As organizations evolve and expectations from workforces get more complex internal communicators are expected to revisit their mandate periodically. Depending on the maturity and growth stage of the organization internal communications differs.
However, internal communicators can struggle to explain what the next level looks like. Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a senior internal communications leader from a global financial services firm who needed pointers to scale up. At last count she handled 60 internal events and managed communications for over 1500 employees. Her question was – am I doing the right thing and how can I take my internal communications to the next level?
Here are a few pointers that can possibly support better decision making while reinventing internal communications.
- Audit your ‘as-is’ state: Without clarity on what it takes to deliver consistent communications you can get pulled into all kinds of work that broadly looks like internal communications but isn’t. Understand which channels are giving you the best bang for your buck. How is the team perceived? Are you considered a pen pusher or a coach? Is the team consistently living the same values? Gauge your resources and evaluate if you are investing your effort on the key focus areas or spreading yourself thin.
- Balance business priorities and expectations: It helps to define your functional area and what internal communications means at your organization. Also, seek clarifications on what leaders think the function is expected to deliver. Some leaders believe event management is an expectation of the internal communications team while others may want the team to moderate meetings. Unless the scope is clear your team and you may end up fire-fighting very often. According to me, focusing on business priorities and aligning internal communications to those is the best way to get started.
- Take stock of the resources you need: There are industry benchmarks to evaluate if you are under-staffed and need to ramp-up your team. The annual Internal Communications surveys that I run (look up the 2012 and 2011 results) may give you some insights. If you aren’t getting headcount internally can you think of engaging agencies that can back you up? If you are part of a large, global organization there may already be established standards and processes that you can rely on. Do you need to invest in software of training? Maybe you can coach an ‘extended’ team of employees who have a passion for communication? My sense is that with robust systems and practices in place the team can act more strategically, and with lesser people.
- Invest in measurement and in your infrastructure: You may have the best intentions but if your internal communications infrastructure isn’t in place or simple to use you may not get very far. To take internal communications to the next level it will be useful to measure the value and impact of all that you do. Then having an informed conversation with your leaders on how internal communications enhances business performance can help take your crucial infrastructure to the next level.
- Move the needle – one project at a time: Look for projects that can help you test your ideas and put them into practice. Create case studies of the tangible improvements you are able to make. Put them out there for other stakeholders to view and appreciate.
The next level need not be a big leap. It can be small yet powerful changes that make everyday life simpler for your employees and leaders.