Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What challenges do Internal Communication professionals face in 2013?

Internal communication is rising high on the management agenda.  The demands being placed on internal communication professionals are also increasing. 

Internal Communication
Effective Internal Communication
While internal communication may have been seen historically as ‘nice to have’, senior leaders are increasingly aware of its importance in maintaining a healthy and robust organisation that is fit for the future.

More and more evidence backs up these expectations.  A Towers Watson study comparing communication and financial effectiveness found that organisations that ensure effective internal communications are 1.7 times more likely to outperform their peers financially. The same study found organisations with effective communication and change management processes outperformed peers without this focus by a factor of 2.5.  The ‘Engage for Success’ movement is amassing a significant volume of evidence to show the business value of providing an engaging workplace environment.  Their work also demonstrates how communication and employee voice is a vital strand at the heart of a strategic approach to engagement.

This changing landscape provides a new set of opportunities for the communication professional – but a whole set of fresh challenges too. While developing and managing a communication infrastructure remains important, leaders are increasingly likely to demand support from senior communication professionals with real clout – who can provide guidance on how to communicate in the trickiest situations, and have earned the respect and credibility to be listened to.

So what are some of the challenges facing today’s internal communication professional?

  • Developing an ability to ‘think business’:  at Executive and Board level.  Plus an understanding of how senior leaders think – and make decisions.  All important aspects of knowing how best to influence in a positive way. Understanding and navigating the political and power structure helps too
  • Having the gravitas to promote communication strategies supporting business objectives – and the knowledge to explain why they make sense.  That means getting an understanding of what makes different people tick – the psychology of communication.  It also means having the listening and research skills to apply that knowledge with the various groups that make up the organisation, developing strategies that acknowledge their different world views. One approach doesn’t fit all.  
  • Getting to grips with the culture (or cultures) of the organisation and identifying communication approaches that will work – and those that won’t.  As well as understanding the complexities involved in ‘changing culture’. 
  • Responding to the opportunities of a more connected world.  Gone are the days where communication = telling. Digital communication can open up dialogue and sharing across – and beyond – the organisation.  It can also be the latest corporate toy to crash and burn. The internal communication professional can make all the difference here.
  • Having the confidence and skill to coach leaders at all levels in their leadership communication style.  The way that leaders – from top to bottom of the organisation – promote dialogue is the foundation for an engaged and healthy organisation.
  • Providing opportunities for the organisation to both communicate and to listen while avoiding communication overload.  And ensuring that measurement, evaluation, and continuous improvement  are part of ‘business as usual’.
Of course, the core craft skills of writing and creating compelling communication materials remain as important as ever. But the time is right for internal communication professionals to be raising our game.

What do you see as the core challenges facing communication professionals today?
Share your experiences below:

Liz Cochrane
Course Director, Masters in Internal Communication Management

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