Participate in the 2012 State of the Nation: APAC and India Internal Communications Survey. Get A Free Summary Report!


Update | Taken the 2012 State of the Nation: APAC and India Internal Communications Survey yet? Survey extended till Oct 19.

The 2012 State of the Nation: APAC and India Internal Communications Survey is on!  The Survey aims to gauge the progress, maturity and impact of internal communications in the region.

It is the first ever study from India among practitioners and is meant to be completed by professionals who work or have worked for organizations either in the capacity of a leader or an individual contributor to the internal communications function.

Last year’s survey covered a host of topics including the role, function, social media, measurement, channels, challenges and the future of the function.

This year the survey invites practitioners from the APAC region as well to participate and share their perspectives on the subject.

The 2012 survey covers topics such as employee engagement, change management, elevating presence of the function, leadership communications, internal crisis communications, manager communication, conflict management and stakeholder management.

I received feedback that benchmarking compensation may not provide relevant insights considering the sensitivities involved with sharing such information. I dropped the topic from the list this year.

This survey will continue to probe the level of confidence among internal communicators, the investment made, channels used, the priorities, impact of social media and seek feedback on what must internal communicators do more to be more effective.

Take the survey now! It will take 10 minutes of your time. Survey closes October 14, 2012.

 Why should you take the survey?

  • Get the opportunity to shape the future of the function in India and the APAC region
  • Have your voice heard
  • Help guide how leaders and communicators will steer decisions and evolve interventions
  • Be the first to receive an executive summary of the results
  • Take tangible measures to make an impact in your role, company and industry
  • Be also among the first to get an invite for the survey findings discussion

Who is running this survey?

This is an independent survey conducted by Aniisu K. Verghese an internal communication expert, career coach and author with over twelve years of experience in the evolving employee communications, social media and advertising domains with leading IT, financial services and consulting organizations in India. He currently serves as the India Internal Communications Lead for an IT services firm.

In his earlier capacity he managed transformational internal communication assignments with Fidelity, Accenture and i-flex solutions. He helped launch and manage corporate intranets, edit and publish company employee newsletters, coached senior leadership on communication strategy, led internal branding campaigns as well as crafted effective corporate social responsibility communication that improved employee engagement.

He is a speaker at management forums and recentlyaddressed about 100 global communicators at the2011 World International Association of Business Communicators, San Diego, US.  He conducts India’s first ever internal communication workshop series –  Internal Communications 101 – Essentials For Success and Internal Communications 201 – Driving Change and Elevating Your Presence.

He has won honors at the 2002 and 2003 League of American Communication Professionals (LACP) Vision Awards and Society of Technical Communications Competitions, Australia Chapter in the employee publication category. Aniisu served as an elite panelist who evaluated and shortlisted Asia Pacific entries for the 2012 International Association of Business Communicator’s Gold Quill Awards.

He is the author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models (Sage Response, 2012).

What advice do you have for a newbie in internal communications?


Starting out in internal communications can be often overwhelming and unnerving. It is always great to begin on the right foot and what better way than to hear from leaders and those who have been there and done it!

I sought perspectives from a few and here are some:

“The Big Five for newbie internal communicators:

-Take your first three weeks to understand your company’s culture and growth strategy

-Connect with your leaders right away and understand their communication challenges

-Establish your presence in your organization’s official and unofficial (water cooler-type spaces) channels

– Identify your organization’s movers and shakers–get connected with them. Become their go-to person for communication

-Make a commitment to measure your efforts weekly. Review your efforts with your team lead monthly and at a high level, quarterly”

– Joseph Fernandez, Communications Leader – US Technology

“From  my experience, the most critical element in internal communication is management buy-in. At the end of the day, no program is successful unless the management provides overall direction and participates in the program. Therefore, anyone intending to begin a career in internal communication needs to check the seriousness and bandwidth of the management to support such an endeavor. Mere lip-service or budget is not sufficient.”

–       Peter Yorke, CEO – Yorke Communications

And here is mine:

Remember to join an organization because you want to do something extraordinary, be a well-rounded internal communications professional and make meaningful progress.

For that you need to have done your research on the organization and be sure that your values and that of the organization.

Know that you will need to start at levels aligned to your years of experience when you begin. However, that shouldn’t stop you from being a leader. To be a leader you don’t need to be having a large team under you or bring in many years of experience.

Finally, how you conduct yourself during and after interviews sends out messages that will make or mar your career. Word travels and if you aren’t professional it will diminish your credibility over time.

For example, accepting offers and not joining, the inability to clarify why you are most suited to the position and asking for more compensation without looking at the ‘big picture can cause recruiters and leaders to have a poor impression of you.

I am interested to hear about what you think. Share them here.

 

It’s all About the Message..and the Simple Stuff


What we say and how we act combine to create messages that are retained by audiences who receive them. Messages, both direct and indirect, when delivered consistently can build culture, improve connection, raise awareness and drive engagement. When our world continues to evolve and get more complex it is often the simple stuff that matters.

How so?

On a flight last evening I noticed the urgency with which flight stewards prepared the plane for take-off and all through the message they were sharing subtly and directly was – ‘we value your time and our emphasis is on keeping our commitment to time’.

Their behavior reflected it – they were brisk at their work, they combined process steps to reduce time for take-off and they retained items on the menu that were ‘hot’ favorites among passengers.

Their communication reflected it too – (although scripted) the words called out the need to ‘save’ time for other passengers by keeping their seats clean and that staying on the seat even after the plane landed meant that everyone  got off sooner.

Even their newsletter succinctly shared what the airline stood for – everything in the interest of ‘time’. The newsletter had a few pages, had attention grabbing headlines and online links as references. No long winding editorial, no raving about scenic places to visit and no glorifying message from the CEO.

Their example, in a smaller scale reflected what is possible within organizations.

How does this translate into messaging at the workplace without creating an elaborate campaign?

  • Identify your key messages and create an inventory
  • Get leaders to buy-in and commit to using the same messages consistently
  • Look out for opportunities to share messages
  • ‘Listen’ to how messages are getting perceived/assimilated
  • Loop in improvements based on what you hear

What are the opportunities available within organizations?

I recently read that a newly appointed leader of a mining conglomerate went down the deepest mine to demonstrate that safety is important and that the mines the organizations operated in were safe.

In India, an airline CEO drove down to meet with the Prime Minister for a bailout meeting while his peers were chauffeur-driven in expensive fuel guzzling cars. Who do you think got taken more seriously?

When employees of an IT major were injured in a transport accident they got calls from the HR team apologizing for the mishap and also checking on their health. The simple gesture created goodwill that couldn’t have been generated from an expensive campaign about employee engagement.

The opportunities are innumerable. However, to be believed and accepted messages need to be communicated transparently.

Engagement Begins With Each of Us


There were a couple of interesting comments to my last post – ‘let us do a campaign to energize our staff’.  Anindita points to keeping the audience front and center of the campaign while Collin believes that a campaign can’t solve this issue although tweaking the approach might work. Thank you for taking time to share your perspectives! Always enriches the discussion immensely.

Back to this specific case.

Shweta can do a lot more to get Vinay to think deeply about this subject.

Engagement means different things for different people. To begin, if the basics aren’t in place no matter how much hoopla you do with communication, your staff will call your bluff.  Ensure your organization’s infrastructure is in place, the key policies and benefits match, if not exceed expectations that what others offer. Make your employees feel secure at the workplace.

Engaging employees isn’t about running campaigns. Nor is it a ‘communication’ issue that needs to be addressed. Employees need to be ‘listened’ to first.

Shweta can gather information and identify trends that may have led to a drop in ‘engagement’. She can conduct focus groups and bring insights to the table on levers that can be impacted.  You can also look up insights about building pride among staff that I blogged on- ‘what does pride mean to you at the workplace?’.

She can also research what engagement means and the elements that go into building a great workplace.  Employees will find time to read and respond to communication if it is compelling and they are involved in the process. It seems that Tone Ltd hasn’t made the effort.

Vinay’s approach needs to also be reviewed. His role as business leader is to inspire and engage and he needs to lead by example. He obviously can’t engage everyone on his own and has to enlist his management team to do likewise.

Shweta can also evaluate if the employees are from different generations and probe further if they need information served to them in newer formats. Or if there are roadblocks that prevent staff from accessing information while in office or outside.

Based on all this data gathering Shweta needs to recommend an approach which will work for the organization and a campaign needn’t be one of them.

Here are some ideas that Shweta can use:

  • If there is already good work taking place across the organization and she can have leaders reinforce those messages.
  • She can prepare a strategic messages framework and have all leaders buy-in.
  • In her plan she can propose that all leaders invest time and effort to educate and raise awareness about the cool work and client feedback they get.
  • There can also be excellent press coverage which can be highlighted among staff.
  • She can keep an eye out for best practices in teams which improve engagement and have leaders reframe messages in their communication

Engagement isn’t something you can switch off and on. Leaders need to walk the talk and demonstrate true intent. Employees watch behavior and build their perception based on what they observe. It needs to begin with each leader and the internal communicator can take a lead by demonstrating that ‘campaigning’ isn’t the only solution.

What else can Shweta do? Share your thoughts.

 

“Let us do a campaign to energize our staff!”


As internal communicators we often have stakeholders running after the next, big, bright ‘shiny’ object and that can be amusing and challenging to deal with.  They can’t be blamed since their line of sight is limited and ‘quick wins’ are ways to move their agenda forward. However, we have a role to play in asking the right questions, sharing perspectives and surfacing issues that can derail plans.

Vinay, the business leader of Tone Ltd has 4000 employees across 5 offices in India and during a recent tour he got a sense that his staff wasn’t engaged. He couldn’t put a finger on what was the issue but needed to do something quickly. He called Shweta his internal communicator for a meeting.

Vinay: “Shweta, we need to run a campaign. Our employees aren’t excited enough about the workplace”.

Shweta: “Vinay, can you tell me more about what you mean by campaign?”

Vinay: “The usual. Create some posters, put up some content about the great work our employees are doing, cut some videos and place on the intranet. I can send out a mailer to our employees”

Shweta: “Is there a reason why you think we need this campaign?”

Vinay: “I recently visited the offices and in my interactions and Town Halls it was evident that employees aren’t taking pride in their work. They aren’t sure of what business we operate in and the clients we service”

Shweta: “Did you ask them as to why they didn’t take note of these basics?”

Vinay: “I did and most nodded their heads and agreed that they needed to look up the intranet or read the mailers that your team churns out about the milestones we achieved, the new wins, the global recognition that our organization gets. They just don’t have the time. We need to get their eyeballs.”

Shweta: “You mean they don’t have time to read the communication that is shared and yet they want to feel connected to the organization? What are the messages you want to convey and how will we know that this ‘campaign’ is successful?”

Vinay: “I want them to get ‘goosebumps’ when they read the e-mails and have tears in their eyes! I made the last one up but you get the drift, right? The message is – you are in the right place at the right time. Make the most of what our company offers”.

Shweta is perplexed. Was Vinay serious?

What do you think? Can a campaign save Vinay or change how employees felt about the organization?

What can enable employees to take pride and feel energized?

Share your views here.

Delight Your Clients. Enhance Their Effectiveness


If internal communicators were to participate in a companywide popularity contest chances are they may end up unsuccessful.  Amy realizes that when Julie wanted her article included in the internal communications newsletter. Read my earlier post on ‘Are Internal Communicators in the Business of Keeping Stakeholders Happy?’.

Not because we don’t try hard enough. It isn’t really what internal communicators were meant to do – ‘please’ stakeholders. From our vantage point we are in a position to objectively assess what our clients need to be successful, how an organization needs to craft its communication and what will make audiences sit up and take notice.

That doesn’t always go well with stakeholders who very often believe they ‘know internal communications’.  When internal communicators aren’t able to establish their credentials and build credibility about what they do and can achieve as an entity the gap is often filled by stakeholders who know a thing or two about ‘creating taglines’ or ‘writing articles’ or ‘designing ads’ or ‘suggesting the right vehicle’ to share information.

If you clearly articulate your agenda, how you value add and demonstrate impact the chances of clients listening to you is greater.  You can ‘delight’ your clients by going beyond the brief, thinking on their behalf, sharing best practices and connecting the dots. You can delight your clients by pre-empting potential gaps in the campaign, partnering with the team on championing standards and removing roadblocks in the process.

However, delighting your stakeholders isn’t about ‘doing what they expect you to do’ but clarifying why one approach works best in their interest. Make clients ‘happy’ not by ‘pleasing’ them but by elevating their thinking about the function.

Lastly, making clients ‘happy’ by avoiding confrontations or not clearly defining roles and responsibilities can result in angst as your internal communications programming matures. Internal communicators aren’t meant to be ‘taking orders’ from clients but are expected to listen, evaluate and recommend suitable solutions that makes stakeholders effective in their effort.

What do you think?

An Internal Communications Brief? Aren’t We Getting Bureaucratic?


How often do you come across a client who acknowledges the ‘importance’ and ‘relevance’ of internal communications but just doesn’t want to follow the process?

Nabil, the internal communicator with Quiotic Retail was at a loss to get his client to explain what he wanted to achieve. He had recently created a briefing template that captured the key elements of any request that came in from internal teams. When Nabil joined his organizations it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Every team had their own communication going to audiences sometimes overlapping on messages. The leadership team didn’t have a method to align business units since their heads called the shots. Nabil audited the communication standards, developed templates, introduced best practices and helped leaders see how internal communications can raise the game for the organization.  Over time he established a protocol and aligned all business units on corporate standards. However…there were a few stubborn clients!

Here is how his conversation with John, his client shaped up.

Nabil: Hello John!  I wanted to discuss your internal communications need better.

John: Sure. Happy to talk. Here is what I want. We need to create some posters, slides and videos to create awareness about our company’s culture.

Nabil: John, can you share more about your objectives and plan for what you want to achieve?

John: Look Nabil. It is a simple task. We have all the content from earlier communication and there is some material on our intranet. All we need to put it together.

Nabil: I think we are jumping the gun. What you are describing are internal communication vehicles to get your message across. What we need to first agree on are the objectives. What are the messages you want to share with your audiences? How will you know that you are successful? I had sent over a set of questions in a briefing document and you didn’t complete it.  Did you have any clarifications on those questions?

John: I am telling you all that and you are not listening. Why don’t you capture notes as we speak?

Nabil: John, this is our standard process to capture requirements and to ensure ‘we’ are on the same page with what we want to achieve. This briefing document helps you to distill your thoughts and is a protocol we have established to stay consistent with our communication.

John: Look Nabil. I am not the internal communications champion. You are. Why don’t you fill it?

Nabil: it doesn’t work that way. As our client (and this goes for all the IT projects we engage on) you have a requirement and you need to articulate what you want done in a formal process and this brief helps you do that quickly and easily. I am not sure why you aren’t open to filling the document.

John: An internal communications brief? Aren’t we getting bureaucratic?

Nabil is visibly upset and can’t seem to make progress.

How can you help Nabil out on this issue? What can he do to get John to see reason for capturing requirements?

Share your thoughts here.