Key Trends Impacting the Future of Employee Communications and Engagement

June 17, 2021

By Gaik Ping Ooi, Director of Employee Communications and Engagement with contributing research by Isabella Sturgis, Associate

After a year of tumult and change affecting workplaces everywhere, employers are reopening their offices and launching new ways of working here in the United States—to mixed reactions. In this article, we reflect on the latest employee communication trends and practices as organizations continue the challenging task of informing, engaging and retaining employees in this highly competitive market.

Key Employee Communication Trends:

Demand for more regular, transparent and direct communications. During the pandemic, strong communication has been the most important differentiator between organizations whose culture scores improved versus those who declined.[1] Many organizations stepped up their internal communications out of necessity – more town halls, real-time updates, open discussions, pulse surveys – and employees want this to continue.

Maintaining and evolving culture. The jury is still out on whether hybrid/remote work can be effective for connection and collaboration. Regardless, this new way of working is here to stay, as more than 70% of workers prefer a more flexible hybrid/remote option.[2] This path forward will require intentional planning to reinforce culture and employee engagement for the long term.

Emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The racial justice movements of 2020 spurred employees to demand more tangible action from their employers to create an equitable workplace. With 80% of employees preferring to work for a company that values DEI issues[3], it’s critical that organizations ensure that their “insides” match their “outsides” when they post statements to external audiences.

Heavier burden on leaders as empathetic communicators. In the past year, employees looked to their leaders to guide them and foster resilience through difficulty and uncertainty. Now, 85% of HR leaders agree it’s more important than ever for managers to demonstrate empathy.[4] As a result, many leaders have created a more genuine connection with their team members, which is especially important when communicating difficult news and decisions.

Re-focus on organizational purpose. The pandemic and civil unrest led to widespread self-reflection—what do we stand for? How do we take care of each other and better our communities? Should we speak up? Among workers who reported increased job satisfaction through the pandemic, 86% said that they were passionate about their workplace’s purpose and found it meaningful.[5] Unsurprisingly, many organizations have now revisited their mission, vision, values and Employee Value Propositions to ensure relevance in today’s environment.

Care for employee health, safety and well-being. Employees have been balancing a lot—work stresses, health concerns, social isolation, caregiving, politics and more. Almost half reported feeling burned out[6]. To better support employees, many employers have become more proactive with employee check-ins and have expanded benefits and resources to more adequately address employees’ current needs.

Considering these trends, leaders and internal communicators should continue to be proactive and intentional when communicating with and engaging employees in the long term. Ultimately, we’ve found that the fundamental guiding principles that our Employee Communications and Engagement Team “prescribes” during “normal times” continue to hold true, even through significant moments of crises and beyond. Read this piece to learn more: For Employee Communications, Focus on the Fundamentals.

If you have questions or are seeking counsel related to Employee Communications and Engagement, email Gaik Ping Ooi at

[1] MIT Sloan Management Review, October 2020

[2] Microsoft, February 2021

[3] CNBC, April 2021

[4] Harvard Business Review, April 2021

[5] Bain, September 2020

[6] McKinsey, April 2021