In the first of our series on the Five Step Value Framework – 44’s business tool to demonstrate the value of employee engagement to senior stakeholders – we explore how step one ‘Change your mindset’ is the first step to transforming industries with internal communications.
Here’s an interesting question for all of us working in internal communications. If an organisation treated our discipline the same as all its other operations, like finance, production, procurement and marketing, what would the ultimate benefits be?
That’s one of the questions posed in our Five Step Value Framework (FSVF) model. In its first step, Change your mindset, we argue that by changing your perceptions of what internal communications is and what it should be, you’ll gain far more as a practitioner than just professional kudos and a seat at the boardroom table.
Rather, by reframing our purpose, perception and position, you’ll be on the way to making it not just the connecting tissue between different business areas, but the muscle powering and transforming how your organisation operates, performs and competes in its industry. In short, to transforming industries with internal communications.
Scrutiny and rigour
An exciting premise for sure, but certainly not a far-fetched one, especially if you manage internal communications in a way that will bring the best out of its inherent qualities (see below). Like any other business operation, internal communications produces tangible outputs to agreed budgets, and should therefore be subject to as much scrutiny and rigour as things like production data or marketing ROI.
By giving internal communications the attention it deserves, and demonstrating its business value through planning, control, continuous improvement and robust strategy, you’ll also ensure the unique qualities of the discipline come into their own. The following are just some examples, but the list is by no means exhaustive:
- putting strategy into vivid, inspirational context for employees
- visibly demonstrating an organisation’s management culture
- supplying essential, targeted information at rapid pace
- providing organisational tools like an intranet or team briefing system
- meeting the need for immediate two-way communication across departmental boundaries
- informing, involving and inspiring its employees more frequently than the competition.
Bearing in mind the logical position of internal communications within an organisation is essentially an interconnected one, linking all other core operations together, it’s clear to see how we can begin transforming industries with internal communications. The IC team can become the hub for sharing knowledge, ideas and information.
Put simply, quality internal communications equates to quality performance, excellence and competitive advantage, something only enhanced by advances in technology and a growing suite of social platforms to fuel communication.
Consequently, traditional notions of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ communication become obsolete, replaced by a collaborative, self-sustaining and continually improving flow of horizontal information that creates a ripple effect beyond the business and into the wider industry.
In summary, by changing our mindset towards internal communications, we can think more creatively about its potential as a business tool. The end result could be to make it the most important, galvanizing force in any organisation, and by extension transform sectors and industries (quite literally) from the inside out.
Four stage operation
The FSVF outlines four stages through which the internal communications function must develop to achieve full maturity and maximum effect:
- Internal Neutrality, where internal communications is purely reactive, consists of filtered down senior management decisions and is dismissed as out-of-date propaganda with no real benefit.
- External Neutrality, where internal communications has leadership buy-in, firmer budgets and early adopters who see it as a valuable way of gaining exposure, even though measurement is confined to annual employee surveys and channel analytics.
- Internally Supportive, where managers endorse internal communications because they have seen the tangible benefits, which in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where the more internal communications activity is generated, the more value is gained through deeper employee involvement and greater productivity and quality.
- Externally Supportive, where the internal communications operation is redefining industry expectations thanks to the rise of the knowledge economy, more dynamic, flatter organisational structures and the increase in use of social media.