Date: Wednesday, April 27th
Time: 11:00 am EDT/8:00 am PDT/4:00 pm BST
Length: 45 minutes + Q&A
Host: Mike Klein, Senior Strategic Advisor, Sparrow Connected
Julie Ford 00:02
First, we have Mike Klein, whom some of you may know or at least recognize his name. Mike will be leading the conversation portion of this webinar. Mike is the founder and principal of changing the terms, a consultancy focused on internal communications, change and social communication. He's also a senior strategic advisor here at Spiro connected. For more than 20 years, Mike has worked with organizations in the United States in Europe on pressing strategic communication challenges and has become a prolific writer and commentator on internal communication strategy topics. In early 2021, Mike launched the #WeLeadComms initiative, which is a global initiative to recognize initiative, courage and leadership across the communication profession. Thanks for joining us today, Mike.
Julie Ford 00:51
In just a few minutes, Mike will lead and engage in conversation with two very highly regarded internal communication professionals, Caroline Kealey and Abhijit Shankar, otherwise known as cheats. First, I'll introduce Jeet. After establishing a leading the internal communications function for one of the most venerable brands UNICEF for more than a decade. He is now spearheading an EdTech venture, ZEducatr, whose mission is to make education equitable and affordable for every student globally. He's also a geopolitical commentator for several global newspapers. Welcome, Jeet. And thank you for joining us today.
It's a pleasure meeting all of you.
Julie Ford 01:30
Next, I'd like to introduce Caroline. Caroline is the principal and founder of Results Map, a boutique firm specializes in building capacity in strategic communications that she's been leading for over 20 years. At Results Map, they don't just solve communications problems. They solve business problems through communications. Welcome, Caroline. And thank you for joining us as well.
Thanks, Julie. Great to be here.
Julie Ford 01:53
Mike, I'll hand it over to you to kick off the discussion we've all been waiting for.
Thank you very much for coming. And thank you, Julie, for that introduction. I wanted to talk about what this session is about its position is a discussion about a strategic case for internal communication. That means something distinct from having internal comms being there because it's the right thing to do for because there's some kind of magic ROI based business case that demonstrates that in return for an investment of x, we can guarantee the delivery of x plus y. Despite the sheer unpredictability of what happens in a given year in any kind of business or organization. It's no accident that I picked Abhijit and Caroline to join me today, I picked them for a very specific reason. It's because a they have two of the best minds in the industry, but also because they have experienced delivering internal communication strategies outside the normal business sector and outside the self-imposed limitations that often come from working in a normal business environment. This is a high stakes conversation for internal comms, as the world comes out of pandemic. There was an idea a few months ago, that there would be some kind of nice few month period where we could transition out of the pandemic, and try to figure out how we were going to proceed. And within a couple of days of people talking about that post pandemic change, it literally was all blown to shreds. So the current climate of uncertainty warrants a discussion of why internal comms needs proper attention and investment right now. So I want to start off by floating a question to both of my guests, Jeet and Caroline. And that is, what do you see as the three biggest issues internal communication leaders need to address right now? And I'm asking it from the perspective of those of us in our chairs, not necessarily our businesses, not necessarily the people we work for. Caroline, do you want to start? Sure.
Thanks, Mike. Great question. And you know, I would say that my answer today is quite different than it would have been pre pandemic in in working in the in the internal communication space for some time. Now. I would say the first thing that comes to mind is the idea of sense making. People are now operating and trying to cope in the most information saturated era in the history of mankind. And it's clear that we have reached a point where we're really grappling with the attention economy, and we've got to move away from just the old school information dissemination model of communication, and shift instead to a focus on meaning and sense making. So for example, concretely, one of the things that we're finding consistently across our clients is that what's missing is context. People understand their thing, but they have lost track of how the thing relates to the other things, particularly in highly siloed and dispersed organizations. So that's the first thing. The second thing I would say is belonging. And this has to do with the sense of purpose and meaning of working in an organization. There is a recent McKinsey report that that has highlighted an interesting thing that belonging comes out as almost the top thing that employees are looking for. But it's not even on the list of what most corporations are seeing as an important driver in employee engagement and communication. So I think that's a big gap area, particularly as people's affinity and sense of loyalty for their employer is totally turned on its head when they're working from home. The last thing is this issue of attention and focus. And I really turned to Cal Newport here and who has a beautiful expression that he refers to the hyperactive hive mind that we've gotten to a work culture where our employees are consumed day to day with keeping up on email, Slack and meetings. And then they tag on a second shift to do actual work in the evening or early morning or weekends. And somehow we have normalized this. So I think it's really not benign to just be sending useless emails or clutter on Slack channels at the moment that says become mission critical to enabling our employees to perform racehorses need to race. They don't want to spend their days consuming a firehose of information they want to be set up to succeed. And I think there's a real risk here that we need to be attentive to, of the consequence from an emotional and a productivity perspective of this hyperactive hive mind. So those would be my three thoughts. What about you, Jeet?
Thank you, Caroline. I will start with I am going to see one of the three issues that you highlighted that was belonging that especially boasts partner bank, this has become one of the key issues that any internal communication leader has become critical to the organization to make the employees feel belonged to the organization. And especially for global organizations like the one I worked for, for over 10 years, UNICEF, which operates in 192 countries, they have to reach out to the frontline worker, they have to reach out to the desk less workers who are out there repeal, still vaccinating despite the global pandemic, and the the internal communication, folks, they have to include the customer facing executives who are out there in the field, the doctors, the nurses, I'm talking particularly from the perspective of a global nonprofit. The second would be the trust in leadership. And you, all of you are aware of the global the great global resignation, that is happening right now. And there are debates Pro and against what is happening in this scenario. But the trusted leadership is something that the internal communication folks have to be responsible for. If nobody else is taking charge of that they have to come. They have to become central to this issue in any small or big organization. Currently, I lead a startup and even that, that I'm doubling up as an internal communicator as well. And if you're the trust in leadership is paramount. The third one, which is important for me is to call out the information for the rest of the organization. What does the organization need in this in this crisis scenario? Human Resource doesn't seem to have all the answers, it won't have all the answers. It is the internal communicator who has connections with the top leadership with the frontline worker, and would have all the information that the organization or any employee needs. So those would be my three tantamount issues important for any internal communicator and stuff.
There was a really interesting subtext to both of your answers. And Caroline, touched on it very briefly the matter of context. To what extent is context that “red thread” as my Scandinavian friends would call it, that runs between and through belonging, sense making. Focus on trust and leadership and the collation and clarification of information.
I think it's actually a very significant issue and one that is undertreated because it's nobody's job, nobody sees themselves as being the ambassador of context. And so what we're finding, especially in this sort of work from home scenario is that functional leaders are holding their staff meetings and so on, but are not necessarily connecting the dots or providing this kind of symphonic view of how all these different dots work together, which I think, you know, there's an interesting expression of the red thread, but I think is is actually a very costly problem and is related to the other buckets that I was referring to, to the extent that attention and energy are finite. If we have people either doing the wrong thing or doing it right in an incorrect way, because they're not appreciating the context around them. That's very disheartening, and disengaging is also erosive to performance. So, at the end of the day, we want everybody very clear on the North Star and moving in the right direction. So, they need you know, I like to use this expression here of enablement, they need the right information, the right context and the right knowledge at the right time, in order to perform. And so that is not a nice to have, that is a mission critical.
Something else that you said was really intriguing, because it just highlighted a whole bunch of other issues that have been that are being talked about in terms of remote versus office based versus hybrid, which is that in the absence of clarity around kind of text, civilization gets worse regardless of where you're located.
Yes, that's right. And I what I'm observing also is then there is an unintended consequence of disengagement, disconnect, and even conflicts because people then are identifying that we have the information rich and the information poor, people who are irritated or angry because they were working on an initiative only to find out that it's a duplication or is a misfire. And so, I think we have to be attentive to the equity of emotional positivity in an organization, not only the strategic alignment, but also that level of engagement and positive contribution of full potential, which is easily eroded by the consequence of siloing, which is absolutely getting worse. And I do think that it would be interesting to unpack the reasons for the rate, the great resignation, or perhaps what's often called now also the great reassessment is if I'm not, if I'm not set up in this organization to perform at my best, then I will go somewhere where I can be my full self and I can show up and contribute and have maximum impact. So again, I'm almost amused that this has been historically framed as a question of our life, because to me, it's like questioning the ROI of oxygen This is the conversation we obviously need this and so we need to kind of move past that tired discourse.
Jeet, what do you have to say about this? How does this resonate with you?
Internal communication in any scenario, whether pre pandemic or both, and I like Caroline's expression that it is the oxygen it is the central it belongs to the central anatomy of any organization. And I was totally surprised when I had joined the UNICEF organization in 2008. And it did not ever have an internal communication function before that. And so did I. So, I found in other organizations as well who reached out eventually to set up internal communication functions. And this came as a surprise because I was in management consulting before that, and I used to consult with different agents, different corporations and agencies. And the private sector was always different from the nonprofit, but it is at the very core of any organization and if it is not, it deserves, definitely deserves to be to connected the different parts of the organization to be to be at the center at the very core. We keep talking about having a seat whether or not we have a seat at the table of the executive table. But you also you have to make yourself relevant to the senior very senior management to see what's in it for them. And that is one of the ways I was able to get internal communication to the executive rooms in several global organizations.
Thanks Jeet. That's a very, very serious point, it is actually almost identical to the next question that I have, which is really about how can internal communication leaders raise the confidence of business leaders about giving them the resources and tools that they need at this very critical moment? Sure, what do we need to do to raise our own confidence to the point where we can have those conversations?
And so one of the first things that I have done and I have seen it being useful in any organization, is you need to speak to the senior leaders, you have to get step foot in the door into their offices, and need to know what are their pain points and to use that cliche? What keeps them awake at night? Communicator of a small or large organization needs to have at the core of the strategy. What are the pain points of the organization? Is it retention? Is it in the current scenario? It seems to be di, is it? What, and in my experience, one of the things that these very senior leaders don't seem to know is why you cannot depend on an annual survey, just to know what is what are the different parts of my organization thinking. So, an internal communicator becomes important in this particular scenario, that you can call the information from different parts and get that to the very senior reader. And that is something.
So basically, what you're saying is that, even if an organization does an annual employee engagement survey, that's not going to give you the data that you need as a professional, to be able to have real time conversations with senior leadership. And that to do that, you basically have to become a research engineer in and of yourself.
And, yes, I did see that. And to be able to do that you have to put systems and processes in place. One of the things that I'm a big proponent of is creation of internal influences, we keep talking about hiring external influences for the organization's marketing, but internal communication, internal influences for internal communication, or any kind of change processes are equally important. And that gives you a real time, information about what is the organization thinking, what is the organizer? What may be the future course of action in any part of the organization?
Caroline, what do you have to add to that?
A couple of things. I liked the way you framed the question, Mike, in terms of what do we need to have confidence to provide good counsel both as practitioners, and then the flip side being organizational leaders and investing in internal communication? And I think those are appropriately treated as two distinct considerations with respect to the internal communications practitioners. And I think Charlie's got an excellent point here in the chat question. I really think a fundamental thing that we need to be attentive to, and frankly, is really the Achilles heel of the profession is to set the function up for success. I would say that overwhelmingly, in my experience, internal communication, and practitioners tend to be very tactical and reactive and less culturally oriented to some of the fundamentals like defining their function, including what is the scope of internal communication? What is our functional responsibility and authority? And critically, how does it bump up against sister disciplines, which may or may not be within our scope, like employee engagement, enablement, employee experience, recruitment, retention, and change management? And it's at that point of intersection that things go south. And frankly, often the internal communications person is left holding the bag. So I think it's absolutely fundamental to kind of step up our game here and think about what how do we define internal communications? I totally agree. Perhaps we look at rebranding this. I know shareholders, for example, is very keen on the idea of the language of employee communications and engagement because it focuses on the employees as opposed to the container. But suffice it to say that practitioners are often not clear on the scope of their work, and then they get frustrated that other people just throw random requests at them, and they don't necessarily have the levers to intervene. So that's kind of the first I think the other side in terms of the value of internal communications and how we want to engage with the function is that we want to replace noise with evidence. Everyone has an opinion about internal communications, we tend to be low on data and insight. And while I'm totally keen on research and surveys, I think that real time instruments, even if their mentee meter tools or quick pulse checks are extremely valuable, as is the core function of listening, and often we forget about that, that part of communicating effectively, internally is also to be a Sentinel and receive qualitative and quantitative insight by listening to the employee community so that we're feeding that back up to leadership to respond.
So there's a lot of real gold in this conversation and discussion of the role of internal influence, Caroline's discussion of listening and moving beyond simple information collection to actually, you know, being agents in making information emerge from the, from the situations that we're dealing with. And the whole issue of self-definition. Are we workforce in great engagement? Are we employee communication? Are we workforce mobilization, as one of my old collaborators once said, I don't care if you call a banana, so long as everybody knows what the role of banana is, in this context. The challenge being that if you come up with an overly nuanced private definition, you don't want to lose your ability to communicate with the rest of the profession, and what amounts to very similar stuff. One of the challenges that we have at the moment, between the comms field and the change field is that the change field does a lot of the same stuff that the counselors do, they've just invented a completely different vocabulary for describing it. Once thing that, you know, that I've looked at, in terms of the whole ROI conversation over the years, and why it's ludicrous, is that much of what internal communication and what much of what organizations drive on a day to day basis? are binary outcomes. Have we hit this deadline? Can we make this objective? Have we opened this market? Have we have we opened this facility, etc. But that ROI is a linear measurement. So you know, at a certain level, it doesn't matter if you've done 0% or 80% of something, if something's not working on the day, it's supposed to work? How can we use this distinction, this particular distinction as something that's an advantage for internal communication, in bringing the case to management that we need, the flexibility and the resources to drive the organization alongside the normal profit mode? Anybody want to take a stab at that one?
Sure, I can jump in on that one. It's an interesting framing. And I have not thought of sort of the idea of outcomes quite in that framing. My reaction would be that I think ultimately, Jeet had exactly the right framing, which is the question of pain. What is the pain point that we're addressing? And what is the problem that we aim to solve? Which might be a binary proposition? Yes, no. Or it could be a limitless one. And that tends to be where I play is that the question of human and organizational potential, which is really not probably best understood as either binary or linear, but it's really infinite. And communication is going to be the fuel to manifest that human potential to its fullest and highest best use of its capability, again, on an individual level, as well as on a team and on a corporate level. I think where we get stuck as practitioners is that we often tend to look at activity-based outcomes of performance, like, yes, we did the event on time on budget. Okay, that's fine. But show me what you've done for me lately sort of thing. Rather, I think we are better suited to be in a mindset that we are offering our organizational leaders Tylenol as opposed to vitamins, that I'm not just selling you good ideas that you might want to pick up or not. I am offering you a remedy to a real business problem and felt need. And that kind of shifts the whole conversation and kind of connects to Jeet’s insight earlier about targeting leaders in terms of what keeps them up at night, and frankly, also what the risk profile is for the organization, which at the moment is very high that the house is on fire and internal communication and is an absolute business imperative. So we need to just not even engage in this ridiculous conversation about ROI, or do we need this or not? Because I think it's de facto evident that communication is the lifeblood of an organization.
I want to pick up on a couple of terms that you threw in there - fuel and fire, I wanted to throw four terms. I like to see which of which of these terms each of you thinks is most close to a definition of the fundamental role of internal communication. Is it the organizational lubricant, the drumbeat, the fuel, or the fire department?
Okay, Jeet, over to you, my friend.
It's everything, depending on the time of the day or the time, okay. You can be the fuel then you can be the fire department. But coming back to the original question in this segment, it's, it occurs to me that it's the perennial question about outcome versus output, than if I launch a successful intranet. For the organization as a communication channel, isn't the number of stories that I publish within a quarter is that relevant to my organization, or whether I make my employees feel belonged to the organization more, I increase the sense of belonging to the organization through the stories that I publish? I talk about the impact that certain employees have had on the organization I invest in peer recognition through the stories that I published, would that aspect be more important to the organization? Is it behavior change? Or is it the number of anything that I do? The number of stories or the number of town halls that I successfully conduct? Or is that especially important with the organization that I brought the frontline worker and the executive leader closer together? And in the process, I need the employee being below belongs.
The stories bit is how many stories do you publish? Or how many stories end up having happy endings as a result of the stories you publish?
I'm sorry, there's my dog.
That is the executive leadership, I guess.
I was just gonna add just quickly if I made a jump in sure every I know you need to wrap up and I just can't help. But go back to your question here about the firefighters and the fuel and social lubricant of organizations. I would say that that, although it's a difficult message that sometimes those who put out fires all the time tend to be arsonists. And this is a problem in our culture, that there tends to be a sort of adrenaline junkie rhythm. And people are sort of freaking out and dealing in the urgent as opposed to the important. So, when Jesus talking about the meaning of a story, or an all hands meeting, that I think is where we need to focus our attention much more so and frankly, to be attentive to the fact that sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of our own way. If we feel we're constantly firefighting, maybe there's something systemically wrong and we're just dealing at a symptomatic level. And we should kind of back up the bus here and consider those root causes. So, this is just something I pick up on, quite often in working with internal comms professionals and the culture within which they are socialized to work in this fashion. So, this is the good news of the pandemic, if there is somewhere something positive is an opportunity to reimagine our positioning and the way in which we show up that kind of consultative practice that we bring.
Do you have anything to add to that?
I believe that's perfectly articulated. Not at this time.
Okay. All right. Looks like we have a few questions. Let's take some time for questions. Because we're at that point in the hour, we want to make sure that everybody who's got a question has a chance to get it addressed.
Maybe if I can just riff on this question that we had earlier from Shelley about who owns internal communications. A point Mike, I know you have made in your writing and I am in violent agreement with What is the strategic link between internal and external communication? So, my stated bias is that internal communications is a communications function and should be housed in a communication structure. I do consistently observed that when it is subsumed in HR, we tend to lose the essence of what makes communication work at a strategic level, including fraying the now vital link between internal and external communication. And so, I think that's a really important issue that Shelley's raising, and one that again, speaks to the basic fundamental to be set up to succeed. So you want to have the right capability and the right capacity in internal communication, supported by a governance structure that makes sense.
Even the word violent agreement about the need to integrate internal and external communication deed, I argue that the internal audience is the most valuable external channel that an organization has, I actually have a more nonviolent disagreement about where internal communication should sit, I tend to believe that it should sit under whomever has the most ambitious agenda in the organization. Because if you've got a sponsor, who has ambitions and sees how internal communication can further those ambitions, the usual dramas about budget access seats, a table, what have you, those melts away almost instantly. If you're part of a function for the sake of being part of a function, because it makes sense on an org chart, you may not get the level of sponsorship that you require.
Excellent point and also to that when internal and external communication are housed together. Internal communication tends to be the poor cousin, because when an external fire emerges, it's it becomes overwhelming of the internal resources. So, your point is well taken. And sponsorship is absolutely vital to again creating the conditions for this function to flourish.
Julie Ford 32:18
All right. Well, thank you, speakers. That was lovely. A really great discussion. I see a couple more questions coming through on the chat here. So, Mike, if you'd like to be a contributor to answering the questions, go ahead and throw them out there. And you guys can chime in as you see fit. So, we have a great question here from Matthew. Matthew said he surprised that UNICEF didn't have an internal conference strategy. When you arrived. What did you do to create one, this one's for you cheat?
Sure. No, the surprise was all mine. And what I did initially was to dig out the old management reports. And every three to four years, they used to be organization reviews. And I realized that since 1975, every four to five years, some admin consultant had come to the organization and asked them to create an internal communication, or an employee communication section. And one of the first things that I did to create credibility in the organization, reach out to the various leaders by creating sort of a stakeholder map who would be important for internal communication and who could be sort of a roadblock, and came up to them with some solutions for the problems that I saw in their individual annual reports. And when you go to these leaders with solutions to them, you already are welcomed, and they became the CIM to be on my side, of course, more meetings, focus groups, I took the annual surveys that had been conducted over the last three to four years, and then created a roadmap of what an internal communication strategy for such a global organization will look like. And this was in beta and you have to go after the low hanging fruits like creating a cover for the internet. If you set out to overhaul the whole of internet, which has been managed by it for this long, then then you are in for a surprisingly very long time. It takes a lot of budget and a long time to remember that it was a one member team for the longest time and even though I was called the chief of internal communication, I used to turn around to delegate and there was nobody Yes. Yeah, in a large organization when you don't know anybody, it can sometimes be to your advantage when you where you're creating new networks. You don't have any biases. I yeah, I could go on but as something Thank you, Matthew.
Julie Ford 35:00
Thanks, Jake. Got another one here from Meg. Meg is wondering what mechanisms exist in organizations to share media activity with employees, for them to be informed and to share with their social networks? After all, aren't all employees now external communicators because of social media?
Yeah, I can comment on that briefly. Maybe Mike could share also what you see, in your practice, I have observed a number of clients now working on integrating their social feeds in their internal communication streams. Again, this becomes a challenge because we do have this hyperactive hive mind and a clutter of information that can become overwhelming. But I think that instinct is a good one that we do want to be thinking in that integrated way between internal and external. And the way in which in practice, I see this happening significantly is through intranet design. Mike, I would be curious to see what you're observing among your clients.
I mean, it is extremely inconsistent and haphazard at this point. And it's not necessarily the top issue on a lot of internal comms folks, particularly large corporate internal comms folks who have, you know, established platform, you know, particularly as they went and got their platforms a couple of years ago, because they've got their, you know, their kind of tunnel vision, you know, blinders on going, you know, hybrid, hybrid, Hybrid Hybrid, and they're not enough thinking about what's going on beyond this whole hybrid hype bubble that they live. It's, it's something that should be seamless, you know, with, you know, something like a sparrow connected or with, you know, one of the decent comms platforms out there, it should be, you know, it should be something that integrates, but at the same time, I'd much rather have the external communication feed, moving into the internal communication ecosystem, rather than having internal communication forced into an external communication heavy ecosystem. Because I think that that could be disastrous, and something that people do by default, because, oh, we just include this in there for free, so to speak.
Yeah. And I think just to double click on that, I think the primacy of the internal audience has to be maintained as a principle. I had a client once who said, Well, if employees want to know where the CEO was speaking, and what he's doing, they should follow me on Twitter. And of course, this just went over like a bug in a Punchbowl, because employees expect to have a privileged immediate access to information that is, in fact enhanced over what the President may be tweeting externally. So, there is a question of trust and affinity to the organization and the employee experience that I think we need to be increasingly attentive to.
Julie Ford 37:58
Great. So we have another one here from Elzbieta. Do you believe? Do you have any thoughts about gaining trust and creating internal influencers? Or internal comms between blue collar employees? Mike, I believe you have a piece on this recently about social influence, and manufacturing, that could be a good starting point for this one.
Well, yeah, it builds on what he was saying about internal influence that trust, there's tons of trust in organizations, it doesn't necessarily flow in the ways that organizations want them to people trust certain peers, certain colleagues, either because they're smart, or because they're loyal or because they're well connected, or because they're generous. And part of the key thing is to start doing basic research to figure out who these people are and how they connect. I mean, companies will think nothing about spending millions on tech platforms, and won't spend 15,000 To do a basic snowball analysis or an organizational network analysis, you know, because Oh, my God, we might arouse some privacy concerns. Well, you know, if you've got people in a work environment, your knowledge of how that organization works is basic due diligence that you certainly have the right to ask about. Nobody's obligated to tell you the answers necessarily, but you certainly have a right to ask. So, start by looking at the trust that already exists, rather than just trying to make your leadership look more trustworthy.
Julie Ford 39:34
Excellent, thank you, Mike. We have another one here from Ken Mitra, internal communication should be the fuel of life and the organization. Can you share any examples when you've actually seen internal communications being that fuel of life?
Yeah, well, I could certainly jump in there. And we have written a few case studies about client examples that have done that effectively. I would say that common didn't nominator is absolutely executive sponsorship. So, this is a full stop issue that in order for an organization to transform and really have internal communication and connection, as its life force that has to be a direction from the top, otherwise, the internal communications person is pushing up the rope. So, you cannot work harder or care more than the senior executive. That being said, the other common denominator because we have a few clients that I have seen a total transformation in their approach here is that the pain has to be acute enough for the organization to be in the market for a solution. And so that's often a problem that people have seen internal communication as a sort of fluffy, nice to have take it or leave it to kind of proposition. And the only way to make a real transformational leap here is to have an acute level of pain. Like for example, we had a university client where they were going to outsource a whole function. So, if we want to survive around here, we better do things totally differently. And so now we're going to be thinking about the way in which information flows so that we can raise our performance. So, I think those are the common things that are required is executive sponsorship, and recognized, identified and measurable felt pain to which internal communication becomes the solution. So, this is certainly possible, but there are those basic conditions have to be in place.
Julie Ford 41:29
Thank you, Caroline. We have one here from Greg now, you said why do you think communicators struggle so much building business cases for new technology? What advice do you have for them to help them overcome this? The sales cycle for selling comms platforms is way too long? How can they move faster through this process to bring value to the organization?
I give this one a cracker, do you want to do want to give it a go? Jeet?
Sure. So, one of the pitfalls that I've seen why the cycle becomes longer than it needs to be is that one, there is not enough data from the organization to be able to sell it internally to the champion or the sponsor, who can enable the purchase of this technology. The other is that internal communicators are communicators in general. aware to the information technology folks who seem to be sometimes we don't understand the language in this way in which the technologists speak, but we have to work together with them to come up with the case for new technologies, even for even poor communication. I have seen that when we went to the senior management for maybe $11 million for the implementation of the proposal had fallen flat. But when we went together with the IT department and made a presentation, the director of communication made a presentation together with the director of it, it it was a success it came through. So, we have to work together with them. We're to depend on data, and also to have more belief in what the organization needs at this time and be able to articulate that.
I think an additional element here is that because this technology is still relatively new, the relationship between the cost of tech, you know, you know, even though we've been talking about ROI being allows the measurement of internal comms, ROI has to enter the conversation about technology tools a little bit more robustly, because the pricing on these tools vary so widely. Why should you spend 10 million on X, when there's why that's 1 million that has 90% of the functionalities and gets higher user ratings. So, I mean, as an example, I mean, part of it is a political minefield, you've got you know it and it doesn't just have budget to defend, it also has very limited and stretched resources. So, something that may look cheap on paper, but that might cause a lot more havoc within your IT department is something that will be given unnecessary or excessive resistance compared to what you think should be the issue. The other issue is you also have vendors in this space, who think that we don't sell on price and aren't willing to really get into the, the mechanics of the linear of the relationship between investment and value in this space. So, it's a combination of where we are as practice Here's where vendors are, and where our peers and partners are within the organization.
And if I could just jump in here to build on my little chat comment, I really just keep coming back to trying to raise awareness and shed, you know, shine a spotlight on the cost of a problem. And so that's the thing that just doesn't happen. That is as simple calculation, even as the one that we have found very effective with many of our clients is to get an average cost per head. For a talent pool, for example, we're working at the moment with a client organization of 7000 people. So, if we waste an hour of time, 7,000 people that equals a big, huge number. And if we consistently do this, for example, with these, you know, severely substandard mass emails that are irrelevant. And we have taught our employees to hit delete on corporate messaging, which by the way, it has become absolutely rampant, then there is a very real cost of that, because we have now taught our people to ignore senior executives. So, what is the downstream consequence of that kind of decision? So that's one thing that I would suggest, and then your HR folks can help with this. The best business cases we have made are based on that real cost of talent plus overhead.
Julie Ford 46:22
Great, thanks, everyone. We have a couple more questions, and then we'll wrap things up for today. That one was a good segue to this next question. Why are quality internal communications tools such a critical part of the puzzle for internal comms to contribute to business outcomes?
I'm just trying to find that that question here. Sorry, whose question was that?
Julie Ford 46:49
This is a question we received before the webinar.
Oh, okay. No problem. Yeah, well, I think I think a key issue is scalability. You know, if we think about old school, if you had a small organization of 20 people working in one office, then we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. But in a in an environment of dispersed talent globally, working from home, the infrastructure required is critical. So again, this is just a fundamental cost of doing business and sharing the information, knowledge and context that our employees need to perform. We need to have that infrastructure and these internal comms platforms, in order to enable an organization to perform, whether it's in the private sector or the public sector, it is the essential modality of any organization's performance. So again, I just see this as a absolute no brainer, then you can debate well, which is the best solution for your particular requirement, but you do have a requirement. So this, this is a non-negotiable, as far as I can see.
You know, and at the same time, the biggest competition, the decent tools face is from lousy tools that are positioned as free. Because then that, you know, the whole investment issue becomes clouded in, you know, can we just do it with Slack and teams and town halls. And the reality is that if you're just using slack, and teams and town halls, when you get beyond, when you move, say, from your 20, people in an office 250 people in a big kind of barn like room or a bunch of different locations, you know, that kind of works to an extent, but eventually, you end up with three hour town halls every week, where people are talking about what color the wallpaper should be in the next office. And if you want to talk about route relevance, and resonance, and noise reduction, you need tools that are designed to allow you to do that, rather than which require elaborate workarounds to avoid having to spend the money to do it properly.
Exactly. And if I could just build on that is also to be attentive to the distinction between synchronous and asynchronous communication in this environment. And so I have also heard many, many clients complain about townhalls, that that are now having to fulfill every internal communication task and you do wonder, why do I have my global engineering talent sitting here and talking about this thing that they could have perhaps rent, or we could have shared in an asynchronous way in a more efficient fashion such that we're getting a more effective townhall that's focused on those things that do call upon synchronous communication. So, I think that again, is part of the mix here of platform discussion is maximizing the effectiveness and efficiency of asynchronous communication.
Julie Ford 49:43
Thank you, everyone. We have one final question. And this one's from Aisha. We talked a little bit earlier about internal comms earning a seat at the executive table. Do you believe this is equally important in every sector?
Please, please go ahead. Thanks.
I was just going to say that it's interesting that we work across the private public pair of public sectors. And I would say all organizations have a performance objective, whether its financial or otherwise in terms of service delivery, or, or a not-for-profit outcome. And so yes, internal communication I'll come back to is the essential lifeblood, the distinction is the way in which the conversation is framed because the outcome is not financial but could be one of performance like is my hospital able to deliver is my University working is my nonprofit charitable organization able to deliver maximum impact. So, the common orientation remains performance, but the way in which performance is assessed is different.
I had also that, you know, a seat at the table doesn't necessarily need to be a throne, or a permanency. You know, the late us Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, you know, if there's no seat for you at the table, bring it down folding chair. You know, there's also a piece about, you know, whether a presence at the table is a formal seat, or whether it's being on the agenda, or whether it's being the table itself, which, in certain cultures and certain environments, I mean, there's a difference between, say, a, you know, just to be within a sector, an auto dealership, versus an auto manufacturer, versus a company that, you know, that make software for self-driving cars, you know, same sector, but very different roles of communication and initiative, in each of these kinds of environments. You know, because communication really is a way of harnessing individual initiative at a certain level. And so the extent to which Initiative is a driver of performance, is the extent to which internal communication increasingly adds value and increasingly needs to be part of the conversation.
If I may have a 32nd window. For me, having a seat at the table or not, you definitely need to be top of mind recall why, for the senior management of the organization, I'll give you a quick anecdote I had received from the executive director who sort of the CEO of UNICEF, a very late night emailed to me about a certain initiative that he wanted to see the light off. He sent me an email saying, can you make this happen? The next morning, I went to his office before everybody else came in, and I told him that I do not have the budget to make this thing happen. And he just gave me a few words, he said, you may not have the budget, but you do have the influence, go make it happen. And eventually, I was able to, so that is the rule that I would want to see for internal communication in all the organizations that you create an influence for yourself, whether or not you have a seat at the table or the throne, as Mike nicely pointed. So yeah,
Julie Ford 53:30
thank you. That's a great spot to end things on. So first, I want to thank you like Caroline and GE for such an amazing conversation today. And to all the attendees who took the time to join us and shared questions and comments in the chat. We really want to keep these conversations going so that we can help elevate the internal communications profession. Together, we can get internal communication leaders around the world, the strategic voice they deserve. Here's how you can get involved. First, you can follow spirit connected and we lead comms on LinkedIn. You can connect with Mike Caroline, and Ajit also on LinkedIn. You can also share the recorded webinar in our brand new e-book which we're going to send to you by email. It's called employee engagement or business impact, it's time to choose. Share that with your colleagues, your peers and your leadership team. And third, keep an eye out for an invite to our next we lead comm Sparrow connected webinar, which is coming up in June. And fourth, get in touch with Spiro connected for a demo of our internal communications platform. Thanks again, everyone for attending. We hope to see you next time.
Thank you, everyone.
Julie Ford 54:40
Be well everyone. Thank you.
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