Internal communication in the post-pandemic world is a whole new ballgame. Podcasts have become a powerful medium for entertainment, education, and storytelling, and their potential for transforming work culture within organisations is a game changer for workplaces. This is relevant because, circa 2023, data indicates that only a small percentage of employees in India Inc. are actively engaged at the workplace, what with many opting for remote or hybrid work. In the face of such challenges, video and audio podcasts have emerged as valuable tools that not only engage employees but also cultivate a positive work environment. They create an inclusive culture while also encouraging conversations around such areas as shared purpose.
What are internal communication podcasts?
Internal communication podcasts used by organisations like Infosys, Ashok Leyland, Larsen & Toubro, Cipla, Go MMT, and Deloitte USI, to name a few, bridge communication gaps across the organisation’s length and breadth. They are made available to employees within an organisation to disseminate information, foster learning, showcase leader and SME voices, drive engagement, and facilitate knowledge sharing. Unlike external podcasts like Bandhan AMC’s The Moneywise Podcast or ICICI Lombard’s IL Café, which are made available to the general public, usually towards a thought leadership or branding objective, internal podcasts speak to the interests and information needs of employees.
Satinder Juneja, Global Marketing Head at BirlaSoft, says, “Podcasts have evolved into a potent resource with a multifaceted impact on the modern workplace. Beyond being a powerful platform for sharing knowledge, theyplay a pivotal role in enhancing employee engagement and bolstering HR connects. Podcasts offer a unique and personalised way to connect with employees.” Juneja oversaw the implementation of their award-winning ‘Birlasoft On Air’ as an internal communication tool and is convinced that they can play a beneficial role in the evolving workplace environments of today.
Suresh Pugalenthi, former head of HR at HPCL, was one of the first HR leaders in India to recognise the significant communication advantages offered by
internal podcasts. ‘HPCL On Air’ under his tenure was a unique long-form radio-like daily podcast featuring, on occasion, even family members of HPCL employees. He says, “Communication is an opportunity to create a buy-in of the people, to reach out to audiences and stakeholders using the right mode. Podcasts have a thought and purpose; audiences and stakeholders connect with that.”
Personalised internal communication is the future of work
Juneja touches upon an important distinction: personalisation. One thing
we’ve seen, indeed experienced, since the explosion of podcasts (thanks to people like Joe Rogan internationally and The Ranveer Show in India) is that podcasts offer advantages that traditional forms of communication like emails do not—they rely on voices—those of leaders, employees, experts, and anchors, to breathe life into words and personalise communication while still being able to cut across geographies.
As Juneja explained, internal communication podcasts are one-to-many while simultaneously being one-to-one. What does that mean for your engagement with employees? You needn’t worry about spamming your employees anymore; you’re connecting with them at their convenience. The substantive difference is in the Tone of Voice – warm and engaging.
Pugalenthi suggests that podcasts, as a medium, allow companies to create meaningful impact. He explains, “A good podcast fulfils three requirements: it informs, educates, and engages. Podcasts help dream, think, and conceptualise the ideas that are important for the success of individuals and the organisation. So, they can also help position yourself (the company) as a thought leader.”
Podcasts offer accessibility advantages
Achal Khanna, CEO, SHRM India, APAC & MENA, says, “Internal communication podcasts can offer various benefits to organisations, helping improve their internal communication strategies and overall employee engagement. Podcasts can be easily accessed and listened to on various devices, making them a convenient communication channel for employees. This accessibility ensures that information is available to employees at their convenience, allowing them to stay informed even when they are on the go.”
The accessibility advantage Khanna highlights is a characteristic and benefit that Pugalenthi concurs with. He adds that podcasts are “not a monologue, but a conversation.” That is one of the primary benefits of audio and video podcasts: they are conversation-starters. That’s when the real magic of this medium unfolds and the natural advantages of internal podcasts start to accrue to an organisation.
The human touch
Seetal Iyer, co-founder and Head of Content at Bengaluru-based Timbre Media, a 13-year-old pioneer in Indian corporate podcasting, explains how podcasts effortlessly weave that all-important human touch into communication within organisations. She says, “The art of conversation involves listening, allowing the speaker time to get comfortable with both the medium and the topic, and allow them a safe space to speak freely on
sensitive topics. This is a skill that we’ve developed over time, aided by a close ring-side view of the evolving communication needs of companies. We began our podcasting journey with Infosys way back in 2011 and have since worked with over 150 organisations across sectors, helping them design and deliver both internal and external podcasts. ”
The emphasis on listening is another new facet of modern internal
communication that’s here to stay. Pugalenthi is an advocate of what he calls
a ‘listening organisation.’ He explains, “To be a listening organisation, a company must have the ability to reach any person or employee and make them understand the message. Podcasts provide a space to convey perspectives without clutter.”
These experts agree that the new dynamic—engaging employees through conversation and active listening—is especially beneficial when dealing with millennial and Gen Z employees in the workforce. Seetal describes this phenomenon as “the power to effect change through candour and organic moments on podcasts.”
Candour in internal communication? Is that not just impropriety? Well, not anymore. Old-school communication experts may find this counterintuitive, but, as Pugalenthi hinted, millennials and Gen Z respond more positively to conversations, not monologues. Iyer clarifies, “Timbre Media’s best conversation-based podcasts have been for clients who’ve relied on experience sharing from employees on areas like inclusion and diversity.
Persons with disabilities have moved our anchors to tears in some of these on- air moments. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have been encouraged
to share their personal views on what could be done to make the workplace safer and more inclusive—usable, organic responses with context, unlike what one could get out of a survey. Such podcasts have true power to mobilise
opinion and effect change at the individual level.”
Podcasts are multi-faceted communication assets
We often hear experts speak of skin in the game. That’s precisely where podcasts, as conversation starters, as relatable content, and as easily accessible, personalised information, make a difference to employees, both old and new. There’s a growing consensus about the efficacy of such communication, especially in the human resources and L&D departments of Indian corporates. The Tata Management Training Centre, for example, uses the domain expertise of employees from various Tata Group companies to realise their training objectives. Their microlearning podcasts ‘MyHacks’ and ‘The OneDerFul Collective’ feature domain experts from TCS, Tata Motors,
IHCL (of which the Taj Hotels are a part), Tata Communications, and others. The month of June, observed as Pride Month the world over, saw Accenture’s ATCI using long-form podcasts to lend voice to their DEIB ethos, with leaders, and members & allies of the LGBTQIA+ community being featured on these internal broadcasts.
Juneja of BirlaSoft says podcasts have proven useful across a range of requirements. According to him, “podcasts offer a unique and personalised way to connect with employees for multiple functions, including learning and development, employee onboarding, internal communication, and employee wellbeing programmes, amongst others.”
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed communication imperatives. Infosys’s Infypod podcast series used the medium to offer employees COVID-related information from healthcare professionals and featured senior leaders on constructs like the New Normal and business continuity. Iyer recalls, “We saw clients in the pandemic use podcasts to enable leaders to reach employees without having to travel to locations. They heard leaders voice their concerns, be vulnerable like the rest of the world was, and yet demonstrate leadership, offering an uncertain and fearful workforce much-needed direction and assurance of a better day. These conversations went a long way in bridging the communication gap typical of that period.”
Khanna says such communication creates “personal connection and trust, humanises the message, making employees feel more connected to the organisation and its leadership. Podcasts provide a platform for storytelling, which can be an effective way to convey company culture, values, and
How podcast experts transform communication
Companies like Timbre Media of Bengaluru are innovating internal communications podcasts and an array of content-based workplace engagement solutions that are changing the landscape. Iyer, who co-founded Timbre Media in 2010 after stints on FM and satellite radio, says, “When we began as corporate podcasters for Infosys and Microsoft in 2011, the expectations were simple: podcasts were to serve as content vehicles for commmunication and engagement primarily. Over time, we’ve seen other spillover outcomes that podcasts have proved amazing at delivering – companies now also see podcasts as opportunities for employees, especially leaders, to hone verbal communication skills and develop authentic voices. For example, a leader once said, “My goodness, that was hard, but it made me really think!” after we’d recorded a podcast on ‘purpose’ with him.” pror
Organisations like Ageas Federal, Pfizer, InterGlobe, and Micron have used podcasts to not just offer company news but also to showcase how employees can live the company’s stated values, focus on excellence and innovation, and foster pride in being part of the organisation. Freewheeling conversations that are authentic stay in the memories of listeners longer than presentations with coloured wheels, charts, and bullet points. Juneja says, “By embracing podcasts, organisations can tap into this trend to foster a culture of belonging and connectedness within an organisation, ultimately contributing to a more vibrant and dynamic workplace.”
Internal communication podcasts have a significant impact on work culture and employee engagement, and many companies are choosing to engage with employees using this medium. Podcast and internal communication specialists like Timbre Media create content that leads to a more engaged, connected, and thriving work culture. At a time when authenticity is paramount, communication that brings employees and organisations closer makes a significant difference in retention. Every conversation is an opportunity to connect, inspire, and leave a lasting impact on your audience. Organisations that use the medium effectively are clearly influencing the future of work, one conversation at a time.
Keywords: corporate podcasts, internal communication, employee engagement, thought leadership, workplace culture