Tag Archives: internal communications news

Guest blog: Internal comms – why the best years are still ahead

I started working in internal communications in 1997. I don’t know if it’s more chastening to say 20 years ago or last century!

While internal comms has developed enormously in these last two decades, I’m not convinced it’s fully grown yet. Here are three reasons why I think its best years are yet to come.


The best way internal comms has changed in the last 20 years is its development as a profession. This is thanks to a handful of commercial organisations who recognised the need and desire to share best practice, accelerated by social media and how easy this made it for internal comms people to do this themselves.

The dedication and determination in recent years for our professional bodies like the IABC, CIPR and IoIC to make membership more meaningful has also helped enormously.

Thanks to this, we better appreciate and understand all the components of internal comms that sit alongside our responsibility for great content, which felt like the main focus 20 years ago.

The more we continue to develop ourselves to also deliver strategies, planning and measurement that demonstrate we understand and can add value to the organisations we work for, the more mature we’ll become as a profession.


Developing our internal comms armoury shifts the perception that we just exist to write and send stuff. Others have written more extensively on the importance of an organisation’s purpose, notably Christine Crofts in an excellent recent series of LinkedIn posts. I agree with her that internal comms has the chance to define its own purpose more clearly by taking the lead in helping to shape and connect people to this.

Great internal comms allows people to understand how their work contributes to their organisation’s purpose. In my view, nothing could be more engaging than people feeling what they do makes a difference to the fundamental reason their organisation exists. Internal comms has a huge opportunity to be the profession that organisations turn to first to make this happen.


The reason I got into internal comms 20 years ago and why I’ve stayed ever since is people. I’m curious about what people are interested in and how to grab their attention, and it’s exciting when you can harness this energy to connect them to what their organisation does, where it’s going and their role on that journey.

People should always be at the heart of great internal comms – we listen to them, talk to them, share things with them, involve them and understand the difference this all makes to them.

I recently heard someone say HR is the voice of an organisation’s management, so internal comms should be the voice of its people. There may be something in that, and it’s a debate that’s probably a blog in itself.

But if we believe that, we should say so more explicitly. Along with purpose, it has the potential to clearly define us in the years ahead.

I’d love to know what you think. What has made you stay in internal comms, and where do we go next?

Neil Jenkins

Neil Jenkins is the Head of Internal Communications, BT Group.
He joined BT in December 2016, having held senior internal comms roles at Siemens, Vodafone and Coca-Cola in a career spanning more than 20 years. Passionate about the difference great internal comms (with a heavy dose of digital) can make, and still yearning for Liverpool FC’s 19th league title.

Internal surveys: be right first time, every time

With so many plates spinning at any given time, it’s no surprise that even the most important tasks get pushed down the internal comms practitioner’s to do list.

Although 95 per cent of internal communications professionals say measurement is important, it’s the activity people spend the least time on.

This means that, when we do find time to commit time to internal research, we need to get it right.

During a recent meeting, a client of mine mentioned how surprised he was by the results of an internal survey he had conducted. A lot of the answers were so unexpected that he was convinced people had misunderstood the questions.

This made me think about how easy it is to get survey questions wrong. Consider how many times a day people ask you ambiguous, confusing or badly structured questions.

For example:

• ‘Do you do [activity] regularly?’ How often is ‘regularly’?
• ‘Can I help you with [task]?’ I don’t know. Can you?
• ‘Do you like [celebrity/TV show]’ How much insight will you really get from a closed question like this?

Of course, in the real world, most of us don’t stop to analyse a question’s grammatical structure before we answer (and those who do are likely to be struck off our Christmas card list).

If someone asks us a closed yes-or-no question to our face, we think nothing of volunteering more information than necessary.

In survey world, this isn’t always possible.

Ask a closed question and you’ll get a closed answer. Ask an ambiguous question and there’ll be no opportunity to correct someone mid-response.

Even considerate IC question masters who thoughtfully include text boxes for people to pour their thoughts into will invariably find that a yes-no question results in a yes-no reply.

These potential polling pitfalls mean we’re at risk of wasting our time and other people’s if we don’t get our survey questions right.

According to Elspeth Bradley, Research Director at Research By Design, internal communication professionals can use the following tips to keep their surveys on track.

1. Start by thinking about your key objective for the survey. What do you really want to find out?
2. Keep yes-no questions to a minimum – even if it’s just by including a scale of possible responses, as this will give more useful feedback. Make sure the scales you use are balanced, with a neutral mid-point.
3. Avoid asking two questions in one. This is confusing for recipients and you might not get back the answer you need.
4. Make sure questions are not ambiguous. If you’re not totally clear about your objective, you’re more likely to ask questions that are not on target.
5. When you’ve written your questions, test them on colleagues who aren’t involved with the survey. Ask them if they understood everything, or if there are any grey areas. Act on what they tell you.
6. Consider using an external research partner who can write questions for you and approach a project with zero bias (there will always be a degree of unconscious bias when data is collected internally).

Putting strategy back into internal comms: the time has come

Ever since I did my first piece of corporate communication work, an audit of UK external and internal communication for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in 1997, I saw the massive strategic potential of internal communication.

Yet, in the last twenty years, I have seen internal comms used less and less as a strategic tool, and more and more to drive the easier-to-measure but more nebulous objectives of “awareness” and “employee engagement”.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

At the turn of the century in London, there were actually large internal comms strategy firms who were looking at ways to use communication to identify specific groups of people, and mobilise them to help organisations achieve specific objectives.

Rather than driving awareness with infotainment indiscriminately broadcast to all employees, internal communication strategists focused on developing, delivering and facilitating complete messaging for people who needed to act on it, or those who needed to be aware so they could lead, follow, or get out of the way.

The strategic approach to internal comms was never repudiated. But in the early 2000s, it was overwhelmed by the drive for employee engagement.

Employee engagement is not explicitly anti-strategic.

The quest to measure it, and the corresponding push among corporate leaders to drive and demonstrate ever-increasing employee engagement scores, has had the effect of subordinating any other business purposes for internal communication to the two-fold purpose of raising employee engagement scores, and increasing the percentage of employees participating in employee engagement surveys.

Why does that conflict with the strategic use of internal comms?

When your job as an internal comms function is to make sure 100% of employees submit their engagement surveys and feel sufficiently happy to deliver an 80% to 100% engagement score, there is little tolerance for emphasising the selective delivery of hard messages to the minimum number of people necessary.

Some stakeholders squeal that such selective engagement is “discriminatory,” and other express concern for the potential impact on engagement scores.

It has also become a resourcing and sponsorship issue.

Some years back, when “precious” IC resource was being focused on “engagemen-tainment,” comms departments responded to urgent requests from senior stakeholders for change communication support with “toolkits” – essentially giving these stakeholders uncustomised instructions in “how to communicate” and telling them to take a hike.

This approach not only further diminished the active practice of strategic internal communication, it also had the perverse impact of distancing internal comms from potentially supportive senior stakeholders.

Now, as more and more businesses and practitioners are actively questioning the value of all-employee engagement and “engagemen-tainment,” a window is reopening for internal comms to become a strategic function again.

Moreover, if it doesn’t, how will IC otherwise be able to retain any perception of value, if it is neither driving engagement nor driving alignment and action?

Some ways to make IC more strategic in this transitional period:

1. Start proactively helping your business stakeholders, not just your engagement stakeholders
2. Conduct interviews and learn more about the business’s priorities, and then look more at how you can support and accelerate them
3. Kill off eyeball and awareness measurements.
4. Develop measurements that track the flows of messages and attitudes in different parts of your business
5. Invest in influencer research and/or social mapping to find the three percent of people who are driving 90% of your conversations
6. Develop a two-tier communication platform: a brief and snappy infotainment approach for all employees, supplemented with a more adult and comprehensive approach for influencers, leaders and managers
7. Don’t be afraid to use the same vehicles for delivering lightweight and heavyweight content, but do make sure they are effectively signposted

Embracing a strategic approach to internal communication offers massive advantages. For organisations, it offers the possibility of greater alignment and faster results.

For communicators, a clearer path to making a difference and a more tangible set of tasks and tools, and a greater opportunity to be seen as strategic assets and even, leaders.

Why not start now?


Mike Klein is an internal communication strategist, writer and blogger, based in Delft in the Netherlands.

His blog, Changing The Terms, has been recognised by Communication Director Magazine as one of Europe’s top communication blogs.

He is also currently Vice Chair of IABC’s Europe-Middle East-North Africa region.

Claudio Ranieri – did employee empowerment go too far?

Claudio Ranieri has departed Leicester City only months after leading the club to a spectacular Premier League triumph.

But what role did Foxes’ players have in his sacking?

Debate has raged over whether Leicester’s stars turned on the likeable Italian boss as the team struggled after last season’s fairytale.

Vice-Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha insisted the decision to sack Ranieri came from the owners alone – and was quick to distance his players from the rumoured revolt.

“It is unfair that our players, who supported Claudio fiercely, are being accused of disloyalty,” he said.

But in his Guardian column, Chief Football Writer Paul Doyle presented another view; one that supports two-way dialogue and employee empowerment – in this case, football players.

He wrote: “Even if it were true that Leicester players expressed disagreement with the way Ranieri was running their title defence, is that so bad?

“It is a dumb strain of conservatism indeed that demands workers blindly follow their leader.

“Consultation in the workplace is usually a sign of enlightened rule and generates an empowering sense of shared responsibility.

“A workforce that feels its feedback is ignored can become less productive. Or play like oafs.”

In May 2016, just after Leicester were crowned Premier League title winners, IC Magazine managed to secure an exclusive interview with the people’s champion, Ranieri.

Speaking of his management style at the time, his tactics seemed to be those of someone who knows how good internal communication works.

He told us his approach was one of involvement, communication and employee empowerment.

“I just want everyone to feel involved – medical staff, sports science teams, our Chief Executive,” he said. “Everyday decisions or jobs – we are all part of the project.”

So, at least it seems that Ranieri and Doyle are singing from the same hymn sheet. Only on this occasion, it is rumoured not to have worked out so well for the former LCFC manager.

Internal comms ‘helps no-CEO firm to thrive’

Powerful. Decisive. Inspirational.

The CEO is the big beast of any organisation – the person who signs off (or not) on the decisions that truly matter.

Because the buck, after all is said and done, nearly always stops with them.

They are a staple part of today’s corporate fabric – commonplace alongside email overload and water cooler conversations.

So it was a surprise to read about the company that decided to ditch its top dog – and has thrived as a result.

Swedish software consultancy Crisp had trialled numerous leadership structures before deciding to axe the organisation’s chief executive role altogether, reports BBC News.

Developer Yassal Sundman said: “We said, ‘what if we had nobody as our next CEO – what would that look like?’

“And then we went through an exercise and listed down the things that the CEO does.

“When we looked at it we had nothing left in the CEO column [with duties picked up by other senior leaders or colleagues], and we said, ‘alright, why don’t we try it out?’”

It sounds straight forward, doesn’t it?

Nonetheless it is a huge leap into the unknown for most businesses.

In 2015, tech company MT Online revealed it had ditched emails, meetings and managers with great success.

But this radical idea is another level again.

The trust element is certainly refreshing – particularly with some businesses considering state-of-the-art ‘workplace sensors’ to monitor and potentially enhance productivity.

Interestingly, the lack of a visible leading figure at Crisp has seen internal communications becoming a crucial part of the organisation’s new-look decision-making process.

So what role does IC play in Crisp’s approach?

Involvement. The business holds a four-day meeting for its 40 members of staff every three months. These are used to tackle the ‘bigger’ issues that impact on the entire business.
Ownership. Colleagues are encouraged to openly discuss plans or bounce ideas off each other instead of taking them ‘upstairs’.
Responsibility. Workers are highly motivated because they have a shared sense of responsibility, says Henrik Kniberg, organisational coach. “If you want to get something done, you stand up and start driving that.”
Measurement. Crisp takes employee engagement seriously with regular measurement. Currently, the average is about 4.1 out of 5.

To read the full article, visit the BBC News website here….