The Future is Shared - Partnerships are Essential for the Future of Organisational Communication


Jonathan Champ

Over 20 years ago, UK communication leader Bill Quirke wrote in Communicating Change: “From the employee’s point of view, [they are] receiving communication from the organisation in whatever its dealings may be with [them] - not just those items which are formally labelled employee communication”(1).

Over the next two decades, massive changes have occurred in organisational life, communication, and business practice.

Everyone communicates: The rise of the specialist and the generalist

The evolution of communication technologies, the rise of line managers as key communication channels and increased peer-to-peer dialogue are responsible for shifts in internal communication. These complex ecosystems rely on technical (platforms and channels), behavioural (culture and change) and process (the right information at the right time) elements to work together.

Communication is in the hands of the many. What is left for internal communication to bring to a partnership? What is your specialist contribution and what value do you bring as a communication professional? Is it deep understanding of the audience? Channels? Narrative? Messaging? Program management? Business leadership?

Priorities shape partnerships

Partnerships between communication and marketing or human resources are relatively common. Starting with organisational priorities instead of function provides a different way of looking at partnership.

This style of just-in-time partnership that responds to the priorities of the organisation is similar to adhocracy, which has become a central part of agile organisations. Adhocracy is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A system of flexible and informal organisation and management in place of rigid bureaucracy.” Structures shift rapidly according to the current business problem to be solved.

The question is no longer whether partnerships are useful. The question is “how can I contribute”?

Across these kinds of partnership, communication professionals can play the role of convener, bringing together these constituents and facilitating the process.

What are the benefits of partnership?​

The best internal partnerships occur when there is a shared stake in the outcome and all parties can contribute in a valuable way to shared results.​

Increased organisational agility​

Collaboration can seem to take longer initially, but over time it increases the organisation’s ability to be responsive and focus on the right challenges.​

Shared knowledge and organisational learning

Perspectives and insights from multiple internal partners improves the quality of decision making.​

Reduced exposure to risk​

By adopting approaches such as “Working Out Loud” with a partner group, feedback and insights can be contributed earlier in design or development.​

Trust​

Delivering outcomes in partnership has the potential to deepen trust between functions within an organisation.​