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Tapping Internal Talent for Internal Communication

Are you maximizing your employees’ potential? Do you know how to reduce your dependency on communication agencies? Working on a leaner budget and want to spend it wisely?

Most often internal communicators view staff as recipients of messages. By making them a part of the communication creation and publishing process we bring in a completely fresh perspective to how we engage with our internal audiences. This is corroborated by Edelman Change & Employee Engagement’s essay 2010: Trends in Organizational Internal Communication/Engagement which states that ‘your employee is your new product’ In India a lot of organizations are waking up to the real potential of leveraging talent for ‘employee-crowdsourced’ solutions.

Ring in the New Year

This got me thinking of a framework that internal communicators can leverage to harvest the immense human potential within firms.

The need for empowerment

 With the growing generation gap in organizations many companies are realizing that ‘generation next’ can help leaders adapt, learn and communicate better apart from contribute to internal communication.  It is also important for leaders to recognize their shortcomings with more recent technologies and demonstrate commitment to improve. Finally, by involving Gen Y organizations will improve engagement, create platforms to lead and contribute ideas.

Acknowledging the shift in knowledge power

It is essential to first accept that with social media and information access there is a knowledge power shift away from the baby boomer generation to the new kids on the block. Generation Y has a far greater understanding of how the world operates and there is a need for our leaders to learn more from you.

However all this requires a robust and consistent platform and here is how you can go about maximizing the power of your peoples’ talent.

To begin, you need to introspect on the potential opportunities which exist.

  1. Educate: if they have skills (over and above their regular day job) that will have an impact on how organization’s connect, communicate and learn better, then it might be relevant to establish as a practice.
  2. Coach: there is scope for leaders to learn and understand how social media works. Who better to teach that the young Gen.
  3. Create: I believe that your talented staff can help co-create company wide communication and collateral (videos, photo features, skits etc) which is viewed widely
  4. Lead: they can transform their skills for the benefit of the organization and their own use. Be it a re-usable multimedia format or a platform which connects staff – the avenues are many.

Here are pointers to build your own initiative in-house.

Understand your objectives: As an internal communicator I am interested in fresh, ear-to-the-ground solutions to everyday communication needs. And who better to turn to that your own staff. Among the objectives of tapping talent are tremendous cost savings, reduced time and effort, fresher ideas, greater appeal, faster turnaround and improved engagement.

Know the limitations: Not every communication can be created and handled by your staff. So understand where you need to retain control and how to keep a firm grip on message review and distribution.

Identify skills you need: Be it social media, writing, photography, music, theatre, miming, video creation among others you can find a way to blend it into how your internal communication gets shaped.   For example, instead of a drab e-mail that communicates a policy, can you think of having a talented individual perform a short skit that succinctly explains the idea? Instead of a course on time management or etiquette can you create a one minute video that makes it easier to understand the importance?

Look out for champions: Look around and you will find enough and more staff keen to extend their reach and share skills which make a difference to their organization. Most often they would do it without expecting anything in return. They are your champions and you have a responsibility as the internal communicator to nurture the relationship.

Pitch ‘what’s in it for you’ upfront: Find out what appeals to them. Get under their skin to fully ‘get’ their personal and professional wants. There are many opportunities and reasons to get them excited. Here are ways to pitch for their interest. A) It gives their talent recognition and they also get to contribute to how the company communicates. B) Their work gets immediate visibility. C) Their contribution increases the opportunity to shape how the organization operates and how leaders view them effort. D) If it has never been attempted before it makes all the more sense for your staff to be the ‘first’ E) Lastly, isn’t it fun for your staff to do what they love doing over and above their work?

Show and tell: There is no better way to show purpose by making an attempt and helping your stakeholders see how a module works. With that you stand a better chance of getting buy-in and resources and funds to explore this opportunity further. Maybe you can even get an external trainer to come in and conduct a workshop. I got a slick photo feature created which had a music scored by one individual and the movie by another staff.

Recognize real-time: Let stakeholders and especially the supervisors of your young champions know about the great work they are doing. Nothing works better than a quick e-mail of appreciation, a larger reward or added responsibilities. Include the names of the individuals as credits in their creations.

Continuing the momentum: Leverage the success of one project by creating replicable formats which other offices can make the most of. Keep your communicators in the loop on opportunities coming their way. Establish a calendar that gets circulated with stakeholders. However retain control over the content creation, review and publishing process.

Measuring success and value: Track page views and excitement levels of your audience with each project. Explain how these projects reduce cost, add more hours to your internal communication team’s core effort and decreases your dependency on external vendors.

So what’s next? How can you make this happen?

Try your hand at a project, engage with the core group of interested staff and create replicable models for internal purposes.

Keep me posted on progress. Share your case studies here.

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