When setting budget priorities for 2021, communications professionals shouldn’t focus all their attention on technology. Along with considering new IT platforms, applications and infrastructure, it’s important to consider the “people” issues. That might mean adding more resources to the team, outsourcing some responsibilities, or investing in training and support programs.
The importance of supporting the IT staff is one of the important takeaways from a recent Gartner survey of communication leaders presented in a recent webinar, “Top Communications Budget and Priority Findings for 2021.” Gartner conducts the annual survey to identify trends that impact communication leaders, helping them validate or reconsider their current priorities, according to Iliyana Hadjistoyanova , director of advisory services, who led the webinar.
The Gartner study identified the top ten challenges facing communications leaders, including technology, financial and staff-related issues:
- Employee change fatigue
- Prioritizing high-value communications project
- Audience information overload
- Cost cuts and budget constraints
- Ensuring a consistent employee experience
- Adopting to remote/partly remote workforce
- Poor manager communication skills
- Managing contentious issues
- Adapting to digital trends and new technologies
- Shaping corporate culture
“Every organization today is facing internal and external change pressures from inside and outside the workplace,” said Hadjistoyanova. “Having requests come in from all directions of the organization can lead to employee overload. Communications leaders need to be able to find ways to support their teams without adding to all the noise.”
One significant finding was that only 2 percent of leaders said they were confident about effectively addressing employee change fatigue, similar to the 3 percent who felt ready to tackle audience information overload.
That is a remarkable contrast from the 41 percent who felt confident about solving challenges adapting to a remote/partly remote workforce and the 23 percent who believed they could successfully prioritize high-value communications projects.
Along with helping employees acclimate to ongoing change, Hadjistoyanova said the Gartner survey indicates the importance of agility in strategy development. Communications leaders also need to be sure their strategies align with the organization’s business objectives.
For instance, IT teams can support organizational priorities like content strategy and message management, reputation management, thought leadership, and brand and marketing communications. “However, leaders have to retain their focus on high-value activities, while responding to tactical requests from the business units,” she said. “That’s an ongoing challenge when everyone is facing so many day-to-day tasks.”
In 2021, IT leaders expect to increase spending on digital channels, employee communications and senior leader communications, Hadjistoyanova said. But with tight budgets, leaders also need to be able to show the business impact of their projects and initiatives. “Use the data to make the case for greater resources,” she added.
For IAUG members and other IT professionals, the survey results point to the importance of developing “soft skills” like active listening and effective persuasion techniques to address their teams’ change-related issues. Maintaining employee engagement and productivity may well be one of the highest priorities for IT organizations in the New Year.