For internal communicators, a gift—and an invitation to deliver

Are you an internal communications professional who aspires to do great things for your company and its employees? Then wrap your hands around the wonderful gift that is “The Next Level: The Business Value of Good Internal Communication”—and wrap your head around its insights and recommendations.

It’s a great opportunity: Study the report, assess your situation, inject your own insights and passion, and make new possibilities real—for your company’s employees, with them, and through them.

The new research report comes via IC Kollectif, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing internal communication as a strategic asset—and, I would add, as a professional practice.

As summarized by Lise Michaud, the group’s founder and CEO, the report “reviews how business leaders perceive internal communication, looks closely at the reality of the practice inside companies and explores how IC professionals can better position themselves as trusted advisors and key business enablers.”

It does this with substance and scale, drawing on interviews with 33 in-house communication pros and execs spanning 20 industries and 25 countries. The report features contributions from teachers and researchers, as well as survey results and research (its own and others).

You’ll want to spend time with the document. Its 166 pages are rich with research insights, reflections of leading practitioners, and recommendations for excellence through well-documented best practices.

To me, though, what the “Next Level” does best is what it does indirectly: It invites you to ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing our employees, and our company, need from me right now—to thrive, to grow, to win, to achieve our biggest goals and realize our greatest opportunities?”

And then it provides a wealth of different ways to go about that—from organizational principles and measurement advice to the need for the courage to hold a point of view.

You can have some fun if you like. Take any two or three of the findings or recommendations, stir them together, and see where the result points you. For example, take these three points:

  • Harness the power of line-of-sight managers as communicators—because any significant change effort will fail without them.
  • Build a detailed internal stakeholder map—because each employee constituency has a different concern.
  • Have listening posts—so you understand what employees are thinking and feeling and can make communications a dialogue instead of a one-way flow.

When I integrate those three bullets I get this imperative: Allocate the different strengths of leaders and managers to the different concerns and situations of employees across the company—and have conversations.

Here’s where the multi-dimensional complexity of a business organization can be our friend. Just as there are countless elements of work life (business strategy, market dynamics, human differences, HR policies, organizational culture), there are many opportunities offered by the differing strengths of executives and leaders in your organization.

Some executives and managers are terrific presenters and speech-makers on a big stage. Some are much more effective in small groups where quiet dialogue happens.

They also have different experiences and stories. And stories—examples—are also our friends.

Make good use of those diverse strengths and stories. Build matrices (on whiteboards or in your head) of the different ways those human leaders can best connect with your human employees in various settings, situations, timings, and communication modes. Invite leaders into your thinking, and leverage their suggestions. (Wherever they are suggesting they help, they are likely to be energetic helpers in your mission.) Create situations for real dialogues with employees wherever possible, and where not, offer the spirit of dialogue by referencing employee conversations that have provided insights on current topics.

Along the way, you’ll be giving your employees the kind of wide-ranging conversations that will foster what I think every employee needs to thrive: She wants to believe in the organization’s purpose, belong to a team of people helping one another soar, and matter to the organization and its success.

When I first saw “The Next Level,” I joked to IC Kollectif CEO Lise Michaud that such a project must have cost a few years of her life. She said it was more like “10 months squeezed into 5 months.”

If you have a stake in the clarity, strength and commitment of your organization’s employees, I urge you to make the most of Lise’s “10 months” of work. Download and study “The Next Level.” Then ask yourself: What’s the most important thing I can do for my company and our employees—right now?

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