Is internal communication relevant for collaboration and interaction? Can it improve belongingness and business perspective among employees?
This 12th edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series comes from Europe as Sobha Varghese – Head, Internal Communications -Tata Consultancy Services (Continental Europe) addresses key facets of workplace motivation and employee voice through a blog on internal communication. In the interview that follows, she throws light on attitudes and perspectives that internal communicators can develop to improve their clout within and be valued for their work.
Sobha Varghese heads Internal Communications for Tata Consultancy Services in Continental Europe. She is a corporate communications professional, specialized in internal communications with 12+ years of experience.
Views expressed by Sobha in this post are her own and does not necessarily reflect those of her employer or any other organization.
How a simple storytelling series sparked serious inspiration within
I am always excited to explore how storytelling can convey the values of an organization to bring out its true personality. Compelling stories, especially when drawn from inside the organization, has immense power to motivate and inspire staff. Internal communicators do this day in and day out, curating stories, insights, viewpoints and tidbits from within to unveil the pulse of an organization.
Far from just featuring company announcements, I see internal communications emerging as a platform for employees to share their stories and experiences and be heard in the process. For example, one of the employee storytelling campaigns we embarked on some months ago sparked some serious inspiration within and won over audiences.
Through this campaign, we sought out and interviewed inspiring colleagues who distinguished themselves through extraordinary ventures outside of the workspace. While scouting for inspiring colleagues from an employee community spanning several European countries sounded daunting at first, the task became easier as the campaign evolved.
In the process, we found colleagues who were taking up ultra-demanding physical challenges, following a hobby with extreme passion, achieving the impossible through sheer determination or leading social/technological ventures for the betterment of others. The common thread binding these personalities was their drive for excellence, hard work, and persistence; in some cases, it was their unusual sense of empathy. Along with their stories, what I found amazing was that each one had significant messages derived from their life journey to share with their colleagues.
Being at the forefront of the initiative, it was satisfying for me to find out more about the diversity of talent, resolve and experiences of our community. It seemed to me that there is so much more to a person than the mere glimpses we see at the workplace. As such, it was exciting to bring out this side seldom seen by colleagues. Overall, I felt that this storytelling series unveiled the ‘human’ face of our community – making it strong, spirited and whole.
Picking up on these stories and developing them has personally been a positive experience for me. In the past few months, I have spoken to and learned from some of the most inspiring people that I have come across in my life. The conversations we’ve had made a definite mark in my memory and will stay with me forever. I must say that I learned a lot about how solid will-power triumphs all to break barriers, leading to stellar achievement.
While showcasing these stories were in itself a form of recognition, we were also able to back it up with other simple tokens of appreciation (personal gift, certificate, award etc.). I could also sense that the employees involved as well as others following the stories were deeply appreciative of this gesture. In other words, it felt like we were creating “islands of happiness and belonging” which when fused together could generate a lasting impression.
This campaign has proved to me what an immense privilege it is to be leading internal communications. We deal with content in relation to people on a regular basis and have the ability to make it relevant for its primary stakeholders. In this context, I believe that two basic principles – ‘stories are your friends’ and ‘simple is powerful’ – resonate well. There is enough compelling content residing within each of our organizations which when pulled out can effectively relay our values and messages.
Internal communicators should lead this charge to find great people and amazing stories that can enrich the people perspectives of the organizational narrative. Our world changes when we understand the many possibilities ahead of us to craft and create strategies that can inform, inspire and engage to make a strong impact on the people who make up the organization.
- What does internal communication mean to you?
Internal communications (IC) facilitates the free flow of information and ideas within the company. IC can be effective tool for disseminating ideas, exchanging viewpoints and conveying the mission, values and goals of a company to the people who make up the organization. It can also be seen as a platform of interaction or collaboration within the various stakeholders of the company.
- How is it practiced in your organization?
The guiding principle is to keep employees at the heart of our communications. For example, wherever possible, we source employee stories and viewpoints to explain major developments. Leadership features and interviews are done aligned to the strategic priorities of the organization. We take care to present information in a highly visual and easily understandable format. We want our internal audience to feel motivated and inspired and be part of the trajectory taken by the organization.
- Please share an example/campaign that you are personally proud of working on and that made a significant impact to your organization.
When we started up the IC function in Europe a few years ago, we initiated a Europe-wide quarterly magazine. We called this magazine ‘Connexions’ as the intention was to create a regional identity by stimulating employee connects. Even after several editions, each new edition still feels like a special achievement. The magazine carries interesting stories and visuals from our community. I like to think of it as the “Reader’s Digest” chronicling our journey in Europe. While we have done a diverse set of projects since then, this magazine remains close to my heart as the first ‘wow’ factor since starting up IC.
- What is the biggest challenge you face while going about managing internal communication?
A challenge we as internal communicators have to always face is the lack of knowledge people have about our function. We are often accorded the lowest priority but somehow, magically expected to produce the highest results. This mismatch is often disappointing but we have to be bold enough to rise above these challenges.
- What according to you is the biggest opportunity that internal communicators have?
The biggest opportunity internal communicators have is that our function is still evolving and emerging. In this content heavy ‘social’ world, having access to information and stories from internal stakeholders puts us in a powerful position. Capitalizing on this content will give us enormous opportunities to plow on ahead successfully.
- How can internal communicators add more value to the business?
Despite all the advances in communications technology, organizations still struggle with keeping in touch with their employees. We are already in a world where diverse teams work from different locations or even remotely without any face to face interactions. Internal communicators will have a great role to play in streamlining strategies, customizing messages to fit audiences as well as defining approaches to reach target audiences. If done thoughtfully, internal communicators can help build up a motivated, inspired and engaged workforce – an enormous advantage for any organization.
- What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career? What skills must they have or develop?
Internal communications is a specialist discipline requiring a combination of skills and interests. It is interesting because the skills you should have are related to marketing; but the subject you deal with is human resources. A strong interest in human behavior, flair for understanding business nuances and an eye for great stories are indispensable. In addition, it helps to have decent journalistic skills with the ability to manage several projects at the same time. I would advice new comers to carve out their own niche in the organization and lead through your own initiatives. There is no limit to what you can do when you are motivated enough to go the extra mile!
Missed previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series? Look them up here – Infosys, SOBHA Ltd., ICICI Securities, First Advantage, CK Birla Group, TVS Motors, GE, Suzlon, Tata Sons, Percept and Knight Frank.
If you are an internal communication practitioner working in a firm or a not-for-profit and have an internal communication case study, campaign, research insight or a guest blog post to share please contact me on [email protected]