Internal communicators often design initiatives that they can implement and add value to their functions and the organizations they work for. However, to arrive at an initiative that either fills a gap, advances an organization goal or improves a service or a system internal communicators need to understand the pulse of the organization and gain a deeper perspective on what truly matters for stakeholders and for employees.
Initiatives can be those that elevates the team’s perspective (in-house skill building on communication standards, building and implementing a measurement dashboard), raises staff’s connection with the organization (a brand connection program, a key messages dossier, a different approach to run a Town Hall), enhances existing services you offer (an improved e-mail functionality, better campaign analysis and reporting), addresses pain points (low engagement in specific teams or career levels, manager communication coaching), makes systemic changes (a new intranet, additional layers on existing platforms, change management toolkits to support organization plans) or newer and better ways of communicating (introducing and engaging staff via internal social media, storytelling methods, improving reach via mobile). These initiatives can guide their own objectives for the year and beyond.
But, why must internal communicators run initiatives?
Designing and championing initiatives allows internal communicators to get ahead of issues that plague the organization and demonstrates their leadership.
By proactively tackling current challenges or consulting on pain points helps internal communicators stay connected to their stakeholders’ worlds.
Also, by owning initiatives they can build a rhythm at work and help shape the thinking among leaders and other stakeholders. Lastly, this gives them opportunities to elevate their team’s position within the organization as coaches and consultants rather than order takers.
Very often, when internal communicators don’t spell out their plans they end up being told to run other teams’ agendas and it only dilutes the value the group can add.
An initiative is one that goes over and beyond what the internal communicator is already signed up to do.
By stretching with an initiative the internal communicator also gets adept at critical thinking, connecting the dots, becoming a well-rounded professional and experienced at strategy and execution.
So, what qualifies as an initiative? How does one identify a need?
– A good place to start is by evaluating the organization’s brand audits done recently. You can refer to your communication collateral used while engaging with prospective hires, new recruits and alumni.
– Or, to look up internal engagements studies and look for trends and comments that employees share about their workplace experiences.
– Have conversations with stakeholders often on their challenges can also throw light on what can be considered as an initiative.
– Conduct focus groups can also provide insights on which pressing concerns need attention.
– Look at practices conducted externally by the organization and think of ways to relate it back at the workplace.
For example, your organization may have a robust social media campaign that engages spokespersons to promote the brand. There are possibilities that a similar approach working well on your internal social media platform. By building a calendar of interventions, identifying topics that your internal brand ambassadors can lead and defining messages they can use you have an initiative which will make a difference to your internal brand perception. Likewise, if you audit the internal communication messages for your employee life cycle you can gain insights on what you need to tweak or improve so that staff gets a consistent experience.
In another case, you may want to build a listening post which analyzes conversations or internal chatter for informing leaders on how your employees think and feel about the organization.
Or, create an internal program where your staff ‘reverse mentors’ leaders in the organization and you help bridge the gap between ‘generation next’ and leaders.
To be successful, an initiative needs to aligned to the organization’s/business’s/team’s goal, fulfill a critical need, has delved intently on a core issue, is sustainable, has both short and long-term goals, delivers tangible value and can be replicated across business units or geographies.
How does one go about crafting and implementing an initiative?
Getting started: After you have done a detailed study of the need, outlined the context, listed your objectives, and defined the scope (and what falls out of scope) you need to put a plan to get to your destination.
Drafting an initiative plan: The plan can include the context, the elements of the approach, the mode of research, the expected outcomes and impact. It can list the team who will work on the initiative (since every initiative will need partnership and collaboration) as well as the initiative’s sponsor.
Socializing the initiative: This is an important element of the initiative rollout since it will inform stakeholders on your intentions and they have a chance to give their inputs to solidify your plans. This is also an opportunity to indicate why as an internal communication ‘you have your skin in their game’. If there is a need to seek budgets you need to call it out now.
Executing the plan: Getting your initiative in action is probably the easier part if all the earlier elements are adhered to. Give all team members a part to play and ownership. Clearly define the milestones and deliverables. You may want to consider areas of intersection with other teams (there will be many) – such as the HR team’s involvement if you are considering an employee engagement project.
Evaluating progress and impact: Getting the initiative on the radar and consciousness of your stakeholders is very important. Have a recurring checkpoint for the team to catch-up as well for a review with stakeholders on the progress and value the initiative is adding. Very often the impact can be gauged either during the course of the initiative or at the end when you measure results.
Communicate often: This is probably the most important link to your initiative’s success. Unless stakeholders are kept aware of the progress and value your initiative will lose steam. Keep reporting out the highlights and importance of the initiative in achieving the goals you set out to complete.
Have other suggestions on initiatives internal communicators can champion or how to get one past the finish line? Share them here.