Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interact with a bright group of communication professionals and exchange notes on a topic I advocate a lot – inclusive internal communications.
At the Krakow City Connect Series organized by IABC EMENA and, hosted at the Shell office, we learned a bit about the role of IABC in nurturing professional development and the impressive range of work the Shell team does.
Appreciating Inclusive Internal Communications
So what is Inclusive Internal Communications and why does it matter? What needs to change for communication professionals and organizations to be more inclusive?
Before we dive in, let me call out that ‘inclusion’ in this case isn’t about diversity, equity, or gender roles.
Inclusion in the context of internal communications is about appreciating the evolving role of staff as partners and not just a stakeholder whom you consult when you feel like it. It is about listening intently to their needs, being in their shoes, and involving them to continually improve their experiences.
At one of my former employers, a global technology and digital firm with over 10,000 staff, the leadership team struggled to get employees to dress appropriately for client visits and interactions – impacting how the brand was perceived. Clients felt the organization wasn’t serious, didn’t look or behave professionally, and was a bit too laid back, hurting business. HR’s repeated messaging on dressing fell on deaf ears. When they consulted the communications team, we realized it was just that we hadn’t asked staff how they would ideally like to address the concerns. We invited staff for a brainstorming session and they came up with the idea of creating an explainer video to articulate what was expected. The internal communications team facilitated the engagement and provided the platform to create and publish this artifact.
The final product, despite it being ‘amateurish’ (created as a stop-gap motion film) served the purpose. The video was the most viewed across the organization (even more than corporate content) and began to change behaviors. It was an ‘aha’ moment for the HR team and for leaders as well on the power of listening and involving staff in what is expected to be an ‘untouchable’ territory, like communications. It led to an informal group of staff serving as extended ‘brand and communication council’ members advising, creating, curating, and driving communications – within and outside the firm.
In essence, all employees, are communicators and it is the role of the internal communications team or for that matter, corporate communications or marketing teams to tap into the potential and creativity that exists within – not just for crowdsourcing, but also for problem-solving and sense-making.
That is an example of what Inclusive Internal Communications can do.
What’s Changing and Staying the Same
Does it mean the role of internal communicators becomes irrelevant? Are we letting go of our ‘turf’?
Not really. In fact, by demonstrating openness, the willingness to listen, and partnering to solve business issues, the internal communications function is enhancing its credibility and clout like never before.
This does mean having the courage to let go of control but not the narrative. The focus isn’t on authority but on providing autonomy and choice to staff when it comes to communications, being open to ideas, and tapping the power and potential of employees as ambassadors and advocates of change. It isn’t about tokenism – because staff can easily spot when organizations and communication professionals are being inauthentic.
Inclusive Internal Communications is being able to:
– involve, engage, and partner with staff, to take them along the journey of change
– inviting them to provide ideas and feedback on the current and future expectations from communication at the workplace
– making communication accessible and intuitive in ways that make their jobs easier, and simpler and help them connect to the organization’s purpose.
The pandemic has brought about many changes in the workplace, and the role of internal communicators has become more important than ever. As organizations navigate through uncertainty and change, internal communicators must provide clarity, reassurance, and support to staff – along with them. Not talking down, but talking ‘with’ them. They must also be able to adapt to new technologies and tools, such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence, to stay ahead of the curve and continue to scale their impact.
Inclusive Internal Communications is more than just a buzzword or a trendy phrase in the corporate world. It is a powerful tool that can help organizations achieve their goals and create a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, and innovation. By doing so, organizations can build trust, increase productivity, and enhance their internal brand and reputation. There is a range of approaches that cover inclusive internal communications – from involving (listening, inviting views, and tapping talent), engaging (shared ownership, encouraging voice and advocacy), and empowering (crowdsourcing, storytelling, and intrapreneurship) staff.
Inclusive Internal Communications is not just about the here and now, but also about the future. As organizations struggle to engage staff and provide consistent employee experience, this strategic approach can be a game changer.
To be successful, organizations and communication professionals will need to shift mindsets and unlearn and relearn ways of engaging staff as partners.
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Here are Internal Communications resources you can use:
Learn: Internal Communications Fundamentals Course on Thinkific
Read: Internal Communications – Insights, Practices & Models (Sage Publications, 2012)
Join the Internal Communications Series: https://forms.gle/KcqmPzLwq7NQi5Km6
Chat with Aniisu – Internal Communications: https://www.instamojo.com/intraskope/connect-with-aniisu-60-minute-personalized-d/?ref=store
Internal Communications workshops: https://bit.ly/2zdBRl1
You can also visit my website www.intraskope.com and You Tube channel to know more about my work.
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