On recent trip to Malaysia, I was invited to talk to managers at Petronas – the Malaysian government-owned oil and gas company – about internal communication and employee engagement. A summary of my slides is below together with a short article I wrote from their in house magazine.
I hope they may be useful if you are talking to colleagues about the same topic.
Internal communication has its roots in internal newspaper publications that were established in large organisations in the UK and US in 1980s. Since then it has evolved to become increasingly recognised as a valuable strategic function that helps organisations achieve their objectives.
Contemporary practice remains heavily focused on briefings and news for employees, primarily via email, face to face meetings, videos, intranets and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) such as Yammer and Workplace by Facebook. However, it also incorporates an advisory role supporting senior managers to keep employees informed about key plans with an additional emphasis on listening to employee suggestions about how to improve processes and systems.
So, why is internal communication important?
Firstly it is closely linked to employee engagement which according to research in the UK is, in turn, associated with revenue growth, higher profit, better customer satisfaction, higher productivity, more innovation and lower employee turnover.
Secondly, organisations with highly effective communication outperform their peers.
In terms of the information that employees want to know, employees in five UK organisations in my recent PhD research said they were interested in information about organisational plans and aims, progress, the external operating environment and employee-related information. The average score for all four categories of information was 4 or above (on a 1-5 Likert scale where 4 is ‘interested and 5 is ‘very interested’).
A contemporary framework for good internal communication practice that is linked to employee engagement and organisational success incorporates four components:
In practical terms this approach entails line managers focusing on alignment where they ‘make the connections’ between local team work and corporate objectives. This is more than simply presenting a centrally produced briefing, it requires making plans and progress relevant and meaningful.
Employees expect to get regular updates on the vision, values, strategy and change from senior managers in person in informal gatherings. This makes them feel valued and enables them to better identify with their organisation.
Both line managers and senior managers are expected to give opportunities for employees to make suggestions and have a say (voice) and discuss what is going on in ongoing meaningful dialogue.
Link to my presentation on Slideshare
Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and is the author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge.
Kevin leads the PR Academy CIPR Internal Communication Diploma.
“I think you tend to always get what you’ve always got if you always do what you’ve always done. So teaching and learning is about thinking differently in ways that can be applied to better practice. I also put a lot of emphasis on research, insights, measurement and evaluation. That’s why I did a PhD. It enabled me to understand how to do robust research that makes a difference to practice."