In 2013, Heather Yaxley and I researched the history of internal communication. This revealed how long it has taken for internal communication to evolve and to move on from the shadow of “industrial editing”.
Progress has been, at times, painfully slow. So, in making predictions for 2014 in the UK, I have been very cautious:
· Employee engagement will remain at around 30%
· Employee satisfaction with being kept well informed about important organisational issues will increase marginally to 55%
· Employee ratings of managers seeking their views will increase marginally to 55%
· Employee ratings of managers responding to suggestions will increase marginally to 50%
· The number of employees who have access to internal social media platform will increase significantly from 26% to 40%
· The number of employees who believe that senior managers use their internal social media platform to understand their views will remain at 9%
Predictions as flat as these require some reflection. In the past 30 years I have watched the way that Human Resources (HR) and Marketing have become established as core strategic organisational functions. And I wonder why internal communication has not evolved in the same way.
Part of the issue is the lack of a strong, unified, voice for the function. We are represented by a disparate range of organisations: Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), CIPR Inside, IABC (UK chapter), the Engage for Success movement, and served by other entities such as Simply Communicate and Melcrum and other smaller networking groups, operating primarily in London.
All do great work in their own way. However, none of the organisations that represent internal communication has ever conducted a study that identifies the number of internal communication practitioners that exist in the UK and the contribution made to the success of organisations and the economy.
We do know that there are around 62,000 PR practitioners in the UK and around 60% of in-house PR practitioners have internal communication included in their role. On these figures, around 37,000 PR people in the UK spend a good deal of time on internal communication. However, this PRCA/PR Week survey probably under represents internal communication. From my own experience, I was in a team of 20 internal communication practitioners at BT and I was the only person who was a member of any of the organisations highlighted above. This suggests that there many “homeless” internal communication practitioners who feel no affiliation with any professional institute. Others work within an HR context and see their development fulfilled by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
My estimate of the number of internal communication practitioners in the UK is therefore around 50,000. They may have a PR job title, or an HR job title, or even an operational job title. But the valuable internal communication work they do is not perceived in the same light as HR or Marketing.
For internal communication to become better recognised, it requires a more joined-up voice from representative groups, more research and stronger associations with academia. Above all, it needs to adopt a more assertive mindset to owning the enablers of organisational engagement which are keeping employees informed about important organisational issues and giving them a voice that is treated seriously.