last year. Mental health was a key topic that had to be addressed. Internal communicators had the task of ensuring the correct mental health materials were made available to all employees. As well as this, conversations around diversity and inclusion came to the forefront, and more employees than ever were speaking out about their experiences. Employees wanted to know what their organisation was going to do to tackle injustices within their own organisations. It was left to internal communicators to not only ensure that the right messaging was given, but that it was authentic as well.

The results in this report give a good indicator on how quickly internal communications reformed itself to align with the new challenges. The silver lining to be seen in the midst of this chaos was that internal communications fell into the spotlight. Arguably an often ignored and underfunded function, the value of internal communications was now being realised by senior business leaders.

We acknowledge that even in the last few months of 2020 and early 2021, the internal communications function is still changing. The results we see now many differ greatly as we move through 2021. We anticipate that the function will continue heading in a positive direction, with greater recognition, funding and understanding.