For Eleanor Tweddell, looking at the future of internal communication is a bit like Benedict Cumberbatch fitting clues together in the BBC’s Sherlock.

Eleanor, until recently Head of Future Talent at Vodafone explains: “When we’re thinking about what the communication channels for our future workplace will look like, we need to examine the technology and platforms already available, the changing preferences of our audience and how the internal communication function fits into that.”

As Eleanor says, as so-called ‘millennials’ moved into our workplaces, priorities started to shift.

“In our recent recruits, we’re seeing a group of people who care about so much more than the bottom line. They are driven by citizenship; they want to know how you’re contributing to society as a business. And more than ever, young employees are asking whether you offer a rounded environment that supports their health and mental wellbeing.

gingerbread-manWhen we’re thinking about what the communication channels for our future workplace will look like, we need to examine the technology and platforms already available, the changing preferences of our audience and how the internal communication function fits into that.

“Then of course there’s their preference for digital. Millennials account for two million hits on Google every month and upload 3,600 photos to Instagram every minute. We need to ask ourselves: can we learn something from this pace of communication and apply it internally?”

They decided to give it a go at Vodafone. They chose to use Yammer as their sole communication channel for their graduate intake, sending them between 12 to 20 messages a day. Eleanor describes the resulting communications as “a bit of a blur”.

She adds: “It was the equivalent of walking down a corridor and having different people shouting pieces of information at you. You don’t have time to process, let alone decide which pieces of information are the most relevant to you.”

So even as employee priorities and technology change, internal communication still has a clear role. Eleanor says: “We need to co-ordinate and filter those messages to help employees make sense of organisational conversation.”

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Then there’s the question of how millennials will make an impact on the workplace themselves – something which is still a question mark for Eleanor.

“At the moment, the majority of young employees are playing it safe and mirroring what’s gone before in a bid to make similar progress in their career,” she says.

“Millennials won’t rock the boat and influence change unless we encourage it.”
But in the future workplace, it’s not just millennials who need to rock the boat. Eleanor says it’s time for the ‘jack of all trades’ role of the internal communicator to go.

“Internal communicators are really talented, covering a multitude of skills. But we should be specialising in specific roles and working with other specialists in the organisation to achieve well-rounded communications. It’s time to be brave, smash it up and play to our strengths.”