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Big six: a vision for internal communication in 2015

A vision for internal communication in 2015

January 6, 2015

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but vision is much more useful.

So here’s my contribution to the wellbeing of the internal communication industry in 2015.

My ‘big six’ fit neatly into three categories:

Big issues

The big issues that IC will be called upon to handle are productivity and retention.

Looking generically at British business, this year both will share top place on the agenda.

The recession saw demand and investment plummet. But despite this, private sector employment was relatively unscathed. The workplace legacy is a cocktail of bad habits and out-of-date tools.

Productivity, once on an endless upward trajectory, is now 16% behind where it should be.

But in 2015 the post-recession spotlight will finally turn from survival to prosperity. Wages and profits can only improve with productivity – and so IC will be called upon to support a necessary revolution in innovation and working practice.

At the same time employment will continue its upward trend – the CIPD predicts half a million more people will be in work this year. But five years of reduced recruitment and training will start to take a serious toll as more jobs chase fewer skilled people.

For the first time since 2008, keeping hold of the good ones will re-emerge as a business critical issue – and the effort starts with onboarding.

If you’re not on the case already, don’t wait for the call.

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Big challenges

The two big challenges for IC are bosses who don’t get it – and audiences too busy to take any notice.

Both can jeopardise the effectiveness of the whole IC function and need attending to with urgency if business is to achieve its potential in 2015.

Due in part to lack of hard evidence to the contrary (see below), too many leaders still see IC as a nice thing to do rather than an essential strategic issue and a core competence for their role.

But the fact is that in every walk of life outside work, people are now used to having choice and having a say.

In 2015, companies that don’t truly embrace open and honest dialogue with their employees will not only lack a competitive edge; they’ll also start to lack good team members.

For some bosses that means breaking with intuition – and this year IC has to work hard in changing their habits.

Equally challenging is our task of getting people at whatever level to take any notice of our IC outputs.

At leisure, most of us now spend our spare time surfing a zillion TV channels while simultaneously checking our emails and Facebook on an armoury of laptops, tablets and mobiles.

And at work we’re too busy working and doing our online holiday bookings to actually read anything useful.

So in 2015 our IC channels have really got to break new ground in becoming compelling (and enjoyable) – to the extent that even outside work, we’re willing to take time away from Snapchat and Twitter to graze them as part of the mix.

On the positive side, communication for most people is now an addiction – if we can find the right formula for IC, we’re on to a winner.

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Big opportunities

This year there are two massive opportunities: video – and proving the value of what we do.

If people are addicted to the concept of communication, their drug of choice is video delivered by mobile.

In the big wide world, internet video traffic is on trend to grow by 400% by 2017.

This piece of news represents a message from consumers that we would be foolish to ignore within IC.

As people are overwhelmed by a tsunami of information, video offers a desirable alternative to reading. It combines entertainment and interaction with relaxed and enjoyable sharing of information.

So in 2015, forget about big budgets and posh productions.

They still have their place, but properly constructed as an everyday, mainstream tool, video will prove the alchemy that IC is looking for.

And finally, this will be the year when we start to prove the value of what we do – and thus transform our status for the common good of mankind.

Despite the efforts of David MacLeod there is still very little definitive evidence that IC leaders can wave in front of their CEOs to demonstrate a return on investment from their internal communication budget.

The case for IC – and in particular the case for best practice in the face of pressure to compromise – will be strengthened immensely when we can demonstrate a measurable ROI.

We all believe that IC is as critical to business success as marketing or investment in research and development.

Therefore we must develop the ability to measure and prove it.

Resolving this conundrum and producing hard, incontrovertible evidence to evaluate what we do, will transform our status within the organisations we serve.

This, in turn, will transform our ability to work effectively, improve constantly, and make a big and positive difference.