Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Cathy Phillips

Building capability for change through internal communications


H&H Agency is a Business Reporter client.

In today’s fast-changing business landscape, the key to survival is not just to adapt, but to do it swiftly and smartly. Visionary leaders are already on it. They recognise the power of internal communication (IC) in equipping employees to be prepared for, cope with and transition through any kind of organisational change.

Remember how the business world shuffled from telex to fax to email? We’re talking a timespan of decades.

Today the velocity of change – marked by hybrid working, evolving technology and dynamic corporate priorities – is accelerating. Accenture reports that from 2017 to 2022, the pace of change was about 50 times faster than in the preceding five years.

And it shows no sign of slowing down

Instant adaptation is now the name of the game. That’s what the recent global shift to remote and hybrid set-ups – to use an obvious example – has demanded. And organisations with robust internal comms strategies are undoubtedly those that will adapt the swiftest.

Because great internal communications is the oil that keeps an organisation working smoothly. It brings to life, and keeps people focused on, the “why”, vital in inspiring and motivating teams to move in the same direction. It provides the narrative of the “what” and the “how” that keeps people informed and on the right path. It facilitates valuable dialogue to enable people to voice their opinions, ideas and concerns so they feel heard and valued. And it influences culture – helping to nurture the attitudes and behaviours that will deliver success.

The growing breadth of change topics

Take two current corporate hot priorities: equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) and environment, social and governance (ESG). Very different in scope. Yet both require confidence and support from employees, as early as possible.

This is prime territory for the internal comms pro. This is someone with a core set of skills for engaging people, no matter the subject or scenario – an ability author Claudia Ferryman describes in her book, The Communication Chameleon.

Internal comms professionals may not be sustainability experts, but they have the expertise to inspire people on the topic. They can bring to life the “why” of ED&I policy and get people talking, rather than simply dropping it as a new initiative from above. Win your people round and align them with your vision, and they will use change as a vehicle to shape the future.

A comms chameleon also scouts the landscape for changes in trends and ideas, so they can be ready for what lies ahead. They’re the ones spotting shifts in language and terminology – keeping everyone aware of the evolving expectations of how a business talks about itself.

Who noticed the robots creeping into our workplace?

You can be sure the internal comms folks did. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been here for years, auto-correcting our texts, picking our music playlists and suggesting what movies to watch next. In the same way internet search engines transformed the way we sought out information, AI is a formidable tool for business, if used well by humans.

As with the metaverse and virtual reality, it pays to keep people alert to the possibilities of technology. Communicate the potential, encourage people to discover it and spark conversations about the skills they will need to capitalise on it. Will it make a job more productive, or be an expensive waste of time? Internal comms teams can learn all this directly from the people who will use it.

Internal comms teams are using the new tech, too. Could AI tease out employee insights that will retune your business engine? Can virtual environments provide a safe arena for discussing workplace issues and challenges?

Rather than fearing or ignoring digital advancements, employees can appreciate and explore its value for the future, with comms chameleons providing a motivational context. The ones who do this well will be the future winners.

Keeping internal comms at the heart of business

In a tough economic landscape, it could be tempting to slash internal comms budgets. But in terms of keeping businesses future-proofed and profitable, cutting internal communications budgets could be a costly and shortsighted mistake.

According to David Grossman’s The Cost of Poor Communications, companies with no internal comms strategy cited an average annual loss of $62.4 million. Smaller companies suffered too: Debra Hamilton’s article Top Ten Email Blunders that Cost Companies Money revealed that shoddy comms cost firms an average of $420,000 per year.

Strategic internal comms can help retain talent and save money on absenteeism or churn. But how do we put a price on the opportunities lost through lack of employee engagement? What kind of future success might they have created if fully on board with the company’s purpose?

Put IC in the C-suite

The way a CEO establishes a shared vision, purpose, values and culture influences employees’ motivation and loyalty, and their eagerness to contribute to collective success.

Great leaders know how to get people excited about potential, and what’s in it for everyone involved. They integrate internal communication into every facet of the organisation, recognising that it’s at least as important as external communication and marketing, because it determines how powerful your business engine will be.

We can’t always predict the next big challenge. But with great internal communication we can always adapt to what lies ahead, with an engaged team of people not just weathering change but ready to turn it into a priceless opportunity.

To find out more about how we’ve helped shape the future at global organisations head to our website:  .

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.