Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If only all jobs paid like this....

Ok, so it's on the other side of the world.....but for A$130,000 per hour, I'd relocate! (It's nearly £64,000 per hour, by the way.)

Internal Communications Manager
Company: Talent2
Location: Sydney Metro, NSW - Australia
Rate: A$130,000 (per hour)
Description: This is your chance to be at the forefront of developing a comprehensive internal communications program for this highly respected financial services organisation. Reporting to the HR Director, you will be pivotal in the development and delivery of...

So what's internal communication for?

There's been an interesting debate among Melcrum's linkedin corporate communicators, to which I've pitched in my tuppence worth, arguing what internal communication is actually for. It was picked up, in a bouquet of flowery language on Melcrum's blog stating that the camps are split between strategy and engagement.....hmm, don't they roll into the same bag of business tricks?

Anyway, the debate's worth repeating. So, minus identities to protect the innocent, here's how it has played out so far. My contribution's number 15.

What’s the aim of Internal Communications?

The person setting the question writes:

I've been running a poll here on LinkedIn, asking "What's the single most important aim of corporate Internal Communications?" And the responses to date have been:

1. I think it depends on who's asking the question. I might be a wee bit cynical, but I think the aim of internal communication for senior management is to exchange actions for words and pretty images, clever events and funky videos. I'm sure that internal communicators have far loftier aims, but for me it's not engagement (too ill defined as a concept and to do with the job rather than the organisation in any case). So I think I agree with you - communicating strategy would get my vote.

2. With respect, I think you're missing the point. It has to be productivity (or if you allow me to change your limited list of options ... I'd have productivity, quality and reduction in corporate risk and resulting losses as my answer! Not as snappy, admittedly). If comms cannot prove impact on the bottom line ... it becomes irrelevant as a function. In so many businesses IC is toothless, fluffy and cannot demonstrate its worth. Why strategy? ... to improve productivity, quality and reduce corporate risk and resulting losses . Why engagement? ... to improve p, q and re c l; why inform? to ... etc

3. But , what if the strategy was not to increase productivity, but to say increase market share? If IC is aligning all comms to increase productivity, then surely the internal comms team would not be meeting business aims...

4. I first became an Internal Communications Manager in 1988 and despite its various reincarnations since then I still think it's fundamentally about developing integrated, mutually supportive comms channels with the aim of helping employees embrace management messages and management embrace employees' feedback. You can't achieve this without obtaining input from all the key stakeholders and considering the context (cultural and operational) for the communications - the platform for all of this is the strategy. Oh yes, and I was 10 in 1988, honest.

5. I'm yet to come across a business that wants to increase market share, that does not need a focus on productivity. Take your point though ... meeting broader strategic aims could be the conclusion. IC could be very important in reducing productivity ... take the global car industry! I am trying to agree with myself and you at the same time!

6. being able to communicate mutually exclusive propositions, is some say, at the heart of being a good communicator ;-)

7. For me, IC and employee engagement strategy and solutions should build and strengthen the company brand from within; increasing engagement, productivity and profit and reducing employee turnover. Not much to ask of us is it?

8. I think the answer is that there isn't a single most important reason... I tend to tell people that there are five main reasons: - Making people stay and feel great about staying - Getting people to work harder on the right things - Getting people to say the right things about you - Getting people to support and see through change - Keeping to the law. Within all these is implicit that we're there to help a business or organisation succeed... I bet I've missed off something important...!

9. True, though I think we could safely put all of those in the engagement bucket though Liam. It is of course an artificial exercise - in real life there's never a single reason for anything. I still think it's interesting to think of the engagement/productivity/strategy axis though and which point is really the most important in the triad.

10. I don't think you can put them all in the 'engagement bucket' - working better? sticking within the law? embracing change? Sounds like you have a wide definition of engagement? Unless you mean that communications at work has no value unless it happens within the context of an engaged workforce? I'm not sure if you can imply any conflict or polarity between productivity/strategy/or engagement - that would only be possible if there was any exclusivity between the concepts, which there clearly isn't.

11. There's not a conflict between the points but a synergy with focus on one as opposed to another.Thus, in this conversation I think we seeing different focus on either HR and people centric comms or on business strategy centric comms. These are different approaches, though obviously in the real world an enterprise embraces both, so there should not, at least ideally, be a conflict here at all.

12. This is a critical conversation. Defining a mandate & mission goes a long way towards making sure that we are making valuable contributions to our organizations. My two cents: Internal communications' 'aim' is to support the strategic objectives of your business. IC does this by effectively managing the tools and talent needed to create a clear line of signt between business objectives and individuals' day to day work. That can be done by executive messaging, creating opportunities to communicate, managing and facilitating conversations in the organization, and promoting the techniques and tools that can make everyone more effective communicators.

13. Day to day in any organisation many decisions are taken, many milestones achieved, some successes, some failures too are faced. The job of IC is to bring to focus all of these and give it a perspective or backgrounder. In large organisations, senior management is unable to engage with everyone on a one-on-one basis and that’s where IC pitches in. According to some surveys, an engaged employee tends to stick more to the organisation as s/he feels that s/he is important to the company and that’s why the company is trying to explain and share information with them. Intra-employee communication, again in very large/geographically spread out organisations, is according to me a very very important role of IC. Also, in these types of organisations, information tends to get bundled in silos, here again IC plays a role by sharing experiences, which lead to learning. So broadly speaking I’d say Internal Communications rests on these 4 pillars – inform (top down, peer to peer), share/engage (peer to peer, management to employees), retain (sense of belonging) and learn (from experiences of others).

14. I tend to agree that Internal Communications is about performance improvement and implicit in that is the notion that employees need to be linked to corporate goals and objectives. If we, as communicators, are able to link each employee to the corporate vision - the rest takes care of itself. Nicky

15. For me, it's about enabling the organisation to do what it does better. IC is not an end in itself, and nor is engagement.

16. Mark - you are spot on. Engagement is simply the means to acheive the organizational goals. It's a critical one I grant you as human performance improvement is something akin to nirvana for businesses. When companies practise effective internal communications they financially outperform those that don't with 29.5% increase in market value and 50% higher shareholder returns. The aim of communications should be to support the organization in acheiving its goals.

17. Earlier this week I attended a very interesting debate in Brussels, with Dr. Liisa Välikangas (Helsinki School of Economics) and Dr. Charles-Hampden-Turner (University of Cambridge) about creativity and innovation. From this debate came the view to consider an organisation as a flow of ideas, rather than people. This view, however, causes a conflict of Managers ruling vs. Ideas ruling. People tend to think that they own ideas, but Liisa Välikangas points out that ideas own us. Ideas can divide or bring people together. In todays economic downturn, the flow of ideas to foster innovation is more important than ever to achieve economic upturn. Democratic Innovation, where everyone has the right to innovate and come with ideas, is more important than ever. Therefore, I would say that the aim of today's Internal Communications is to FACILITATE THE FLOW OF IDEAS, while making sure that corporate messages and values do not form an obstacle to this. "We should not tidy up knowledge and innovative ideas, we should pass on!", Dr. Charles Hampden-Turner added in the debate quite rightly.

18. The aim of internal communication is to ensure all noses are pointed in the same direction at all times. This should be organised in such a manner that a sharp turn to left, right or any other direction can be done swiftly.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Training course: Introduction to Freelancing

I'm running a new training course for CiB on May 14th covering the pitfalls and possibilities for communicators thinking of taking an independent route.

Here's some of the blurb:

Whether you've always dreamed of being your own boss...or your current bosses are helping you grasp the opportunity, there's much to consider before you take the plunge. Experienced freelance communicator Mark Shanahan, who set up his business in a downturn almost a decade ago, will take you through all the necessary steps you'll need to take to get up and running.

This interactive session will enable you to consider whether you're the right kind of person to thrive outside the in-house environment; walk you through the options on how to trade; look at the practicalities from office accommodation through tax to finance and family and give you the insight you'll need to avoid the common pitfalls that afflict too many first-time freelancers.

Outline for the day:

10am-10.30: Introduction: why it makes sense to consider freelancing including who's who and aspirations for the day
10.30-12.00: what you need to do before you take the plunge: researching your market,your unique selling point, building your networks, finance, kit, office accommodation, family support, freelance temperament, structuring your business
12.00–13.00: networking lunch - share your plans and build your network
13.00–14.00: implications of being freelance, pricing structures, billing, tax, pension/insurance/expenses, winning business, terms & conditions, personal development
14.00-15.00: Common pitfalls – cashflow, changing relationships - in-house to supplier, isolation
15.00-15.30: Making it happen - your action plan
Round-up and close

All sessions will be interactive and the aim is to make this as much of a working conversation as possible: it won't be chalk and talk!

Location: Milton Keynes

Communication re-emerges

As ever, when work kicks in there's little time to blog - and the pre and post Easter period has seen work kick in with a vengeance.

There seems to have been an awakening across industry that communication won't happen if people aren't making it happen, and that they can't make it happen if their budgetary hands are firmly lashed together.

As well as some pretty full-on deadline-driven research and writing this week, I've also had more enquiries in the past 10 days than in the previous three months combined and for the first time this year I'm having to knock back some work.

While we're still some way from the upturn, the better organisations are realising that they have to start getting their ducks in a line to be competitive once the cycle turns and economic recovery begins. That means engaging with their now lean, core teams and focusing on where they want to be in six and 12 months' time. The corporate paralysis is ending, and that's bringing about more opportunities for micro-businesses like mine to get back on board with clients again.

Too often organisations focus all their communication energy in a downturn on saying 'no' and on those losing their positions. It can create a hugely negative environment. Some of my work now is on focusing one business on what it can do- even on a hugely reduced income - and the steps it can take to keep its key people motivated. The top team are perfectly aware that if they treat their people badly, the ones they can't afford to lose will walk as soon as they can. By treating them well in a tough environment, they're investing in their future loyalty.

The market's still fragile, but the opportunities are there to be grabbed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

If e-newsletters could talk....

I certainly hope they wouldn't sound like this - but I know too many that do.........none of mine of course!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Making comms integral to business strategy

I've got a '10 top tips' piece in this month's Communicators magazine from CiB that bears repeating here:

10 top tips on making internal communication integral to business strategy

Internal communicators have a tough job in tough times – helping to engage people across the organisation in getting the job done, often against a backdrop of shrinking budgets, job cuts and everyone being asked to do more with less.

Many communicators haven’t experienced a recession before, and aren’t clear on how to bring the best value to the businesses they serve. But by focusing on business outcomes rather than communication outputs, they can demonstrate real value to their organisation – both in keeping engagement high, and in preparing for the upturn.

Here are my ten top tips on making communication integral to business strategy:

1. Understand key business drivers Make sure you understand where your organisation is heading; why it has chosen a particular direction and how it plans to get there. That way you can tailor communication to provide direct support for the strategy.

2. Understand the people drivers Know what makes people get up for work and keep coming back and make sure you know how communication can keep them engaged.

3. Recognise that there’s only one business strategy Your communication plan must be a recognised part of that strategy. If you’re operating in parallel, there’s far more room for a disconnect.

4. Internal Communication is part of the business planning process Long gone are the days when a decision is made and then we communicate it. Make sure you and your team have a voice at the business planning table.

5. Create a compelling narrative Work with your senior team to create – and regularly update – an honest, open storyline that explains where the business is; its key challenges and how everyone can play a part in delivering successful outcomes. This should underpin all communication activity.

6. Plan, prioritise and be decisive They key to effective internal communication in a downturn is doing a few things well. Focus on what’s essential and be ruthless in ditching the ‘nice to haves’.

7. Set objectives, success criteria roles and responsibilities The object is to move the business forward – work out how communication will do that; and how you’ll know you’ve achieved your aims.

8. Think impact, not output Internal communication is about helping people achieve business goals. So find the way to achieve that goal most effectively rather than automatically opting for the ‘prestige’ communication tools.

9. Empower others Effective internal communication is the responsibility of everyone in an organisation – it’s not just down to the comms team. But give people the skills and tools to play an active and positive part and make it easy for them to comply with the process.

10. Be an objective expert Be seen as the fount of communication expertise that will improve your organisation’s fortunes. Keep in close and direct contact with key leaders and influencers at all levels. Don’t be submissive or subversive and work on influencing the influencers.

Mark Shanahan is a director of Leapfrog Corporate Communication which bridges the gap between strategic consultancies and tactical communication agencies. He will be leading the CiB ‘From Output to Outcome’ training course in London on April 28th. Full details are available at

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

National Positive Thinking Week

Did you know it's National Positive Thinking Week? Nope, me neither. In fact it strikes me rather more as 'let's make a rather naff website and boost my top line sales week'.

Anyway, I'm sure she's a lovely woman, and looks a bit like Lesley Ash before the trout lips..... But (smack on wrist) that's not very positive!

The sun's shining here, work's looking up and the G20 are going to make it all better........

Positive thoughts.....positive thoughts....positive thoughts