Creating impact with internal communication
Statements from Peter that give us an insight into the importance of internal communication and its specific role within the company
The tasks of internal communication have increased considerably along with its importance
The original role of internal communication was to inform. About the ins and outs of the company. But with a focus on technical aspects primarily. And later on, a more human dimension was added. But the information was often packaged as entertainment. Always making use of available technology at the time. Like e.g. radio broadcasting or industrial musicals.
At the time of the oil crisis, the role of internal communication increased. Now employees had to be persuaded of the company’s good intentions. It had to engage people and teach them how to cope with change.
Around the turn of the century, on top of that, internal communication had to try to understand employees better. And put the accent on well-being rather than on prosperity. Today, networking and different departments working closely together has come into focus.
So, yes, the tasks of internal communication have increased considerably along with its importance. However, strangely enough, in many cases more work has to be done with fewer people.
C-Levels are particularly interested in the strategic role of IC professionals
When asked about internal communication, the answer from C-levels is that they see it as almost solely having a strategic role. And then more specifically, the strategic role with a long-term focus.
So, both short- and long-term operational goals like informing and involving employees remain essential. So does the short-term strategic goal of connecting employees.
But its most important role today is the long-term strategic goal of enabling and speeding up company change. And that is very much about reputation as well.
So, as an IC professional, you have to make sure that you know what is going on in the company really well. You have to be very close to the C-levels and know what keeps them awake at night. So that internal communication serves the company’s long-term strategic goals in the best possible way.
What does that mean: internal communication as a strategic connector?
Belgium’s best-known landmark probably is the “Atomium”. It was built in 1958 for the world exhibition. It is basically a hugely enlarged iron crystal. With one sphere nicely tucked away in the center while having a direct connection with all surrounding spheres.
That is exactly what the position of internal communication should be in every company: not being part of a single department but somewhere nicely in between. So internal communication can truly facilitate and intensify the cooperation within the company. Blotting out the borders between departments.
Being strategic relevant has to do with teaching, self-understanding, bringing structure and going informal
The world is changing rapidly. So, every company is pretty much about change today. But when we talk about transformation, it is mostly about knowledge, skills and attitudes. And that leads us to act on a short-term basis.
Every company needs to become more self-aware and see to it that, through co-creation, internal communication keeps improving.
There has to be clarity and structure. And for that you need a strategic internal communication plan.
And finally, internal communication has to be very much in touch with the ‘informal circuit’ within the organization. So that it really understands what actually concerns people on the floor and see to it that this kind of information goes all the way back up to the top.
The connecting part uses different building blocks such as storytelling, behavior psychology and organizational network analysis
The management, the people on the floor, external partners, … Everyone has to be connected. The important thing is to understand that everyone concerned is looking for information that is specifically relevant to them.
And different approaches have to be used for different people. Because some employees e.g. are actively engaged while others are actively disengaged.
The next 18 months, we need to focus on purpose, well-being and the human touch
People want to feel safe. Safe in the sense that when they come to work, they feel totally comfortable. But also safe in the sense that they want to know how they can remain connected to their colleagues, to the company as such.
Internal communication definitely needs a different tone of voice. If only because through video chat, we’ve come to know our colleagues in their natural habitat.
And what is crucial given the current circumstances, is that everyone understands very clearly why it is the company is doing what it is doing. So keep explaining your purpose.