Supporting employees through the cost-of-living crisis: The role of internal communications

29th November 2023


Since late 2021, many of us in the UK have experienced the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, as costs of our everyday essentials like food and bills have risen faster than the average household income. The escalating cost-of-living crisis has also presented significant challenges for organisations, impacting employees at every level. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the landscape of work, this new crisis has prompted reflections on the role of internal communications (IC). A panel discussion at PRWeek’s Strategic Internal Communications conference in London explored the pressing issue of the cost-of-living crisis and its profound impact on the workforce. Key learnings from the discussion included insights on how internal communicators can support employees during these times and how the role of IC is evolving amidst these challenges.

Understanding the workforce impact

It is essential for internal communicators to understand how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting the workforce. Two-way communication proves vital for gaining insights into employee perspectives, which can be achieved through the use of surveys and in-depth focus groups. Not only is it important to listen to employees, but it is crucial for internal communication teams to be transparent and share the changes they plan to implement with employees as a result of their feedback.

Aligning with leadership and HR

The partnership between communication teams and HR is crucial. IC have the important role of fine-tuning HR messaging and capturing the right tone so that the messages resonate well with staff. Moreover, alignment between comms and the leadership team is also key, and building relationships with the C-suite early on is pivotal in gaining their buy-in. Collaboration across teams ensures a unified and consistent message that resonates across all levels of the organisation.

Prioritising open dialogue and well-being

During a time of financial struggle, IC need to prioritise mental welfare and provide spaces for open discussions around financial concerns. Starting finance clinics, launching podcasts on the topic, and feedback methods like surveys and focus groups can help foster open dialogue. Creating forums where colleagues can discuss pay outside of formal performance reviews contributes to a more transparent and supportive work environment. Additionally, reminding staff of the softer benefits (e.g., free lunches, subsidised gym, etc.) beyond traditional remuneration can provide a sense of belonging and help employees feel more connected to the business.

In this ever-changing landscape, IC is essential in helping organisations navigate profound changes and ensuring a cohesive response to unprecedented challenges. Just as the pandemic needed a more strategic approach to IC, the cost-of-living crisis is compelling internal communicators to be strategic partners to the C-suite in shaping the future of work. The role of IC continues to evolve and is no longer a mere tactical function but a strategic imperative. Internal communicators are not just conveying messages; they are actively contributing to the orchestration of their organisations’ success and have become integral to building an engaged and motivated workforce. The insights drawn from the panel discussion reinforce that the strategic evolution of internal communications remains paramount in supporting the workforce through the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis and beyond.

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Sylvia Guisado-Guzman

Senior Consultant