Should internal communications still remain as an independent function?
Over more recent times there’s been a fair bit of conversation about whether internal communications should still remain as an independent function. Some have claimed employees are just another stakeholder and so simply another audience to be communicated to under the ‘communications umbrella’ – specifically the PR and corporate communications umbrella.
In short, the above is a viewpoint that frustrates us. A lot. Why? Well…
You’ve only got to take a look at how organisations communicate with their external target audiences.
They’ll segment their audience and based on this, use different communication strategies and channels to best reach the different segments of their target audience – the way organisations communicate with their internal audiences should be no different.
The above is especially true given the significant transformation now taking place in today’s workplace. Millennials can be said to be driving the change, largely through their differing views on work in regards to purpose, mobility and loyalty, and also their heavy use of digital media. Organisations therefore simply cannot expect to communicate with millennials in the same way as they would with veteran workers – both in terms of the messaging, and the channels and platforms used. Relevant conversations with millennials can be held on social networks and within collaborative apps, as these are their channels of choice – organisations need to go to them, not the other way round.
The previous point also demonstrates the need for specialist internal communicators, communicators who understand internal comms tools and the tactics and best practices required to enhance them. If a more general communications pro were tasked with communicating with the internal audience, then they simply wouldn’t have the experience or know how to do so effectively. This is ever more important given the arrival of social networks and collaboration tools in the workplace, platforms that the majority of internal conversations will take place on.
There are many other factors organisations should acknowledge in order to deliver effective segmented communications, such as the geographical location of a set of workers, and the type of role/work. For example, we are currently undertaking an internal cyber security campaign for a client, but if we simply served the same communications to IT workers that we had created for frontline manufacturing staff, then the messaging wouldn’t have been relevant and the IT workers would have failed to be engaged.
It’s a good time to point out, that when we refer to relevant ‘messaging’, we mean how messaging needs to be different for each segment, while at the same time needing to tie in and support the overall comms strategy.
Why else should internal communications remain it’s own distinct function?
It’s generally accepted that employees are an organisations most important resource, and so in recent years raising employee engagement has become one of the highest priorities for all organisations. And even though employee engagement is a complex area – shown by the wealth of content created on the subject, and reporting of low engagment levels still commonplace – one element known to improve it is effective employee communication. Therefore it seems somewhat crazy for people to promote the removal of the internal communications function, as internal communications can be said to be more important now than ever!
The only reason we’d ever agree with internal communications not remaining as an independent function, is if an organisation was simply using internal communications as blanket, one way, top down communications. Then yeah, an independent internal comms function would serve no real purpose. Thankfully organisations are realising that effective internal communications isn’t about simply broadcasting company information to employees, but instead about holding relevant conversations with them, and for organisations to do more of the listening and help facilitate conversations and collaboration amongst employees in the workplace.
Organisations need to treat internal communications in much the same way as they treat their external counterpart. Meaning, segmentation and relevant messaging is key. And to do this, internal communications as a function must remain independent.
If you would like to discuss the ways in which you can segment, target and engage your internal audience then please do get in touch.
Until next time…