My second term at Brunel finished last Friday, which will undoubtedly usher in a change of pace over the next few months, when I can lean more towards paid work with less emphasis on studies until September. It was a good term work-wise, and my last four essays have produced three A grades - not bad for someone old enough to have fathered more than half the class!
What the academic work - especially a term taking a close interest in 20th century European history - has taught me most though is the peripheral impact of so much of the work I'm involved in that pays the bills.
At the moment, only about a third of my work is internal communications but I'm coming ever more to the sense that in the great scheme of things, it's a 'nice to have', not a 'must have'.
Would the credit crunch have been averted if we'd had better internal comms? I doubt it. Would China's human rights be better or Darfur a nicer place if corporations engaged their staff more closely? Somehow, I think not. Would the forecast 10,000 job losses set to hit London be avoidable if our CEOs tapped into the business potential of employee comms. Well, a few certainly....but I expect quite a few who'll go are from the so-called back-office functions.
Jaundiced as I am after 20 years in corporate comms, I firmly believe that 75% + of what internal communicators do could disappear from the business and no-one would feel the difference.
The very best of what's done: the stuff that targets the right audiences in the right way and gives them something personal that directly affects the way they do their job is worthwhile. That's the stuff that's directly business-linked; that builds people's belief and understanding in their business and that directly, tangibly and measurably drives results.
The rest? Nice to have, but non-essential and in an increasingly tight market, undoubtedly under threat.
But business needs to be smart. To cull internal communication indiscriminately will hurt the business more than keeping it as it is. Business leaders must reflect on where the real value lies: trim off the excess by all means, but focus on business objectives and the human agenda collides.
We could be achieving far more with less if we focused on what really mattered.