Stay Relevant, Current and on Course to be Respected as an Internal Communicator

Here is my follow-up to the post –Why are Internal Communicators Always on the Ball?

 Prakash is probably right – there is a lot of difference between what other teams do in comparison to his team.  That should make him proud instead of feeling demoralized. However, that is easier said than done.

To put things in perspective, Raju needs to ask him the following questions:

  • Are you finding the work exciting?
  • Do you feel you are leveraging your talent to the fullest?
  • Are you a better professional than you were before you joined this team?
  • Have you learnt and are you learning something new every day?
  • Do you see a future for the function and yourself?

If Prakash gets the answers to these questions he shouldn’t be worried. In fact, those having a good time in other teams need to be concerned since they may be the first to be let go when an organization considers letting go of staff – God forbid.

Prakash has to be also coached that internal communicators are a rare breed and it helps for the function to always be on point – while on a campaign and when off it. So what gives Prakash credibility, access and respect with his stakeholders? They are – staying relevant, staying the course and staying current.

Having tea and taking leisurely strolls around the campus can get your some fresh air and a break from the usual but it won’t get people far in their careers or enrichment in their jobs.

Making Sense of the ‘Best’ Employer and Workplace Studies in India

Tried making sense of the numerous surveys and studies that rank best employers?

There are many surveys and studies to recognize the ‘best’ companies in the country and abroad that it can often overwhelm those who want to make a decision about participating in a study, joining an organization or just understand best practices that work.

I blogged earlier on relevant criteria to consider for entering a survey and what a few surveys highlighted –  the Outlook-AON Best Employers in India study in 2011 , the Great Place to Work study in 2010 and the 2009 Outlook Business – Hewitt Associates study.

Here are a few more interesting studies that might be relevant to your understanding of the Indian workforce’s mindset and how employers are ranked and rated.

I came across one that evaluates how students perceive organizations – called the India’s Ideal Employers 2012.  It is unique in a sense that it puts the ranking in the hands of students and helps gauge organizations from a recruitment marketing angle.

Then there is the Randstad’s Award for the Most ‘Attractive’ Employer. The 2012 study indicates that in India long term job security and financial health of an organization are among the top influencers for a prospective candidate to choose one employer over the other. The others factors are career progression opportunities, competitive salary & employee benefits and international career opportunities. The award aims to identify the perceived attractiveness of a company based on 10 factors by talking to employees and job seekers.  The 2012 survey conducted amongst 8,500 respondents from over 150 biggest employers in the country had most people under 40 since it targets potential employees. Good to know: the study distinguishes between ‘absolute attractiveness’ (covers all respondents) and ‘relative attractiveness’ (among those who know the company) to stay fair to small sized organizations and those with lower brand recall.

The Hay Group recently announced their India’s 50 Most Admired Companies list for the first time. The Tata Group’s companies Tata Steel, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Tata Motors featured in the top 10. The reputation of the firm was the pivot for arriving at the top list. Other factors were consistency, quality, talent management, corporate governance, social responsibility and delivering value to investors.

Another recently launched study called the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ 2012 lists the most ‘democratic’ firms across the globe based  on their commitment to ‘practicing freedom and democracy’. The organization claims to be a ‘global network of organizations committed to practicing freedom and democracy in the workplace’. You would expect more companies to be featured from India, a democracy. In 2011 however, among the fifty organizations that made it to the list only two India firms got placed – 3i Infotech and HCL Technologies.

The Business Today’s Best Companies to Work study in 2011 highlights culture of a place as most important for staff in defining the appeal of an employer – topping compensation and growth.  Work satisfaction and having a good supervisor were top of mind for employees and the growth opportunities, varied roles and empowerment were crucial to employee engagement.

You also have the Dataquest-CMR Best Employer Survey 2011 which lists companies based on an initial survey of 200 IT companies and then a shortlist of 38 participating finalists. Over 3,000 employees are polled in second phase of the survey on 70 HR-related topics.

This is where things get a bit intriguing – Google incidentally drops off their list while it ranks numero uno on the 2012 Great Places to Work Survey in India which believes that ‘a great place to work is where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the company of the people they work with’! You are left wondering about how the surveys stack up against each other.

Among the trends from the latter study are a higher positive perception about culture among senior management, attrition is lower among the top 50 – by one-third to two-third of the industry average and overall improvement in work-life balance, flexibility and workplace practices. Among best employers the perception to fair pay and fair share of profits improved.

Overall, while these studies share insights for decision makers in organizations to gauge where they ‘stand’ vis-à-vis peers they fail to give clear directions for employers to remodel the way they operate and arrive at a strategy to overcome staff’s perceptions.

Know of other similar studies in India? Share them here.

Why are Internal Communicators Always on the Ball?

Internal communicators are often a small tribe in organizations and are expected to juggle multiple responsibilities and relationships. These range from driving small initiatives to leading large companywide campaigns. The responsibilities can also include maintaining infrastructure or communicating periodically. The assignments can vary in their intensity and impact and most of the time internal communicators are always ‘on’ – either thinking up insights, mulling over lessons from the last campaigns or contemplating the next intervention. From their vantage point they are also privy to how the rest of the organization functions and sometimes it can lead to simple comparisons to dramatic asks. Here is a case of one internal communicator – Prakash – who notices that ‘others’ are having a good time while his team is always on the go.

Prakash completed his second year as an internal communicator with Graph Ltd., a well known manufacturing firm and as he reflected on his daily tasks he couldn’t help compare his job with his peers in other departments. They always seemed to have loads of time to spare, enjoy copious amounts of tea and coffee, take leisurely strolls around the campus and had very relaxed deadlines for their projects. He felt that staff in the IT organization had it really good since their projects involved developing a product and that took long and they could pace their lives. He wanted to clarify this with his manager and get a clear understanding of why some teams had a great time while the internal communications team slogged it out.

Prakash: “Raju, I had a topic my mind for a while and wanted to talk to you about it. Can we speak now?”

Raju: “Sure, let’s talk. What’s it Prakash?”

Prakash: “I am not sure if I am in the right job but our internal communications work seems never ending. Also, I notice other staff from the IT and other teams in the company always in the cafeteria catching up over beverages. It gives me a feeling that we are either overloaded or that other teams don’t have enough to do!”

Raju: “Hmm. That’s an interesting observation. Why do you think we are overloaded? How are you sure that the other teams don’t have enough to do?”

Prakash: “We either have some campaign running or maintain communication just to keep staff connected. There isn’t really a lag time for us. We are always on the ball. I am not saying less work is better but it makes me feel that things aren’t fair across the board. I can’t say for sure that other teams don’t have enough to do but in my casual conversations with other team members I gather that they have enough lead and lag time. So am wondering if we are really doing it right?”

Raju: “Well, the internal communications function is usually small as a percentage to other teams and the overall organization and that means that we aim to make a bigger impact with the resources available. So everyone does stretch and make things work. You are measured on what you do finally. Does that clarify?”

Prakash: “Well…hmmm….I am definitely interested in what we do…but…..anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts.”

  • How can you help Prakash make sense of what is happening around him?
  • What advice will you give him?
  • How can Raju, his supervisor handle his demoralized team member?

Keep the Faith – Build Your Skills and Learn From Every Experience

I loved Lisa’s response to my post on managers and culture and honestly couldn’t have summarized it like her. Very pragmatic and direct.

It is well documented that managers influence work climate and success and is it also known that staff leave organizations due to their managers. Nothing can save an organization that looks the other way when managers exhibit poor behavior. Extolling values and culture on one hand and then ignoring managers who kill the climate only builds a negative atmosphere and impacts all team members.

Climate is how staff perceives the way the organization is and that gets shaped by how managers act, talk and listen.

Anil needs to view this scenario as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. While it is easy to say that he needs to continue with his work despite the hostile environment Anil can flip this episode and reflect on how to deal with difficult bosses.  That doesn’t mean he has to take a leaf out of how Akash manages Neha but he can step back and explore other ways of gaining ground without eroding ethics.  

For example, he can take time to build skills and competencies that will hold him in good stead when he opts for a job change. He can volunteer to run training sessions for the learning and development team and network with staff – hoping to attempt an internal job transfer, if one exists. He can offer his knowledge to the industry and share best practices he has learnt on the job or publish papers or articles.

Anil can look for a mentor within the organization to get a third party perspective on his situation.  It is possible that Anil’s haven’t understood Neha’s style of working and can make an attempt to understand her expectations better.

Lastly, Anil must share his feedback with the organization via the ombudsman or the company hotline so that leaders are apprised of this situation. Many may however disagree with me – thinking that by taking such steps can hurt Anil’s chances when he looks out for another opportunity. I would think otherwise – if you are confident of your abilities then you needn’t worry about landing another job. The job will find you. But if you allow your confidence to be beaten by bullying in the organization then you will be stranded. What is important is how authentically he communicates who he is and what he believes in.

Lisa’s recommendation for a robust 360 degree feedback mechanism can ensure organizations weed out managers who can’t build trust and take their team along.

All said and done, life is too short to get worked up about managers who don’t see your value and help you integrate.  

As Sheryl Sandberg, COO – Facebook said at a recent Class Day keynote address, “as you lead in this world, you will not be able to reply on who you are or the degree you hold. You will have to reply on what you know. Your strength will not come from your place on some org chart; your strength will come from building trust ad earning respect. You can going to need talent, skill, imagination and vision, but more than anything else, you are going to need the ability to communicate authentically, to speak so that you inspire the people around you and to listen to that you continue to learn each day of your job.”

Practitioners Raise Their Game at Internal Communications 201 Workshop at Bangalore

The Internal Communications 201 Workshop held on July 7 at Bangalore had participants from leading organizations and emerging consultants engage in wide ranging discussions to raise their game and build a shared future for this growing function. Simply Communicate carries a complete report of this workshop on their site.

Practitioners from companies such as HCL, Philips, Subex and VMware debated the implications for change management and communication, ideas to strengthen the role of managers in driving engagement and strategies to elevate presence and educate leaders on internal communications.

Participants discuss cases at the workshop

Since the participants evinced a lot of interest and passion for measuring internal communications we spent time discussing methods of building a dashboard and demonstrate ROI. At the workshop I shared templates for change management and communications, a ‘presence building map’, a manager communication framework, an ‘internal communications maturity guide’ and a sensemaking approach for executive communications. The workshop kit also cotained articles on change management, manager communications and building presence.

I personally learnt immensely from my interactions with this dynamic and committed group who took time off on a weekend to participate in a dialogue on best practices and share better ways of making a difference in their careers.   It became evident that everyone faced similar challenges at their workplace in getting internal communications on their leaders’ radar and to drive change within their firms. However, the group also realized that to change the game it needed focus, resilience and the drive to be seen as experts at internal communications.

The humility to unlearn and the curiosity to learn newer ways of approaching this subject gives me hope that the future of internal communications is bright and is in the right hands. At the end of the session, the group committed to staying in touch and continuing the conversations and knowledge sharing.

This workshop, the 2nd in the series of internal communications engagements for practitioners in the industry is India’s first and only such forum for sharing knowledge, learning and practice.

In October 2011 the Internal Communications 101 workshop covered topics such as integrated internal communication planning, selecting channels, messaging, crisis communications, storytelling and measurement. The next workshop in the series will cover themes such as social media integration in internal communications, employee engagement and culture.

If you are interested to participate or have a point of view on the themes recommended please feel free to write back to me at I will be delighted to have you participate.

You can also download a free article – 9 Expectations of an Internal Communicator here!

Is Culture in Organizations Shaped By Managers?

We have often heard that the culture of an organization is shaped by how managers create an environment of trust and respect. Apart from the artifacts, espoused values and assumptions at the workplace the role of communication is often undervalued. I am inviting your to reflect on the following conversation (this is a real episode) and share your perspectives on what can be done to improve or rather save the culture of this organization.

Anil, the internal communicator with Insight Ltd., can’t believe what he is seeing or hearing. His team leader Neha is expecting the team to toe her line or get into her bad books. Her tantrums at the workplace have caught other peoples’ attention but they can’t muster courage to let her know how her behavior is impacting the organization. The reason: her affinity to certain leadership within the organization and clout she has garnered.

Every attempt by Anil to prove his worth by delivering quality work isn’t getting him any recognition or brownie points with Neha. His colleague Akash seems to have however got a good measure of what Neha expects. He has often been spotted carrying her bag to her desk and taking his dog to her house on weekends so that her child can play with it.

Anil decides to have a conversation with Akash and find out what is he is really seeing what he is seeing.

Anil: “Hey, not sure if I am getting this – I was hired to bring in fresh perspectives on how we communicate and engage staff but I am not sure people are seeing the value of my work. Am I doing something wrong?”

Akash: “Look. This is how things work – you know how Neha is. She is the leader in the team and her word counts. She has the right people backing her. I would say that she is on a fast track for growth and akin to a locomotive express. I would catch this moving train and be successful. Why rub her the wrong way?”

Anil: “Akash – is this the culture the organization wants to promote? Everyone knows her true mettle and her character. What baffles me is why no one seems to take cognizance?”

Akash: “Culture varies by company. This is how it is here. They may say many things about values and respect but what matters is what the manager does to you. if you are not in her good books you are toast.”

Anil: “That explains why Anita was asked by Lina to dress more like Neha. They want to ape her style! This is ridiculous. Are they even aware of how to effectively communicate internal communication messages? When do they get time to focus on work when they are playing these petty games?”

Akash: “Take a chill pill. I get my share of angry outbursts too from Neha but I learn to live with it. I need to keep my job.”

Anil knows this place isn’t what it spelt out to be and walks back to his desk thinking of his options. He can toe the line but erode his values. He can be the best at work he does and keep his head held high. What should he do?

Think also about:

–          Do cultures get shaped by how managers communicate with staff?

–          How can organizations ensure some bad apples don’t ruin the culture?

–          What can Anil do considering his situation?


Have you registered yet? 2 days 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