Did you know that, apparently, 72% of employees don't have a full understanding of the company's strategy? What a number, huh? For decades, corporations would allocate millions to reach their clients with relevant messages. Meanwhile, the employees would stay inside their bubbles not realizing what's going on. What's the cost of it? 🤔 According to the Holmes Report, poor communications cost an average corporation (of 100,000+ employees) $62.4 million per year in productivity losses.
When we started planning the Great Comms Debate, we knew it wouldn't give us easy answers to internal comms problems. What we wanted instead, was a set of thought-provoking questions and three communication experts debating around those questions. In this post, I am going to share some of my notes from the session, yet I would still recommend you to watch it yourself because it has much more to offer than what I could fit in here.
Before I proceed to my notes, I want to give much deserved credits to Priya Bates, Jason Anthoine and Mike Klein. 🙌 These experts, with more than a century of combined experience in internal communication, were able to give a 360-overview of the current state of IC with tangible examples and useful advice. Also, big thanks to my colleague Aleks Cardwell for moderating the discussion and to all the online viewers for great questions and comments. 💬
Insight #1: IC is where Marketing was 25 years ago
Communication professionals need to learn from marketers in understanding their customers, tailoring their content, and segmenting their audiences. We need to know who our employees are. So every communication that we make isn't a shotgun blast to every single person in an organization, but a targeted action with relevant content. "Once we do that, it will make it much easier to drive some analytics and truly prove the value of our work as IC professionals," says Jason Anthoine.
Priya Bates used a great metaphor when talking about Marketing and Internal Communications: "Marketing is like dating. You're getting excited, you're sending out campaigns every now and then to make you look attractive. IC is like a marriage. You've already got a commitment and now you are building up a relationship. You are talking about your ups and downs, not just the good stuff. It's not pointing in time - it's every single day."
Insight #2: Culture & employee alignment is key when it comes to M&As
Fixing failed Mergers & Acquisitions is way longer and more expensive than being proactive and addressing the role of internal comms in M&As in the first place. The studies show that 30% of Mergers & Acquisitions fail within three years. The majority of them fail due to the disparities in organizational culture. In our previous posts, we also wrote about the importance of an effective communication strategy and the main communication challenges during M&As.
Insight #3: Support your middle managers with CCC ⏤ Content, Context, and Confidence
"Managers are under fierce pressure during any major change in the organization, especially if it's a merger or an acquisition," says Mike Klein. Middle managers are the closest communication touchpoint for both employees and senior leaders so they often get caught in the middle without capacity or skills to deal with communication overloads. Communication professionals can provide them with talking points, FAQs and other supportive materials. Content is important, sure, but the next step would be giving managers Confidence and Context. Managers deserve to get more context to understand the big picture, the direction where the company is heading. The confidence will come with communication training and sufficient support from internal comms leads. Managers shouldn't be saying "We didn't communicate anything because we didn't know what we are allowed to say."
Insight #4: Technology is an enabler, not a solution
Technology has the potential to accelerate the resolution of a great many IC problems and to fuel digital transformation in an organization. But the tech tools are just tools after all. They need to be designed, launched, adopted and maintained properly in order to show results. The success of an internal comms platform heavily depends on the IC or HR specialist who is implementing and supporting the tool from the inside of a company. Technology shouldn't replace face-to-face conversations and relationship building, technology should solve your business problems.
Insight #5: IC folks need to prove their impact
The company leadership has no idea what internal comms managers do for a living and what value do they bring to the company. "They don't know what good looks like and they don't need to. It's our job to show our business value by measuring what we do and explaining to them how does it drive the company forward," says Jason Anthoine. If you as an IC professional can prove your business contribution tangibly and back it with data this can allow you to step up your role to a more strategic, impactful level.
Watch the Great Comms Debate
In the 60-minute recording of the discussion, you can find more insights that I wasn't able to cover in this post. On top of the above-mentioned topics, the experts debate on leadership communication and storytelling, on defining and measuring ROI of internal comms, on transparency vs translucency of IC. Tune in and get ready for the next dispatch of the Great Comms Debate coming in January!