Adapatability – key to evolving role of internal communicators

How does one describe the role of internal communicators? Strategic? Tactical? Complex? People oriented? Results focussed?

An executive administrator from a leading organization who was keen to join the ranks of an internal communications team got cold feet when she dived headlong into projects. “I am better off with what I am doing today if this is how complex the role is!” was her impression when working on coaching senior management, creating processes for improved communication, building self-help models for internal teams and setting up pulse sessions with employees.

While internal communication is fairly new as an domain, communication has been in existence from when organizations were created.

Fundamentally, understanding the business goals and need, the right mode of communication, the key messaging, timing and measurement metrics are what makes good internal communication stand apart from the ordinary.

From my experience, internal communicators are change agents and need to work like consultants thinking ahead and for the business.

This means, reviewing business plans for insights, interviewing customers, communicating ahead of time, involving stakeholders, measuring impact of communication, working with the leadership, assessing penetration of communication, making stakeholders communicate better, visiting workplaces, providing recognition among others.

As the Work Foundation puts it;

“The challenge of internal communications is not one that will go away, but is one of change. As technology, ways of working, structures of organisations and the nature of the economy change the challenge to organisations will be to ensure that their ability to communicate internally enhances their ability to engage with the external world.”

In a nutshell, adapatability will define how internal communication can shape the future of businesses.


Information overload and the role of internal communicators

Organizations are waking up to the alarming increase in information overload and drop in productivity among their staff.

According to RescueTime, an organization which analyses computer use behavior, a typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail programme more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times.The research also found that on an average the worker also opens and reads 40 Web sites over the course of the day. 

Companies are experimenting with methods to restrict access to e-mail and encouraging employees to meet up in person more often or take a break at least 15 minutes in a day. Some organizations are creating ‘no-email’ days during the work week to increase productivity.

Another study concludes that the more email employees receive, the unhappier they are with how email is used within the company. This is reflected in the high number of emails received by those who are concerned about the defects. Although it is not just quantity of email that causes concern, it is also the quality of the email.

For the internal communicator, these are important issues which need attention. Employees need help in getting to relevant information for their work and to contribute to the organization’s growth. The role of the internal communicator is two-fold – to evaluate and assess the information generation and publishing and build processes which streamline the flow of information.

The communicator needs to meaning of the information around and share in crisp, relevant chunks for easier assimilation. The recent boom in social media and Web 2.0 tools provides avenues to achieve this. Today, the employee no longer needs to rely on the organization for information about its products, services or its strategy. They discover it on the internet and the blogosphere much before the organization decides to make it public.

Recently, a senior professional from a leading Indian IT firm spoke about challenges in controlling information within the organization and also the need to understand how much information to share. This is a typical challenge faced by companies who are balancing the changing power shift in the Web 2.0 era where content co-creation, transparency and trust take centre-stage.

The internal communicator’s first step is to understand the various channels, information served and the rate of publishing. This will involve an audit and discussions with stakeholders within the organization.

You can involve employees and stakeholders for creating a guideline or a policy for information sharing and increased ownership.

Creating a centralized channel or routing all communication via a single source aids better recall and easier information intake. Some organizations use the intranet as the only medium for internal communication while stacking all corporate and business news for a weekly release unless it is a crisis message.

Leveraging RSS (Really Simple Syndication) options like Feed Reader or RSS Owl allows relevant information to be served to employees on a subscription model.

While sharing information, the communicator needs to ensure it is written to suit ‘skimmers’ and ‘scanners’, types of readers we find among ourselves. The former looking for key words within the documents to make sense of the information and the latter needing proof of the information’s authenticity to truly believe.

Allowing users to tag, rate, submit, forward, share and create mash-ups of information only increases the distribution and reach of news. Enroll citizen journalists and communication stalwarts from within the organization to enhance perspectives and viewpoints.

Helping managers distill information that is relevant for their teams is another good strategy to adopt.

The role of the internal communicator is more of a facilitator and a strategist than a creator and publisher of information. Companies which recognize this difference will be able to win the minds in the war on information overload.

Career potential and Web 2.0

At a New Media and Career workshop for students conducted today, I posed the following questions:

Is your resume New Media ready?

Do you know what makes a curriculum vitae tick in the social media space?

Are you sending the right messages for recruiters trawling the web?

Is your career Web 2.0 proof?

Recent shifts in the Web 2.0 world like content co-creation, transparency and individualized information impacts the way job searches and careers are defined. Trends indicate the need to adopt and leverage new media or social media channels for improving accessibility, creating a brand image and enhancing the potential of getting a job. Blogs, podcasting, wikis and social networking are no more mere buzz words but effective tools to get a head start in a complex web world. Recruiters are constantly monitoring the web for potential candidates and an impressive web profile can improve the chances of landing a job.

For a management student, it opens up numerous opportunities to build awareness, cultivate communities, contribute to relevant discussions and improve chances of a long term career growth.

The students were honest about their understanding of new media and realized the implications of leveraging it to its fullest.

By increasing awareness, focusing on career objectives and working towards a new media career strategy.

A CV can be enhanced to make it more web savvy using tools like You Tube, social networking sites, references and links to articles among others.

Today, choosing the right social networking site to be on is critical for image building. My take is to ‘get off Orkut if you want to be taken seriously!’.

On the web, collaboration is a sure way to improve your chances of better opportunities. Be useful and relevant to others; maintain decorum while communicating online, help others get successful and it adds up in the long run.

Be credible online. Do not post information which is ambiguous or not verified.  Know yourself and be yourself.

Test your strategy with your peers and stakeholders before you go public. Get feedback on how it matches with your objectives.

Finally, market your profile through social networking sites which align to your image, alumni networks and collaboration tools among others. Do not miss an opportunity to talk about it offline either!

Remember, it takes time to shape a new media strategy; be willing to experiment and be patient.

For an evaluation of your resume and ideas for creating a successful career new media strategy, mail me at