It’s no secret that senior leaders rely on skilled communicators to drive better business results. Chief Communication Officers (CCOs) and their teams routinely tackle projects focused on evolving culture, integrating acquisitions and managing organizational change. They’re stepping up as strategic advisors, business drivers, social media leaders, storytellers, curators of corporate character and much more.

So what are the highest priorities top CCOs are being asked to address?  Equally important, how are communication professionals engaging a transformed employee population—one that’s increasingly global, mobile and multi-generational?

These questions spark great conversations when I meet with CCOs.  Reflecting on answers I’ve heard in recent months from our clients and within the broader professional community, this post captures 4 key priorities shaping the future of internal communications.

  1. Accelerate a culture’s evolution to engage today’s stakeholders.

Workplace culture matters more than ever. The reason for the heightened interest is clear: C-Suite leaders face new demands in today’s transparent and purpose-driven business climate.  Successfully addressing the latest mandates—like articulating meaning at work and translating corporate character into desired leader behaviors—requires ongoing, intentional efforts to build and sustain a strong workplace culture. Increasingly, culture evolution is a collaborative, shared responsibility drawing on the full capabilities of the entire organization– Marketing, Communications, HR, IT plus all other operations. Our post Culture Is Not a One-Person Show; 3 Tips for Evolving Your Corporate Culture explains more fully.

It makes sense that the entire organization should be invested in getting workplace culture right – after all, the stakes couldn’t be higher for all concerned. In today’s war for talent, employee retention and recruitment are driven primarily by culture. Attracting and keeping the best and brightest demands a strong, purposeful and flexible culture. We’ll be discussing this topic soon in an Executive Roundtable event on 6/21 in Chicago, Shaping Healthy Workplace Cultures to Engage Today’s Stakeholders.

  1. Create an inspiring company story, and equip leaders at all levels to tell it.

Storytelling holds extraordinary potential to build the beliefs and mindsets that empower employees to deliver results. Yet bringing your story to life within your organization – what we call “story activation” – is where most organizations fall short.

Neuroscience and the emerging field of behavioral communications can teach communicators a lot about how the brain receives stories; how to equip leaders as authentic storytellers; and the power of storytelling to foster engagement, align culture and driver behavior change. Culture is about a movement, and great stories create momentum that support that movement. We expect to see even greater emphasis on story activation into 2017. See our infographic and recent blog posts and events for more.

  1. Articulate, design & activate an employee value proposition that’s unique to your organization.

A strong external reputation is driven from the inside out. Your employee value proposition, or EVP, is more than a contract or deal between a company and its employees. It’s a relationship, outlining expectations and commitments. This relationship’s strength and authenticity influence employee performance, attraction, commitment and retention.

Spanning culture and work environment, career opportunities and professional development, recognition and rewards, and external reputation, a great EVP gives you a compelling narrative, which must be brought to life through meaningful and relevant experiences. Our recent blog post 8 Tips for Impactful Employee Value Propositions offers more information. 

  1. Engage employees digitally.

A digital- and mobile-first mindset is crucial to reach employees, wherever they are and however they prefer to communicate.  Below is a slide that captures the magnitude of this shift to digital in both external and internal communications. Employees are more distributed globally and more likely to work remotely or virtually. They’re inundated with messages and demand more control in prioritizing information. Work bleeds into home and vice versa. We all have differing communication styles, and there are more ways to communicate than ever. All of these trends make compelling, visually driven creative campaigns – internally as well as externally – a must.

Engaging employees digitally in internal communications campaigns is key. Graphic by Gagen MacDonald.

Engaging employees digitally in internal communications campaigns is key. Graphic by Gagen MacDonald.

As you assess your mid-2016 progress, ask yourself: How are you and your team keeping pace with these 4 priorities? What’s working and what could be better? How can you have even more impact in the second half of the year to double-down on your efforts to help your company deliver business results?