THE BUSINESS VALUE OF STRATEGIC INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
THE REALITY ON THE GROUND
What does strategic internal communication look like inside organizations? This is one of the aspects examined in the global report The Next Level: The Business Value of Good Internal Communication. We interviewed 33 in-house communication professionals from 25 countries and representing 20 industries, and asked them 5 questions. The original version of the following interview was published in The Next Level.
Interview with Luis Ramos | thyssenkrupp Elevator
Luis Ramos is the Head of Communications at thyssenkrupp Elevator and is based in Germany. He is responsible for global communications, including content management, media relations, digital communications, marketing communications, internal communications, and corporate social responsibility. thyssenkrupp Elevator has 53,000 employees from 110 nationalities and operations in over 90 countries.
What are the main challenges and opportunities facing your team at your company?
The biggest challenge for any internal communications team is dealing with the many fluctuations within the larger organization, such as corrections in strategy, adjustments in tactics, changes in management, modifications in the markets, and so forth. That said, this challenge is
a constant and predictable one. Trying to hit a moving target is just part of the job!
And, of course, the larger the organization, the more complex that challenge becomes. The external communication professionals more often work with clear KPIs and tangible targets, such as the need to launch a new product at a certain time and assess the impact of that launch. Meanwhile, the people in internal communications need to gather, analyze, and balance the needs and desires of a much larger and more diverse group of stakeholders on a daily basis.
The internal communications team also has the opportunity to support change management and business transformation within the company at a far more profound level. In a world where permanent transformation is everything, being able to support that kind of process from within the corporation can be highly rewarding for the internal communications practitioner as his/her contribution can really make the difference between achieving overall success and suffering failure.
Internal communications is in a privileged position to connect all the dots, help various functions and departments bridge the sense of loss created by any change, and see the logic, necessity, and an advantage for those affected by something new.
How does your organization ensures internal and external communications are aligned together?
There is no longer a clear separation between internal and external communications in terms of content. Think about it. Most of us share what happens in our personal and professional lives on social media. Messages circulate through the social channels and mix with traditional and digital mass media. Employees consume that mixture, which contributes significantly to how they feel about their work.
No company can ignore this! It is utterly imperative that the company’s internal communication
content complements and perfectly aligns with what the company is publishing externally. In our organization, internal and external communications belong to the same department. That makes content sharing much easier, alignment more precise, and communications a lot more effective.
On a related note, I’m a strong believer that the news channel shapes and defines how the content or message is received and understood by the recipient. For example, if a person is known for being aggressive, any non-aggressive words that come from that person will still be understood as sounding aggressive to the listener. I’m not defending that: it’s just the way people receive and process a message.
The same thing happens with publications. Their specific connotation influences the tone of the message they carry, at least to the inner ear of the reader. For instance, when an employee reads a news item in the external media, he/she will tend to give it more credibility and importance than the same information published on an internal company news channel, which is understood to be a biased opinion.
What are some of the key mindsets, behaviours, and practices helping your organization to be effective at internal communication?
The most important factor in our success is the good connection that our IC practitioners maintain with the company leaders, especially those charged with driving change in the organization. The more involved the internal communications expert is with the business process, the better he/she can identify the messages that need to be communicated and find opportunities for doing so more effectively.
Business leaders need to think of their communications people as partners, even as sparring partners! That is, not to simply think of them as people you contact at the last minute to produce an internal memo, but as people who can help you develop your idea for easy understanding and widespread acceptance from the start.
Leaders who ignore the importance of internal communications are often shocked when they realize that no one else in the organization seems to understand that marvelous, game-changing, multi- layered transformation plan they worked on for weeks in the isolated privacy of their office. Unfortunately, that’s still far too common an occurrence!
To be effective, true visionary leadership needs to turn the vision into a story that everyone involved can easily understand. Understanding is the first step in acceptance. Without acceptance, the vision dies. That means trusting the communications expertise.
Which proven strategies do you and your team use to help business leaders understand the value of internal communication?
Internal communication as a support function has a provocative strength. We have the ability – the duty even – to generate and attract attention. This makes us a powerful partner because we can dramatically increase the visibility of projects and people through our internal networks and channels. This is particularly so when there is a robustly integrated global communications network that can be fully exploited.
Business leaders need to be regularly reminded of this! One of the ways we do that is making sure that our own house is in order. We develop and constantly update our own well-ordered and detailed strategy for how we deal with and balance diverse, sometimes conflicting demands of the internal stakeholders.
Only with a clearly communicated strategy in line with the company's goals and initiatives will internal communication receive the recognition it so richly deserves.
How do you demonstrate the impact of internal communication on organizational goals to business leaders?
Everyone probably agrees that internal communication is somewhat limited in how much direct and measurable business relevance it can create and develop. Our mission is to make employees better informed, more involved, and more inspired by the company and its goals.
We describe and explain strategic topics in an appealing form via different communication channels and through our globally-operating communication team. The goal is to better integrate employees into the company’s overarching narrative and help them feel like the major characters they really are, heroes even, in the larger story of great people creating great solutions with great success.
The fundamental advantage of these measures is that they are designed to be visible, simple to present and easy to comprehend. However, measuring their effect can be a bit tricky and finding proof that a uniform, centrally-generated message has accomplished what it intended to do is still all too often a subjective matter. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to use modern communication tools and analytics to track and measure messaging success making it objectively concrete.