10 things about internal comms and channel shift

Get involved, get involved, get involved. If your organisation is planning a big change or channel shift as a comms person get involved. But don't just think of the external message. Without question think internal comms first. At channelshiftcamp in Glasgow that came across really clearly.

by Dan Slee

Once upon a time there was a project to save millions and make life easy for customers.

It was great and looked terrific. "Of course it'll work," those that worked on it assured people. "It'll save us money and make it easier for people to do business with us."

Six months later on and the project didn't do a fraction of what it was supposed to do and got quietly closed down. 

Why was this? A few reasons. But even the best projects don't get off ther launchpad if the staff across the organisation are not informed.

This is a simple thing but it bears repeating: in the event of an information vacuum rumour will fill it and chances are rumour will be wrong but in the absence of truth it will become it. Quite happily.

A new project?

Maybe it's a different way of handling calls, a new way to report potholes or a new way staff can clock in and out. The umbrella term for all this is channel shift - moving people from one channel to another - and in the public sector this is major league stuff. Not just that but it can be the difference between the organisation staying in the black such are the numbers involved. Which makes it all the more ridiculous that the internal comms gets forgotten.

At the excellent Channelshiftcamp in Glasgow staged by the ever on the money PSCSF the subject of poor internal communications was touched upon in a session.

Here are ten things about internalcomms and big new channel shift projects

Back office staff are in a bad place right now - You've probably heard the pledge to protect frontline services and look for savings in the back office. That's great in theory. But those back office teams who were 10 and are now six and doing the work of 12 don't have overflowing morale. Yet, you are asking them to carry the flag for change programmes that could save you millions. Without proper internal comms that shiny project is going to fail. 

To truly work internal comms needs to be truly two way -  You shouldn't think that chucking something onto the intranet and sticking a line in an email is enough. It's almost certainly not. Listening to the tales of woe at Channelshiftcamp it is clear that it needs to be two way so the organisation can listen and hear as well as inform. 

Organisations are drowning in information - One Scottish local authority looked at the information that it kept. It logged all the pdfs, jpegs, word documents a other files it had and came up with information that it would take 6.5 billion sheets of A4 to print it all off. That's the equivalent of six-and-a-half times round the world. It would also take its combined staff more than 10 years to read. In short: we have too much information and you are drowning us in it.

Communications is always an issue in staff surveys - Ask anyone. It's internal comms. That's not to say that the combined failure of creating a pile of information and then failing to make everyone read it is the fault of the internal comms person. It isn't. It's your organisation's fault.

Traditional and digital work - The web is great. But there is a limit it can do inside an organisation. Face-to-face works. So do letters, emails, text and internal social networks like Yammer. You should try them.

Maybe we should put mobile phones first - Put mobile first has been the mantra of web people for a while. What they mean is to make sure that your web page works on a mobile phone. Thing is, we've completely overlooked internal comms again. Not every member of staff has a PC or a work email address. But the chances are they will have a phone which today means a phone that can link to the internet. So maybe you should make swathes of the intranet open to those outside the firewall and keep a section back to log into with a work ID number. And while we're at it, why don't you open up the all staff email to non-work email addresses that staff opt in with?

Ask staff how they'd like to be communicated - Chances are the make-up of your workforce  is changing but the way you are talkinhg to them hasn't. So, let's see if your email alerts or commentable pages could work.

Have an internal comms toolkit - make a list of everything you have and measure it against what staff think of it through a staff survey. Is the Departmental Circular so run through with jargon as to be illegible?

Speak human - As ever, you need to concentrate on what human beings say to each other rather than bathing in TLA's. Or Three Letter Acronyms. DDI. Or Don't Do It.

Cascading information doesn't work, pass it on - whoever still thinks that this method of institutional Chinese whispers is effective, efficient or event half way worth doing is wrong. All it takes is a missed email, a spell of leave or a mischevous intent and it goes wrong. You are putting your message into the hands of rumour.

Channelshift Humber takes place on Thursday May 22 in Hull. To book and for more information click here.

The outputs from the inaugural Channelshift event - Channelshift Midlands - can be found here.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.