Internal communications: rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated


I have noticed a somewhat concerning trend lately among organizations who view social media as a handy alternative to the messy business of building and executing an internal communications function.

The argument is that there’s no need to invest in a specialized internal communications function when all employees have to do is find information about their company online, and follow executives on Twitter, right?

Ummm…no. Wrong. Very wrong.

In today’s information saturated era, it’s becoming increasingly important to craft specialized strategies, approaches and messages for employees. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything being more vital than ensuring than an organization’s employees (typically the largest cost centre) are equipped with the information and mindset they need to perform at maximum potential. These business needs are unique, and can’t possibly be effectively addressed by trying to do double duty with external communication channels like social media.

I have seen first-hand the damage caused by organizations trying to get out of committing to internal communications – consistently, employees report that they feel that being told to just follow the CEO on Twitter demonstrates a lack of respect. And what kind of performance will an employee who feels disrespected offer his or her organization?

If you are struggling with making the case for a dedicated internal communications function (scaled, of course, to make sense relative to the size and composition of your organization), here’s some ammunition. Here are the top business outcomes of internal communications:

  • Engagement: Employees invest discretionary effort into the organization’s success and are enrolled in achieving the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Alignment: Individuals and teams work effectively and efficiently in support of the organization’s strategic goals, while building understanding and engagement.
  • Productivity: Employees are effectively contributing to organizational goals.
  • Mindset: Organizational functions are delivered with solidary of intent, maximizing opportunities for impact, and mitigating risk exposure.
  • Shared meaning: Employees participate in the creation of shared meaning around key priority concepts and goals, magnifying critical information and reducing the potential for misalignment or disconnects in day-to-day operations.
  • Line of sight: Staff at all levels understand how their work connects to other parts of the organization and to strategic goals, helping to enhance performance.
  • Intrapreneurship: Encouraging employees to develop new ideas and contribute to improving the organization and its client service.
  • Change: Engaging employees in positive, productive processes in which they are producers, not merely consumers of change.
  • Trust: Employees trust their colleagues, leaders and organization, generating goodwill and underpinning commitment. This is a vital business outcome as trust is a pre-condition for collaboration.

If these business outcomes aren’t convincing enough, consider the cost to an organization of not communicating to employees.

“Running an organization with low levels of employee engagement is like driving a car with one foot on the brake.”
– Christopher Rice, The Engagement Equation

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