IC AROUND THE WORLD
Views on internal communication from
Head of Internal Communications at Telia Lietuva
This is the first of a new series of interviews with communication professionals from around the globe working in the field of internal communication (IC) and/or who have IC responsibilities.
We want to learn and share views on the practice of internal comms in their countries, and to find out who and what they are paying attention to in the world of IC.
How has internal communication developed in Lithuania in recent years?
I’m delighted to see that the status and value of internal communication has started stretching beyond intranet news, newsletters and corporate parties. Of course we still do all those things, but with real conversations with management before we do, which are much more about building a clear understanding on the purpose of each intervention: to achieve business targets, aid the development of the desired culture, build our employer brand or accelerate change. We have recently finished a 18-month long merger process and a full rebranding integration of predecessors Omnitel and Teo under Telia Company, withinternal communications playing a critical role in uniting people from two well-known telco brands and inspiring them to create a new-generation business.
Despite the change, both companies have delivered on their annual targets, and I believe internal communication had a clear part to play, by internally launching brand much earlier than externally, and being consistent in keeping up the dialogue in the organization – this program has recently been recognized with IABC’s 2017 Gold Quill, a first-ever for Lithuania.
What do you currently see as the greatest challenges for internal communication in your world?
Firstly, with the current technology development and new generations joining the workforce, there will be much more content than we have ever seen. Even more, expectations are rising – people want to see the information they really want, and when they think something is completely irrelevant, they feel like it’s stealing their precious time. So the key challenge will be to make sure that employees get communication they want, the way they want, at the time that is the best for them. That means being smart in making choices in communications, defining audiences and deploying the right technologies. Introducing new channels is usually easy – having employees engage with them takes far more work.
"Expectations are rising – people want to see the information they really want, and when they think something is completely irrelevant, they feel like it’s stealing their precious time."
Our second hot topic, I believe, is employee engagement. Internal communications contributes to it, so does HR and other parts of the organization, and we face an eternal discussion on who should own it and what can we do to improve it. Things change too fast to trust annual engagement surveys, and engagement action plans become obsolete almost at the moment we’ve made them. I am a believer that the key engagement role belongs to line managers, yet few of them understand communication as part of their role. Communicators should support the leadership and the managers, as well as look more into repetitive pain points and execute strategic plans to fix them.
"Things change too fast to trust annual engagement surveys, and engagement action plans become obsolete almost at the moment we’ve made them."
Furthermore, I believe organizations start operating less like hierarchies and more like social networks, where everyone has a certain level of influence. This makes internal communications much more democratic, at the same time much more complex. Overstepping the cascade is much quicker, but at the same time just so much communication is being thrown at you. Because of that, I believe that communicators will have to focus on one thing at a time, make it truly memorable, and if it is very important, even make a creative campaign that connects with audience on both levels – thoughts and emotions.
That was the reason we invited creative/BTL agencies to build a campaign for employees only. Early in the integration process, we have launched the brand internally with a full day of online and face-to-face interactions (entertaining radio Telia.FM on intranet, merchandise, office activation, photo uploads and chats). It was so important for us to unite both teams early, to avoid them separating between “us” and “them”, and inspire them to create something bigger than the sum of two companies. This campaign lasted for one day, but people remember it even after a year. We gave them something positive, fun and memorable. That is so valuable when you’re in the change process, when people are stressed and unsure about their future. Telia's spirit stuck with them for more than a year and kept the engagement on through the whole change journey, until we have merged and rebranded to Telia Lithuania officially. You should've seen the burst of positive emotions when we finally did it this year!
"I am a believer that the key engagement role belongs to line managers, yet few of them understand communication as part of their role. Communicators should support the leadership and the managers, as well as look more into repetitive pain points and execute strategic plans to fix them."
"Organizations start operating less like hierarchies and more like social networks, where everyone has a certain level of influence. This makes internal communications much more democratic, at the same time much more complex."
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for internal communication to make a difference in the next year or two?
Our current context – in mobile and in Lithuania - is that markets are consolidating. Companies look for new ways of achieving more, and internal communication has the opportunity to integrate different parts of the organization and align them in the same direction. But to achieve this, communication should not work in isolation and focus on producing funky materials. It’s important to have regular conversations with your business stakeholders and, if needed, challenge them. If the questions you ask get them thinking – you are on the right track. And once you start to agree where the real issue is – only then get creative about fixing it. Collaboration, in my experience, becomes crucial – some of the best employee engagement results were born from IC/HR collaboration – sitting and working out the solution together, and having a mixed-competency team to execute it.
"It’s important to have regular conversations with your business stakeholders and, if needed, challenge them. If the questions you ask get them thinking – you are on the right track. And once you start to agree where the real issue is – only then get creative about fixing it."
The second opportunity, I believe is employee advocacy, which is becoming too expensive to ignore. Every employee can be the authentic voice of the company. Of course not everyone shares the content of their employer in social media, but that is not their fault. Usually it is about getting them trained in communications basics, and – most importantly – to create and give them content that is worth sharing. Which brings also to a third opportunity, or maybe just a tip – playful makes everything memorable, so we shouldn’t forget to entertain our employees through comms!
What internal communication resources (websites, conferences, associations) do you make the most use of?
Gartner (previously Melcrum/CEB).
Locally we have just started an informal circle of HR/Internal communicators, and interest in this topic starts to pick up.
"Employee advocacy... is becoming too expensive to ignore."
Who are the international internal comms experts and personalities you pay attention to the most?
My “IC sensei” is Angela Sinickas, whose newsletter I‘ve subscribed when I was a still university student, before IC was even a profession. Now we’re friend and it’s great to exchange experiences. I also follow Rachel Miller. I met her in IoIC‘s "30 under 30“ awards. We both won a few years back. Her blog, All things IC, is my go-to resource if I need practical insight, and it is truly what it is called - ALL things IC. I also tune into Chuck Gose’s podcasts on the go and Mike Klein’s blog Changing The Terms. It brings new perspectives to everyday things we do.
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?
Content shared by employees, by one recent measure, gets 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels, and is reshared 25 times more frequently.
ABOUT Vija Valentukonytė
Vija Valentukonytė is Head of Internal Communications at Telia Lietuva, which after the reorganization and name change on 1 February 2017, provides telecommunications, IT and TV services from a single source, continuing the activities of formerly known Lithuanian telcos Teo and Omnitel.
Vija has 8 years of experience in variety of sectors and companies, such as MTV, ING Bank and Barclays. Her work has been recognized by Institute of Internal Communications (the “30 under 30” awards in 2012) and just recently by IABC with its Gold Quill award in CATEGORY 2017 – Lithuania’s first. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.