Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Build from the basics

This week I've started work on two projects that reflect the changing face of internal communication. The first is raising the prrofile of two HR processes within a global bank, and the second is creating training tools for some new communicators.

On the first project, my client is an HR professional. Despite her organisation being huge and with a massive trans-continental reach, like many, it has very little communication resource at the centre - and what's there is focused on external comms and protecting corporate reputation. So, she has come outside the organisation to look at what's necessary to get managers and staff across the world to use a self-service recruitment tool, and a process for referring external contacts for jobs within the bank.

In the past, I would have expected to be working with corporate communicators with an established communication framework providing the boundaries for anything I did. Not here. My client is a resourcing expert, but a novice when it comes to using communication to get the best from the policies and practices she manages. In many ways that's great since she's open to new ideas and has none of the jaundice that too much time in corporate comms seems to bring. On the other hand, it has been a return to first principles, and parts of the project feel like pushing a rock up hill as we struggle to pin down interviews and cope with an intranet that has been piled up layer-on-layer rather than with any sense of strategy. Still, it's a good project and we've already managed a quick win or two.

Project two started today and rather than being run out of HR (like so many internal comms projects I get involved with now), this one actually comes from a large organisation's corporate communications team. However, this team has gone through a massive reorganisation recently with the result that approaching a dozen new communication managers have come on board. All are fresh, eager and full of great ideas - but none has come through a formal communications route. Finally, the age of the hack-turned-internal communicator appears to be over. In their place, I'm seeing graduates with three years or less in a business moving into corporate comms as a stepping stone to a management career.

So, as a grizzled old Yoda (though not yet 43) I've been asked to turn my experience into training - and pretty basic training too. This new intake is experienced in writing briefs and proposals and managing agencies to do the doing, and has a greater grasp of business strategy than I had 'til I hit my mid-30s. But now these eager beavers are being expected to write for an audience too - to stoke up the intranet; to meet the daily desire for project updates; to draft the speeches their leaders will deliver; and to inform and involve their internal stakeholders through everything from site newsletters to community of interest podcasts. To my generation, crafting the right words for the right purpose is second nature - it's what we were brought up on. But for these guys it's alien territory. So, for the next few days I'll be designing a bespoke course and support materials to give them the basis of what they need through a 'Writing foir your stakeholders' workshop.

It'll make a change from the more strategic stuff I created and delivered on several occasions last year - and I'm really looking forward to putting myself back in their oh so trendy shoes to develop the materials.

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