Companies must prioritize resources and initiatives. That is obvious. What seems less obvious to these organizations is the extent to which improved internal communication supports the success of other initiatives. Should they be prioritizing internal communication (IC) higher?

juggling priorities

How many balls do you have up in the air?

History repeats itself: a client is faced with competing initiatives in a planning year. The effort to improve IC gets pushed off to accommodate others. Those other initiatives might be:

  • Launch of a new line of service
  • Acquisition of a competitor
  • A facility expansion or campus move
  • Reduction of turnover amongst key staff populations
  • Divestiture of a subsidiary
  • Reorganization of business units.

Such procrastinating is often not due to budget commitments, but instead largely explained away relative to employee time. “We just don’t have time this year.” I’ve had numerous clients claim this across multiple years, even in light of employee research results pointing to a desperate need for improvement.

What if…

How might improved IC support other initiatives? Here are some thinly “hypothetical” examples torn from my personal experience over the past 20 years:

  1. Acquisition or merger: If IC processes are working effectively, people know what they have to do when, how the changes affect them personally and their workflow, and what new resources and capabilities can be leveraged. Enabling better communication and collaboration can actually result in quicker realization of benefits; benefits the acquisition was intended to generate in the first place.
  2. Reorganization: If IC processes are working effectively, people not only know how the change affects them, they can be engaged in planning and implementation. This improves ownership of and satisfaction with outcomes, which in turn improves productivity and results through and after the change.
  3. Facility expansion or campus move: If IC processes are working effectively, people can be effectively engaged in brainstorming, testing and planning to ensure new physical spaces meet long-term needs and requirements. This creates champions to shepherd others through the process, making the process itself as valuable to organizational culture as the end result.
  4. Reduction of key turnover: If IC processes are working effectively, managers can manage more effectively and technical teams can collaborate more effectively. This can significantly improve satisfaction amongst these expensive-to-replace employee populations. Often, the retention of just one such employee due to improved communication and collaboration pays for the entire effort.

Whether it’s improved systems, processes, or content – ideally, a combination of all three – ensuring your IC program is top notch before major change enables the organization to better support the change.

We are prioritizing IC; now what?

There are multiple ways to implement improvements. First, you can dedicate staff resources for the short period of time required to research, assess, plan and implement. Efficient and robust teams finish in just eight weeks, where the less efficient take longer.

The alternative is to get some arms and legs to help. This is not an admission that you can’t do the work; just a realization that there aren’t enough hours in the day. There are other reasons why outside help is useful:

  • Having a third party lead such a process ensures more open input from employees, particularly where trust, listening and recognition are negative issues
  • A third party brings objective perspective to analysis and recommendations – they have no ownership of channels or content
  • Outside resources offer current insight into best practice and what other organizations/industries are doing
  • Having outside help speeds completion of the effort, ensuring improvements support other initiatives faster

When I worked on the client side, I recognized the development value for my team. Bringing in outside resources meant we could all learn something. Teaching and imparting knowledge should be a cornerstone for every consultant and freelancer. As a client, I expected to suck a lot of knowledge from the hired guns’ heads in the process.

For more thoughts on this aspect of today’s topic, check out yesterday’s @IABC #CommChat story.

However you tackle it, prioritizing internal communication in 2017 could be an important reason why other corporate initiatives succeed. Then you can revel in the recognition.

Upcoming learning opportunities

As always, I have multiple learning opportunities on the calendar. Here’s where and when I’ll be teaching in the next several months: