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2022 Trends Report: Corporate and financial communications

While organizations are just beginning to regain some stability, many of tomorrow's challenges are already knocking at the door, and they need to be prepared to meet them. Over the past few months, we have seen the vast majority of businesses that are doing relatively well after this storm are those that have demonstrated transparency, authenticity and empathy towards their internal and external audiences.

The expectations of all stakeholders have evolved, and some of these imperatives are here to stay. They will expect companies to clearly disclose their environmental commitment and organizations to engage with them in a way they can relate to.

Here are the trends our corporate and financial communications experts see for 2022:

Businesses will need to clearly communicate their environmental commitment

The alarming state of the climate emergency has come into focus like never before. This fall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report categorizing the situation as a “code red for humanity.” At the COP 26 summit, banks, insurers, and investors pledged to focus on combating climate change, including signing a commitment to accelerate the transition to a net-zero economy. These commitments and the increasing urgency in addressing the climate crisis speak to the need for companies to act. It is no longer enough to pay lip service—institutional investors, such as BlackRock, are considering companies “un-investable” if they do not commit to action and communicate their initiatives to the marketplace. For companies to succeed in attracting investors, customers and employees, leaders must make genuine, measurable commitments. Those companies who engage in deceptive practices, such as greenwashing, will be held to account.

Heather Ritzer, director, and Dan Weinerman, senior director – NATIONAL Capital Markets

We can expect more IPOs

The past year was one of Canada’s busiest ever for initial public offerings (IPOs), with still more companies preparing their filing documents and presentations. However, as the trend continues, we have seen deals closing below the offering range or being pulled altogether. To ensure success, companies going to market must present a clear and differentiated investor proposition. This is particularly the case for companies in the technology sector, which has become crowded with new issues in the past two years.

A publicly listed organization that communicates effectively and transparently will generate investor confidence, resulting in sufficient market liquidity for its shares and a stock price reflecting the true value of the enterprise on a sustained basis. They must address the three most common investor concerns: management credibility, a defined growth strategy, and a solid financial outlook.

This includes being prepared with a compelling “on-the-record” narrative when they reach significant milestones, including financial and non-financial growth metrics. Once the IPO is completed, businesses should continue investor engagement and plan for regular communications.

Craig MacPhail, group director – NATIONAL Capital Markets, Larry Markowitz, senior advisor, Financial Communications and Investor Relations, and Daniel Richard, vice-president, Financial Communications and Investor Relations – NATIONAL Montreal

Cybersecurity threats will become a top priority

According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s most recent National Cyber Threat Assessment, the number of cyber threat actors is rising, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

In the wake of the Colonial Pipeline incident of May 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to treat ransomware as a top national security priority. He encouraged private companies to do the same, including the signing of an executive order requiring IT service providers to disclose information about breaches.

Meanwhile, cyber attacks aimed at Canadian healthcare providers are on the rise. The Kemptville District Hospital near Ottawa, Rideau Valley Health Centre, Toronto's Humber River Hospital, and Newfoundland and Labrador's healthcare system have all been victims of cyber attacks.

With a lack of a national strategy to deal with cyber threats, cybersecurity preparedness must become a critical area of focus for Canadian boards and management. NATIONAL’s cyber security white paper details best practices organizations should implement to prepare for a cybersecurity incident.

Larry Markowitz, senior advisor, Financial Communications and Investor Relations, Daniel Richard, vice-president, Financial Communications and Investor Relations – NATIONAL Montreal and Karen White, vice-president, Crisis and Issues Management – NATIONAL Atlantic

The competition for talent has never been more ferocious

Of the many side effects of COVID-19, one of the most disruptive to business has been the “great resignation.” Some surveys indicate upwards of 40 percent of employees are contemplating a career change as entire industries are struggling to re-staff vacancies. From the hospitality industry, and healthcare, all the way to high technology, no industry has been spared. It’s a talent-driven market and the competition for talent has never been more ferocious.

As a result, retention has never been more important, and the need for closing the gap between words and actions is crucial. Employees are demanding a compelling articulation of corporate purpose, a clear career path tied to reward and recognition and, above all else, authenticity in behaviour and communications. Employers can no longer say nice things and hope all will be well: an employer’s words and deeds must align, otherwise, employees will vote with their feet.

Expect employer branding and recruitment campaigns to rev up and, this time, the message will be as important for those already on staff as for those a company is trying to hire.

Gillian Smith, managing partner – NATIONAL Toronto and Kathryn Tector, senior vice-president and chief client officer – NATIONAL Atlantic

Organizations must develop strategies to effectively engage a diverse workforce

Canada has one of the most diverse workforces in the world. Additionally, 100 percent of our labour force growth will come from immigration in the next five years. In the last two years, we have also seen a trend of organizations recognizing the need and the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workplace. While progressive organizations have policies to attract and advance diverse talent, they seldom focus on how to communicate and truly engage with employees from culturally diverse backgrounds once they are hired.

In 2022, truly inclusive organizations will prioritize strategies to effectively engage a diverse workforce or risk losing high-quality talent. Consequently, cross-cultural internal communications strategies and tools, such as mentorship programs that partner employees from similar backgrounds, will be essential to ensuring a diverse workforce feels engaged and valued, and all employees are empowered to thrive.

Andrea Chrysanthou, director, Corporate and Public Affairs – NATIONAL Toronto

Organizations need to speak the same language as their employees—generation by generation

Retention, employee experience and expertise recognition have been intense challenges for managers in recent months.

One solution is customized organizational communications. One-size fits all simply doesn’t fit anymore. Employee all have different needs, values and ambitions, and they expect a customized approach. Managers must also adapt their approach based on the generational audiences they are working with: Generation X, Millennials, Zoomers or Alpha.

For some, salary is paramount, while others will put more prominence on feeling appreciated or socializing. For many, career is no longer the ultimate goal; employees need to feel appreciated and recognized. This understanding must be reflected in employee evaluations, working conditions, flexibility in group insurance programs and the way corporate value and objectives are communicated.

For management, this new paradigm demands active listening, customized communications and flexibility.

Hugo Morissette, director and leader, Analysis and Public Affairs, and Laura-Michelle Marcogliese, consultant – NATIONAL Montreal

More from our 2022 Trends Report

——— Developed by: Leads: Mirabel Paquette (NATIONAL Montreal), Gillian Smith (NATIONAL Toronto) Collaborators: Karen White, Kathryn Tector (NATIONAL Atlantic), Daniel Richard, Hugo Morissette, Larry Markowitz, Laura-Michelle Marcogliese (NATIONAL Montreal), Andrea Chrysanthou (NATIONAL Toronto), Dan Weinerman, Heather Ritzer (NATIONAL Capital Markets in Toronto)