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A balancing act: Using AI for internal workplace communications

14 Nov 2023

Human oversight is essential to get the benefit of AI in workplace communication, says Ciara Flaherty of Springboard Communications.

Imagine the bustling offices of a multinational, where employees span continents and time zones. Now imagine a scenario where this organisation is launching a critical new initiative designed to enhance employee wellbeing and productivity. The task at hand: ensuring that every member of this sprawling workforce not only receives but also comprehends the significance of this new programme.

In the days before the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), this task was herculean. The organisation’s agency or internal communications team would need to ensure that every employee, regardless of their location, language or role, grasped the importance of this initiative.

Ciara Flaherty, Springboard Communications, headshot.

Image: Ciara Flaherty

This is where AI has stepped in as a game-changer. With the introduction of AI-powered communication tools, companies can transform their internal communications, efficiently drafting personalised messages, tailored to language, culture and role.

However, while AI is emerging as a valuable support tool in internal communications, it’s essential to strike a balance between it and human involvement. It is also paramount that organisations have a clear AI usage policy that is shared with all employees.

Here are the pros and cons of utilising AI for internal communications and how it can be used as a complementary asset for any professional communications team.

Efficiency versus human touch

Effective internal communications play a vital role in bolstering an organisation’s reputation, realising its business objectives and fostering employee retention and recruitment.

AI tools like ChatGPT, Jasper or Anyword, with their speed and automation capabilities, offer the promise of boosting efficiency in internal communications. AI can reduce the time needed to create content such as emails, newsletters and memos, freeing up more time for other tasks. Also by delivering real-time updates and alerts to employees, we find that they can be well-informed about events or changes in the moment, such as safety updates or emergency announcements.

However, this increased efficiency comes with a caveat – the risk of losing the human touch in communications. Automated content lacks the empathy and understanding that employees value.

Also, relying too heavily on AI in communications can lead to a situation where employees start to distrust or ignore communications, as they perceive them as automated and lacking authenticity. This could result in important messages going unnoticed.

While AI can generate a first draft, ensuring quality, accuracy and emotional resonance requires human oversight. Using an agency or an in-house team is key as communications professionals are better equipped to build relationships, provide personal support and convey empathy – which AI-generated content fails to achieve.

Data analysis versus trust and security

AI’s analytical tools can provide valuable insights for internal communication strategies by analysing data, employee communication patterns and feedback. This data-driven approach enables organisations to make informed decisions and streamline report generation. For example, sentiment analysis tools can gauge how employees are responding to a new policy or initiative, providing valuable insights for adjustments.

AI analytics can process vast amounts of data with high precision and accuracy, improving over time. Tools like Cision, Meltwater and BuzzSumo empower teams to analyse media landscapes, monitor coverage and sentiment and streamline various business applications, from SEO to customer experience monitoring. However, it’s crucial to emphasise that the quality of insights derived from AI is directly linked to the quality of data it receives. Handling sensitive information in compliance with data protection laws requires human judgement, empathy and ethical considerations that AI does not inherently possess.

Automation versus misinterpretation

Generative AI can automate repetitive and time-consuming processes, such as drafting basic content, managing translations and scheduling campaigns. This automation frees up communication professionals to focus on more strategic and creative tasks. Furthermore, AI can enhance employee engagement through automated follow-up emails, collecting valuable data to refine communication strategies.

Yet, the drawback of automation is the potential for misunderstandings, misinterpretations and communication breakdowns. AI, sophisticated as it is, may struggle to grasp the context required for nuanced communication.

For instance, a positive-sounding comment from an employee might actually be a veiled criticism that AI misses without human interpretation. Human oversight remains indispensable to ensure that communication is clear, effective and empathetic.

AI as a supporting tool

In conclusion, AI can be an asset for internal communication teams, offering automation, streamlined processes and data-driven insights. However, it should be viewed as a supporting tool, not a replacement for human communication professionals. The empathy, emotional intelligence and human connection that professionals bring to the table are irreplaceable. To strike the right balance, organisations should adopt a holistic approach, where AI augments the capabilities of communication teams rather than replacing them.

Organisations should establish clear policies for AI use in internal communications, ensuring that they align with the broader communication strategy. Human oversight should be integral to the process, offering checks and balances to mitigate potential pitfalls.

By embracing AI as a complementary tool in their communication strategies, organisations can harness its power to improve efficiency and gain valuable insights, while preserving the essential human elements that make internal communications truly effective. In this harmonious blend of technology and human expertise, internal communications will thrive, fostering stronger relationships, engagement and collaboration within organisations.

By Ciara Flaherty

Ciara Flaherty is client director and head of internal communications at Springboard Communications, an integrated communications agency and PRCA Agency of the Year 2023.

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