Thursday, 17 January 2019

A 'detox' plan for internal communication

It must be January: lots of people I know have suddenly discovered a deep-rooted desire to cleanse  themselves and their lifestyles from every perceived impurity. They’re marching under the banner of ‘wellbeing’ towards the promised land of energy, vitality and self-contentment.

Despite this slight, and rather hypocritical, cynicism - I’ve often considered something similar, but never quite closed the ‘intention-action’ gap - there is a laudable aim here. The idea that we should take a step back and examine how we can look after ourselves a bit better. Shouldn’t we be doing the same as organisations?

We’re all so busy, all the time, that it’s difficult to pause and take a fresh look at how we might improve the effectiveness (and/or efficiency) of internal communication practices. Yet checking the alignment of plans, narrative/messaging, and tools/channel sets with business needs can pay great dividends for the rest of the year. So before 2019 really takes off – and in the manner of all good detox programmes - here is my six-step plan for success:

  • Explore the environment – you’ll probably have plenty of sources of information on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that you haven’t had the chance to review and interpret. Now is the time to collate such data and derive insights that will help you enhance effectiveness during the year (as well as identifying any gaps in knowledge that you need to fill)
  • Involve stakeholders – you’ll know whose input you require (some will be leaders, others won’t). Approach and gain their views on current effectiveness and future goals for internal communication. If you’ve got time and scope, seek to involve employees more widely (although sometimes maligned, focus groups can be highly productive if you can gain the cross-section of people you need)
  • Articulate objectives – being clear on what you want to achieve, and with whom, is not as easy as it sounds. But drawing on the research and analysis above, it’s a valuable exercise to articulate your overall aims and ‘desired response’ from different employee segments. A simple summary can become a practical reference tool during the year to ensure the messages, activities and tools you employ always align with what you want to achieve
  • Remain focused – it’s easy to be attracted by what’s possible, but is it desirable given your objectives? I’m sure we’ve all seen people fall victim to ‘shiny new toy syndrome’, in which they appear dazzled by the potential of new technology, but introducing such tools isn’t always the answer. Reviewing and refreshing current channels could be a more effective and efficient way of achieving your goals
  • Prioritise activities – don’t try to boil the ocean. As the old adage goes, it’s better to do a few things well rather than spread yourself too thinly. Concentrate on the core programme of activities required to achieve your objectives and augment these when feasible, given budgets and resources
  • Change where needed – last but not least, if you’re picking up signals that things need to change, respond to them. If you set the ball rolling on any exercise like this, you need to heed the findings, or the opportunity for improvement will just wither on the vine.
I’m sure there are many other steps and opportunities, but these are six simple steps that could help you ‘detox’ internal communication and aid alignment with business needs for the year. Even small changes could have a significant impact…

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