Think traditional internal communications. The intranet, newsletters, townhalls, annual survey. Levels of cynicism around these channels are embarrassingly low. So why are they still going on?
Can you imagine an organization with zero media communications activity for employees? No. First and foremost, simply the act of media communications validates an organization, reinforcing even just the name and brand visuals. This gives the organization an ongoing identity and gives its workers confidence and a sense of belonging.
But unless you’re in an organization where this identity and belonging piece is all you need – and there are plenty of organizations out there like that – internal comms is stuck.
It’s stuck because leaders want to continue a media presence but the content isn’t relevant or gripping enough to connect individuals and teams with the strategy and each other. In terms of creating clarity and community, it’s not effective. Why? Because it has to compete with a busy noise of other messages, signals and distractions. It has to compete with standards of video and social media production in the outside world.
And there are more fundamental reasons why internal comms has lost influence, why it doesn’t get the budgets, and why internal comms leaders don’t get to sit at the power tables.
This is what’s behind the frustration has been building up in the world of IC professionals over the past 15 years and it’s got a single undertone: “How can we have more recognition and respect?”
I presented on this at the Quadriga Conference for Internal Communication in Berlin last week by holding up the mirror.
An internal comms department centred around media activity for employees isn’t effective for today’s dynamic, complex organizations because:
- It removes the responsibility for managers to fully participate in the communications process
- It reduces the ability of employees to influence the way people make sense of their world at work and participate in 2-way communications
- It undermines clarity and honesty by exposing the inevitable areas dissonance between strategic intent and the current employee experience
- It perpetuates the top-down thinking that holds organizations back in times of complexity.
Let’s strip down internal comms media content to real news and identity / confidence building stuff only.
Let’s have a People Performance Department, integrated with change agents from L&D, HR and OD.
Let’s support leaders and managers with engagement and alignment.
Lets use the best of what’s out there today to do that as facilitators – participatory-based strategy building, outcomes based planning, agile ways of working, team alignment tools….
- Real communications is two way – it’s about meaning shared between people that counts, not just what people interpret on their own
- It’s about behaviours and words – why have HR and Comms with separate decision-making here?
- Engagement is an outcome of inclusion not a comms process – people come to work to feel heard and valued, not told.
Nobody needs to ‘own’ communications. Give back the gauntlet to managers and leaders. Support them in their roles as communicators – god knows they need it. It’s time to look at ‘what is’ and move to a better place. A place where the internal comms professional can really add value and thrive.