Attend My IABC Webinar on April 30: Tapping The Power of Your Employees as Brands


The workforce and workplace dynamics have changed significantly. Most employees are inclined to self-identify and be their own personal brands. Communicators therefore need new skills for the future, a knack for tapping talent, and an interest to let go and step up their ownership.

Join this webinar on IABC’s website as I share insights and practical approaches to invest in branding your employees. Learn how such interventions can have a significantly higher value for the business than focusing on the employer brand.

5 Tips To Collectively Further Your Corporate Social Responsibility Impact


Corporate Social Responsibility is often viewed as a closed group exercise and most organizations prefer sticking to their agendas while championing initiatives to improve the communities around them. Little is done to partner effectively and combine forces to make a larger impact.

A recent study (probably the only such report at this point) by the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur, The Economic Times and Futurescape called ‘Is Corporate India Ready For CSR?’ reviewed the state of the 2% CSR funds available with corporates, the current level of engagement and the opportunities ahead to amplify the impact.  What comes out strongly are three aspects that corporates can take note of.

  • Collective commitment is the best way forward to make a larger impact. Instead of corporates spreading themselves thin, combining forces can lead to a more unified experience for the communities they serve. The aim is to arrive at common areas that matter most.
  • Organizations struggle for CSR talent and there are opportunities for corporate CSR leaders to share ideas, resources and people to cross-train, learn, gain from experiences and get better at what they do
  • Companies have limited understanding of what to do with their funds and resources at hand and often whittle away opportunities by waiting and watching. There is a need to be more targeted with the funds available. Among the top three areas from among the top 10 themes that the Companies Act recommends health, education and community development received the most attention.

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Opportunities exist for corporates to lead ‘grassroot’ initiatives which can unlock the value and impact of the resources and funds available.  According to me, the challenges in collaborating are the lack of consistent communication among stakeholders, reluctance to share plans and learning and the inertia to transcend organizational boundaries for the common good.  While the 2013 Companies Act specifies a list of activities that corporations can focus on, investing in areas such as sanitation, digital education, access to safe drinking water, health and safety and the environment can immensely benefit the communities.

Last week, Tesco HSC led an initiative called CSR Impact in partnership with Whitefield Export Promotion Parks Industrial Association (WEPPIA) that gathered corporates, NGOs and local administrative authorities to arrive at concrete plans for the betterment of the communities in Whitefield, Bangalore. Home to a large cluster of big and small global and Indian corporations from a diverse set of industries the forum provided a platform for all hands to come on deck as various needs were defined, discussed and debated.

The group identified key focus areas which needed effective partnership between the government authorities and the NGOs. Interesting ideas and initiatives were showcased – one related to effective waste management and yet another tapping technology to improve education. It is clear that trust, transparency and willingness to share ideas is key to CSR becoming central to achieving shared success.

What struck me as most is how much more can be done if various stakeholders can break the silos and collaborate more effectively.  Also, there is limited awareness of the existing state of government resources and infrastructure available already which can be leveraged. For example, one government body has a wide network of schools with robust equipment (classes, teachers, biometrics, internet, solar heating panels, online tracking mechanisms etc) but didn’t have many takers to educate the children.

If you are in a neighborhood with organizations with talent, resources and funds and want to get started with your local ‘grassroot’ initiative you may find these tips useful:

  1. Transparently share your plans – either online or in face to face forums. Seek feedback and invite other organizations to come on board. Avoid reinventing the wheel with projects. Join hands with other organizations. Send your volunteers to pitch in with others.
  2. Gather like-minded organizations, NGOs and government bodies to discuss the most pressing issues in your area. Pick the top three areas and focus your effort entirely on those for a year or two. Very often by taking our eyes of the ball and putting funds and effort into many different activities we end up diluting our impact.
  3. Pool your resources – very often it is more about the volunteers and less about the funding which can make the most impact. You will be surprised by how much you have and what more can be done if you see it in entirety.
  4. Communicate your impact often and effectively – you don’t need to create a completely new infrastructure but tap the power of your community champions to spread the word. Social media is an effective medium to get the word out easily.
  5. Recognize good work and outcomes – very often we move from one initiative to another without recognizing the value and impact we are making along the way. Take the time to thank stakeholders and volunteers alike on their hard work and commitment in making your initiatives a success.

The 2% CSR provision under the 2013 Companies Act opens up immense opportunities to create a large community impact.  CSR leaders and communicators need to break silos and overcome barriers to collectively raise the bar for the communities around us.

Show Up. Step Up


My earlier post on the topic of inclusiveness and diversity called ‘Does It Take Two Hands To Clap’ received interesting viewpoints from readers.  Themes that emerged were the need for greater acceptance, the expectations of a ‘holistic’ workplace, uncovering biases and going to the basics – getting it right at ‘home’. Incidentally, some readers preferred writing directly to me sharing how the scenarios I described related to their lives in many ways. I respect their privacy and decision to avoid posting their comments on my blog.

Why being inclusive works for everyone

To gain a deeper understanding of how and why showing up in heart and mind can overcome biases at the workplace and elsewhere we should refer to what research studies unearth. However, before you get there do look up this interesting case study on biases at the workplace.

So, what can communicators do to promote and support diversity and equality at the workplace? Here are a few recommendations that are simple and easy to get started on.

  • Be watchful about the language used: What we say and write officially can influence the culture at the organization. Usage of ‘he/she’ or stating ‘female’ or ‘girls’ instead of ‘women’ may sound like minor issues but are not. These reflect the way people are treated and becomes the ‘culture’.
  • Surface stories that reflect inclusive behavior: Identify employees who have stepped up to initiate dialogue on gender balance and inclusivity. Recognize those who built high performing teams with women in the workplace.
  • Report inconsistencies: Look for simple stuff that creates barriers to truly becoming inclusive. At one organization, the rest room for women was in a remote corner of the building while the men’s lavatory was built closer to the reception. What message did it send out?

Next time you are invited for an event or a discussion where you have the opportunity to demonstrate inclusiveness or spot deviations from the culture your organization wants to build and sustain – first, show up. Then step up.

2014 ‘State Of The Communications Function in GICs’ Survey Results


About the Study

This survey, the first such study in the region to gauge the current scope, relevance and understanding of the communications function within global in-house centers (GICs) invited corporate communicators and leaders to participate.

Global in-house centers refer to the service and delivery operations units that serve parent companies around the world to standardize processes, systems and programs and in turn save costs, improve efficacies and enhance centralized capabilities. They are often referred to as ‘captives’ or ‘shared services’. According to NASSCOM, there are over 825 GICs in India offering the entire spectrum of services – IT services, BPM, ER&D, and software products, employ over 530,000 people, and account for 17 per cent of the total export revenues in India. It is estimated that 50% of Fortune 500 firms to have GIC footprint in India by 2015. While hiring, engaging and retaining employees are important for GICs very little is understood or researched on the role of communication within these centers.

The survey aimed to understand how communication is conducted and appreciated within GICs. It sought insights on the types of communication that have the most impact and how should GICs approach communication to get ahead. This survey aims to bridge that gap in benchmarking the value and impact associated with communication within GICs and with the parent companies.  The output from this study can hopefully guide how GICs can invest in communication within their respective entities.

Every participant who completed the survey received a free high level summary report of the study.

Key Findings:

  • From the perspective of communicators within GICs, most such organizations focus on building efficiencies, optimizing costs and improving collaboration within their respective organization.
  • A majority of respondents (88%) claimed to have in-house communication teams and were mostly aligned to the Marketing function. Not surprisingly, a small percentage outsource work to consultants and agencies while a majority manage it themselves.
  • Employee engagement followed by employer branding and leadership communication are the key reasons for the communication team’s existence. However most focus on employee engagement and the leadership communication receives the least among the top three reasons.
  • The biggest challenges the communication team faces are low opportunities for growth and unclear direction of the GIC in terms of their plan and vision hindering their abilities to contribute strongly to the GIC’s advantage.
  • A majority of GICs focus on getting the senior post position filled first before building their team of communicators.
  • KPIs are mostly set among communication teams to measure performance and most team have between 3-5 members.
  • The primary focus of the team is to build pride among employees.
  • The communication team in GICs use e-mail, newsletters and internal social media platforms as ways to communicate mostly and the most effective mode is face to face interactions during Town Halls. E-mail as a channel comes a close second.
  • A majority claimed that their leadership team saw immense value from the function and the team’s budget would see an increase of 50% in the coming year.
  • Most agreed that the communication done locally is influenced heavily by the parent company.
  • A majority confirmed that they were invited early into conversations on communication planning.
  • Explaining the reasons for not involving or involving the communication team early in the planning process, here are a few statements from the respondents:
  • “Cause the team has a seat at the table and is involved strategically”
  • “They value our opinion and insights”
  • “The role is evolving and the management is yet to understand fully the need for involving communication”
  • Measurement of the team’s value and impact isn’t a strong area and those who did measure use engagement surveys as a method followed by channel audits and brand studies
  • Communicators as bridges between leadership and employees, investing in the team’s capabilities, knowing which effort gives the most impact, being sensitive to local language and culture were among inputs provided by practitioners to improve the value of communication within GICs.

Have feedback? Write to intraskope@yahoo.com

Keen to sponsor and partner on future surveys? Discuss you plan with Aniisu at intraskope@yahoo.com

Does It Take Two Hands To Clap?


Consider these scenarios.

Beena recently joined a company and works as a process analyst. Her team comprises a mix of men and women and she notices that the men in the team often want to meet up in the evenings to ‘bond’. Since Beena has a two year old child she prefers spending quality time with her family in the evenings. She did mention it a couple of times in team meetings that the timings didn’t suit her but the team ignored her views since she was the only one with an ‘issue’. She has resigned to her ‘fate’ and decided to let the men have it their way. It however concerns her that not joining her team for the evening sessions can slowly build a perception that she isn’t a ‘team player’.

Tina works as a consultant and is in her second year with her organization. She recently rolled off a project and applied to another one which directly engages with a global brand in the US. It expects working in shifts that extends beyond 8pm in the evening. During the staffing interview and her meetings with the project leader she is dissuaded from joining due to the shift timing and the team’s past experience of having to ‘stretch’. Tina is unmarried and doesn’t feel it an issue to work late hours since she enjoys the opportunity to work with a global client. Tina is dismayed by the repeated pushbacks she is getting and is contemplating moving out of the organization.

Manesh is the project lead for a large engineering firm and is seeking professionals from within the company to join his team. Tanya, a high performer in the quality control team is keen to join Manesh’s team. She applies for the position and discloses that she is 4 months pregnant and expecting her first child. Manesh is hesitant to give Tanya a role since he is concerned that she may go on maternity leave shortly and it can impact the project. He faults on her technical knowledge and rejects her application.

How would you intervene on such cases and what would you do to tackle them? Are the above situations relevant for communicators? In what way? Look forward to your responses.

It isn’t a coincidence anymore. Every time I attend an event related to women, diversity or inclusion the lead speaker or the master of ceremonies invariably notes how few or more men are present in the room.

Why is it always about the presence and participation of men that makes these topics relevant?

While you reflect on your responses here are some perspectives to mull over.

  • With Indian women entering the workforce decreasing to 29% in 2012 the country now has among the lowest rates in the world. There is however urgency to have women included on boards across companies based on a directive from the country’s regulatory authority.
  • Indian men, according to an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)study have an unenviable record of doing about 19 minutes of unpaid work (housework and child care) as compared to Norwegian men who topped the list with 180 minutes. Women in India and Turkeyincidentally work the most, if not the hardest.
  • The widening employment gap between men and women at the workplace is one of the reasons for organizational tension and stereotyping which can be overcome if communicators identify issues and surface stories that reinforce an inclusive work culture.

Even if you don’t have a point of view, your presence indicates your willingness to listen and engage in a dialogue. Does it take two hands to clap? Keen to hear your views.

Announcing The 2014 APAC and India Internal Communications Survey Results


  • What do internal communicators focus on?
  • How insights can internal communicators learn from to engage employees?
  • In what way can the function grow in stature?
  • How can internal communicators celebrate the organization’s culture?
  • What knowledge areas need attention for internal communicators?
  • Which priorities are on the list of internal communicators?

Find out all this and more with the results from the 4th edition of Intraskope’s APAC and India Internal Communications Survey. You can also look up the results from the 2013, 2012 and 2011 and surveys.

Executive Summary

The 4th APAC and India Internal Communications Survey conducted in November 2014 invited leaders in internal communications to discuss views on internal communication priorities, focus areas, opportunities, strategy, budgets and much more.

Participants held leading positions in their respective teams. Communication leaders representing industries such as engineering, IT, life sciences, consulting, community service and transportation participated in the study and had an average experience of 12-15 years.

Last year’s study also looked at the future of the function, channels, employee engagement, leadership involvement, manager effectiveness among others.

Every participant who completed the survey received a free high level summary report of the study.

Highlights:

  • The Internal communication team size stayed consistent with a majority of respondents stating membership up to a maximum of 5 members. Most participants mentioned that the team was housed within Corporate Communications and Marketing functions.
  • The key responsibilities of the internal communication team were employee engagement and leadership communication. Managing channels and events came in next among the stated ownership.
  • Only half the respondents believed their team met the needs of their respective organization and a significant number agreed that the organization in turn invested in building and growing the team.
  •  Over 80% of communicators claimed they had a strategy in place for internal communication and a majority agreed that the function was viewed as important to the organization’s success.
  • On the areas within internal communication that needed attention most communicators felt the following were important:

– building a climate for communication

– collaborating across teams

– instilling a sense of pride

– integrating the organization

– reducing information overload

– inspiring employees to contribute to communication

–  having a dialogue.

  • In 2015 half the communicators felt that their spend would increase
  • The biggest barriers to delivering great internal communication were:  the  inability to demonstrate value of the function, low budgets, limited line of sight, poor alignment of employees, lack of commitment from senior leaders, competing priorities and lack of time
  • The focus on branding employees is considering an important responsibility of the function. What defines internal branding is hazy.
  • Just over half the communicators felt they were directly responsible for internal branding although a sizable % mentioned that their organization has plans to invest in building brand ambassadors from within
  • The most attention for internal branding initiatives were received by leadership connections, social media engagements while a high number of respondents agreed that their organization had a unified approach to branding – internal and external
  • To improve internal branding, the following suggestions were recommended:
  1. a) Surveying audiences
  2. b) Addressing the ‘what’s in it for me’
  3. c) Being aware of language used to create pride among the workforce
  4. d) Joined up approach with HR and Marketing
  5. e) Need for consistency in messaging
  6. f) Adopting digital channels
  7. g) Improving cross business learning and sharing of knowledge
  8. h) Helping managers and employees to be advocates of the brand
  • Only about half the respondents (57%) completely agreed that their organization had a unique culture although most (85%) felt that communication played a critical role in shaping culture
  • Most organizations surveyed their employees on culture annually while a high % of communicators claimed their employees viewed values as central to their work
  • Sharing stories and having leaders articulate values were among the top two approaches adopted to communicate culture although a low percentage completely agreed that employees knew the organization’s culture
  • Just over half (57%) communicated the culture and values within their organizations
  • In terms of skills influencing and stakeholder management were called out as key drivers for improving performance while knowing the organization, employees and strategy helped the internal communicator succeed
  • Passion for the job, patience and focus were key attributes for an internal communicator to make progress at work
  • The barriers preventing internal communicators from making progress were limited business perspective, lack of leadership support, inability to demonstrate value and impact and low credibility of the function
  • The on-the-job training, mentoring and accreditation were called out as the best approaches to enhance learning while only 35% mentioned they had a dedicated budget for training
  • The top priorities for the team were employee engagement, improving reach and impact and raising the potential of internal channels
  • What must the function focus more on: engaging employees, increasing scope and reach, measurement, conducting shorter and more frequent surveys, evolving channels, creating assets for scale, training the team
  • While a high % of communicators exuded confidence about achieving their priorities only 50% accepted they had achieved their goals from the previous year
  • Words used to describe the function included: “committed, interested, involved”, ‘e-mail overloaders’, ‘passionate and go getters’, ‘responsiveness, fast and impactful’

 

Have feedback? Write to intraskope@yahoo.com.

Keen to sponsor and partner on future surveys? Share your plan with Aniisu at intraskope@yahoo.com

Study Author:

Aniisu K. Verghese is an internal communication expert, career coach and author and has over sixteen years of experience in the evolving internal communications domain with leading IT, financial services and consulting organizations. He is the author of – Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models (Sage Publications, 2012). He is passionate about engaging communicators and broadening the thinking on internal communications through independent research and workshops which he conducts in the country and overseas.

He was inducted into the 2015 Public Relations Council of India’ PR Hall of Fame at an event in New Delhi. He serves as the Vice-President – Finance, South India Chapter – International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and was as an elite panelist who evaluated and shortlisted Asia Pacific entries for the 2012 IABC’s Gold Quill Awards. Aniisu currently serves as the Corporate Communications Lead at Tesco HSC. Aniisu often shares expert media commentary and perspectives on culture, social media, employee and leadership communications. More information about Aniisu’s is available on his Linkedin page, his website www.intraskope.com and on his blog www.intraskope.wordpress.com.