I was running a course the other day at the CIPR and dug out my old slide on the five reasons for IC. The more I think about it, the more convinced that the model still works.
My main point is that there's a lot of BS talked about IC and its magical powers. Internal Comms can't make people walk over cliffs or persuade employees that corrupt or venial managers are somehow worthy of esteem and loyalty.
But if you can't say why you do have an IC function it's hard to say if its delivering any value.
The five reasons, in my opinion, are:
The first reason is to make your people stay – and not run off at the first opportunity to another employer. It costs a lot to recruit, build knowledge and skills. And when staff disappear, the result is disrupted work, over-worked colleagues and another bill for replacing them.
Making them feel valued and proud of their employer will go a long way to making them stick around. Knowing that they have a career path, and that they will be looked after are solid reasons for spending a little effort on communication.
Secondly, once you get them to stay you want them to work hard - on the right things. Instead of starting the day by logging on to Facebook or planning the fantasy football league, communications has a lot of influence over whether people are excited about their work, can see how they make a difference and the satisfaction they get from a job well done.
The idea that most people only want to do their basic time, collect their pay and go home is, thankfully, dying out. But if you don’t explain why they should care, frankly all you’ll get is an empty car park at clocking out time.
And we can do a lot to make sure that new instructions, projects or challenges are explained in ways that focus people’s efforts. If you don’t show people what they are meant to be doing you can’t complain when they make it up for themselves.
The next reason is that you want your staff to say nice things about you outside work. Research by MORI a couple of years ago said the most powerful individual influence on an organisation’s reputation was whether people knew someone who worked there. Apparently knowing an employee will outweigh anything said in the media or even a direct experience of the product or service provided by the organisation.
In short, a reputation as a great employer will see you through some pretty tough times.
I still love things like the Deloitte Film Festival:
or the Strongenoughtocare blog - examples of how eloquent employees can be as advocates of your organisation.
And almost finally, communications helps organisations change. Communications’ mission is to make sense of the what, the why and the how - together with supporting emotional commitment.
And that’s about it. Beyond that you lapse into the realms of alchemy, soothsaying and probably crystal healing.
There, I said it. Great employee communications are about getting people to stay, strive, advocate and change. You can debate how effective different approaches are at achieving these goals but if you’re not supporting at least one of them you’re in trouble.
In fact, you run the risk of simply being a random noise generator. And why would an organisation employ someone to do that?
Oh - I nearly forgot - there's the law. A great deal of what is said at work is the result of legislation. Health and Safety, privacy, diversity and employment rights are just a few of the areas where an employer is required to say quite specific things to their staff.
There is a load of rubbish talked about IC - how an amazing new tool is going to improve performance or why reducing the volume of email in an organisation will bring wold peace.
The question is - can we claim that we are adding value to an organisation by meeting one of the above five objectives for internal communication. Without a clear reason we're just making noise and no one should be paying for that.