Internal Communicators as Change Managers – Reviving Air India

I was reading with interest an interview with Praful Patel, India’s Civil Aviation Minister and the state of the recent Air India changes (Businessworld, July 27, 2009) and impact on morale of employees.

What stuck to my mind was his statement that ‘change in Air India must come from within. Nothing can change unless people from within change’.

He was pointing to the growing resentment to organizational changes, increased competition and pressure on the airline to be profitable. There seemed to be resistance to adapt to the environment, understand implications of archaic performance management processes and lack of accountability. The recent merger of the two airlines – Indian Airlines and Air India wasn’t as successful as expected.



Other challenges which the case throws up are rumor mills working overtime, unions calling the shots and lack of decision making by leaders and board members.

While the government is a stakeholder, there is only so much intervention from an external party can do to change the circumstances.

I believe there are numerous opportunities that the airline can explore to improve productivity, motivate their employees and grow the brand once more.


The internal communicator has a large role to play in shifting perceptions and mindsets. By keeping all channels of communication open and drawing employees and the leadership in conversations, the communicator can command respect and build change inside out.


The foremost priority for the leaders is to instill a sense of belonging to the current crisis and rally them to overcome it together. From the minister’s articulation, there are many forces tugging at different directions – something which the airline can do without.


There also needs to be a single leader empowered to communicate and take decisive actions – something which Praful describes as a ‘major surgery’. The decisions may not be the most popular but it is important to get a buy-in from employees as to the turnaround plan and how each one can play a role.


That means, sharing the new short term goal, the overall vision and a detailed action plan to get there. This in essence will be the change management format for employees to track and measure their leaders on.


The communicator can role in key change agents from all strata of the organization to be ‘models’ of change and lionize their effort.


Managing rumors is the next step which the communicator can take. Identifying key employees who are respected and believable and tapping this informal channel to route some of the key messages on change.


Keeping relevant stakeholders like unions and the government informed on decisions well ahead of them being known externally is a best practice to quell resentment and resistance.


In the Jet Airways episode, the airline took a hasty decision of removing 2000 of their staff overnight without even informing their stakeholders. It resulted in a severe backlash not just from employees but also from the government and regulatory bodies who forced the airline to take back the sacked people.  An example showcasing the importance of managing stakeholders in a change management plan.


That said, Air India’s case is tougher to crack considering the systemic failure over time. Any change management initiative and communication will need to draw on the collective wisdom of communicators and leaders who have not just acumen but the tenacity to stick it through the rough ride.

Take the 4th Annual Global Intranet Strategies Survey and Get Insights You Can Use

In my career, I have had the opportunity to lead and be a part of four company-wide portals and intranets. I am convinced of the power of this collaborative  internal communication tool to improve productivity, enhance engagement and connect stakeholders. With the advent of social media tools and technologies, integrating newer ideas for the benefit of employees has become even more crucial.

 If you are a senior executive, intranet manager, communications or a human resources professional you can gain critical insights by taking the 4th Annual Global Intranet Strategies Survey.




This globally acclaimed survey opened at the end of June and will stay open until August 31. Already over 100 intranet managers worldwide have responded.

 All participants receive a complimentary copy (pdf) of the “Global Intranet Trends for 2010” report that will be published in the second part of October.

 Leverage key findings and ideas to implement programs within your workplace. Improve your standing among your stakeholders with insights you can use.

The key themes this year are:

The workplace: Are intranets catching up with what people need to do their jobs?
–  Collaboration: How does the online workplace support virtual teams and communities of practice?
–  Social media: To what extent is social media being used internally and for what purposes?
–  Search: Is enterprise search still a perennial problem? What strategies and resources are being put into place to optimize it?
–  Ownership, governance and strategy: Who owns the intranet and what operating models and strategies are in place to drive business value?

Measuring value: What indicators are being used to measure the value the intranet brings to an organization: adoption, usage, satisfaction, workforce coverage, reduction of risk, business value?

 Read more about the 2009 Global lntranet Survey  to know how you can participate.

 You can contact Jane McConnell ( directly for more information.

How Internal Communicators Can Lead Your Organization’s Social Networking Beginning

Planning to get your organization on the social media map? There are factors which I learnt along the way that is needed to get completely immersed. Read more about the do’s and don’ts of kick-starting your firm’s social media communication. Understand also how you can leverage internal communication context and content.

The power of social networking sites can’t be ignored and communicators may be worried if your stakeholders are being actively engaged on them. If your organization believes that social media is meant only for the Marketing or Public Relations department to handle, they may be missing a great opportunity to maximize the power of your employees and internal communication.

stairway to heaven

stairway to heaven

I believe the boundary between the external world and the internal environment is blurring rapidly. Internal communicators who spot this opportunity can maximize the value social media offers. Extending an organization’s reach is today an avenue for collaboration between internal communication and external media teams.

If you are for instance starting out on a social media campaign, here are some ideas to translate the great work you do internally to feature as your organization’s effort to hire, engage and collaborate with their stakeholders.

a)       Study the scope and environment: You may not be the first to get on any of the well known social networking sites such as Facebook, Linkedin or MySpace. That does not take away anything from getting what you want to achieve by starting out now.  Understand what others in your field have done in terms of content, engagement, methodology and monitoring feedback.

b)      Define how your organization can engage: Do you expect the page to be an extension of your website? Is it a channel to provide support for your products or services? Are you hoping to hire the right candidate? Should you be showcasing your culture? Do you believe your customers will share their practices and pain points on your page? Document the precise objectives and measurement criteria. Get a legal point of view – it never hurts to know what can get you in trouble and out of it!

c)       Get an enthusiastic team in place: This is a cross pollination project – not an individual initiative. Have employees from different departments to play leading roles in the administration, content generation and maintenance.  Some of the best ideas can come from those fresh out of college – since they use this medium the most!

d)      Create a site-map before you tackle the content: Are you clear about how the site will look? Are you sharing a lot more than what you bargain for? By getting a buy-in on the structure and outline, you hold the key to the best outcome from your content.

e)       Articulate the rules of engagement: So you expect your prospects to visit your site? Will you allow them to use it for their personal marketing objectives or do you want them to focus on what you have defined? Do you have a set of ‘do’s and don’ts’ called out?

f)        Content matters: Every organization has a lot to share ranging from their culture, values, ethics, policies, their work, client wins, industry awards, employee testimonials, office imagery and fun events. Choose how you want your organization to be perceived. Content once published can always be replicated in no time across the web world.

g)      Pilot a site: Having got your site live, you can begin by getting your employees to test drive it first, get feedback, have them as fans and improvise.

h)       Get leadership to promote it: Nothing works more than the commitment of your senior leaders. Request a senior leader to officially announce the page open, seek participation and drive traffic.

So now that you have your company’s social networking page live, how can you keep it current?

Invest time to brainstorm ideas such as leveraging ‘internal writers’ to contribute, getting employee profiles, running a contest, having your recent employee fest showcased or an upcoming event highlighted. Also give the site mind space on your intranet.

Other thoughts to keep in mind while keep your organization’s social networking page buzzing.

a)       Be open: You may have feedback which is scathing and embarrassing. Step back and understand the context of the feedback and take action if merited.  

b)      Start small: Begin with the basics and evolve as the page take shape. Remember social media is about collaboration and your employees and other stakeholders can help make it robust.

c)       Monitor progress: Understand that having a page on MySpace or Facebook is not the end but a start of the social media journey. Keep a finger on the pulse and monitor posts, comments and inputs coming on the page.

Go ahead, let the power of ‘six degrees of separation’ maximize the potential of your organization’s social media plunge.

Can You Determine The Total Value of Your Internal Communications Effort?

Infosys has estimated its total value of human resources, which includes both software professionals and support at INR 1,02,133 crore for the fiscal ended March 2009. That works out to INR 97 lakhs per employee!

According to the report, the value of human resources is evaluated and based on the “present value of future earnings of employees” and few other factors.

Interesting way to build in a tangible number to the people brand.



While may laud it as a HR strategy to improve morale and others think of it as a marketing coup to build equity, the argument is that the model does not consider important elements such as productivity, training costs, employee service and attrition rates. 

I have another element to add – the communication costs and value. 

If organizations are founded on the pillars of communication, can you arrive at an ROI for the communication that you aim at your employees?

I believe you can.

Even if you discount the sunk cost of internal communication channels, you need to factor in the hours spent per communication conceptualization, design, review, approval, publishing and feedback.  Add business impact of the communication, reach and maturity of the communication over time and you have something most organizations may have missed.

Let us take an example. If you were called to drive a change management communication that reaches out to your entire organization, your first step will be a plan which articulates the goals, the communication elements, estimate cost, measures and value it adds. Measures can be in the form of ‘message percolation’, ‘understanding’, ‘propensity to change’ and ‘people converted’.

Armed with a tangible method of deriving communication ROI, internal communicators will be more confident while addressing leadership on the merits of increasing spends or devoting more time for initiatives.

Re-branding of Satyam weighs in on ‘values’ and ‘internal expertise’

Quite interestingly, the re-branding of Satyam as Mahindra Satyam takes cues from ‘within’ – relying heavily on values and inherent strengths. This amplifies the role of internal communication and branding on how employees and external stakeholders perceive the company’s image.

Also important to note the emphasis on ‘internal’ attributes which the new entity defines as its core values – good corporate citizenship, professionalism, customer first, quality focus, and the dignity of the individual. Four out of the 5 values aim to draw energy from within.



The press draft outlined how Mahindra Satyam’s values tie in with Satyam’s fabled expertise. Even as it retains that part of Satyam’s identity which signifies commitment, purpose and proficiency of the organization and its people.

So while this is an excellent step to redefine what Mahindra Satyam embodies, translating these core values into tangible ideas for employees to understand is vital. With trust eroded due to the scam, it will require more than just leadership attention to get employees aligned to the new organization’s culture.

Some ways to help employees live the values are by articulating what each of the values mean in measurable actions, getting leaders demonstrate by their work and personal ethics, drive conversations on how employees understand the messages and finally by truly measuring how many of these messages are getting percolated in reality.