What can we learn about the future of Internal Communication?

 

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The Gatehouse State of the Sector report for 2018 was published today.

This ‘definitive survey of the Employee Engagement and Internal Communication landscape’ is a great way to get a sense of how IC works in other companies, to learn about trends and discover ideas for future priorities.

I attended an early briefing on the report with Gatehouse a few weeks ago, and I have been through the report again in detail this week.

There’s so much useful insight in the report, it’s really worth taking a look.

In particular, I think there’s a strong story emerging from the data about the future of IC.

So, here’s my top four takeaways on what this data is telling us….

  1. IC teams plan to provide more communication training to their organisations.

62% of respondents declared themselves very or usually involved in providing communication training this year – up from 38% in 2017. That’s a huge increase!

This is a really important stat and I think it’s a key indicator to how IC is evolving for the future. More and more of us are recognising that communication is part of everyone’s job – and our role must increasingly place focus on building capability within the organisations we work in. Less of us ‘doing’ the communications, more helping others to communicate more effectively.

The benefits are enormous, but I don’t think we’ve really cracked how we get there. (This is a great case study of one organisation that has started the journey.)

My hope for next year is that Gatehouse builds in more questions around this topic into the survey itself.

  1. We still need to get better at articulating the role and purpose of IC

Shockingly, more than a third of us say our own leaders don’t really understand what we do and why we do it. [38% of respondents declared that leadership and IC disagree or strongly disagree on the role and purpose of communications]

IC isn’t such a new profession anymore, so why is this still the case?

A couple of the report stats could help explain why:

  • Just 50% of us say we have an annual comms plan of key IC activities
  • Only 33% say we have a written IC strategy
  • Just 29% of us have a written value proposition for internal communication.
  • And, it’s really disappointing to see that 12% of respondents say they don’t measure their communication activities in any way.

Wow!

But, I do have hope for this area – I know that IC is still relatively new in some organisations which could explain the stats above. I also think we’re fast evolving and our role and purpose is changing. As the industry matures and we move from ‘senders’ of messages to ‘enablers’ then that’s a huge education piece and we can’t expect leaders to understand that shift overnight.

  1. We need to spend more time improving our channels

‘Improving digital channels’ has seen a significant increase since last year in terms of a focus area for internal comms.

I think this is linked to my first key takeaway as mentioned above, in that, as we empower more employees to communicate themselves, and build capability within our organisations to communicate, our channels become even more important. Our role will shift increasingly to providing the platforms for others to use to communicate – aka the channels.

We’ll spend more time on governing, maintaining and improving those channels and training others how to use them effectively.

  1. It’s still a great time to work in Internal Comms

I’ve worked in IC for nearly 11 years now (whether in a dedicated IC role, or as part of integrated comms role). I’ve spent time in large global companies, smaller companies, in the public & private sector, in industries including education, financial services, transport and FMCG and I’ve worked in both the UK and Australia. No role has been the same and the challenges and opportunities have been really broad.

What’s exciting about this latest State of the Sector 2018 report is that it really reflects the variety of my own experiences in Internal Comms and highlights the fact that there is a real range of roles and opportunities out there.

For example, in the Gatehouse report, 14% of respondents say their use of social channels within their organisation is advanced, while 16% say social channels are non-existent. And the rest fall somewhere in between.

I’ve worked in organisations with and without social channels and know how the presence of these types of channels can have a big impact on how internal communication flows through the organisation and the culture of the organisation. That requires Internal Comms teams to take really different approaches when it comes to developing an IC strategy, use very different skills and adapt to different ways of working too.
Find out more:
You can download the full report from Gatehouse here. (There’s a sign-up form first)

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