Interest in organizational communication starts right from our MBA days. The challenge begins when we have to communicate our policies and directions to organizational members at different levels. In earlier times of stable business environments we associated communication in corporate training and practiced rather passively. The environment in which organizations now operate has changed to one that is dynamic and fast changing. With fierce competitive pressures externally and internally an impatient and educated work force with rising expectations the communication needs are now specific and focused sharply. Therefore communication has evolved to corporate communication and internal communication inwards respectively. We will discuss a few aspects of Internal Communication in the context of leadership and strategy this post.
Internal Communication (IC)
As we move up the organizational hierarchy the degree of contact with the organizational members at lower levels gradually reduces. And it is at the top management levels that strategic decisions are taken. Leaders find it more and more difficult to effectively communicate strategies meaningfully to different constituencies of the organization.
Leaders will need to focus more and more on empowerment and speed-up a bottom-up flow of ideas and opinions. This by no means is an easy to handle by a few. They need close support. It is here that internal communication steps–in to play a two way role and become the voice of the leadership – top down and the voice of the employees – bottom up. IC needs may be transactional or strategic. The former is best driven by technology and is information based whereas the latter is based on knowledge, skills and articulation of complex issues.
With the democratization of communication by way of Internet, Intranets, SMS, social networks – Facebook, Blogs &Twitter, VCs & podcast. Internal communication will need to be fast and focused on issues which are significant and something that people would be keen to know about.
More so as the new generation employees who are born in the information age and who would feel ignored if they were to discover important development about the organization through informal sources.
Here it becomes imperative that the members of the IC team will need special qualities and high credibility. Honesty and timeliness are key strategic issues. Not only must they be well versed with the complexity of the strategic issues but also have an open mind to listen and learn from employees regardless of age and gender. Even when things go bad, everyone should know what is going on and where the company stands.
M&A and Strategic Alliances: The integration of people of both the entities is critical to achieving the strategic purpose of the deal. Delays and lack in communication are the main causes of failure. Employee feel insecure of their future, they resist changes as the positives are not clear to them. IC in conjunction with HR has to play a proactive role to prevent talent from fleeing.
Downsizing with dignity: Here too i.e., before, during and after the downsizing it is important to communicate with empathy and sensitivity to maintain a state of high morale.
To meet the challenges of above initiatives effectively IC team will also need to look beyond traditional management communication systems to get a pulse of their organizations. It is here that the ‘grapevine’ can play a positive role if handled subtly.
Employee commitment and engagement: Top management along with the IC team can communicate their business plans to different departments so that their views are given due consideration. Challenge now is to project an appropriate perception of the company business philosophy and vision in the minds of different constituents. This way the commitment of lower executives and employees is assured and they feel highly motivated that their views are being acted upon by the senior management.
Culture of trust: And transparency develops which stands in very good stead at the strategy execution stage. Unlike when the strategy is developed exclusively in the board room it meets with strong resistance from the executives. The implementation becomes smooth and hitch-free because the ground realities were incorporated at the formulation stage.
Prerequisites for success in Internal Communication
(a) A leadership that believes in employees as vital partners and not as a mere resource.
(b) An ethical, transparent and empowering organizational culture.
(c) Careful selection of IC team members with a impeccable track record as line functionaries. Have humility, an open mind and high listening skills. If not it can lead to disaster.
I would like thank my friends in corporate and LinkedIn for their valuable insights which helped me clarify my doubts and share my own thoughts on Internal Communication.