2021 employee communication trends will be a magnification of 2020 with an ever-increasing emphasis on empathy, transparency and frequency.

Making predictions, or even setting goals for 2021, may seem like a futile exercise, but 2020 has taught us all a great deal about communication. Brands increasingly understand that a major part of keeping employees happy is keeping them informed about the big and small picture. The use of authentic and transparent communication with employees will increase with JetBlue’s COO as a model for how to do well and with the right frequency.

Communication trends in 2021 will likely be an extension and a magnification of what we saw in 2020. With the tired phrase ‘in these uncertain times’ following employees onto the job site, it’s up to employers to create certainty, or at least ground their employees through consistent messaging.

What does grounding communication look like? It relies on a framework fo empathy, transparency, and frequency.

1. Empathy and authenticity

More than ever, your employees will respect those who lead with their true selves. Authenticity may look like having the CEO’s children in the background of her monthly update, or having open discussions about mental health challenges (including personal stories from management). Empathy will reveal itself through policy changes that support families, increased margin and grace for absenteeism, and continued acknowledgements and/or relief for difficult circumstances. Everyone is going to be struggling in some way this year. Leaders who *start* by verbalizing their awareness of the struggle will bring employees together. Video (regardless of production value) is a powerful tool for doing this, as it helps convey the tone of communication. Additionally, video quite literally adds a face as well as other visuals to the messaging.

2. Transparency

Trust is instantly eroded when your communication is dishonest, especially in times of crisis. Are you putting new policies in place to save face and improve PR, or are you genuinely working hard to implement policies that will ensure employees feel (and are) safe? Look for red flags that may indicate a lack of transparency. If employees are providing feedback like “I never know what’s going on here,” or, they’re constantly sending panicked, unanswered questions to HR, you may have a problem. Employees will show up for work when they feel safe, supported, and appreciated. Transparency (even when the news is bad), is the key to squashing the rumor mill and owning your company’s truth.

3. Frequency

Think you’ve communicated enough this year? Think again. Redeapp employee communication data shows that while messaging reached all-time highs in April 2020, communication has remained elevated through the the remainder of the year, with read rates continuing to grow. Your team members need to hear from senior leadership and local managers in real-time and almost every day. More importantly, they need access to leadership so that they can ask questions, especially questions concerning their safety and the safety of others. Increasing communication frequency is also important in regards to employee recognition. Hourly & non-desk workers of all kinds continue to be stressed & bear much of the pandemic weight – recognition needs on the front lines of your business are at an all time high. Celebrating your people has never been more important, and recognizing team members annually on a work anniversary is not enough. Find ways to celebrate small wins like new certifications, reaching 30 days on the job, or key sales milestones. Make it easy for coworkers to celebrate and recognize each other, and ensure that you have the right communication tools in place so that employees actually know they are being recognized.

Efforts and expenditures for internal communications will no doubt increase in 2021. If ’20 taught us anything, it’s that organizations need to be able to communicate more quickly and more often with their employees. This is particularly true for non-desk workers who don’t use platforms like email and Slack. Their digital access is often limited, and with in-person meetings discouraged or eliminated as a safety precaution, many of them have lost critical outlets for sharing and receiving information. Companies will continue to invest in technology that bridges this communication gap and meets employees where they already are – on their mobile devices.

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