The Feb. 1 edition of Fortune focused on the latest war for talent. Author Geoff Colvin notes that the job market has tightened dramatically, making it a great time for people to make the jump to a new opportunity. As a result, companies need to start focusing on retention as much as attraction.

When the need to retain employees becomes more intense, the need for a quality employee experience is paramount. Good communication is an important part of this. Fully leveraging available technology to drive productivity is another. Both effective communication and sound productivity tools have been shown to influence satisfaction and thus retention. This is why a tight job market is a stellar opportunity for internal communication to lead and prosper.

Internal Comms often first to cut, last to fund

In a down market and high unemployment, communicating effectively and driving productivity become low priorities. Times of market and regulatory uncertainty also push internal communication and productivity to the back burner. In such environments, labor is a commodity and companies can be choosey and even lazy.

But, when the market quickly starts rolling the way the US market has in the last several months, attraction and retention become immediate concerns.

Hiring picks up speed

Like this snowball, hiring is picking up speed!

The problem is that many organizations:

  1. Have already cut internal communication resources to the bone
  2. Are slow to properly fund the internal communication function; it takes a while to get a quality effort up and running
  3. Don’t appreciate the broader role internal communication should play in productivity, collaboration and employee experience

The last one is sometimes our own fault. If we don’t educate and push the function into a more strategic position, why would leadership think of us as anything but newsletter publishers?

Opportunity in getting out in front of the need

Now is the time for internal communicators to step up and be proactive. Partner with those in IT, HR and Operations to uncover specific opportunities. Establish good decision-making processes driven by business strategy. Be smart about how you use technology. Remember, technology doesn’t solve all our communication problems, but can effect improvements. Most importantly, lead with research and finish with results.

For some communicators, such an approach seems too forward, or assumes to much about our role. Without courage we’ll never achieve the respect and valued strategic position we so desire. Without the courage to stick our necks out we’ll never make as much difference to employees as we could and should. Someone needs to tie it all together – communication, collaboration, productivity, technology, business results – for the benefit of employees and the business. It may as well be us communicators, right?

Learning more

If you’ve decided you want to lead your internal communication function into the great beyond, but need some training and moral support, here are two upcoming opportunities that are bound to help:

  1. ALI’s Internal Communication for a Dispersed Workforce, April 10-12, Chicago. I’ll teach two sessions:
    • Leverage a Digital Workplace for Improved Communication and Collaboration
    • Drafting Strategies to Engage and Inform Employees Everywhere
  2. IABC’s World Conference, June 3-6, Montréal. I’ll teach one session: