That said, from my personal experience in this field in India I believe the following themes emerged and will continue into the following year.
1. Internal communication as everyone’s responsibility: Leaders, human resources professionals and team leads often faced with communicating ‘tough’ news to their teams have begun to understand the importance of ownership and consistency. Unstructured interactions such as face to face conversations were popular since it allowed ‘human touch’ and created an open communication climate. The internal communicator played a strategic advisory role with messaging, content, planning, timing, frequency and structure.
2. The need for speed: With company information reaching the external world much before leaders could share internally, it became imperative for internal communicators to champion pace of communication. Cases such as the Satyam scandal and layoffs in the IT industry needed close hand-holding and quick decision making to avoid grapevine from creating havoc.
3. Understanding cultural nuances becomes more prominent: With multinationals expanding their centers in India and other Asian countries through outsourcing contracts, a skew among employees distribution will create an imbalance in the engagement index that any organization measures. Therefore internal communicators are expected to understand cultural sensitivities better to influence the overall engagement impact.
4. Internal communicators as ‘internal brand’ consultants: The scale and scope of what internal communicators can influence is constantly increasing. I am aware of cases where project teams invite internal communicators to come in as a consultant and recommend suitable communication interventions to build leadership credibility, team cohesiveness, collaboration and engagement. I foresee this expectation to increase over the years.
5. Champion of cyber and social media guidelines: In 2009, social media took center stage and a large percentage of employees are not only on popular social media and networking sites but use official time to do so. In the best interest of their organization, it is now even more necessary for internal communicators to understand cyber laws, internet guidelines and social media rules. For example, companies who have a presence on say, Facebook – need to know how to respond to concerns raised by discerning stakeholders who visit their site. Similarly, employees who blog need to be educated on the do’s and don’ts of building an online presence.
6. Focus on consistent and structured communication: With information overload spiking and attention spans decreasing the challenge will be to ensure employees participate in information creation, receive and assimilate information easily and share messages peer-to-peer. This can only be when internal communication follows a prescribed structure with enhanced channels, clear line of sight and improved content.
7. Usability as an important skill: Internal communicators will be expected to learn and play a critical function of not just intranet management but also to evaluate content from a usability perspective and provide recommendations.
8. Internal ‘image’ building for leadership: With increased scrutiny of leadership behavior both internally and outside the organization, it will become imperative for leaders to revisit how their images impact the ‘internal brand’. Internal communicators can see themselves building ‘internal’ images for leaders to ensure credibility and trust remain balanced. With the recent fall of Tiger Woods from grace, the aspect of ‘moral’ behavior will gain attention.
9. Partnering with marketing and branding: There will be increased alignment with marketing, branding and public relations, if companies haven’t already. Those with the internal communication department within the human resources function will need to delink their association and partner more with the marketing and public relation departments to have their ears to the ground.
10. Measuring efficacy of communication: Measurement of communication witnessed renewed focus with the slowdown as organizations took steps to build rigor into processes. I believe measurement in internal communication will range from audits to engagement matrixes, from balanced score cards to leadership credibility indexes. There will be a concerted effort to gauge even how grapevine impacts organizational communication. The function is also gaining a lot more interest from academic circles and the student community.
From my interactions with senior academicians and deans of institutes (I recently partnered with an institute to revise their communication course syllabus and make it more relevant to the roles played by communicators) there are expectations to broaden the scope of career opportunities in internal communications. Also to conduct more current research on this topic.
Interested in your thoughts…do share them here.