‘The knowledge’ is the internal communicators secret weapon and the key to remaining relevant and effective in a world of work adapting to the impacts of the pandemic.
Well over a decade ago there was a paradigm shift in thinking within internal communication which gave the function a new purpose and set us on a pathway towards really making a difference in organisations.
The MacLeod and Clarke ‘Engaging for Success report’ in 2009 was a significant piece of research which exposed the links between employee engagement and increased organisational innovation, productivity and performance.
The contribution which internal communication could make to securing higher levels of employee engagement was also evident, with the four enablers of engagement highlighted by the research all clearly having a communication component.
- Leadership providing a strong strategic narrative
- Engaging managers
- Employee voice
- Organisational integrity – There is no ‘say –do’ gap
At last, internal communication had more focus with a direct and proven link to organisational performance. No more, were we just the organisation’s internal post office, or event management function. We could make a real difference, and for once, leaders were now much more interested in what we did.
Dare to dream
At the time the Engage for Success report was published I was working in-house in a UK government department. I remember the ripple the findings created across the public sector with the Cabinet Office quickly producing guidance for departments to follow to secure higher levels of employee engagement.
At this point I had been working in communication roles for a while. Spurred on by IC’s new found purpose I decided it was about time I got professional. The only problem was, I didn’t really know what that looked like in the context of internal communication.
I decided to do a course and get a qualification. It seemed to be the right thing to do, so I signed up for a CIPR Internal Communication Certificate course.
Doing the course was nothing less than a revelatory experience for me. It completely changed the way I thought about internal communication, what it was for, and how I practiced it. I remember sitting in one of the face-to-face classes thinking – one day I’d like to teach this course and help other internal communicators to be better too.
Well, now I am teaching it!
We dare to dream….
Digital stole the IC practitioner’s uniqueness….or did it?
Since those heady days following the publication of the Engage for Success report, there have been more paradigm shifts in internal communication practice. Not least the tsunami of digital communication now intensified by the pandemic and the hybrid working it has left in its wake.
In some ways I think this has been drowning internal communication as a function. It has dulled our purpose and stolen our uniqueness in organisations as we have grappled with a plethora of new digital platforms and enterprise social networks.
We are now, to a greater or lesser degree, driven by these channels and applications in day to day working. There are literally hundreds of them and they enable just about anyone in organisations to be a content creator, distributor and most importantly an ‘engager’ in a generic sense.
This raises an important question for all of us working in internal communication.
What makes us so unique and indispensable in organisations, now that anyone can create and share content on digital channels and platforms?
The answer, I think, is simple. It is ‘the knowledge’.
What is ‘the knowledge’? Well, essentially it is the things I learnt on my IC course all those years ago.
Employee engagement, research, planning, objective setting, stakeholder analysis, measurement, channel management, change communication and persuasion theory, ethics. These are the fundamental knowledge and skills of the internal communicator which most of our stakeholders are largely unaware of, but which are essential for us to do a good job.
I think we consistently overlook these points of difference in favour of the more ‘exciting’ issues of the moment such as hybrid working, wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, CSR, ESG and sustainability. We’ve been seeking to replace what digital communication took away from us. Grabbing onto anything which looked like an existential lifeline, when in fact the lifelines were just important stuff we needed to communicate about like all the other important stuff.
But these things are not our new ‘purpose’.
All of us working in internal communication need to have ‘the knowledge’. It is our secret weapon and the key to remaining relevant and effective in a world of work emerging from, and adapting to, the impacts of the pandemic.
I’m looking forward to sharing ‘the knowledge’ with other internal communicators and to giving them renewed purpose, increased confidence and a more distinct identity in the organisations where they work.
I am the Course Leader for the post-graduate level CIPR Specialist Certificate: Internal Communication provided by PR Academy. The largest centre for qualifications accredited by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).