For those who were wondering what happens after the pandemic - we now have a clearer idea: the world will continue to be an unpredictable, unstable and unrelenting place.
The idea that we would have a few months to “transition out of the pandemic” has, quite literally, been blown to shreds.
The current climate of uncertainty warrants a discussion of why internal communication needs proper attention and investment right now.
For many years, IC practitioners have attempted to make a business case for investment in internal communication.
But given the urgent organizational, financial, environmental and geopolitical realities in the world at the moment, there is now a clear strategic case to make for ensuring organizations have sufficient professionalism and infrastructure to support their internal cohesion and aligned performance.
Below are six organizational realities that demonstrate the need for investment in internal communication now:
1. The Need For Centrality...And The Tendency Towards Chaos
In a world of work that is no longer dominated by central headquarters and physical interactions, there is a need for clear, lean and authoritative channels that can provide guidance and reduce ambiguity - particularly in times of internal change or external turmoil.
Centrality, as it is emerging in internal communication, combines a simplified and disciplined approach to content and interactions with the use of one or very few authoritative channels or “hubs,” and a messaging style that emphasizes prioritization.
Centrality does not mean attempting to control all messaging. That is practically impossible at a time where employees are increasingly skeptical of senior managers, and have nearly unlimited access to communication platforms - internal and external - that enable direct peer-to-peer communication.
But centrality as described above doesn’t just emerge spontaneously. In organizations that lack sufficient internal comms capabilities, there’s a much higher propensity towards stakeholders demanding the attention of the business when it’s not required (ticking the “inform all employees” box they inserted into their own project plans), or of self-driving platforms like Slack getting overrun by multiple tactical agendas.
Even in smaller organizations, the standard model of Slack+Microsoft Teams+regular town hall meetings is becoming frayed, congested with too many messages of importance to too few people.
2. Managers Alone Are Not the answer
There is a lot of talk about “the line manager being the most important link in the internal communication chain.” It’s true that managers can play an important role in providing context and helping employees to focus, but employees are also heavily influenced by the mix of other official and unofficial relationships that drive their own perspectives and priorities.
At the same time, improving the ability of internal communication to directly address employees and to inject appropriate content and context into informal conversations can reduce the reliance on line management to support - and police - internal priorities. This can either relieve pressure on line managers, or perhaps increase the scalability of individual management roles.
3. Internal Communication Drives External Communication
For years, there’s been a debate within the world of communication professionals about whether there’s a need to have internal communication at all, or if it could be subsumed into the better known and more commercially popular realms of marketing and public relations.
With the growing realization among businesses that employees are essentially their most valuable and powerful external communication channels (and with many openly driving their activities through employee advocacy platforms), it now makes sense to think about tighter integration between internal and external communication,
However, to maximize the power of your employees in driving the credibility of your business and brand to the people they come in contact with, not only does the gap between your brand promises and your employee experience need to be minimal - but that your internal communication needs to be the foundation of your external communication.
Emailing your press releases to your employees and showing your commercials on the TV monitor in your lunchroom isn’t going to cut it, especially if your employees can fill in the bits that aren’t mentioned.
4. Internal Communication Can Drive Connection, Onboarding And Integration
A crucial change in the way organizations operate is the tendency towards increased dispersion of key employees, a trend that started through the globalization process and which has reached new heights due to remote working during the pandemic.
Dispersion presents a number of challenges. Key employees with complementary skills or needs are not directly visible to each other. Incoming employees need additional information and connections to work effectively and efficiently, whether they are newly hired or brought on board as a result of M&A activity.
Internal communicators can add considerable value when “superconnection” - the art and science of making critical introductions, becomes part of their business role. With their knowledge of “who does what”, they are often very well positioned to proactively introduce the right people to each other. When that happens, connection, onboarding and integration can accelerate.
5. What’s Measured, Continues To Matter
Organizations tend to follow the path of least resistance when it comes to internal communication measurement - either trying to tie communication efforts to linear increases in employee engagement scores to justify ROI (return on investment) or to use the built in analytics of online tools and focus on things like clicks and open rates.
But the real power of internal communication measurement comes from measuring actual impact - whether it is a spike in actions that follows a concerted communication effort, or whether employees are embracing or rejecting the language the business uses to support and drive its initiatives.
Technology is a helping factor in getting measurement right - but the most important factor is organizational will - the willingness to ask the right questions, choose the appropriate measures, and then to act on the feedback.
6. It Has To Be a Joint Responsibility
Getting internal communication right (particularly in times like these) is a joint responsibility - between those tasked with responsibility for executing internal communication and those at the top who have the authority to establish its mandate and fund its activities.
This does not mean business leaders should give communication leaders a blank check. It means being rigorous in terms of their own sense of priorities and in conveying those priorities effectively to their communication leaders - and then ensuring that there are adequate staff, technology and funding to support those priorities effectively.
Communication leadership requires communication pros to take ownership of set priorities - and to take the initiative to drive them strategically within the constraints of the technology, budget and attention at their disposal.
Getting The Right Resources Together
There’s been a tendency for organizations to “use what they have” when starting or building out their internal communication activities - defaulting to “the IT tools with the free licenses” and redeploying existing staff with no IC experience into roles with substantial responsibility.
Doing so is not automatically wrong. But it is an expensive risk.
Expecting people to learn a new global business context, adopt new technology that’s not fully fit-for-purpose and somehow pick up the strategic and tactical skills required to support the most fundamental activities of your business instantaneously is a major ask.
Involving experienced internal communication people - even on a consulting or part-time basis - will accelerate your ability to adapt and engage more rapidly and with less friction. Using intuitive, fit-for-purpose technology can further increase focus while reducing the noise that reaches each employee.
- See how Sparrow can help, book a demo
- Read more, check out: FREE WEBINAR FOR INTERNAL COMMS PROS : The Strategic Case for Internal Communication