IC AROUND THE WORLD

 Views on internal communication from

Latvia

Interview with

Elina Harchenko

Head of PR unit at Rīga Stradiņš University and a fellow at the Institute for Organisational Well-being

 

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?

 

In 2011, when I started working at a PR agency, internal communication (IC) activities of our clients were mostly aimed to top-down information distribution and holding corporate events like team-building activities and celebrations. IC was not considered as to be a separate function and was implemented by the HR or PR team, or even by a management assistant. Exceptions were foreign-based companies representing in the banking, ITC and insurance sectors; they made first steps in making internal communication more strategic.

Now, six years later, the situation has improved and there were at least three reasons for it , some of them which I believe are common for other countries too. First of all, those communication and HR specialists who follow the global tendencies in the business environment have acknowledged the need of strategic approach to internal communication. Secondly, more and more so called millennial generation leaders are coming into top management positions and they are more open to two-way communication and the idea of employee engagement. And, thirdly, there were some cases in Latvia widely covered by media when organisations were in big trouble and employees deepened this crisis by going public and accusing their employers of violating employee rights, not-providing appropriate working conditions etc.

Due to these reasons interest in internal communication as a separate organisational function has increased during recent years. Today more and more positions for internal communication specialists are opening. Furthermore, these are not only private companies, but also governmental organisations and NGOs that are looking for such employees. Demand for corporate IC courses and training has also increased. The level of IC awareness has increased undoubtedly but it still varies a lot, so at the same time we can find both a company with high level of employee engagement and a company with very poor understanding about IC.

 

 

What do you currently see as the greatest challenges for internal communication in your world?

 

In many organisations it’s still crucial for IC teams to get a direct access to C-level management and to become strategic consultants rather than simply be distributors of information. In those companies where the IC role has already been acknowledged by the management, there are two major challenges. As there is no more a clear border between internal and external communication, organisations should work harder to make employees their ambassadors outside the office, and the strategic approach to internal communication is the only way to make it done. And the second challenge is improving communication skills of managers at all levels.

 

What do you see as the biggest opportunities for internal communication to make a difference in the next year or two?

I think one of these opportunities is growing availability of data about internal communication, employee engagement, neuroscience etc. as more and more surveys on these topics are taken. This helps IC specialists in their dialogue with managers, in choosing the most appropriate IC strategies and tactics, in shaping messages and choosing channels.

Another opportunity involves employee participation in IC processes. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer results have a clear message to IC teams – employees trust their peers more than managers and we shouldn’t ignore it. Discovering informal communication flows, identifying key communicators within the staff is a great opportunity for making IC activities more effective. 

Introducing modern digital solutions is also an opportunity but I see two challenges here. Firstly, we are already over-digitalised, so there is a risk that employees won’t be enthusiastic about one more online platform or social network. Secondly, face-to-face communication still matters and we need to think carefully how to balance digital and personal communication within an organisation.

The growing availability of data about internal communication, employee engagement, neuroscience etc. are opportunities for IC practitioners. 

Employees trust their peers more than managers and we shouldn’t ignore it. Discovering informal communication flows, identifying key communicators within the staff is a great opportunity for making IC activities more effective. 

Introducing modern digital solutions is also an opportunity but I see two challenges here. Firstly, we are already over-digitalised, so there is a risk that employees won’t be enthusiastic about one more online platform or social network. Secondly, face-to-face communication still matters and we need to think carefully how to balance digital and personal communication within an organisation.

ABOUT Elina Harchenko

Elina Harchenko is a fellow at the Institute for Organisational Well-being and a Head of PR unit at Rīga Stradiņš University (Riga, Latvia). She has nine year experience in public relations both as agency and in-house consultant. Elina has been working with internal communication projects for the last five years. In 2015 she was a guest lecturer at Rīga Stradiņš University teaching a study course "Internal Communication" for 2nd year PR students. Elina has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Political Science.  

 

You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @elina_harcenko.

What internal communication resources (website, conferences, associations) do you make the most use of?

 

LinkedIn groups:

 

 

Who are the internal comms experts and personalities you pay attention to the most?

Leandro Herrero, Paul Barton, Ed Baldwin, Rachel Miller and Shel Holtz.

 

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?

As I mentioned before, I believe that data is an obligatory tool for every IC specialist, as it facilitates our work in many aspects. Here is the data I find useful recently.

 

At this moment I’m in the middle of IC Kollectif’s e-book Disrupting the Function of IC -  A Global Perspective and I think it should be a must-read piece for everybody related to internal communications. For me its biggest value is creating a big picture of IC not only as it looks like today, but also how it will look like tomorrow.

Shel Holtz’s IC model presented earlier this year is also a must-read for people related to IC, HR, and organisational management in general. It’s like an ABC book I would recommend to everybody who wants to understand the essence of IC.