“Good governance cannot remain merely a philosophy. Concrete steps have to be taken for realising its goals.” – Narendra Modi
To deliver business results, internal communication must operate from within a clear and strategic governance framework that is championed by the organisation’s most senior leaders. Good governance defines the areas of responsibility, decision-making authorities and accountabilities of the internal communication function and participating stakeholders in the organisation’s outcomes.
Here are six ways to improve the effectiveness of your internal communication function:
1. Structure and reporting relationships
There is no one, perfect solution when structuring an internal communication function. There are various operating models and structures (e.g., centre of expertise, business partner, shared services etc.,) to appropriately align the function against the organisation’s needs. Before you begin to think about what’s best for your organisation, define the problem you need to solve to help you gauge the relevancy of different models and structures. The internal communication function should also have dotted line relationships across the organisation that provides the authority to make internal communication-related decisions that respond to local business needs.
Check and reflect
Does your internal communication function have direct and dotted lines of reporting across the organisation? Are your key stakeholders and employees satisfied with the effectiveness of internal communication across the organisation?
Tip: Conduct a review of internal communication from the perspective of workload, corporate priorities and what is needed to move to the strategic level of best practice organisations.
2. Roles and resources
Qualified communication professionals, with knowledge, skills and experience in strategic internal communication management should lead the organisation’s internal communication function, supported by adequate resources. Roles and responsibilities must be clear, and training and development plans, along with career progression plans should be in place for all internal communication professionals.
Check and reflect
Do you have the appropriate resources to support the delivery of your internal communication strategy? Is the internal communication function appropriately resourced for short and long-term needs?
Tip: Review the employee complement (number of people, knowledge, skills, and experience) and adjust the structure of your internal communication function to fit the needs of the business. This may include adding additional resources to the internal communication function across the business and reviewing development and career plans for internal communication professionals.
3. Internal communication strategy
Start by developing and implementing an internal communication strategy to ensure that the role of the internal communication function is clearly defined. This will also ensure that employees and leaders receive consistent and meaningful corporate messages that create a line of sight between the work they do and the achievement of corporate priorities. Without a strategy that is supported by research inputs, aligned with business needs, and clear, measurable objectives and appropriate strategic action, it’s difficult to quantify the value of internal communication to the business. I always say, if you want to be a strategic communication professional, you need to act like one – and that includes taking a strategic approach to your work.
Check and reflect
Does your organisation have a structured approach to internal communication management? Do strategic internal communication plans exist for all major business initiatives? How well do you know your audiences, their needs, wants, communication preferences, awareness, understanding, and demographic and psychographic profile?
Tip: Conduct a planning session involving those with responsibility for internal communication to provide input to an internal communication strategy (and associated plans), that includes communication priorities, key messages, audience analysis, research, and measurement to ensure consistency in the way communication is delivered.
4. Stakeholder consultation and partnerships
A high-performing internal communication team is committed to collaborating with internal stakeholders, building, and nurturing relationships while furthering the positive impact that strategic communication has on business results. Visibility and reputation have a significant impact on the ability of internal communication to deliver results. When was the last time you asked for feedback from your organisation’s employees and leaders about your programs and initiatives? Without this insight there is significant potential to miss key strategic elements that will help your audiences understand and act on messages, and lost opportunities to gain buy in and support from your key stakeholders.
Check and reflect
Is internal communication considered a valuable and legitimate part of day-to-day business? Do you have feedback mechanisms in place? Is internal communication considered at the beginning of a project or initiative?
- Develop an internal stakeholder management plan, and as part of that plan meet with senior executives and managers to determine their internal communication needs.
- Develop internal communication plans for each key business priority in collaboration with the owner of the initiative.
- Be visible and take on the advisory role with the executive, one that meets regularly with division heads to discuss their needs and the role of communication in helping them meet those needs. In some organisations this is seen as the agency or consulting model.
- Include communication professionals in the strategy development process from different areas of the organisation for alignment and feedback during the strategy development phase and prior to implementation.
- Demonstrate value by sharing research, strategy, and results on a regular basis.
5. Channels and tactics
In highly effective organisations, formal channels of internal communication are in place, with clear, outcome-based objectives that are measured and reviewed against business needs and audience awareness, understanding and behaviours. Most internal communication teams use several channels to distribute messages throughout the organisation, segmenting where practical. But few define the role of leaders in the communication process that prepare and equip them to be true communicators in a reliable and cohesive way across the organisation.
Check and reflect
Do leaders and managers know and understand their roles and responsibilities with respect to internal communication? Are senior leaders and line managers creating a positive work environment, modelling effective communication practices, and supporting their people with relevant information?
- Develop and implement a communication strategy that clearly defines the role of leaders and managers in the communication process. Make sure you include an arsenal of tools and practices for listening, receiving, communicating, and responding to messages, and the initiative is actively championed by senior management.
- Determine the communication skills of leaders and managers in your organisation and provide training as needed. Not all leaders and managers understand or believe that ongoing communication and sharing information with their people is an important or essential part of their job.
6. Policies and procedures
Policies establish protocols about how things are done and provide clear direction for internal communication employees and senior and line managers about how the function operates. They deal with the principles that govern internal communication and can include tone, style, content, urgency, and volume of communication.
Check and reflect
Have you documented your function’s policies and procedures for internal communication?
Tip: Document policies and procedures for internal communication and publish them on your organisation’s intranet or other information repository, so your stakeholders understand how internal communication is managed in your organisation and how and when to connect with the internal communication function.
Highly effective internal communication functions play a strategic role within organisations to facilitate better communication practices, processes, and competence. None of this can happen without an effective governance framework in place.
About the Author
Sia Papageorgiou is a multi-award-winning strategic communication leader on a mission to elevate the value and visibility of communication professionals and help them become trusted, strategic, and in-demand advisors. She’s worked with some of the wo...