Change Management Communication behaviors Internal Communication

Guest Blog & Interview | Shiwani Varma Vyas | Transforming Organizational Culture Through Internal Communications

The 29th edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series features Shiwani Varma Vyas of Brillio. Shiwani discusses the relevance of internal communication in driving transformational change in organizational culture. She advocates for employee communications teams to empower and enable engagement in the workforce.

Shiwani leads internal communications and talent branding for Brillio globally. She has 15+ years of global experience in supporting brands and business leaders communicate compelling stories for their audiences. She holds a double post-graduation in Organization Behavior and Public Relations, enabling her to drive communication programs that align to the business and people needs.

Guest Blog

(Views expressed are personal)

Transforming Organizational Culture with Communication

Transformation. A word you get to hear often, lately.

Transformation in the market place is driving change in organizations. And, leaders in these organizations are trying to get their teams to align, adapt, and buy-in to this transformation, at scale.

So, what role do we, as communicators, play in this transformational journey?

Drive a culture of communication

Let us take a step back. When we speak of communications, often we talk about how its objective is to enable ‘culture building’.

But, the key to building any form of culture is to build a ‘culture of communication’.

Think about it.

PwC’s Strategy + Business gives a very interesting and simple definition: Culture is the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things are done.

The paper goes on to say: “In reality, culture is much more a matter of doing than of saying. Trying to change a culture purely through top-down messaging, training and development programs, and identifiable cues seldom changes people’s beliefs or behaviors. In fact, neuroscience research suggests that people act their way into believing rather than thinking their way into acting. Changes to key behaviors — changes that are tangible, actionable, repeatable, observable, and measurable — are thus a good place to start. Some good examples of behavior change, which we’ve observed at a number of companies, relate to empowerment (reducing the number of approvals needed for decisions), collaboration (setting up easy ways to convene joint projects), and interpersonal relations (devising mutually respectful practices for raising contentious issues or grievances).”

5 Steps to Transformation Communication

So, if culture is about enabling behaviors, which behavior would you address first?

To my mind, it would be about enabling and empowering each employee in the organization to communicate—top-down, peer-to-peer and bottom-up.

Now, let us look at this from the organization’s intent to transform. McKinsey has outlined a five- phase approach to the process of organizational transformation.

  1. Aspire: This first phase is about outlining ‘Where we want to go”
  2. Assess: Here the leaders need to assess ‘how ready are we to embark on this journey’
  3. Architect: Now, one needs to outlay the steps to be taken to reach the goals
  4. Act: Now’s the time to act. To ensure everyone is full steam, for the long haul, moving forward towards the goal
  5. Advance: Once the actions have started to show results, how do we sustain and drive continuous improvement?

And, this is where a culture of communication comes in, to catalyze the transformation process.

  1. Communicating the aspiration: What is it that we’re aiming for? This needs to be articulated and driven, top-down. And, this can happen only if all the key leaders—formal and informal—have been aligned and brought on the same page.
  2. Assessing readiness: Leaders need to listen to their employees (bottom-up communications!). That’s where an open and transparent communications culture and the right communication channels and tools come in.
  3. Listen and course correct: And, once the organization plans and actions begin each leader and manager need to communicate and listen (top-down and bottom up!) to ensure alignment and make course correction as needed. Teams need to collaborate and work together (peer-to-peer communication) to move forward towards goals and drive continuous improvement. At this stage, you also need to assess if the key communicators need any coaching or training to ensure messages being delivered are consistent and aligned.

4 Cs to Enable Communications Behaviors

All these aspects of communications mean that you, the employee communicator, is not the only one doing the communications. Each function and department, and various people in these functions and department, are the true communicators. You need to enable them to make communicating a part of their routine behaviors.

So, our role as employee communicators needs to be about enabling and empowering these communicators through –

  1. Consulting and Coaching: You don’t always need to do the communications. Asking the right questions, pointing in the right direction, enabling with the right tools and messaging should be the focus.
  2. Create the frameworks: Work with the business leaders and HR teams to have in place frameworks and forums, could be formal or informal, to ensure the channels of communications are in place and easily accessible, and in a predictable pattern for recurring formats.
  3. Champions on board: Get on board champions, your informal leaders/influencers. They are important for truly driving a communications culture. These people have infectious energy needed to drive much-needed changes in behavior and culture.

So, how are you driving a culture of communications within your organizations? I’d love to know more.

Interview

  • What does internal communication mean to you?

It is the lifeblood of any organization. Truly, no organization can survive without strong internal communications, be it formal or informal.

  • What is the biggest challenge you face while going about managing internal communication?

Keeping the balance between the ‘wow’ efforts and initiatives, and the ones that may seem ‘routine’ but are pivotal in making internal communications work. The core (or back-end efforts) can get easily side tracked (and missed when recognizing the team’s effort) in favor of chasing the, sometimes short-lived, ‘wow’ effect. This balance needs to be maintained not only when engaging with stakeholders, but also with our teams, who may be looking for the ‘next big thing’.

  • What according to you is the biggest opportunity that internal communicators have?

The knowledge economy is putting employees’ center stage. This means internal communications becomes a ‘must have’. Additionally, the growing digital aspect of the communication means our ability to measure, adapt and display the impact and results we drive is significantly higher.

  • How can internal communicators add more value to the business?

Better communications means well informed and better engaged employees. And this means improved retention rates – of employees and customers.

  • What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career? What skills must they have or develop?

The importance of internal communications in organizations is only going to grow. If you’re able to show impact, the scope for growth is limitless. You must be a keen learner, understand brand and organizational behavior and be able to marry the two where needed. To deliver compelling communication strong story telling skills are a must, and you should bring a consultative mind-set to the table.

Missed previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series? Look them up here –  UAE Exchange, Apeland, M.H. Alshaya Co, Proctor & Gamble, InfosysSOBHA Ltd.ICICI SecuritiesFirst AdvantageCK Birla GroupTVS MotorsGE,  SuzlonTata SonsPerceptKnight FrankTCS EuropeVedantaOxfamDanske BankDiageoPandoraSymantecISS Global Services, Telia, Thomson Reuters, IBM, General Motors and Philips.

Intraskope (www.aniisu.com) is the first blog on internal communications in India and among the earliest around the globe. Begun in 2006, the blog has over 550 posts on topics such as employee engagement, leadership communication and employee branding and receives thousands of visits from across the world. The blog, receives over 50,000 visits every month from over 50 countries globally, offers learning resources for practitioners, academicians, and students including industry workshops, research reports, and checklists. Intraskope has been featured on leading global internal communication forums like Simply-CommunicateIC Kollectif and International Association of Business Communicators. It is hosted by Aniisu K Verghese, author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices & Models (Sage, 2012).

If you are an internal communication leader working in a firm or a not-for-profit anywhere in the world and have an internal communication case study, campaign, research insight or a guest blog post to share please contact me on intraskope@yahoo.com

You can also visit my website www.intraskope.com and You Tube channel to know more about my work.

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