The Evolution of Internal Communications
After years of needing to explain (to both current and prospective clients) what strategic internal communications is, today we rarely have to explain the concept; we focus on how it will specifically affect our clients’ businesses. We present case studies with supporting metrics to explain how improved communications have a direct impact on employee engagement and performance.
Over the past couple of years our team has grown rapidly. Our methodologies and processes have improved. We have helped our clients communicate significant change, transform their organizations’ cultures, transition new leadership, launch new systems and processes, divest of operating units and acquire and integrate new businesses. We’ve taken on many exciting global engagements that have made a considerable contribution to the growth and development of our team.
As our firm has grown and evolved, the practice of internal communications has also changed.
Maturing practices inside the organization
We are more frequently being engaged by clients who have formal internal communication functions, and entire teams dedicated to ensuring they are done well. Communication planning has improved, with greater focus on outcomes-based plans, strategic thinking, and collaborating with other functions to ensure well-conceived and integrated messages to audiences. Increasingly, we partner with internal communications teams – much like marketing teams partner with their ad agencies – to build sustainable strategic messaging platforms, develop quantitative insight and analytics, and produce specialty creative and tactics that augment what an in-house team can produce efficiently.
Increasing emphasis on long-term effectiveness
Several of our clients have moved beyond asking “How do I get this message to my employees” and have started asking “Overall, how are our internal communications?” A growing segment of our business reviews team structures and skill-sets, helps further develop internal communicators, assesses practices and recommends process and infrastructure changes to internal communication.
Planning for communication vs. information
A major finding emerging from these audit-based projects has been the overlap between communication and information. We say “information” to identify the things people need to know to do their jobs – for example, in certain sectors this could include things like industry regulatory changes or the exact steps to follow in a recently revised process. “Communication” is the interactions and dialogue that help people know why a given change is being made; it is a forum that creates a shared rationale for the actions, which actions are most important, and how they impact outcomes. As businesses evolve or transform, there is significant need both for communication about change and the new information needed to do the work. However, tools and work environments that provide information at the right place and time are lagging the changes to the work itself, and as a work-around, communication channels are being used for information transfer. Manager conversations, email, and intranet channels have become clogged with information necessary for work, but are easy to miss, in the wrong place, difficult to find quickly when needed, often hard to understand and exasperating for managers and employees alike. At the same time, the inefficiency and noise degrades the effectiveness of those channels for communication about the work.
Intranets evolving into connected workspaces
For many years, corporate intranets were just document repositories or provided links to tools available on the server. Over time, they grew to take on a news-like function, helping raise awareness of what was happening in the organization, making many corporate newsletters obsolete. This process has continued, with most corporate intranets having strong news functions, but also beginning to embrace internal social media, fostering more employee-to-employee communication and direct leader-to-employee communication across the organization. In an increasing effort to overcome the information/communication challenges, we are frequently asked to help our clients reconceive how they use their intranets to facilitate work, disentangling information from communication, converting them to trusted role-based online resources, and moving as much mass communication as possible out of email and supervisor conversations channels as possible so they can be better used for the interactions they are best suited for.
The rise of mobile
Another major change in recent years has been the increasing importance of mobile in the workplace. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are being embraced and we now find one of the most powerful communication platforms ever in the hands and pockets of almost all workers. Our ability to reach employees on the frontline (and those in the field) has radically improved, opening up the opportunity for real-time, social, and rich-media experiences that bridge the last mile at very low cost to the organization.
Many of our clients are feeling the pinch for Talent, and have engaged Livewire to clarify their Employee Value Propositions (EVP) and define their Employer Brands. In this work, we are focused on what makes a career at a given company desirable and establishing the differentiating aspects of the employee experience.
It’s an extraordinary time to be in this industry and we are turning our sights to what comes next.