Own Your Internal Communications Growth and Future


It is interesting to note that while a few readers had opinions about this post they preferred writing back to my e-mail ID with their thoughts instead of sharing it on my blog.  When I probed, one reader felt he ‘wasn’t an expert’ and therefore didn’t want his thoughts viewed online.

 Culture playing a role here? Possible. I was asked recently about the impact of culture on internal communications and this is telling a story.

Back to my last post and what it means for Ramesh.

 Ramesh needs to first get his priorities right. He is at the beginning of his career and it is appropriate for him to ask his manager about his role and where the team and the organization is headed. It is obvious that Vidya isn’t helping him much with her oblique responses or her rebukes. Her understanding of her team’s responsibilities isn’t accurate and only puts the team in an awkward position. While it does need to align with the organization’s goals it can’t be the same. Vidya clearly doesn’t have a seat at the table with her management and she can get there only when she realizes it herself.

 That said, nothing stops Ramesh from figuring out what internal communications does and learn from best practices available in publications and journals around the globe. Also, he must take feedback constructively and believe in getting better. He should also change his frame of reference and benchmark agains the best in the field – rather than feel disappointed when Vidya puts him down.

 He needs to pick up what comes his way, sharpen his saw and make an impact. The only way he can improve his standing is by creating a niche for himself in the team and in the organization. That comes with focus, discipline and a lot of hard work. As one of the readers wrote in – ‘he can pick up ghost blogging and learn how the leader thinks’. Interesting way to establish his internal reputation.

Ramesh can join communities on Linkedin and other forums to gain perspectives from leaders in the industry. He can enroll for courses or workshops which throw light on best practices and models in internal communications. He needs to elevate not just his thinking but that of Vidya and his company leadership. His goal isn’t to be just another effective internal communicator. It is larger that that. He needs to be a change agent and influencer especially when people around don’t see value or appreciate the impact this crucial function can make.  Ramesh can enlist other stakeholders in the company and educate them about the value of internal communications. He can pick up small projects and demonstrate how it improves connection, builds engagement or drives change – whatever the challenge the stakeholder is facing. He can convert those quick wins into cases for larger change in the organization.  Ramesh can scout around and look for gaps in communications and processes and recommend solutions.

 The canvas of internal communications is enormous. Unless Ramesh owns his own growth and becomes an expert at what he does there is very little chance of him seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Internal communications is a journey and not a destination in itself. He needs to understand the skills and competencies needed for the role and then plan how he can build them into his repository.

 However, as one reader pointed out – Ramesh can only do so much with limited support from Vidya. Unless you have a manager who appreciates what you want to do, you can’t go far.

Vidya on the other hand has a lot to do with understanding her role, her team’s strengths and responsibilities. She can’t let the winds of change or fancy dictate how internal communications is run. Instead she must bring fresh perspectives and leadership to her work. She can begin by planning work better so that ad-hoc requests such as ghost blogging can be picked up those passionate about it. Ideally, she should turn down the request since ghost blogging never really works. If leaders can’t find time to communicate then she must set expectations that the gulf between the leader and staff will widen further. No leader would like it that way and it will need a lot of confidence on Vidya’s part to say it like it is.

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What is my Goal as an Internal Communicator?


Getting around as an internal communicator in organizations isn’t easy if the role is misunderstood, you haven’t spent time establishing your presence and making an impact. I invite you to reflect on Ramesh’s case as he faces challenges in his role as the internal communications manager of Growth Ltd, a pharmaceutical company that is ramping up plans to grow across the country and release new medicines in the market.

Ramesh, having completed his masters in communications abroad returned to India to explore opportunities and landed with a consultancy. He disliked the culture in the organization and left for Growth which advertised for a position in internal communications. With less than two years of experience he reported in to the head of corporate communications and his tasks included writing articles, churn out reports, conducting office events and updating the corporate intranet. Sometimes his manager would let his drafts pass by and sometimes would rebuke him for not understanding the audience.

Ramesh wasn’t sure if he was doing what internal communicators were expected to do but this is what his manager asked him to do. Here is an excerpt from a conversation which Ramesh had with his manager.

Ramesh: “Hi Vidya, I wanted to talk to you about my role and work. I feel with my experience and educational qualification I can do a lot more in internal communications but I am unsure of how I can add value. Can you tell me more?”

Vidya: “Look Ramesh – you have immense potential to grow in the role. You have the right attitude, you bring in fresh perspectives and you do as you are told. All these are excellent traits. You are doing just fine. Growth is on the right path to expand and we have a lot to do – even supporting the sales team and the CEO. The CEO recently told me that he wanted us to ghost write his blog.”

Ramesh: “What is the internal communications team tasked to do?”

Vidya: “That is a long discussion but in a nutshell we are supposed to be owners of all communications that goes to our employees. Sometimes we extend our reach to events and community work and marketing.”

Ramesh: “Where do I fit in? How do I know my final destination? How do I know when I reach there?”

Vidya: “Ramesh, you seem to be getting perturbed about trivial stuff. Our goal is to support the CEO and his team. They have their agenda and we communicate for them. Finally, they are the ones who evaluate us on how we fared. So in a way, their goal is our goal.”

Ramesh didn’t seem convinced. He felt Vidya was losing the plot.

Ramesh: “I guess then we will talk later. Got to complete that report Mani wanted me to give him.”

He left the room feeling disillusioned with his role and work. He wanted to get ahead of the curve with internal communications as he heard the function played a crucial part in driving alignment and commitment among employees. Right now he was stumped.

  • How can Ramesh elevate his presence and that of his function?
  • If you were in Ramesh’s place how would you guide him out of this situation?
  • What can Ramesh do differently to get better at what he is doing?
  • If you had the opportunity to coach Vidya what recommendations will you share to help Ramesh with his questions?

Have you registered yet? Less than 3 weeks to go. Register for upcoming  full-day, hands-on workshop Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence on July 7, 2012 at Bangalore and get crucial answers to make you an effective internal communicator and leader. Contact intraskope@yahoo.com

Get Buy-In Before Launching Your Change Agenda


Vinod is obviously disconnected with reality. While he does know what he wants to do he doesn’t know how to go about getting everyone aligned.  Kamal, his internal communicator also seems quite aloof.

I received a couple of good responses on Linkedin when I posted this dialogue on change management.

One reader mentioned a flaw in the approach – going top-down didn’t engage employees. Instead by asking for their ideas provided a potential of better alignment. Fair point.

Another pointed to the issue with the ‘vision’ itself and the role of communicators.  Change management and communications come with respect and she referred to a ‘culture’ angle.

That brings us back to what Kamal could do to improve Vinod’s chances of moving the needle.

Kamal’s role extends beyond just playing the role of a publisher of communication. He needs to be a change agent in the process. Vinod has a lot going on and as a leader he may not be completely clued in about how his staff think or perceive him. Kamal as the internal communicator has to bring his expertise of understanding employees, gauging sentiments and translating Vinod’s vision into simple messages that get employees inspired. Kamal can personally conduct focus groups to get employees’ viewpoints and attitudes first hand rather than depend on how Vinod hears it.

Kamal also needs to ascertain if there are cultural nuances and generational gaps obstructing the assimilation of messages from the leader. Vinod belongs to the ‘baby boomer’ generation and he expects his staff consisting of Gen X and Y to listen and follow. Won’t work!

Vinod first needs to appreciate that trust in leaders is on the decline and therefore he must invest in building a relationship rather than thrusting a vision down the chain.

What about his leadership team and managers? How inclined are they to accept the vision and do their part to make it succeed? He must gauge their interest levels and surface issues they have. If managers aren’t excited about the vision they wouldn’t be a position to even respond accurately in case their teams have questions.

Cascading a vision isn’t an overnight change management exercise. It takes time and Vinod has to be consistent with his words as well as actions. He can seek feedback on his strategy and invite employees to join task forces who are defining the face of the company. That way he will gain partnership and also make progress. He can enlist a few of them as the change ambassadors and to promote the message to all employees. Considering his other priorities he needs to empower and delegate more.

He must demonstrate his commitment by exhibiting behavior in line with the company’s values. His frustrations can reflect in his body language and Gen Y is quick to spot any differences.

Lastly, change management and communication means quick action. Once Vinod has established the goals he must show tangible proof of progress and improvements. Quick wins on the strategy are sure fire ways to rally staff. He needs to make his plans transparent and hold key stakeholders accountable and evaluate their performance periodically. Probably, begin a change blog and show how he is going about making a difference – live!

What do you think? Post your thoughts here.

 Have you registered yet? Only 3 weeks to go. Register for upcoming  full-day, hands-on workshop Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence on July 7, 2012 at Bangalore and get crucial answers to make you an effective internal communicator and leader. Contact intraskope@yahoo.com

Why Can’t My Staff See What I am Seeing?


Getting staff aligned on strategy and where the company is headed isn’t a cakewalk as leaders realize today.  Vinod, 55, a seasoned leader and CEO of Value Ltd discovered during the ‘All Hands’ he ran across his offices in the country.

Value Ltd, in the business of supplying gar boxes to leading automobile manufacturers in the world had a mix of youth and experienced staff. The company had about 60% young engineers with about 2-5 years of experience, about 20% contract staff and the rest were experience hands. They recently acquired a company of 5000 people to add their total employee strength to 20000 employees. Vinod had built a reputation as a profit driven and no-nonsense leader who took several organizations up a notch or two with his customer oriented vision. Somehow, he wasn’t able to crack the employee puzzle and he discussed his angst with Kamal his internal communications head.

Vinod: “Look, I don’t get it. I travel half the country to be with my employees just as Swapna our HR Head told me to and all I get in return are some blank stares. I hardly got to hear their questions or even what they expect of me”.

Kamal: “Did you check why they weren’t engaging?”

Vinod: “I asked many questions and all I got was silence. I either should focus on driving sales or on motivating my employees – doing both don’t seem to work. I can get more value in motivating my sales force and reach our target.”

Kamal: “What is that you had in mind?”

Vinod: “You know our plans. We aim to touch 40 million in 3 years from the current 10 million and everyone needs to pull together. I want to see this organization among the best employers in 3 years. I want to ensure we exceed the expectations of our shareholders and deliver more than the revenue guidance. I have plans for transformational change across the organization where all staff contributes to innovation and ideas. Our recent acquisition also helped us grow to a scale far bigger than we envisaged.”

Kamal: “How else have you tried to get the message across?”

Vinod: “I have sent numerous e-mails on the subject but I hardly get a response from staff on the strategy. What else have we done as part of internal communications?”

Kamal: “We did put up posters of you visiting the offices talking of the great opportunity staff have in meeting with you. We released those videos of you speaking about our strategy and it is also on our intranet. We organized these roadshows.”

Vinod: “Something isn’t working and I want to send a strong message to staff that if they don’t participate then we are not heading anywhere. Kamal – I want you to recommend as the internal communications lead what we can do more to align staff. This is all about change and I can’t see us moving forward”

Kamal could sense the angst in Vinod’s voice and decided to revisit the approach and come back later. He excused himself from the meeting and walked back to his desk.

  • If you were in Kamal’s shoes what would be your course of action?
  • How can Vinod get his staff thinking about the future of the organization?
  • What internal communication interventions will change the way staff view the strategy?
  • What recommendations can Kamal give Vinod on the approach he can take as a leader?

Share your thoughts here.

The upcoming  full-day, hands-on workshop Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence on July 7, 2012 at Bangalore will address this and many more crucial topics to make you an effective internal communicator and leader. Register now!

 

 

 

Register Now! Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence | July 7, 2012


Book Your Seat Today!

Presenting a full-day, hands-on workshop: Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence on July 7, 2012 at Bangalore. This is a follow-up to the Internal Communications 101 workshop held last year.

Interested in elevating your internal communications team’s presence? Struggling with managing change in your initiatives? Unable to get your messages aligned to your objectives? Keen to get your organization’s managers on your side? Interested in partnering effectively with your senior executive?

Attend this hands-on workshop to get ahead of these challenges and build a formidable reputation as an expert!

This is the first and only internal communications series in the country.

Context

Organizations grapple with change every day and internal communicators are sought after to help guide leaders, engage staff, improve connection and facilitate alignment. However without a firm understanding of the challenges organizations face internal communicators aren’t able to recommend effective solutions or do justice to their role. Likewise internal communicators often fail to gauge the concerns and expectations of managers and leaders and therefore are unable to help them solve business issues and be seen as a worthy partner. They also have a responsibility of building a reputation for their function and themselves.

With interactive exercises, case studies and best practices participants will learn to elevate their thinking, drive employee communication outcomes with a focus on changing knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.

Look up details from the Internal Communications 101 workshop conducted in October 2011.

Also,  get free advice on your internal communication plan at the workshop! Submit your entries to intraskope@yahoo.com by June 15, 2012.

Top Reasons To Attend

·        There is a need to establish your function’s reputation

·        You are interested to lead the change

·        You want to be successful as a professional

·        You are keen to enhance your leadership

·        You plan to build a career in this growing function

·        You have a lot at stake in dealing with stakeholders who don’t understand your function’s importance or role

·        You want to add value to your organization’s managers and leaders

·        You are keen to network and learn from peers

Workshop Objectives:

·        Understand current trends shaping the business landscape and function

·        Learn how to blend theory and practice to influence change

·        Discover what managers and leaders experience

·        Engage with best practices and ideas to elevate your team and your presence

·        Gain insights on the future of the function

·        Improve your communication thinking

Agenda Overview

·        9.00 – 9.30am       Registration

·        9.30 – 9:45am     Overview of the program, expectations, ‘meet & greet’

·        9.45 -10.15am     Context, Trends, Change Management

·        10.15 – 11.00am  Exercise on Change Management

·        11:00 -11.15am   Tea Break

·        11.15 – 11.45am  Manager Communication

·        11.45 -12.30pm   Exercise on Manager Communication

·        12.30 – 1.15pm    Lunch

·        1.15 – 1.45pm      Building Your Presence

·        1.45 – 2.30pm      Exercise on Building Your Presence

·        2.30 – 3.00pm      Executive Communication: Writing and Coaching

·         3.00 – 3.45pm     Exercise on Executive Communication: Writing and Coaching

·        3.45 – 4.00pm      Tea Break

·         4.00 – 4. 30pm     Q&A & Wrap-up, Feedback

Feedback From Participants of the Internal Communications 101 Workshop

“Thanks much Aniisu for the very insightful workshop. It was a great learning hearing experiences from everyone in the room.”

-Shiwani Varma Vyas, Aditya Birla Minacs

“I had a great time at the workshop and meeting people in the field of Internal Communications was really awesome! Will definitely want to attend the next edition of this workshop!”

–         Rajiv Mathew, Thought Works

“For a moment, your workshop seemed like the center of the Internal Communication world, with professionals converging from every corner of India to have conversations around Internal Communication and to discover for themselves–a rich lode of industry insight! The value, for me, in Internal Communication 101 workshop lay in its ability to meld research, insight and theory into one vibrant learning experience. The practical exercises simulated real-life work environments. And for every participant, there were valuable communication takeaways. I highly recommend your workshops to any seeker of knowledge in Internal Communication. And, I personally look ahead to the new learning spaces you will create for communicators worldwide.

–         Joseph Fernandez, UST Global

“What I liked most about this workshop is that it spelt loud and clear that Internal Communications has arrived. Now young communicators can look up to a very happening career with internal communications. It was the convergence of very talented people from the industry and I came away with a lot of value – an action packed day focused on communications. I look forward to more of these from Aniisu.”

-Anney Unnikrishnan, Allianz Cornhill Information Services (Trivandrum, Kerala)

“The workshop was an amazing experience and an eye-opener in terms of the diversity in internal communication practices across industries and organizations. I have learned as much from my peers at the workshop as from Aniisu’s insights and exercises. Too bad it got over so soon! Would have loved to have a discussion on social media as well. I would definitely love to attend the next one.”

-Ashwini Mishra, Tata Consultancy Services

Workshop Particulars:

Date:                              July 7, 2012 (Saturday)

Time:                            9:00am – 4.30pm with lunch and two coffee breaks

Venue:                         MGM Mark Whitefield, # 23, EPIP Zone, Whitefield,  560066

Seats:                           30 participants

Target Group:            Students, academicians, professionals with 0-7 years of experience. Also those who are pursuing a career in Internal Communication, Employee Relations, Public Affairs

Methodology:          Presentations, hand-outs, case studies and exercises

Contact: +91-9886623421 or e-mail intraskope@yahoo.com for confirmations.

Sponsorship opportunities available

Get your brand visible among thought leaders in communications at the workshop through your marketing collateral such as brochures, flyers, table tops or standees. Contact me on +91-9886623421 or e-mail intraskope@yahoo.com for details.

About the facilitator:

Aniisu K. Verghese has over twelve years of experience in the evolving internal communication arena, online media and corporate communications. He currently works as the India Internal Communication Lead for Sapient. Prior to his current role Aniisu worked for Saatchi & Saatchi, i-flex solutions and Accenture.

He has won several employee communication awards and writes regularly for management and industry publications. Aniisu is passionate about engaging fellow communication practitioners through workshops and presentations. He recently spoke at the 2011 World International Association of Business Communicators, San Diego, USon the Indian context in internal communications and social media. Aniisu is the Finance Vice President of the South India Chapter – International Association of Business Communicators.

He shares practical insights at his blog, India’s first internal communications forum – Intraskope which he began in 2006.

Other planned workshops:

  1. Internal Communications 301
  2. Recession-Proof Internal Communications
  3. Crafting Effective Messages

Communicating Strikes and Office Outages Successfully


As organizations came to grips with the most recent strike that paralyzed the country this week I noticed an innocuous post on a Linkedin community from a fellow communicator asking peers if they planned to shut shop, run operations or mitigate risks.

I found that post interesting since it came up on the evening before the planned strike. Did the organization have a plan to go by the poll results on Linkedin? If yes, they would have been off the mark considering I was the only one who responded!

Did they know who needed to be informed and how employees could continue work? What about transport for staff who need to get to office?

For the uninitiated, strikes (bandhs) in India can be quite difficult to predict and that puts organizations and internal communicators in a spot while communicating with stakeholders. There isn’t one source of information to gauge the final decision, there are multiple players who need to be consulted to understand the situation ‘on the ground’ and affiliations to political parties and state governments can determine if a bandh will impact business completely or partially.

Organizations with global operations can’t afford downtime and are often tempted to try getting their staff in on the previous day and make arrangements internally for stay and food during the bandh period. Often this can run into rough weather if the bandh callers witness staffers in the premises – as some organizations have discovered to their dismay.

To begin, having key leaders connect with local authorities and the police administration helps to take an informed decision. It makes sense to understand what other organizations in the vicinity are considering. However, you need to appreciate that an organization of 50,000 employees in a city will have a different strategy to one with about 500.

By ensuring all employees have updated their records on the company database you have a way to knowing if they are reachable and safe in case of untoward incidents.

List out your stakeholders apart from your employees. Do you need to inform your clients, business partners, travellers to the offices or leadership who have planned work? Consider all audiences who access or plan to access your premises. It can even be employees’ parents since they will be as concerned about their welfare as your organization is.

Create a set of messages that align to the company’s decision and what you expect your employees to do or say. For example, why is the bandh called, why the organization is closing the office, when does it open for operations and whom can staff contact if there is an emergency.

Have a set of standard templates that can be tweaked for recurring messages which go out – be it updates or alerts.

Ensure the business continuity initiative, if you have one, is activated and the key people involved in ongoing decisions to move premises or change operation timings.

Lastly, be sure to have a feedback session once the event is done and over so that all team members can share lessons and best practices not just in the organization but from people they know of in the industry.

Have thoughts on how else organizations and internal communicators can be effective? Please share them here.