Lots of internal communications teams are telling me that they struggle to create engaging, valued updates for their business. BUT even when they have designed the perfect campaign, with every box ticked, they’re still faced with senior leaders and other employee groups who simply ignore all communications.
Kind of like the ‘quiet quitting’ trend in a way but these people are high performers who go above and beyond for the work but simply won’t engage in internal communications and the wider culture of the company.
They have a get out of jail free card if you like, whether that’s because of the tyranny of billable hours in professional services, commission culture driving top sales performers or operations directors solely focused on getting perishable products out the door.
Navigating the balance between creating truly relevant content that your people will value and at the same time figuring out ways to better partner with stakeholders who simply don’t see the point of engaging is a perennial challenge for many internal communications teams.
I take a closer look at the top five problems companies are facing right now with internal communications.
1. No CEO buy-in
The saying goes ‘the fish rots from the head down’ so if your CEO isn’t behaving in a way that supports great internal communications it’s unlikely your high-performing leaders will see the point either.
The perennial issues I see here are CEOs who either don’t see the point of being a visible leader themselves or, they pay lip service to internal communications because they don’t believe there’s any commercial merit in it.
Others are at the stage where they see there could be value for the organisation but they genuinely don’t think anyone wants to hear from them and are genuinely stumped as to what they’d talk about. Once they do get the value, many actually lack confidence in their ability to create engaging updates, the skills to come across naturally, or are simply a bit scared of modern workplace technology.
2. Too many internal communication channels
Even if your CEO is on board and the internal communications team has done sterling work to partner with the ‘disengaged doers’ of the organisation, there are often so many entry points to get work done that it’s simply too easy to ignore company communications.
And let’s face it, even the most engaged people in an organisation are simply not going to log onto several places if it’s not essential to your job. Employees want frictionless experiences and the workforce has much higher expectations of great design and ease of use.
When you consider ALL the places we expect people to check into it’s no wonder internal communications teams don’t see a return for their efforts. From clunky intranets, email, videos, Microsoft Teams groups, Yammer, Slack and WhatsApp, plus the average employee needs about 40 apps just to get their job done.
In fact, according to a recent report, an average enterprise uses 461 disparate apps — with each functional group relying on specialised functional apps designed to serve them better. The average number of apps for HR came to 90, Finance totalled 60 and even Sales came to 43*.
This means workers are using hundred of disconnected apps and performing hundreds of disconnected tasks to complete their projects. And because there’s often no central space or platform to access everything, internal communications is ANOTHER thing people have to do rather than a seamless part of getting work done.
*Source: Mary Meeker internet trends 2017.
3. Communications teams' excluded from board level conversations
Many internal communications professionals tell me that it’s hard to get a seat at the table and so it’s difficult to get their voices heard as a driver of business change. I’ve been there and it genuinely is the toughest thing about the role.
Senior internal communications professionals also bemoan the shortage of internal communications professionals with the skills to act as true business partners.
That can mean that the function struggles to show the relevance of company communications to leaders and people’s jobs across the organisation.
4. Struggling to make communications engaging, interesting and valuable
So if internal communications teams can’t influence their key stakeholders and functions across the organisation and those important conversations don’t happen, it means internal communications is completely disconnected from business strategy.
It also means it’s disconnected from the kind of the culture the organisation wants to build. That’s when internal communications becomes ‘window dressing’ or a dull news function rather than the glue that links the business together, adding real value.
No matter if you have the world’s best editorial team writing your comms, if you can’t connect what business leaders and the organisation want and need, internal communications simply will not be engaging, interesting and VALUABLE. You may hit engaging and interesting but if it's not working towards a bigger purpose or organisational narrative it’s kind of pointless.
5. Staff focused on delivery, not leadership
Now, we’ve all had a tough few years and just getting a product out the door or a service delivered frankly takes a bloody heroic effort. From Covid to supply chain challenges, cost inflation and recession, it’s been pretty relentless. Then we expect people to engage in internal communications, fill in all the forms and have a good work-life balance!
Even before the world went bonkers, every organisation had its ‘untouchables’ or high performers, who simply sidestep contributing to company culture and internal communications because they are too important to distract from billing or delivering.
Yet when organisational change happens and you REALLY need these people to engage it’s a hard habit to break. And when these key leaders are unwilling to be visible and communicate to their teams it can impact retention and becomes a business critical issue.
So when you have inexperienced internal communications teams unable to business partner with these tricky stakeholders, the problem intensifies. It's an issue that needs addressing if the business is to carry on changing and growing.
Are you struggling with these issues? You aren’t alone.
Book a call with me to discuss how organisations are increasing engagement through better internal communications AND increasing stakeholder buy in. bit.ly/book-an-insights-call
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be more than happy to answer your questions personally.
Check out our Future of Work podcast episode!
Check out our Future of Work podcast episode if you are interested in what people want from work and how this influences your communications technology choices.