Presenting the 46th edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series featuring Samir Dhond of Ittiam Systems Pvt. Ltd. Samir is the Chief People Officer and Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Corporate Communications. Experienced in industries such as pharmaceutical, software development, semiconductor and IP development he is certified to conduct mentoring programs and conducted intense development interventions for managers and leaders during his career. A qualified Psychological Type and MBTI professional Samir is also a visiting faculty at leading B-schools in the country.
In this interview he explains the evolving role of internal communications and how encouraging free speech can add value to the business and employee morale. As one of the few leaders who straddle the world of human resources and communications, Samir is well placed to share unique insights.
Watch the complete video interview on YouTube or read the transcript below.
1. What does internal communication mean to you?
Internal communication is a way an organization may choose to keep connected and bonded with its employees. According to me, at Ittiam, since it is an IP development company, one of the most valued assets for us is the intelligence people bring to the table. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that we are dealing with people. They need to experience a sense of belonging to the organization. Internal communication through usage of various tools is very critical to our success. It also means that communicating with people of an organization opens the channels for free speech. IT creates openness, and freedom of expression across the levels of experience. I feel that it helps people ideate better because they do not have reservations about expressing themselves. I feel that the word communication means sharing of thoughts, feelings, emotions and a gamut of other things. Therefore, the more we communicate, the better would be germination of thoughts in an organizational set up.
2. How is it practiced in your organization?
Ittiam is a technology company and business thrive on people’s creativity and ability to innovate. We have a plethora of things we practice in our organization.
1. The environment is informal. Mind you, it is not casual. It is informal. Therefore, it provides people freedom to voice their thoughts and opinions. There is someone to listen to what one wants to say.
2. As a part of our culture, managers do formal or informal one-on-ones with people on a regular basis. That keeps the channels of communication open.
3. We do regular site meeting (all hands) over high tea. This is a set formal platform for us to communicate to everyone together all the business and people updates. We ensure that these meetings are crisp and also have some fun element in it.
4. Every year, we have a batch of fresh engineers who join us from campuses across India. We do a week-long orientation and they get a buddy who helps them integrate with the organization well. We conduct sessions on topics such as transition from campus to corporate, prevention of sexual harassment at work, team building, etc.
5. We have an internal magazine called Cogito. This magazine is a tool for us to share with Ittians about varied topics beginning from some technical articles, to travelogues, book reviews, fun facts. It’s a bi-monthly. The latest issue was devoted to COVID-19. We talked about people’s experiences of working from home. Travelogues, new hobbies that people have picked up. Their learning in the midst of this pandemic. Someone experience of traveling on an evacuation flight, etc.
6. We have FunTaskTic team which does cultural programs. We periodically do things such as food Mela where employees put up food stalls in our cafeteria. We conduct blood donation camps to contribute to society. Sports tournaments is an integral part of our culture. All such activities help each other communicate at different levels and it results in building camaraderie among people.
7. Besides that we do communicate critical information through emails.
3. Please share an example/campaign that you are personally proud of working on and that made a significant impact to an organization in the recent past
I am sure everyone is aware of what this Pandemic has done to our lives. Our lives have been altered beyond belief. Since the time, the lockdown was introduced, we decided that we would communicate to all employees through one person. In this case, it was me. I was the only point of contact and all the communication went from my email. We chose do this to ensure consistency of the message on behalf of the organization and also to avoid al the confusion it might create if such messages went from multiple people. As people chose to go to their hometowns, we asked each person stepping out of Bangalore to inform us. A WhatsApp group Was formed so that we could keep in touch with people. My staff kept in touch with them on a periodic basis. Their movements were tracked. We also kept in touch with people outside of the country through the same way. We kept in touch with employees through regular emails by providing status updates. In between, we also created a site wide meeting over Microsoft Teams. All Ittians regardless of which corner of the country they were in, joined the call. We passed on some business updates. We have recently done managers meetings per Business Unit to understand how people were feeling and to understand their challenges, learning, etc. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, we created a COVID special issue of our internal magazine, Cogito with articles on varied topics during this pandemic.
4. What is the biggest challenge you face while going about managing internal communication?
One of the biggest challenges for anyone while managing internal communication is to make your communication lucid, crisp, concise and clear for everyone. I feel that when we communicate in an organization usage of English as a medium to communicate is imperative. To add to that it being our second language, everyone’s has a different level of understanding of the language. Therefore, it is important to use short sentences, simple words to communicate. Not forgetting the fact that the main objective of communicating is to express and not impress poses a challenge to any internal communicator.
5. What according to you is the biggest opportunity that internal communicators have?
The internal communicator is a repository of information. Therefore, the biggest opportunity for such a person is that the individual can easily bring everyone within an organization be on the same page. Almost like make everybody sing from the same song sheet.
6. How can internal communicators add more value to the business?
Internal communicators through their communication channels can add value to the business by doing the following:
1. Being the liaison between the decision makers and the soldiers of an organization.
2. By using communication channels to update people about the progress the organization is making. It helps people develop more sense of belonging to the organization.
3. The internal communicator can also be the voice of people for decision makers
4. He can provide insights on what helps people tick.
5. Communication, that too regular and succinct can help create a cohesive workforce.
7. What skills must they have or develop?
Internal communicator must have the following skills
1. Being a sensitive person and to be sensitive to people
2. Ability to express in simple, crisp and lucid fashion
3. Ability to communicate in a relatable style
4. Expressing warmth and caring through communication is a skill one must master
5. It is very difficult to be personable in one’s communication. I feel it is an art which can facilitate effective communication.
6. Spoken and written style has to completely unambiguous
8. What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career?
My advice to people who want to join internal communication and make a career in that field is to first develop empathy. Be real, practical and transparent. One must know people and one must have a genuine interest in people. Be grounded, one-upmanship is disastrous. Be open to experimentation. If one commits a mistake, analyze it. Don’t repeat it but at the same time, do not be afraid to experiment and make a new mistake. That is the way to learn. Above all, remember that the mantra is ‘communicate to express and not to impress’.
9. With COVID-19 and other crises, how must internal communications engage? What has changed or will change? Examples of how your organization has helped reassure employees and navigate the crisis as it unfolds.
Stay in touch. Be patient. Empathize. Be true to yourself and to others. I have shared this in detail in my response to Question No. 3 above.
10. Can you share one trend that you spot with internal communications?
Usage of Infographics is a powerful trend. Especially with advent of social media, Infographics can create wonders. I feel that a picture speaks a thousand words. A picture can convey far more than what words can say or communicate. Master the art of developing Infographics.
11. If there is one aspect of internal communications you would like to change, what would that be?
In today’s 21st century organization, I hope people once again begin to rely on face to face communication or on innovative ways to communicate with feelings. Emails, WhatsApp and digital communication is devoid of feelings and emotions. If you are communicating with living things such as People, Plants and Animals, feelings are important. Machines cannot replace a human touch.
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Look up the previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series here – Northern Trust, AXA Business Services, Subex, global insurer, Standard Chartered Bank, BASF, Applied Materials India, Microsoft UK, Times Group, Samsung, Falabella, Cisco, Brillio, UAE Exchange, Apeland, M.H. Alshaya Co, Proctor & Gamble, Infosys, SOBHA Ltd., ICICI Securities, First Advantage, CK Birla Group, TVS Motors, GE, Suzlon, Tata Sons, Percept, Knight Frank, TCS Europe, Vedanta, Oxfam, Danske Bank, Diageo, Pandora, Symantec, ISS Global Services, Telia, Thomson Reuters, IBM, General Motors, Intelligence India Software Solutions, Philips, Refinitiv, Mastercard and VFS Global.
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