A New Model for Employee Communications

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of attending Shel Holtz’s launch of a new Employee Communications Model in Washington D.C. As a long-standing fan of Shel’s work, I knew I was going to be in for a treat, and the session didn’t disappoint.

In creating this framework, Shel has made a significant – and generous – contribution to the industry. He’s gone way beyond just describing employee communications to actually create a coherent and strategic way to think about it.

This is groundbreaking work that is elegant in its simplicity yet sophisticated in its comprehensiveness. While others have described the component parts of the field, the real trick is to cogently explain how they fit together – this is what Shel has nailed with this new model.

What’s more, he’s offered a whole series of posts which describe each element of the Model, which I highly recommend. (I am pleased to have played a tiny part in this effort in suggesting the addition of the “alignment” element to the Model, which Shel’s integrated seamlessly).

The very best things about this new Model for Employee Communications?

1. Its name. Shel deliberately made a point of referring to the discipline as “employee communications” as opposed to the more commonly used “internal communications”. He makes the compelling point that “ ‘internal’ is a place… ‘employee’ keeps us focused on whom we are communicating with.” Amen.

2. Its scope. The model is striking for its breadth. It correctly illustrates the intrinsically inter-connected nature of many facets of employee communications which are too often spread out across various functions (most typically in a fragile balancing act with Human Resources). While Shel acknowledges that the elements of the framework may be executed by different parts of the organization, the model immediately conveys the idea that these functions are part of a greater whole – and should be treated as such.

3. Its dynamic nature. While the image of the model is static, it manages to bring to life the very dynamic, inter-connected nature of the elements. The framework has a strong focus on consultation, engagement and listening – the messy bits of employee communications that organizations often struggle with the most. By making it clear that these dynamic elements are fundamental parts of employee communications, the model becomes rallying cry for a truly integrated, strategic and appropriately resourced function.

4. Its pragmatism. So often, internal communications practitioners seem to operate in a bubble, somehow believing their work is insulated from the external world. The model proposed by Shel is refreshingly realistic about the importance of addressing the fact that employees are people too – and the line between internal and external communications has never been more blurred. Considerations about branding, customer experience and news are baked in, serving as an important reminder to think strategically about the deliberate integration of employee and external communication.

I tip my hat to Shel for this substantial contribution to our community – I know it will have tremendous relevance, and impact over the long haul.