IC AROUND THE WORLD
Views on internal communication from
Aniisu K. Verghese
Corporate Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility Lead, at Tesco Bengaluru
IC Around The World is a series of interviews with communication professionals from around the globe working in the field of internal communication.
They share their views on the practice of internal communication in their countries, and tell us who and what they are paying attention to in the world of IC.
How has internal communication developed in your country in recent years?
Internal communication was on the periphery of corporate India until a few years ago. Mass communication and public relations have received far more interest than internal communication. Newsletters and company bulletins were the mainstay of internal communication until recently. The need to engage a large working population (by 2030, the world will have 8.3 billion people of which 1.5 billion will be in India), a growing young workforce (the average age in India is predicted to be 29 years in 2020, lower than in China and the US and expected to be home to 25% of the world’s skilled workforce by 2025), exponential social media growth and cultural nuances have helped shape Indian approaches to internal communication. Even today, in universities and colleges, the subject isn’t given as much importance as, say, public relations or digital media. Most multinationals in the country bring in best practices from abroad and have better systems and processes. However, the need to localize and adapt to cultural perspectives is a struggle for many companies.
I discovered my passion for internal communication early in my career when I handled the company intranet, newsletter and employee engagement initiatives for a large, global banking solutions firm. In 2006 when I started blogging on internal communications it evoked more attention (in terms of comments and views) overseas than in India! During my experience teaching as an adjunct faculty member at a couple of business schools in the country I realized that most students were unaware that such a function even existed. This experience led me to author a book on the topic – Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models in 2012 to overcome this gap. To help industry practitioners cope with the evolving needs within their organizations in 2011 I started a series of workshops on internal communication (Internal Communications 401, Internal Communications 301, Internal Communications 201, Internal Communications 101) that improved appreciation of the function and helped bring the community of practitioners together. Today, I do see more interest from organizations to discuss challenges at work, explore solutions, share best practices and receive feedback on campaigns and initiatives. There are also organizations which enter their work for awards in India primarily, a good sign that internal communicators are confident about their work and are willing to benchmark against the best. I do know of multinational firms who enter for awards globally as well.
What do you currently see as the greatest challenges for internal communication in your world?
Quality of talent is an issue with a dearth of professionals passionate about this function. Most practitioners stumble their way into internal communication - sometimes reluctantly and sometimes due to circumstances. Some practitioners play dual roles since internal communication is an ‘added’ responsibility over and above their “day-jobs” which can be in human resources or administration or marketing. When organizations expect such teams to ‘manage’ internal communication, they are left to make do with basic infrastructure and limited support from leaders, which dilute the value this function can add. The second challenge I notice is a reluctance and lack of drive among professionals to share and learn from each other or from best practices. There is little investment of resources or thought injected into the function or in raising the profile of its relevance.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for internal communication to make a difference in the next year or two?
With the opportunities to engage with one of the world’s largest population of millennials at the workplace and leverage technology to tap the potential of employees as brand advocates, internal communication can make a lasting impact on the value business can add. To stay ahead of evolving expectations and changes in the workplace and demonstrate their worth, internal communicators must unlearn and relearn skills that will help employees bring their best selves to work and make organizations more effective.
What internal communication resources (website, conferences, associations) do you make the most use of?
There is today a lot of great content available for practitioners, students and academicians. I often refer to the following set of resources to understand trends and best practices.
Who are the internal comms experts and personalities you pay attention to the most?
I have personally learnt a lot by following the work of thought leaders from both academia and practice:
Have you came across a piece of data - a study/report/research/case study/article - that proves your bosses/clients the value of IC investment generally, or to support a particular tactic or initiative?
With organizations becoming an amalgamation of brands and employees rising as personal brands it is important for leaders to acknowledge and act upon these trends. Two pieces of research are worth considering –
Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, Weber Shandwick & KRC Research
IC pros must unlearn and relearn skills that will help make organizations more effective.
In India, internal communicators are confident about their work and are willing to benchmark against the best.
The need to engage a large working population (by 2030, the world will have 8.3 billion people of which 1.5 billion will be in India), a growing young workforce (the average age in India is predicted to be 29 years in 2020, lower than in China and the US and expected to be home to 25% of the world’s skilled workforce by 2025), exponential social media growth and cultural nuances have helped shape Indian approaches to internal communication.
ABOUT Aniisu K. Verghese
Aniisu K. Verghese manages Corporate Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility for Tesco Bengaluru, the in-house technology and retail operations team of Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers. He has over 17 years of experience with technology, financial services and consulting organizations such as Sapient, Accenture and Oracle. Aniisu has authored a book, Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models and is passionate about engaging communicators and students through workshops, teaching assignments and blogging. He has spoken at communication conferences such as the Asia Pacific Communication Summit (Hong Kong & Singapore), World IABC Conference (United States) and Strategic Internal Communications Workshop (Australia). Aniisu served as a member of IABC’s South India Chapter Board and is the recipient of the 2015 PR Hall of Fame Award from the Public Relations Council of India. In 2003, he founded a road safety charity called Friends For Life, and has served as a 2015 SABRE Awards - South Asia Jury member and an IABC’s Gold Quill Award panelist for the Asia Pacific region. You can follow him LinkedIn.
Editor's Note: Aniisu K. Verghese is one of the co-authors of our recent eBook "Disrupting the Function of IC - A Global Perspective." Click here to learn more about the eBook.