Internal communications: how to add value to your business

How much value does your company place on internal comms? Jennifer Sproul, Chief Executive of the Institute of Internal Communication, outlines ways you can improve communication internally to enhance productivity and give your organisational culture a boost.

6 mins read
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12 May, 2024

​As workplaces evolve, internal communication (IC) is more important than ever – serving to strengthen bonds between employees and employers and foster an inclusive, supportive community. Often undervalued, the role of the internal communicator is that of mediator, successfully marrying fixed business objectives to the changing needs of the workforce. The Institute of Internal Communication drives standards through training, thought leadership, awards and qualifications across the UK and we interviewed the Chief Executive Jennifer Sproul (pictured below). Read the interview below on how businesses can enhance their internal communications strategy.

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Interview

Q. What is the value of internal comms, and how have strategies changed since the pandemic?

A.Internal communications refers to the practice of communicating with employees, and helps drive organisational success by fostering engagement, collaboration and alignment. Its ultimate purpose is to improve the overall employee experience, contributing to high productivity and reducing turnover by keeping the workforce informed, engaged and motivated.

Since the pandemic, employers have been adopting new IC strategies, such as increasing the use of digital channels, focusing on employee wellbeing, and enhancing transparency, authenticity and empathy.

IC also played a big role in keeping employees engaged during the Covid lockdowns through online community-building activities. It continues to provide an opportunity and platform to keep everyone in the business updated, allowing stories to be shared and achievements celebrated.

Q. To what extent is it only larger organisations that need employees who are dedicated to IC?

A.Determining when to employ an IC professional largely depends on the company size, structure, and communication needs. Smaller businesses may not need a dedicated person for the role and opt instead for someone who can handle general comms tasks alongside other responsibilities. However, as the organisation grows, a team may be needed to manage the volume and complexity of communication channels. The goals for the business will shape the comms strategy.

Q. What should small companies without the budget for people dedicated to IC do to improve their internal comms?

A.Some options to consider when budget is tight might be to establish regular communication channels such as weekly meetings or a company-wide newsletter to keep employees informed about news and updates.

Many people relish the chance to learn something new at work. Training and development programmes in communication can be a great way to improve employees’ soft skills. After all, good communication helps in all areas of life and work: leadership, presentations, influencing and mediation, for example. Confidence with communication can inspire staff to take on new tasks and more responsibility – increasing career prospects.

It’s also good to encourage open and transparent communication among team members and provide opportunities for feedback and suggestions. It goes without saying that keeping up to date with the latest tech is crucial. Leverage affordable technology solutions such as instant messaging and video conferencing tools to facilitate remote collaboration.

Regardless of the budget or size of organisation, understanding your workforce and prioritising a culture that emphasises communication, collaboration and engagement, can lead to better employee satisfaction.

Q. Do you feel company intranets are an overlooked resource? What can be done to make them more attractive and valuable to employees?

A.Company intranets are often viewed as a tool for top-down communication rather than a resource for employee collaboration and information-sharing. Several steps might be taken to enhance them, such as designing an intuitive and user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and find information, and ensuring the intranet contains relevant and up-to-date information, including company news, policies, procedures, and resources.

Social media has resulted in people being far more enthusiastic about using comms professionally and personally – encouraging employees in forums or discussion boards to share ideas, feedback, and best practice can foster a positive culture.

You could also consider the intranet as a learning platform featuring online courses, webinars, or podcasts. Fill it with easily-accessible tools and applications that make work more efficient, such as project management software or collaboration tools – and send reminders of any key changes that employees might find most useful and interesting.

Q. IC can sometimes be undervalued – what are the signs of success?

A.It’s all-too-often the task of the IC professional to have to explain or prove the value of their role to stakeholders who don’t fully understand its purpose.

The success of IC can be measured by increased employee engagement, improved productivity, better morale, lower turnover, and increased innovation. When employees feel informed, supported and valued, they are likely to be more invested in their work and committed to the organisation’s goals. Good IC creates a sense of community and belonging.

Q. What are some of the common challenges when responsible for IC?

A.Every day presents new challenges, and probably greatest of all is striking the balance between the type, tone and timing of messaging sent. It’s not always easy to get right – employees have busy days when they barely have time to check their emails, so an understanding of when to try and capture their interest is key to engagement – and avoiding information overload. And it’s important to always be mindful of topical issues outside the workplace before releasing information that might be perceived as tone deaf because it was poorly timed.

The job also involves ensuring consistency in messaging, a readiness to adapt to change, and overcoming language and cultural barriers. Empathy and confidentiality are important factors too.

Q. Is it more usual for an IC role to sit within a marketing team than HR – does it matter?

A.Where the role of IC sits depends on the business and its goals. Marketing teams often focus on external communication and promoting the company’s brand, whereas HR teams typically focus on internal comms and employee engagement. IC roles can fit into either team but should be where they can best support and enable effective company-wide communication.

Ultimately, it’s essential for the IC professional to have a clear understanding of the company’s communication goals and work with both external comms and HR teams to achieve them.

Q. What are the greatest industry changes the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) has noticed in recent years, and how might IC change in future as workplaces continue to evolve?

A.The IoIC has observed several significant industry changes. One major trend is the increasing use of digital channels for IC, such as the adoption of enterprise social networks, instant messaging, and video conferencing tools, which have enabled remote and flexible working arrangements.

Another change is the growing emphasis on employee engagement and culture. Organisations are realising effective IC plays a key role in fostering a positive workplace culture that pays dividends in the longer term.

As workplaces continue to evolve, the role of IC is likely to become even more critical. We could see IC professionals adapting to new communication technologies and channels, such as artificial intelligence (chatbots) and virtual and augmented reality balanced with human-centred communication. Those working in IC will also need to develop strategies to communicate with a diverse workforce, including remote and contingent workers, to ensure success.

Looking for hire new professionals for your team? Get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.

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Employee tenure: long-term relationship or short-term fling?
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Employee tenure: long-term relationship or short-term fling?

We all want committed employees but is length of service a true indicator of engagement? Does simply staying around in an employment relationship mean you’re all in? Of course, there are no simple answers to these questions – each situation is as individual as the parties involved – but it is worth thinking about what benefits both short and long tenure bring – and not rushing to build assumptions (or recruitment practices) on one or the other. 

So, what is employee tenure? It is generally defined as the length of time an individual spends with the same organisation or working for the same employer. According to the CIPD, the most common length of service is between two and five years (22.4%) but employees with over five years’ service make up nearly 50% of the workforce (Jan-Dec 2022).  

Is a long-term relationship better? You can certainly be forgiven for thinking so, as our corporate landscape often places value on long service and actively engages with strategies to lengthen or reward employee tenure. But why? Here are some key benefits of both short- and long-term tenures:

Long-term employee tenure

Increased productivity

Tenured employees tend to have a clear understanding of their roles and company goals due to their experience and time with the organisation. This familiarity with processes and procedures can allow them to work efficiently and contribute positively to productivity, as they are able to navigate the idiosyncrasies inherent in all companies. Quite often, they will have developed practices that enable the most efficient use of time to achieve objectives and outputs; and are then able to influence wider practices to spread the word. 

Stability and commitment 

Tenured employees will often feel more secure in their positions and so, can demonstrate greater commitment to the company. Their loyalty contributes to a stable work environment, which can positively impact team dynamics and overall organisational success. My current HR team has an average tenure of around 10 years, and this contributes to a very supportive and effective working environment – although how they’ve put up with me over the years is still a mystery! 

Skill set and knowledge base

Over time, tenured employees accumulate valuable knowledge and skills specific to their roles. This expertise can not only be passed down to new hires, benefitting the organisation as a whole, but also help with integrating new technologies and processes, ensuring they work for the business. We all have a ‘go-to’ person in our companies who is the fount of all knowledge and can help give a perspective gained from years of experience and insight. 

Company ambassadors

A company that retains its workforce builds a reputation for employee satisfaction. In a world where Employee Value Proposition (EVP) plays an important role in both retention and attraction, having employees who are aligned with the company ethos and happy to talk about why they’ve stayed so long, is a real asset. Plus, they are able to share this insight with new hires, acting as mentors and imparting knowledge and enthusiasm for the company. 

Short-term employee tenure

So, if long tenured employees are the utopia, why does an interim market exist, I hear you ask? What about those contractors who enjoy short-term assignments or project-based roles? Well, as I mentioned earlier, there are benefits to both forms of tenure and while the above benefits can be true of long-term relationships, there is also a lot to be said for a short-term fling (from an employment perspective, I hasten to add): 

Career experience

Demonstrating experience in diverse roles can make employees more attractive to potential employers, not only for permanent positions but also where a specific skill set or experience is needed. Working in various short-terms roles can help to provide this and organisations then benefit from someone who can bring real-life examples from different workplaces. 

Versatility

Working across different organisations and/or industries means employees will have experience of adapting to new environments or taking on responsibilities they haven't had before. This can encourage a mindset that is open to new ideas, as well as sharing them, and so means organisations benefit from having a versatile employee who excels in new environments. 

Openness

By accepting that an individual is not planning on bedding down within the organisation, employers may find a level of openness and challenge that is not there in others. The short-termer will be happy to challenge the status quo and focus on meeting the objectives in hand, even if that means coming up with new ways of working or unsettling the cart. While this might not be comfortable for all involved, it will foster an environment where ‘this is how it’s always been done’ is no longer a mantra. 

Ambition and drive 

Employees who are prepared to leave a company to seek new challenges or career development that is not available to them if they stay, show a level of ambition that is likely to have benefitted the company during their employment. In addition, they could well be the individuals who return to the organisation as future leaders, and so allowing them the opportunity to gain new experiences, while leaving on good terms, is a no brainer. 

Final thoughts 

With benefits of both types of tenure, where does this leave you? Should you be looking for a serial monogamist or a more open relationship? Well, as with most things in life, there isn’t a simple answer. It’s primarily about striking the right balance within your workforce and accepting that people have different preferences and needs.

Of course, you should be looking to encourage retention and reward those who show loyalty to the company, but you should also embrace those who leave sooner than hoped as they may one day wish to return. Many people, having gained certain skills and experience elsewhere, will fondly remember their experience at an organisation and consider rejoining. Therefore, the main thing to remember is how all employees are treated and valued during their time with you. Who knows, you may rekindle a relationship with an old flame further down the line! 

Looking for your next great hire in the HR space, or looking for pastures new? Contact our specialist consultants to start the journey.

Allyship in tech careers: benefits for employers
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Allyship in tech careers: benefits for employers

While investment continues apace to fill the nation’s digital skills gaps, the current reality means employers need to take a different approach if they are to fill their vacancies. One strategy could be through study employee engagement levels. Staff motivation can be increased in various ways, from teambuilding days to financial incentives, but a real connection to an organization and between its people can be significantly enhanced through allyship.  

In the tech sector, where much progress needs to be made in diversity and inclusion, allyship can solve many cultural challenges as well as create opportunities for tech-related careers. 

Q: How important is allyship in the tech sector? 

A: It’s no secret that businesses are struggling with digital skills gaps, which is hampering their ability to develop and remain competitive. This scramble to find tech-savvy talent means many companies are missing out on skilled professionals who have been offered higher salaries when they could instead showcase their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They could be looking to hire people who have been traditionally underrepresented in the sector, including women and people from ethnically diverse communities.  

They could also invest in retraining existing staff who show enthusiasm and aptitude for tech roles. When experienced professionals mentor others, it can make a real difference to the business, not just in terms of filling jobs, but in creating a culture change where employees feel they can develop their careers within the organization. 

Q: How can tech employers build a culture of strong allyship, and how does it work? 

A: Allyship takes time to establish so should be viewed as a long-term investment. It involves a combination of top-down support with leaders dedicated to the in-house training and upskilling of individuals. Managers should also act as allies in support of team members taking on additional tasks to develop their skills. 

Tech careers are fast-paced and require workers who enjoy learning about new developments, identifying where improvements and efficiencies can be made across the business with tech, and keeping abreast of trends. Pairing employees who can naturally form strong working relatio