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10 ways internal communications is changing

15th, March 2014
1 Comment
by Tom Haak
in  Blog

Internal Communication


Several times I have been involved with the internal magazines in the companies I worked in. The pattern was most of the time something like this. The new CEO or new Division manager read the results of the bi-annual employee engagement survey (formerly called satisfaction survey), and it was clear that a large proportion of the employees were unhappy with the internal communications. Reward scored of course lowest (who is so stupid to fill in she or he is unhappy with pay), but most of the time internal communications came second on the unhappiness leader board. Also the post-survey focus groups were unanimous: please improve internal communications.
Action was required. The management team knew the solution: a magazine was required to inform all employees. The head of internal communications became chief editor, and an editorial board was established with people from all over the globe. Several months passed before, tada!, the new magazine was launched. A nice name (generally with a reference to the products/services of the company, like “Flying News”, or “ComComs”). CEO on the cover, and many nice articles about products, services, clients and staff. On the backside of the magazine: “Did You Know That?” or “What people around the world do when they are not working”. Good news only, and also old news only, as it has taken weeks to prepare and wordsmith the articles.

The days of the internal magazine are over. Ten ways internal communications is changing:

  1. From Internal Communications to Communications
    As organizations are changing, it becomes more and more difficult to determine what ‘ internal’ is. The boundaries are blurring, and many people involved in realizing the strategy of the company, are not on the payroll. Free agents. Partners. Suppliers. Interns. Therefore the boundaries between internal en external communications become blurring as well.
  2. From controlled top-down communications to open multi way communications
    People want to be involved and informed. The carefully drafted messages from the top are necessary, but only for a small part. Often the interview with the CEO in the newspaper is as informative as the interview in the internal magazine. People want to hear from colleagues and through internal and external social media news travels fast. More and more transparency is required (and is unavoidable).
  3. From a couple of channels to multi-channel communications
    We had magazines, newsletters, e-mail and conference calls. Many channels were added and new channels are appearing regularly. Quick adaptations to the new channels is necessary.
  4. From one-size-fits all to client-focused communications
    Or: from ‘sender determines channel’ to ‘receiver determines channel’.
    In the past the sender determined the channel and the receiver had to adapt. Already today, the power is shifting  to the receiver. With my wife I communicate via Whats-App (and, do not worry, also F2F). With my oldest daughter via Facebook. The favorite channel of my youngest daughter is SnapChat, and if I want to reach my son a direct message via Twitter is most effective. And this might be different tomorrow, which I find out if they become silent.
    This has large implications for internal communications.
  5. From good news only to real news
    This is clear. People do not only want to hear good news, they want all the news. That’s why they often rely more on external channels if they want to hear about their company
  6. From serious to frivolous
    You can have fun and still be serious, also in communications. When a serious message is packaged in a way that makes it fun to receive, the effectiveness goes up. The explanimation industry is growing, and rightfully so. It is a lot more fun to watch a well-made one-minute explanimation than to read pages of high-level text.
  7. From words and some pictures to pictures and some words
    A colleague called the trend ‘Instagramification’ I like that. Infographics are everywhere, and they are a strong tool to tell a good story in an attractive way. Instagram is rapidly developing as a valuable communication channel, and not only for young people sharing party photos.
  8. From professionals to amateurs
    In the past a text writer/ journalist wrote the text. The head of internal communications edited the article. The editorial board made some comments, and then the final red pencil was in the hand of the big boss. Today everybody can write and publish instantly. If people adhere to some sensible guidelines, to number of providers of news and good content is suddenly endless.
  9. From instructions to stories
    You can tell the people in the company what the mission and the values are, far more powerful are the stories of the people who exemplify the values. People like stories, and good storytelling is a powerful skill.
  10. From uniformity to diversity
    Given the changes outlined in 1-9, it is an illusion to control and standardize the communications in a company. People with the same values, and with the goals of the company and their personal goals in mind, will still communicate in different ways, but hopefully with a common ‘ground tone’. Diversity makes a company colorful, and makes a company real.

HR Trend Institute

The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organisations, and also in adjacent areas.
Tom has a keen interest in organisations and service providers that use trends in a creative and innovative way. He advices organisations on how to get more focus in their HR interventions and how use trends to increase the impact of HR.

He can be followed on Twitter (@tomwhaak and @hrtrendinst) and on Instagram @tomwhaak.
The HR Trend Institute also has a Pinterest page.

Tom Haak can conduct inspiring presentations and workshops about trends in HR and how organisations can benefit. The HR Trend Institute can also conduct the HR Trend Scan.

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About the Author: Tom Haak


Tom Haak is the founder and director of The HR Trend Institute. Prior to founding the HR Trend Institute in 2014, Tom held senior HR positions in companies as Arcadis, Aon, KPMG and Philips. The HR Trend Institute detects, follows and encourages smart and creative use of trends in the field of people and organizations, and also in adjacent areas.

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