Internal Communication Trend Spotting For 2010


In 2009, as the world coped with one of its worst economic downturns it also created opportunities for internal communicators to revisit their practice and come out stronger. Internal communicators were called to craft some of their toughest messages in organizations which reduced workforces and froze pay. They also had the ‘not-so-envious’ task of communicating with those who stayed behind but were skeptical of the organization’s intentions.

That said, from my personal experience in this field in India I believe the following themes emerged and will continue into the following year.

does it fit?

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.

Best Employer Submission Insight and Your Employees’ Commitment


I recently partnered with an internal team to submit content for a ‘best places’ entry. This blog post is to share ideas on distilling your organization’s interesting internal ideas and to engage employees along the way.

Most of us may be familiar with the following tag lines which organizations aim to place in their communication.

‘Employer of Choice’. ‘Best Place to Work In’. ‘Talent Attractor’. ‘Ranked among Best Employers’.

In India, company transport vehicles carry stickers and large banners across the sides to proudly display their latest wins at some of the leading employer awards.

Growl

Entering a ‘best places to work’ list has its known advantages including usage in different channels such as recruitment, company presentations, websites, annual reports and sales pitches. In a competitive world as companies clamor to get on the ‘A’ list of best employers and showcase themselves as excellent places to be in, it is important to step back and understand how to leverage your best content and practices. I recently came across Glassdoor and their employee’s choice awards, where employees decide the best and worst places to work. Interesting concept.

From what I understand most of these entries have a three pronged approach – a first level audit, a detailed report on initiatives and an employee survey. The report and survey are the most important with the latter directly handled by the administering agency to avoid bias.

Most questionnaires that shape the report ask for insights on the employee life cycle, the company’s people practices, culture, work environment and milestones. Each question requires strong supporting collateral which improves the chances of listing.

I have listed some of my personal insights after working on a similar exercise.

a)       Look for differentiators: Dig deep into your company’s values and history for unique features and qualities. Be is the way your company treats new hires to the special benefits employees get for high performance. Each organization is steeped in its own values and it makes sense to call them out across the document.

b)       Be consistent: revisit facts and figures after reviewing your press released information. While the numbers may have changed internally due to varied company factors, it is important to be consistent with publically available data. Also key messages that reflect in the company’s literature will be the best fit for this document.

c)       Include your internal communicator in the core team: Your internal communicator will be privy to most information required for completing the questionnaire – usually shared via the company’s portal or the newsletter. It helps to have a member of the internal communicator in the core team driving submission. Our team included the policies, HR and marketing leads as well.

d)       Tap tacit knowledge: To enhance the quality of your answers seek information and collateral from long tenured employees. It will be a boon to include them in the review process as well.

e)       Promote the submission internally: I attended a leadership meeting and surprisingly one of the grouses was that we never featured in any of the ‘best practices’ entries! Share an update with the team early; get their buy-in and commitment to contribute content and resources to be successful. Usually the recruitment team is the key stakeholder considering how much a ranking means to their efforts in getting the best hires. My recommendation is to also run an internal promotion which invites employees to share their best moments and what they think are the company’s unique differentiators. I am aware of an organization that created a video contest involving its employees. You may want to create an e-card with the company’s people practices which can be leveraged an external marketing avenue.

f)         Presentation matters: While content is one key component, how you present improves your case. Be it a web page or an interactive CD the approach, consistency and design plays an important role in the submission’s success.

Surprisingly, even though I was close to the content and submission, my knowledge of all the company’s initiatives was limited only to a few sections.  I am sure sharing these insights with your employees broadly can have a profound positive impact. My recommendation is to leverage this content as a campaign across the year highlighting key company practices and milestones to build awareness and commitment. It can also be converted into a docket as a read-through on your intranet and during your induction process.