27 September 2019

Employee comms teams should be partners, not postboxes

Employee communications is a vital part of your organisation - so why isn't it always seen as a strategic function?

At its best, it’s a strategic, proactive and measurable function. A team that knows (and proves) its worth, has clear vision and great relationships in the business.

At its worst, it’s a reactive, chaotic team that simply responds to the needs of the business as and when it’s asked. It lacks meaningful connections in the business and gets given ill-thought-through solutions, rather than challenges to consider and respond to – if the solution is “just make a poster”, then have the right questions been asked? 

So, ask yourself – whether you’re in internal comms, L&D, reward or any other employee engagement team, is your team seen as a business partner? Or is it a postbox? 

If it’s the latter, our “Four R” approach will help you think differently, helping kickstart your transition to strategic business partners. And if you need help answering some of the questions, several of our clients have benefited from workshopping the solutions with us. 

 

1. Ready

Start by looking inward, not outward. How strong are your foundations as a team? Are you set up to deliver? Can you honestly say you’ve got all the basics covered to be a first-class employee comms function?

Think about:

Your communications strategy and process

Remember this quote by Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 

You will always be reactive until you have a plan, linked back to the business’ strategic priorities and mapped against a budget tracker.

Channels and tools

When did you last do a channel audit and matrix, as are they fit for purpose? Clear channels with clear roles make for clear communications. 

Success criteria

The C-suite will only take IC seriously when we start to measure it properly, tracking and reporting success with as much rigour as we do with customers. Do you have a clear measurement framework? Do your comms and campaigns throughout the year ladder up to this? 

 

2. Reputation

Reputations need management – every brand knows that. But do you ever think about your team’s reputation? How much effort do you put into managing and maintaining this with other stakeholders?

You likely need to redefine your role and purpose in the business to become known as strategic advisors, trusted confidants – a team known for its proactivity and solutions-focused mindset – representing the ears, eyes and voice of your people and demonstrating a real return on employee comms investment. 

Think about:

Your team vision and purpose

Do you have one? Was it co-created? Does everyone align with it and really believe in it? How do you reinforce it? 

Your team behaviours and skills

Have you agreed ways of working in the team? Are you playing to people’s strengths? How do you constructively hold people to account? Are you creating a team environment where concepts like radical candor and psychological safety can flourish? 

 

3. Relationships

An internal comms team will live or die by the strengths of its relationships. Stakeholders, IT, HR, Strategy and colleague forums – investing in these relationships helps colleagues to feel more informed and connected with the business. 

Think about:

The quantity and quality of your relationships

Are you embracing a ‘business partner’ mindset?

Key priorities

Have you got all departments together and determined their aims and goals for the year, to inform your comms plan?

Leaders and managers

These will be two fundamental comms channels for you. How much have you invested in them as communicators? Are they storytellers? Do they do well on film? Do you know their strategic narrative and vice versa?

 

4. Recognition

Practice what you preach. Engage and reward your team. Shout from the rooftops about their successes and celebrate together. Ensure they realise they’re much more than a postbox. They’re key to the strategic achievements of your business; without them, engagement would be low, affecting productivity, customer experience and growth! 

Think about:

Setting your team targets

Base them on the measurement framework from ‘Ready’ so everyone knows what good looks like. 

Tooting your own horn!

Chase accolades, be confident and show ambition – work with your agency to submit your campaigns for awards, as well as the team itself. 

Build personal brands

What can you all share on LinkedIn, at conferences and with your networks about the importance of comms and engagement in your industry? Look at what’s in the news that’s relevant to your work and share that. 

Keeping your team feeling fresh

Through personal developments and continual performance conversations, recognise and reward your team for their efforts, to keep them motivated. 

Go from postbox to partner

The Four R approach is a solid way of working through the key areas that are fundamental to the success of an internal communications team, but there are lots of questions to answer and a myriad of things to think about. We’ve recently helped HR, IC and L&D teams with similar challenges and have plenty of knowledge and inspiration to share. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more. 

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