January 7th 2013
We’ve all heard the clichés: loving yourself is true happiness. If you can’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else?
And with a brand, this rings even truer. Especially as belts tighten and competition is even fiercer across every sector, if your own staff don’t love you, why would anyone else?
The current flurry of internal communications roles in organisations of all sizes seems to point an awakening of the importance of internal communications and a healthy level of company love.
So you would expect to see amazing innovation in the world of internal communications wouldn’t you?
Sadly not so much.
As a marketing and communications specialist who has worked in large organisations with complex internal communications programmes, I am still astounded at how basic it can often be.
What is considered essential to any external campaign – creativity, strong strategy and marketing savvy – seems to disappear when the word ‘internal’ swaps for ‘external’.
‘We don’t have the budget’
‘Our customers are our focus: they pay the bills’
‘Our staff know who we are: they already work for us so why do we need to convince them?’
‘We try things but they don’t work. People just want to get on with their job.’
‘We just need to ensure our staff get the facts they need and are on message.’
‘We don’t have time.’
Hmmm, all very valid, on the one hand, but think about it. Your best ambassadors and assets are your staff. They breathe life into your brand. They bring innovation to your products.
And importantly, they really do sell your brand. It’s a bit of a cliché but it is in fact very true. It’s often the personal relationships between your staff and your clients that keeps clients returning – not necessarily what you see as the product USP.
A Towers Watson report, ‘Capitalising on Effective Communication 2009/2010’ (http://www.towerswatson.com/assets/pdf/670/NA-2009-14890.pdf) proves just how true that is, discovering that the better employee communications a company has, the better its financial performance.
So why does internal communications always come off second best? I would hazard a guess that it is due to a lack of proper ROI attached to internal communications functions and a lack of understanding about the real bottom line impact of good employee communications. If you don’t measure the impact, you can lull yourself into a false sense of security thinking you are doing well, when in fact maybe you are just standing still.
Typically, HR and internal communications colleagues focus on staff survey results. And while these do provide good indicators of improving staff morale etc., they rely very heavily on people taking the proper time to complete surveys, being honest and also the timing of a survey. If you have just given everyone a nice bonus, I’m sure the results look much better than any other time of the year!
So how do you make internal communications really work and go beyond the paltry staff survey?
- Invest in ROI just like you would for an external campaign.
You measure all sorts of aspects of an external campaign and yet, rely on one uncertain measurement for your internal communications. Then you wonder why your board is questioning spend on IC projects.
Look at what you do externally and be just as stringent internally:
- Review analytics on your intranet – how many staff looked at each page, how many clicked through to your key internal campaign page, how long do they stay on your intranet and what are the most popular pages?
- Make sure any campaign or internal programme has a ‘call to action’. Don’t just ask for interest, measure response: How many people asked for more information, how many signed up for an initiative, how many then took x on board?
- Integrate with HR and management. If you are looking to monitor behavioural change, integrate this into management reviews and HR for personal development programmes. For example, if you are launching a new culture of behaviours, then how many are looking to build that into their PDP? How are scores changing in performance reviews?
- Link to finance where you can. It may not always be possible, but where you can prove through ROI that there has been a decrease in say expenditure on paper due to your IC programme for ‘paperless office’ then make sure it is part of any reporting. Putting IC into financial context helps non-communications people understand the bottom line value.
The key is to ensure any ROI can be tangible and provide more depth than a standard staff survey.
2. Don’t bore them
You may think that posters everywhere are a simple and cost effective solution, but after a while all posters begin to blur and just look like wall paper. Same with lots of emails with information – it is always nice to hear something face-to-face once in a while in this highly digital world.
Change it up and be innovative but not silly – a squeezy toy maywork for some companies but yours may just throw it away.
3. Get real involvement
One of the cardinal sins of internal communications is either having lots of ‘internal user groups’ that add very little apart from allowing the same people to voice the same opinions, or not involving staff at all and just ‘doing unto them’.
Make sure you bring staff in as active participants to a project – bit like consultants – and use them as IC champions – spreading the love about what you are doing and how it can really benefit all staff. However, keep it to a limited pool – the larger the group the more unwieldy it will end up and be very clear on what their role is. The more defined a role, the better the outcome. After all, this should not be seen by either them, or you, as a nice to have, but as a valuable resource to developing ‘crowd sourced’, ‘real life’ communications solutions.
And like in external campaigns, peer to peer endorsement is of huge value.
4. Take it seriously
Right from the start, this blog is all about how important IC is. So don’t relegate it to a passing comment in strategy meetings, or an add-on when HR have a new initiative. And don’t just lump it in with HR! This is a tricky and very complex communications discipline that can really make or break how your staff feel about working in your company and therefore how your clients feel about you.
Investing in internal communications is money well spent. Just make sure you don’t become lazy or fall out of love with your own company!