Should collaboration tools redefine internal communications’ role?

 
Mark Morrell's picture

In my last post ‘Is your culture right for collaboration tools to improve internal communications?‘ I gave my view on the corporate environment needed to encourage internal communications professionals to welcome collaboration tools being used by employees.  Internal communications need to realise they are not the sole people who can communicate using the intranet.  Neither are their official channels the only route to communicate with other employees.

To embrace these challenges I suggest redefining the role of internal communications.  It is set in a model that is fast changing and risks becoming irrelevant.  The days when only managers or CEOs communicated business news and changes to their employees using internal communications will become extinct like dinsoaurs.  They need to adapt to the changes and recognise, like some progressive comms people have already done, the need to evolve and move forward and not resist until the bitter end.

I see the role for internal communications changing in this new world where employees want to communicate and collaborate with other employees as liberating and giving greater influence to the organisation.  Why?

1. Strategic

Take a step back from the day to day activity of preparing communications, checking channels are operating OK, and which day to send out a corporate message.  Think more about the value communications can have on the organisation, how employees perform, the direction it sets.

Encouraging employees to give their views on communications, even setting the agenda and starting communications on the organisation’s performance, ways of working can help encourage employee engagement.

Get more involved in the organisation’s strategy by influencing how communications in general, not just corporate messages, show the pulse of the employee’s attitude and engagement.  Work with HR and the intranet team to use the information on blogs, discussion forums and online polls to identify hot spots that are important to employees – what is working well, what could be improved – and help communicate through channels that employees choose to use with helpful information.

This will show the organisation is listening rather than just talking all the time to employees.  It also means employees use their time for more productive activities if their concerns have been accepted and acted upon more quickly.

2. Influential

Having a wider view of what is happening across the organisation brings a better insight to how its aims can be achieved from an internal communications perspective.  A more accurate and complete picture given will mean other senior leaders taking notice and seriously considering any points or issues raised by internal comms.

It will mean more major business projects and change programmes will want to involve internal communications professionals at the start so the right priority and consideration is given to their views.  It enables internal communications to start setting more of the agenda that will improve the organisation and employees’ engagement with it by its understanding of how employees communicate and collaborate to maximum effect.

3. Liberating

The main focus has been on the content of the communication being word-perfect and grammatically correct with the channels working fine for delivering it to the audiences on time.  The focus shouldn’t be on just that, important though it is to avoid badly worded, confusing, messages.  Instead it should widen to cover the wider impact of any communications.

So if you threw a stone into a pond it wouldn’t just be the size of the splash the stone made but the ripple effect that went as far as the edges of the pond.  Instead of success being the perfect execution of the stone being thrown, it is also the number and size of the ripples and how far they spread across the pond.

This can be achieved by starting online polls to ask for employees’ views, raising new topics in a discussion forums, responding with contructive comments to blog posts giving different views.  The aim is to explain and educate employees to understand better what has been communicated.  It is not to tell them they are wrong and only the internal comms sponsored message is right.

4. How to do this?

All of this is easier to read about but harder to do.  Don’t worry, I have first hand experience for several years of achieving this as well as helping other organisations with advice and detailed information.  If you want further help from me please contact me or find out more about me and what I can offer.

My next blog will give more practical examples of how collaboration tools can help improve internal communications.

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