Here are six big needs we saw in 2017 and what we think they foreshadow for 2018:
The digitization of internal communications, human resources and learning and development. The internal corporate functions that support employees have for years struggled with how to get beyond the traditional intranet and capitalize on digital tools to engage employees while operating efficiently. We saw a significant uptick during 2017 in real efforts to design and deploy digital technologies in the world of internal communications and organizational development. Our work this year has included planning for the global launch of a new digital intranet for a global pharma leader and developing a destination microsite to educate employees on and engage them in a new business strategy. We have seen many companies taking a real look at how to leverage employees’ mobile devices, knowing that they are a primary communications channel that has not yet been fully leveraged.
Digital advances in the world of internal communications and organizational development mean that data and analytics – both prescriptive and outcomes-focused – will finally make it possible to directly tie the impact of communications, engagement and enablement activities to business results. Watch for more on this from FTI Consulting’s People & Change team in 2018.
Identifying influential employees. External communications programs will always take into consideration who influences the target audience and seek to leverage or neutralize those actors. Internal communicators have also sought to leverage influencers inside the organization, often identifying them through intuitive means or assumptions – usually asking senior leaders to tell us who they are. In 2017, we began working with clients, including a large energy company, to identify internal influencers based on empirical data and the opinions of those they influence. This knowledge has meaningful implications for organizations with far-flung, hard to reach workforces, as well as for organizations with small teams and big mandates. Interest in the prospect of knowing who is really influencing the success or failure of your communications and engagement efforts is growing and we expect to see greater demand for this work in 2018.
Improving business results with internal communications. This was a big category in 2017. We worked with Communications team clients in four different industry sectors (transportation, pharma, energy and technology) to improve the impact they have on the business. Most engagements included not just one element but a combination of defining the right role for Communications, the right structure for the team, how to improve their efficiency, how to better engage leaders, and how to create content the organization finds relevant and ensure it reaches people. We see many internal communications departments, especially in growing mid-cap companies, fall victim to the overwhelming number of requests they get from the organization and the belief that they can’t say no to any of them. This usually results in the department’s output becoming less and less relevant as their limited resources have less and less time to focus on priorities. The start of a new year is a great time to identify the priorities of the business and sharpen your department’s focus on what will really produce the results you’re after in 2018.
Supporting leadership transitions. The revolving door at the top of organizations has not stopped. In 2017, we saw an increase in transitions forced by activist shareholders and we expect to see more of it in 2018. These transitions are often sudden and disruptive. They often result in not just one but several leadership changes. Often an interim CEO takes the helm and is replaced within a year by a permanent leader, and all new CEOs make changes to their executive teams. Mergers and acquisitions are a more expected reason for leadership transition and one that continues to keep FTI Consulting busy. All companies can mitigate the risks created by leadership transitions by integrating the needs of the employee stakeholder into the plans for addressing investors, customers and the media.
Evolving cultures to support business growth. Businesses continually evolve their strategies in order to stay competitive, which means cultures must continually evolve as the business requires different things of its people. Transactions and transformations often lead to a desire to change the culture in the interest of growth. During 2017, we also saw the external marketplace, pressure from Boards and the political environment force some hard questions regarding organizational cultures. Ethical transgressions and sexual harassment accusations eroded trust in institutions even further. For many companies, the first step is compliance training driven by the Legal and HR departments. The bigger and deeper question is what about your culture allowed the bad behavior in the first place and what needs to be done to correct it?
There is momentum behind society’s growing intolerance for discrimination of all kinds which we expect will lead to greater focus on corporate culture beyond that driven by transactions. A natural outgrowth of this work is a desire to present a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to current and prospective employees. This is especially important for two reasons. In today’s high-employment environment, employers are competing for the best candidates rather than the candidates competing for the best jobs. And employers are competing more and more often for candidates from the Millennial generation – candidates who care deeply about how a company behaves publicly and privately.
Enhancing the customer experience. Customers and consumers have more choices than ever and more power to influence the success or failure of a company when they choose to make their voices heard. In 2017, we worked to help clients in the technology, pharma and airline industries deepen relationships with customers through communication and enablement around more relevant product development, realignment of sales forces and better representation of the corporate brand. Focus on the customer experience is not a new trend and we expect to see it continue in 2018.
Regardless of the issue they are facing, most companies’ efforts succeed or fail at the intersection of people and change. Our clients are increasingly approaching us with issues that span Corporate Communications, Human Resources and the C-suite. FTI Consulting’s People & Change practice – newly named to reflect the full span of our services – is uniquely positioned to improve employee performance, build employee commitment and navigate change. Our global team is equipped to provide 24/7 support for all employee-related issues and we’re ready for 2018!
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