What’s Holding You Back?

Anna is unsure if she made the right move. After 5 years in a role as a learning and development consultant for her organization, Robust Inc. She applied for an internal job posting in the corporate communication team. Robust Inc., a leading player in the education business has operations in 5 cities in the country and provides online support for 10 countries globally. Anna has been keen about corporate communications and believes her passion for writing and engaging employees will hold her in good stead in her new job. During her interviews with senior leaders she convinced them of her capabilities to operate in completely new environment. However, after starting out she is beginning to feel that the role doesn’t give her much satisfaction. She calls her friend Paul to discuss her concerns.

Anna: “Paul, I am in a dilemma and thought I could get your advice.”

Paul: “Sure Anna. What is it? How is your new role?”

Anna: “That is what I needed to discuss. I spent 5 years with this organization and wanted a change. This new role looked exciting and I applied for it and got the job. Now, after meeting with stakeholders and listening to what people had to say about my predecessor it seems I may have made a mistake!”

Paul: “So what have you heard?”


Anna: “From what I hear this is a back-end role with no visibility or respect. I need to be pushing out communication and reviewing badly written drafts. Also, the person handling the role wasn’t the best suited so she became a note-taker for many leaders. That further eroded the credibility of the role. In the end no one takes this role seriously.”

Paul: “That’s unfortunate. Do you know what the job description of the role states?”

Anna: “It does read impressive and calls out how the individual can champion key initiatives for the company. It also explains one can grow into a larger role. Somehow it doesn’t seem to match with the expectations on the ground.”

Paul: “You mean people see the role differently? Does your manager think differently too?”

Anna: “I guess so – basis my conversations they feel this role is over engineered and no one has the capacity to do anything meaningful. It is just an ordinary role and there are many obstacles which come in the way. My manager is supportive and has been telling me to give it time and focus on what is on hand. He encourages me to think differently and make an impact.”

Paul: “That’s great. There is no reason to fret if you have such a supportive manager. Are you interested in this role or not? Do you think you want to do something meaningful?”

Anna: “I am completely interested – just that I feel people think otherwise and therefore may not cooperate. I may end up not contributing enough or making an impact.  I don’t have the professional degrees to back up for this role.”

Paul: “But, you are just starting out. You can learn the ropes, can’t you? You can also get the certifications you need. What’s holding you back?”

How can you help Anna get a hold of her new role? What do you think is preventing her from getting ahead? How can Paul coach her to get started?

Share your views. Keen to hear what you think.

Manage The Narrative. Let Go Of Control

Like it or not, your employees are already communicating on behalf of your organization and they are responsible for communication in some form or the other. However, most employees don’t believe they have a voice or have enough confidence in their organizations to do the right thing. Nor do corporate and internal communicators know how to manage in this new world order. Is it time for communicators to accept, recognize, embrace and act on these trends?

Consider this:

  • 33% of employees post comments, photos and videos about their employer on social media often or time to time without any encouragement from the employer. 39% do without any training. (Weber Shandwick & KRC Research, 2014)
  • Companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 147% higher EPS compared with their competition (Gallup, 2012)
  • Even while trust declined for businesses, NGOs and media, in-house technical experts and employees were the most credible sources within an organization (Edelman’s Trust Barometer, 2015
  • 4 out of 10 employees in the UK still do not feel that it is safe to speak up. (Towers Watson, 2012)
  • Only 9% of practitioners reported spending more than 25% of time on employee research/feedback. (Ruck and Trainor, 2011)


Employees aren’t just another audience; they are central to your organization’s success. They seek a ‘human’ experience at the workplace and that includes being respected, feeling appreciated, having leaders behave with integrity and receiving open communication. Getting employees’ attention, doing more with less, dwindling trust and low engagement levels are a few of the many challenges internal communicators grapple with today.

These challenges are often due to an inability to understand the pulse of employees, realize the evolving needs at the workplace and skills that corporate communicators must learn to be successful.

However, there is limited evidence to show that organizations and communicators are tapping their employees while creating and delivering effective communication. While a handful of organizations have involved employees to project the brand, increase community outreach, promote the product, recruit new hires and engage customers there is more to be done to realize the collective potential of the workforce. For example, even among the most effective organizations only about 50% have a way to pretest employee communication through advisory groups in-house and 43% benchmark against the best.

Trends also indicate that twice as many employees are now driven by work passion and less with career progression giving impetus for building an inclusive, supportive, compelling and innovative environment. Deloitte’s study – Global Human Capital Trends 2015 point to culture and engagement as the most important issues companies face around the world with 87% of organizations cite these as one of their top challenges. Employees also expect communication to be authentic, relevant, engaging, high touch and respectful. The role of work in their lives is mostly about getting the skills to be relevant, be their best and known as an expert and contribute to society overall.

While there are active advocates among your employees who aren’t tapped enough, organizations also need to grapple with a growing set of detractors who can disrupt the best intentions leaders have in mind. In a study by Bain and Forrester only 34% in North America and 19% in Europe rated the Net Promoter Score question 9 or 10 – ‘on a scale from 0 to 10, would you recommend your company as a place to work to a friend or colleague?”.

Therefore, how can corporate communicators operate differently? What skills do they need to succeed?

To begin, communicators must revisit their role and relevance within organizations. It isn’t any more about controlling information flow and managing channels. It is time to let go of control, invite employees to participate and manage the message effectively.  Letting go of control is as much about accepting that every employee is a good communicator already and that we need to recognize each individual’s talent and skills to build the brand from within. It is the ability to collaborate, transcend operational and functional boundaries, listen intently to employees, involve and deliver solutions that delivers business value. The communicator needs to understand organizational dynamics, know how to shape corporate character and be seen as one among the audiences – living the values and instilling pride. This also expects the communicator to have a grasp of insights and have a laser sharp focus on employees.

What strategies will work in this new world order?

It is proven that employees are engaged not just when organizations communicate consistently and regularly but also when involved and their ideas sought to shape their own lives at the workplace. Furthermore, even if their ideas aren’t accepted they expect to be informed as to why their views which were sought didn’t get to see the light of day.

When organizations involve and empower employees in large and everyday decisions there is a sense of shared ownership that appeals and furthers belongingness. Power sharing among employees also leads to more balanced decision making – as organizations progress from keeping decisions under wraps to inclusion to co-creating; employees are more engaged. Likewise, they expect autonomy and meaning to their work and giving them opportunities to discover and learn each day improves their connection with the organization. The role of leaders is crucial – employees – employees who view leadership as open and honest are nearly five times more engaged than those who don’t.

Communicators can adopt the following three pronged approach to gain from these opportunities.

Listen: Putting employees at the heart of your communication means to listen to their needs like never before. Take feedback, pre-test your communication, tap their enthusiasm and leverage advocates who can pitch the brand. Know where your employees are on social media and leverage their network.

Involve: Encourage your employees to speak up, contribute and be active advocates. Invest in training and upskilling them especially on the brand and social media. Employees with boundary spanning roles can play a crucial part in communicating your narrative.

Engage: Build a rhythm and highlight your success stories. Crowdsource and co-create communication when possible. Demonstrate how employees are truly adding value to your brand in more ways than one. Recognize their contribution and make time to acknowledge their effort.

To summarize, as communicators we need to accept and align with the changes shaping the workplace. It will mean letting go of control in terms of ‘who’ and ‘what’ communication can be done while retaining influence over the ‘why’ and ‘when’ while partnering with employees who essentially are effective ambassadors of the brand. Understand that every employee is a good communicator. Our role is to enable employees to be their best selves.

The focus must be to manage the narrative and view your employees through a different lens. Listen, involve and engage them for success. Lastly, introspect and be open to unlearning and experimenting. Recognize your best advocates by giving them due respect and support.

Note: I had the opportunity to speak at the 2015 Asia-Pacific Communications Summit in Hong Kong on Nov 19. This article is a summary of my presentation.

“There is a need to unlearn how communication was done earlier”

I had the opportunity to speak at the 2015 Asia Pacific Communications Summit at Hong Kong on November 19.

Follow this link for an interview that appeared in Communication Director Asia magazine following my presentation.


Keen to hear your views.


Shape The Future Of Internal Communication & Get A FREE High Level Report! 2015 APAC and India Internal Communications Survey Ends On November 25.

Inviting employee communication practitioners and leaders to take the 2015 APAC and India Internal Communications Survey! The Survey aims to gauge the progress, maturity and impact of internal communications in the region.

This is the fifth edition of the survey and 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. Take the survey now! 

Look up the results from the Internal Communications Surveys in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 to understand trends shaping the function. The survey covers perspectives on internal (employee) branding, organization culture and communication, the communicator’s skills, knowledge and expertise and priorities for the future. Also it will seek inputs on the evolving role and expectations of the function, budgets and focus areas and how leadership views the role.

Take the survey now! It will take 10 minutes of your time. Survey closes on November 25, 2015.


Why should you take the survey?

  • Help shape the future of the function
  • Getyour 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


Who is running this survey?

This is an independent survey conducted by Aniisu K. Verghese is an internal communication expert, author and consultant and has over sixteen years of experience in the evolving internal communications and social media domains with leading retail, IT, financial services and consulting organizations. Aniisu is the author of – Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models (Sage Publications, 2012). He currently serves as the Corporate Communications and CSR Lead for Tesco Bengaluru, the technology and operations team of Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers. He is the recipient of the 2015 PR Hall of Fame Award at the 9th Global Communication Conclave of the Public Relations Council of India (PRCI). He speaks at management forums and conducts India’s first ever internal communication workshop series – Internal Communications 401, Internal Communications 301, Internal Communications 201, Internal Communications 101. Aniisu served as a Asia Pacific judge for the 2015 Sabre Awards, on the international editorial panel for IABC’s global publication – Communication World and was an elite panelist who evaluated and shortlisted Asia Pacific entries for the 2012 International Association of Business Communicator’s Gold Quill Awards.

Authentic Communication Key To CSR and Reputation

Research studies have reported that an individual’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company is directly related to the organization’s reputation – which incidentally is significantly influenced by the corporate social responsibility (CSR) actions taken by the firm. According to theRepTrak™ Pulse which measures corporate reputation of organizations three of the seven dimensions of reputation are related to CSR. Not just that, a majority of stakeholders are confused about what organizations do with CSR and therefore aren’t sure how to make sense of the reputation. That puts the onus on organizations to communicate effectively and support stakeholders in making sense of their intentions.

On October 31st I had the opportunity to participate in an engaging dialogue on ‘Integrating CSR With the Brand Strategy’. Communicators, marketers and CSR practitioners debated the merits and downsides of highlighting CSR for the brand.

Here are my perspectives on this subject.

  • There is a strong linkage between CSR and reputation and ignoring this phenomenon is a missed opportunity. Many feel that doing good work and not talking about it is the right approach. My take is that if you do good work the word will spread even if you want to keep it under wraps. The best channel is within and your own employees are your most authentic advocates. Nothing can be beat authenticity and transparency when it comes to CSR.


  • CSR communication is a lot to do with culture. In parts like India where service is expected to be done without much fanfare, communicating about your CSR work can seem like publicity and self-promotion. There shouldn’t be any Lakshman Rekha (line of control) for CSR communication. It is important to communicate the why and the how rather than just that the ‘what’ for CSR.
  • Organizations can’t suddenly gain CSR consciousness – one of the panellists mentioned how a friend of his on joining a start-up was asked to do CSR because it was now the ‘buzz’ and they also needed to get funding and look ‘good’ in front of investors. If CSR is in your DNA it will come across as credible. If you fake it chances are that people will notice and you may not be able to sustain it in the long run. Get CSR into everyday life – add it to your performance measures, remind employees what they can do more, encourage their individual commitment for the causes they support in their personal capacity and inculcate a habit of giving.
  • With the 2% CSR guidelines coming into play in India many organizations are now housing CSR functions under their Corporate Communication or Marketing divisions. The role of the marketer/communicator is beginning to evolve. They now need to gain a better understanding of the function, engage stakeholders beyond the usual remit, demonstrate abilities to negotiate, partner, influence, involve and tell stories in ways that matter for the brand.
  • To amplify CSR communication the organization needs to make the effort visible and connect with audiences in meaningful ways. Message content is as important as the channel. If the focus is on commitment, impact and fit the communication will be well received and valued. The key point is to overcome stakeholder skepticism that the communication isn’t about ‘selling’ and more about explaining the context, consistency and durability of the CSR work. CSR communication should be factual to avoid being labelled as ‘bragging’. You can include CSR in almost any channel or avenue – packaging, campus branding, alumni communication, vendor engagement, third party endorsements among others. Word of mouth is the most effective approach to get the message around. Social media is crucial for the success of CSR although it needs to be employee led and less by the corporate communication team. Research studies have demonstrated that the reach of social media posts by employees is 8X times those of corporate accounts.
  • Many organizations do cause related branding and marketing and the trend is shifting towards CSR communication. In my view, cause branding is temporary and short term while CSR communication has long term value and impact. There is also skepticism associated with cause branding because there is usually a direct profit associated with the cause and effect for the brand (i.e., every sale is associated with a portion of funds going to charity etc). The fit and the value must be very closely integrated for the cause to be accepted by customers. Also with many companies now associating with causes to further their brands fatigue sets in quickly. Brands can’t be built overnight on CSR. It either needs to be in the DNA or it will never be perceived as authentic. There are 3 strategies which research points out – stakeholder information, response and involvement. Involvement is the most evolved strategy since it is about co-creating the outcomes.

Overall, helping stakeholders appreciate your firm’s corporate social responsibility intent and practices has a lot to do with how, when and what you communicate.