Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Are these the core competencies of internal communication?

Liam Fitzpatrick and Sue Dewhurst have been conducting interviews recently through their company to identify the core competencies necessary to be a great internal communicator.

According to Liam, writing on the IABC website, there's a consensus that there are 12 core competencies for internal communicators - it's a sort of palette from which you can mix and match to create your ideal profile.

The competencies Liam and Sue have identified are:

*Innovation & Creativity - Looking for new ways of working, exploring best practice and delivering original and imaginative approaches to communication problems.

*Business Focus - Having a clear understanding of the business issues and using communication to help solve organisational problems and achieve organisational objectives.

*Vision and Standards - Defining or applying a consistent approach to communication and maintaining professional and ethical standards.

*Cross functional awareness - Understanding the different contributions from other disciplines and working with colleagues from across the organisation to achieve better results

* Developing other communicators - Helping other communicators build their communications competence and develop their career

* Building effective relationships - Developing and maintaining relationships that inspire trust and respect. - Building a network and being able to influence others to make things happen.

* Consulting and coaching - Recommending appropriate solutions to customers; helping others to make informed decisions; building people’s communications competence

* Planning - Planning communications programmes and operations, evaluating results.

* Craft skills - Using and developing the right mix of practical communication abilities to hold the confidence of peers and colleagues

* Specialist - Having specific subject matter expertise in a specialist area (this is meant to cover the work of people who are ultra specialist list the full-time conference organiser or the webs specialists who do nothing else)

* Listening - Conducting research and managing mechanisms for gathering feedback and employee reaction

* Making it happen - Turning plans into successfully implemented actions

Now there's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's interesting stuff and hard to argue with. It points to the fact that communicators need to be all-rounders - with the right mix of strategic knowledge and craft skills. That's not always possible in an individual, but their research has probably thrown up a blue print for creating an effective internal communication team.

I don't know if Liam's listed the competencies in order of priority - some of the hoary old dinosaurs I've worked with in the past would balk at craft skills emerging so low on the list - but he and Sue have come up with a list showing how far internal communications has moved even in the noughties. We have to be fully functional business managers to be effective in IC today - and anyone who thinks the role is corporate journalism is blind to probably four fifths of the role.

The only challenge I'd throw out to Sue and Liam is: 'Do we really want competent communicators? Competence sounds like 'just-good-enough' for me. If I was a client, I'd want great - and wouldn't settle for anything less than good. Competent sounds less than good.

So, from the little I've seen, great research and I'm sure it will bring them more work......I'd just question the name of the company!


Mike Klein said...

"'Do we really want competent communicators? Competence sounds like 'just-good-enough' for me. If I was a client, I'd want great."

Spot on, Mark! There is a certain "business as usualness" to these items--such as a linkage of "creativity and innovation" to "best practice", and no mention of "courage", "leadership", or even "confidence" as fundamental success factors or even things to aspire to.

If Sue and Liam are looking to create a "safe pair of hands" definition of an internal communicator, they're on the right track. But I think the field needs more than that at the moment--people capable of challenging their managers, and stepping beyond what is normal and expected of internal communication.

Claus said...

I think an internal communicator has to be tough!
That's point number 13 for me.
An internal communicator needs assertiveness because sometimes the other associates snigger at him/her and the job is seen as not so important.

sue dewhurst said...

Hi Mark, thanks for the mention, and interesting comments! We chose the 'competent communicators' name because we wanted to produce a definitive competence framework and have people remember we did it ... but it's interesting to get your reaction to it.

Mike, the 'business as usualness' to the items is because we based the research on what people are actually doing in their jobs. So there's no subjective opinion in there - these are not our opinion of what people should be doing. It's what IC practitioners (well-respected people from global organisations) told us high performers actually are doing.

We're also taking it that IC practitioners need the basic leadership & personal competencies that a professional in most roles would need (such as leadership, assertiveness, time management etc.,) but given that plenty of other people have defined these ones, we left them well alone.

Mark, to your point about craft skills - nope, there's no order to the competencies, and actually we're questioning the assumptions we're previously seen that 'consulting + coaching = good' and 'writing and doing = bad'. People consistently told us that craft skills are still incredibly important, whatever lofty heights you reach.It's more a question of how much time in relative terms you spend on the different types of activity that counts. What's right for one job, organisation and structure will be wrong for another, which is why we've gone for a mix & match approach.