Rising to the challenge : Navigating internal communications in an endemic world

By: Lina Sakkal

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) is a federal agency that prides itself on its friendly, “small town feel”. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years ago, the agency has maintained this spirit largely thanks to a creative internal communications team. They have consistently worked to set a welcoming and informal tone, and always look for creative opportunities to keep employees engaged and connected.

Headshot of Shelley Rolland-Poruks
Shelley Rolland-Poruks

Shelley Rolland-Poruks is the Manager of Corporate and Digital Communications at IAAC. She shared the thought process behind the numerous innovative campaigns led by the internal communications team to boost employee morale throughout the pandemic.

Shelley explained that they focused on creating informal opportunities to connect. For instance, they considered the experience of employees who were working remotely and who may not have gone home for the holidays, or whose plans may have been cancelled due to social distancing restrictions. “We prioritized hosting informal virtual chats, particularly over the holidays, as there was a real risk of there being some people who lived alone and didn’t have family or friends in their surroundings,” she explained.

Another important initiative was leveraging Microsoft Teams to promote employee engagement and connection. They created a channel for the agency on Microsoft Teams called “Let’s Connect – Soyons Branchés” that is divided into sub-channels based on various interests employees may have, such as food, pets, diversity and parenting, among many others. “The agency encourages people to use these online channels to have informal conversations together,” Shelley said. While the internal communications team does not run this channel, they continuously monitor and contribute to channels. “When something gets posted on our intranet that is related to one of these topics, we will also post it in the channel. This connects employees while also guiding them to find messages related to work and corporate initiatives,” she added.

Blending strategy with creativity, the team has come up with unique ways to meet the challenges of internal communications. Most internal communicators can relate to spending lots of time planning, writing and posting content to its intranet site only to be told by staff that they did not know it was there. So this holiday season, they ran a campaign to find “Commet the Atrium Elf on the Intranet Shelf.” The activity aimed to increase employees’ familiarity with the intranet site while also building up goodwill with prizes for the most elves found.

As employees at IAAC have been working from home for nearly two years now, Shelley points to motivation as the biggest challenge for the internal communications team over the upcoming year. “When the pandemic first hit, it was go mode for content creation related to working from home and sharing best communications practices”, she explained. “Now that a new normal has been established, the biggest challenge will be to boost creativity and find new ways to engage staff and communicate across the workplace.”

If the pandemic has presented any sort of silver lining to the team at IAAC, Shelley said that it has equalized how they host events and involve staff across the country. In previous years, they would host an in-person event in the National Capital Region and broadcast the event to other parts of the country. Now that hosting events virtually has become the new norm, all employees can participate to the same capacity.

“We no longer have two experiences for staff; the in-person experience versus the virtual experience,” says Shelley. “In my opinion, if an event is meant for all staff, they should all have the same experience.”

For more ideas and best practices on internal communications in the Government of Canada, check out:

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