GET INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS HEARD IN THE BOARDROOM
Is the voice of your internal communications team heard right alongside the executives in strategic discussions? If not, it’s time to speak up, argues James Scott, CEO of employee communications app Thrive.
You know that internal communications serves a key function, and on some level, your executive team does, too. One study found that CEOs increasingly see communications as having a “vital strategic voice” in business decisions, especially where brand and reputation are concerned. If the Internal Communications (IC) voice wasn’t invited to the table previously, COVID-19 has given leadership teams a reason to hand deliver nothing short of an engraved invitation. During this crisis, employees have craved information, connection, collaboration, and transparency more than ever before in recent history. And many company leaders now rely more than ever on seamless, nimble communication to employees.
Not only are we in an era where internal communications is seen as a critical function; it’s becoming more and more apparent that internal comms needs to serve a highly strategic function. That means internal comms leaders who are still stuck in the tactical trenches need to seize this opportunity to show that they have the strategic capacity to sit at the table.
If your CEO still considers internal comms as merely the purveyor of newsletters and “rah rahs,” then here are three things you must do.
- Drive company objectives using communications
One key finding from a recent report is that many CEOs do feel that internal communication serves a strategic function and IC practitioners are the keepers of translating strategy, company values, and priorities. What’s more, many CEOs trust IC teams to elucidate company objectives using compelling storytelling that will resonate with and motivate employees, and help them find purpose within the organisation.
Knowing that many CEOs feel that way may be gratifying, but the IC function shouldn’t stop with translating and storytelling, or even motivating. Rather, IC can and should propel company objectives forward by driving and facilitating change via communications channels and tools.
For instance, if a company has a culture problem causing low productivity and high turnover, profits are impacted. To enact profit-raising change in this case requires transformation at the level of company culture. Internal communications leaders can influence strategy that shifts communication from a one-sided, top-down communications environment to one that raises the voices and input of employees. Executed correctly using the right tools, this type of strategy harnesses the power of IC.
- Measure & Report to Prove Value
Historically, it’s been difficult to measure and provide evidence of the value and effectiveness of internal communications. Because leadership tends to zero in on things like KPIs and other indicators of performance, it’s essential that IC teams shift to think in these terms, as well. That means evaluating your communications tactics, platforms, and channels based on their potential to deliver metrics-centred reporting.
For example, how can you prove that a particular communications strategy led to a material increase in employee engagement? You must first define what employee engagement looks like within your organisation, establish a baseline and benchmarks, then measure and report on performance. Reportable boosts to engagement might look like more comments and shares on content within an employee communications app, or a certain percentage increase in user-generated content.
- Demonstrate ROI
Lastly, connect what you’re doing in your communications role directly to the bottom line by measuring and showing return on investment. In the CEO’s eyes, it’s not enough to see that employee engagement was upped by a certain percentage. You also must translate what those spikes in engagement mean for profitability: Increased engagement leads to productivity, is directly correlated with retention, and saves the company actual dollars.
Of course, we’re using engagement as just one example of potentially measurable output of IC, but the point remains: In order for internal communications to have influence with executives and stakeholders, the importance of demonstrating business impact specifically in ROI terms cannot be understated.
There are many industry-specific tools that come with built-in analytics. Once you have those tracking capabilities in place, you can more easily connect the dots from what your IC activities cost, to reduction in company operating costs and even profits based on boosts in productivity, engagement, company culture, and employee safety. Likewise, you can show how engagement impacted profits by decreasing turnover, absenteeism, and safety incidents.
Nothing perks the ears of your CEO like profitability. When you can show that Internal Communication maps directly to company objectives, and you can demonstrate value and ROI, you’ll no doubt have a voice in the boardroom.