The hybrid working approach has been widely adopted post-pandemic and businesses are increasingly recognising its value in helping employees work how, when and where they perform best. But it remains that it is hard to connect as well emotionally from home as it does in person. Those nuances of expression, posture and inflection are lost, and we are needing to find other, more subtle ways to connect on a human level with our employees and each other. This is where internal branding comes in.
As business leaders we don’t hesitate in dedicating time to our external branding as we know that how we present ourselves to customers and prospects is vital to our financial success. Internal branding is equally important to the success of our engagement efforts. Great internal branding creates the hooks and visuals to communicate the organisation’s values, goals, and culture, and helps to create and reinforce an emotional bond with and between employees.
How can M365 help?
By using M365 tools and apps and integrating them into your intranet you can create a space that communicates and supports your internal brand while providing a virtual environment for employees to connect. M365 allows you to determine the way that your business works and communicates, and the way you set it up speaks volumes for your brand values. For a company that values transparency, an open communication approach will demonstrate this, and for a company that prioritises help and support, structured, well-signposted content will help employees navigate their way to the right information.
Identity is a vital part of any brand and, for an internal brand, helps create a sense of company culture and values. M365 gives you the option to customise your SharePoint intranet with the pallet, imagery and – most importantly – core messages that underpin your brand. The way you structure your Teams sites will also support your identity, and can act as a visualisation of your company structure and the projects and themes that matter most to you.
The level to which your business shares across departments and collaborates across disciplines is a key part of your brand. Teams is built around collaboration and it’s up to you how you set up your Teams structure. Public teams can be accessed by anyone in the organisation and so are best for company wide projects and topics. These are a great vehicle for conveying your internal brand as, through these teams, you can share rich media, chat, collaborate on documents, and run live events and meetings for up to 250 people. Private teams are managed by the team owner who invites members to join. How you manage this structure, and the principles that you apply, speak volumes to your internal brand.
Your internal brand identity can help frame employee conversation. Yammer can bring employees closer to each other by giving them the opportunity to talk openly around business or social topics, all within the closed room environment of the workplace. You can seed topics by creating threads generated around your values and purpose and choose whether to moderate conversations closely – to provide support and guide the topic – or leave them open and self-managing, supporting your values of independent work and free thinking.
Teams is perfectly suited for more formal, business and project-based conversation and, again, the way that you run your Teams meetings have a part to play in conveying your brand. Do leaders exemplify openness by always turning on video and encourage employees to do the same? Or, are you regularly using Teams meetings to connect across hybrid teams to ensure equality of experience? These may seem like small points but, executed consistently these approaches can play a big part in your internal brand and the engagement across different teams.
Giving employees a voice, listening to them, and responding to what they are asking for is a significant part of employee engagement. In the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (2017) Matthew Taylor, CE of the Royal Society of Arts, explored the importance of listening to employees and concluded that it creates happier workers and ‘a more collegiate environment between managers and staff’ as well as boosting productivity. Microsoft Forms allows you to create surveys simply and effectively, and then distribute these through SharePoint or in Teams. You can then open the results data directly in Excel and create graphs to share through M365 channels.
One of the most powerful tools you have, to convey your internal brand, is the platform or set of tools to manage communication and collaboration the way that works best for your business. Beyond the core tools of Teams, SharePoint, Yammer, and the Office suite, M365 has a vast number of apps that give you incredible scope to establish your internal brand across your workforce. With M365 you have the scalability to be able to work together on projects across your organisation, the ability to make choices about how open or structured you want to be, and the freedom to create a communication hub that is recognisably ‘you’.