Three Best Practices to Guide Your Internal Communications in 2023

2023 has barely begun and people are struggling. 

You know this. You feel it in your gut. But here are some quick facts to support how you’re feeling: 

In times like these, we all crave certainty, solidity, and leadership. We need Churchill to flash a “V” while standing on top of the rubble. We need Kennedy during the Cuban blockade. We need Pierre Trudeau saying “just watch me.” We need that in politics, and at work.  

Of course, no one is expecting you to lead your IT department or tech company like you’re Joan of Arc – but you should also realize that people are looking up to you. You might “just” be the middle manager at a medium-sized business, but you have a big part to play in the day-to-day lives of your team. And every conversation you have is an opportunity to lift your people up, and inspire them in gloomy times. 

The team here at Curious Public has been thinking about what you might want to say to your people as we move deeper into 2023, and we’ve come up with three principles to guide your internal communications strategy this year. 



First of all, we want honesty. And we want leaders to trust us to handle the truth, no matter how complex or challenging. Take a look at Pennsylvania’s new Senator, John Fetterman. 

Fetterman is full of contradictions. He is a six foot five, tattoo-covered giant who wears cargo shorts. He also has a master’s degree from Harvard. He’s a bleeding heart liberal but likes guns. The list goes on. 

When he had a stroke on the campaign trail, it could have sunk him. Instead, he steered right into it. He embraced it. Fetterman talked about how his stroke could have cost him his life – and used it as a bridge to connect with people.  

Here’s a guy built like the side of a house – the former mayor of a tough Pennsylvanian steel town – who is willing to let people see him struggle with speech and stroke recovery while campaigning for healthcare, a woman’s right to choose, and prison reform. He trusted the people he was hoping to lead. He spoke to them like adults, and asked them to embrace contradiction, and imperfection. 

And they did. 

The lesson for leaders here is that the days of trying to be perfect are over. People want leaders who are authentic. People want leaders who aren’t afraid to struggle and be human. Strength doesn’t come from perfection, after all, it comes from facing down challenges, and from seeing a way through the tough times into what might lie beyond. 



We want to be engaged. We want to care. It’s a big part of what drives satisfaction in our lives. 

A recent McKinsey study showed that a sense of purpose is critical to job satisfaction, which in turn makes us more engaged in our work. Additionally, Gallup finds that engagement and job performance are strongly related, and that higher engagement drives greater productivity and reduces absenteeism and turnover rates, among other things. 

Going deeper, McKinsey found that while 70 per cent of employees said their “sense of purpose is defined by their work,” the people whose work actually gave them that sense of purpose were not evenly distributed. For example, 85 per cent of employees who connected to purpose through their work were C-Suite types. But only 15 per cent of managers and frontline employees said they found purpose in their work.  

So how do we fix that?  Talk to people. 

ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) conducted a global workplace study and discovered that what really drives an employee’s level of engagement is the time spent working in a team and their experience in that team. Specifically, the frequency of attention paid to each team member is what mattered most. 

Teams with higher engagement had short weekly, one-on-one conversations between leaders and members to discuss the team member’s priorities for that week and to ask if they needed help. ADPRI also found that teams with leaders who checked in once a week had engagement levels 21 points higher than teams with leaders who checked in once a month. 

If you want your people to care, talk to them. Check in with them regularly. It will make them happier and more engaged. It’s as simple as that.  



If you care, they’ll care. And that’s important. 

Empathy is central to productive and innovative workplaces and is essential to our development as human beings. Unfortunately, new research says that Canadians are running out of empathy. 

Maybe it’s because we’re all a little bit burned out. 

Here’s the weird thing: during the depths of the pandemic, when people were talking about how challenging things were, we were collectively pretty strong. We at least had a mission and a purpose: beat COVID. But now that the big fight seems to be over, we’re starting to realize we don’t have much gas left in the tank. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association and the University of British Columbia found that 37 per cent of Canadians have experienced a decline in their mental health since the beginning of the pandemic. Levels of empathy have declined over the same period.

Researchers found that our collective empathy dropped from 23 per cent pre-pandemic to 13 per cent in March 2022 – a kind of empathy or “compassion fatigue.”  In other words, people need support and understanding more than ever, but it’s harder than ever for us to give it. 

Leaders can fix this by following what we call the “ALA approach”: 



Curious Public’s Principal and Senior Narrative Consultant, Jordan Ray, says it best:

“You have to speak to where people are if you want to raise them up.”

Show that you understand what people are feeling. Don’t assume everyone you speak to is okay. Painting a rosy picture when people are quietly struggling to pay their grocery bill makes you look tone-deaf and out of touch.



If you don’t want to be tone-deaf, listen. As the study from ADPRI points out. Encourage internal pulse surveys and scheduled one-on-ones, keep communication channels open at all employment levels and ask for feedback on new or existing initiatives. 



Empathetic leaders don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. When New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about the mass shooting at a Christchurch mosque in 2019 she not only said “violence and extremism in all its forms is not welcome here,” she announced a national ban on military-grade assault weapons. The nation rallied behind her desire to see New Zealand become “the place that we wish it to be.” 

Getting through tough times means we all have to dig a little deeper and find a bit more strength than we realized we had. The people we look up to – in politics and at work – need to show that they understand what we’re going through, and inspire us with a plan of action. 

Wherever you work, and however you’re called to lead, it’s time to rally your people. They need you.