Every profession is facing a number of challenges and changes in our turbulent times.This is of course true for internal communications as well. I’m limiting myself to address three in this essay: posting vs. hosting, consolidation of functions and ignorance to new research.
Post or Host
Posting content has always been part of the job description for internal communication. It comes from a tradition of journalism and putting together employee magazines.The opportunities to post have now exploded with the entry of social media on the corporate scene. New channels are available, new ways of expressing yourself are introduced and we encourage our leaders to blog and involve in the internal social media flow. As a result, communication functions are reorganizing to produce smarter content and meet demands.
This is all fine, but we need balance to avoid a situation where posting of content is more important than supporting leaders and facilitating true conversations in the organization.
This is because leaders have by far the biggest impact on attitude and behaviors in an organization. And the conversation is key to build mutual trust, understanding and engagement in every organization. No app, or on-line tool will ever replace the impact of the leaders and the intimacy and mutual understanding that comes out of a conversation. These conversations build the necessary trust between leaders and team members that is so fundamental to drive and succeed with change.
The way to manage this is to continuously strive for the position as a communication business partner to senior management. One element of this is to make sure that the opportunities for real face-to-face conversation remains in various forms and that internal news posting and on-line interaction is well-synchronized with the face-to-face conversations carried out by management.
Prove or Move
Internal communication is a small function in a world driven by consolidation of units where senior management look for various ways to find synergies, align processes and cut cost. It’s also a function with a tradition of very few hard facts and KPIs to prove its value to the business. We operate in a field where many people consider themselves to be experts. A function like this, unable to prove its unique value to the business, runs a risk to be merged with or moved under another function.
Or even made extinct. All together this means that internal communication is at risk as an independent function.
The way to manage this is to make sure that the function can prove its value and relevance to the business. One important element is to identify tangible and measurable targets to anchor with senior management.These KPIs have to be relevant for the business leaders.They tell how communication helps achieve the goals of the organization. With targets identified and agreed to the next step is to secure resources and work hard to meet them. Another important step is to educate management about the relevance of internal communication and what the offer includes. Make sure to use the language and reference points familiar to the organization. Our own lingo that we use between ourselves as communicators runs a definite risk to distance the audience.
Intact or Impact
Many people in internal communication came to the profession for their love of writing or a background in medicine or natural science.This is a pity since the areas where the most mind-blowing discoveries currently are made is neuroscience where we continuously learn more about the human brain, how it works and how it can be influenced.These discoveries have just started and signal a revolution about how we will define successful communication and how we will work in the profession.
For too long we have been captured in the model with a sender and receiver, and hence built infrastructures to make sure messages can reach out. But very little time has been spent on what happens when a person receives a message or is subject to external influence.With more knowledge about how the human brain works and process information, communication plans and advice to senior leaders will surely look different in the future.We can choose to embrace this knowledge and make an even bigger difference or ignore it and remain in the business of distributing content.
The way to manage this is to learn what neuroscience is telling us.A first step is to orient yourself to the latest research in this field.There is plenty of leadership literature for laymen available on the topic.A second step is to sign yourself and your team for training and include reflections about how to work differently with the new insights.A third step in larger organizations might be to hire someone with competencies in the field, or engage a consultant that can help apply his or her knowledge in the field.This new knowledge can then be turned to tremendous opportunities and increased influence for the internal communication function.That will be very good for the function and the organizations we serve in our turbulent times.
Three Key Takeaways
Respond to the demands for internal social media and learn how to master the opportunities, but make sure to continue to strengthen the role of the communication business partner to senior management.
Agree to clear and business relevant KPIs for internal communication with senior management, and tell the leaders in the words of the business about the difference that internal communication can make to business success.
Let’s put our professional training and experience aside for a while, and instead look at what neuroscience can tell us about how to make a true impact on people from learning more about how the human brain works.
This is an excerpt of our 222-page book Disrupting the Function of IC - A Global Perspective. Click here to download.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Per Zetterquist is a senior communication professional and leadership communication specialist working out of Stockholm, Sweden. Per has more than 20 years of experience in the field including the positions as VP Internal Communication for Ericsson and Electrolux. His experiences include strategy implementation, change management, coaching of senior leaders and communication planning and execution.
He approaches communication as a means to an end with a specific result in mind. He appears as speaker at industry events, and enjoys facilitation of groups and running training sessions with
teams. He is an APMG-certified Change Management Practitioner and training to become a certified coach.