why internal comms needs more love

Over the past five-years, through comms2point0, we’ve had a unique and rather privileged opportunity to watch the world of communications evolve.

We’ve seen first-hand how digital has become the dominant area of growth for many organisations.

We've also watched as internal comms has failed to keep pace. And for some it is languishing.

by Darren Caveney

This view is backed up by our own research and anecdotally through chats with comms colleagues across the UK.  Internal communications is regularly cited as the area of communications causing most concern.

Of course, this isn’t true of all organisations but it does appear to be the case for many.

How does your organisation measure up?

- Is internal comms important
- Are staff our biggest asset?
- Do we want our staff to be our ambassadors?
- Are there benefits in having informed staff?

Yes, yes, yes and yes?

OK, but…

- Have you ever had a great intranet experience at the organisations you have worked at?

- Has internal comms always taken up the biggest chunk of your comms budget

- Is internal comms and staff where you go first to ask questions, for feedback, to test your services, to make announcements?

- Does your organisation dive into your annual staff survey results and look at the results for ways in which you can really make a difference and effect change?

No, no, no and no?

So we face a real disconnect.  We’re saying one thing but doing another.

There will be pockets of good internal comms practice in most organisations but for most it appears that we still haven’t cracked internal comms.

I’ve never seen a staff survey that didn’t have internal communications as a top five issue. So further evidence and intel is there to point out the obvious too.

What is stopping us from being better at internal communications?

Are our leaders and managers saying one thing about engaging with staff but thinking another? Maybe, although it’s hard to imagine that people set with the intention of side-lining their workforce.

Are culture issues to tackle?

Is hierarchical thinking a barrier too.

How about language issues – are we talking here about communications or engagement. Or both?

I was always taught that communications is something you do and, if you do it well, engagement is something that you get.

We’ve been pondering for a while on what else could be causing internal comms to stay rooted in the second division. Maybe we are putting customers, residents and patients first and leaving staff some way behind them in our priorities for engagement. That’s plain daft, as our staff are often our customers, residents and patients too. They can share great stories about their experiences of our organisations or deliver damning put-downs if there is trouble at the mill.

And this isn’t about crafting some corporate narrative for staff or having some clichéd values stuck up on an office wall. Someone once coined the phrase “Don’t tell me, show me.”  

Which means it’s about treating staff well, with genuine care and respect, with integrity, truly valuing them and their ideas,  giving them the opportunity to grow and do positive things in their organisation. It’s about trust. Real trust.

Another key area to explore are the channels and platforms which we use to communicate internally. What works for one organisation might not be right for another but for sure your basic tools of delivery need to be effective and of the moment.

Finally, how do we resource our internal communications activity – do we put our best people in internal comms? Do we fund it properly? Are we giving it a real chance to thrive?

These are just some of the reasons why we wanted to create a new area of our website to explore some of these issues and to search for good practice. We’ll run some further research, stage one of our a Twitter chats on the subject and we’ll hold some events to discuss internal communications in depth.

We thank our friends at Knowledge Hub for supporting this quest and we see K-Hub as being a part of the solution in helping us to delivering more effective internal communications.

A quick check found that there are over 18k posts and mentions relating to internal communications on Knowledge Hub – take a peek here.

So, if you have thoughts, questions, experiences – good or bad – or challenges around internal communications please give us a shout.

Links to good internal comms resources

Here’s a link to our own internal comms posts and case studies

We recommend you look at the Government Communication Service’s The IC Space

Check out Knowledge Hub for existing groups and posts or start your own conversation

Look at Leeds City Council’s Sociable Organisation - Truly Social work by Phil Jewitt


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