Internal Communication in the chain

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Internal Communication in the chain

As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and seeing as I enjoy reading the thoughts of other professional communicators and learning from them, I thought I would bring you another guest writer in the hope that you will too. A couple of weeks ago I opened the invitation up to other comms professionals to write an article for Diary of an internal communicator and have been really pleased with the response. See the foot of this article for how to get in touch with me if you’d like to share your views.

Today’s author is Judith H. Jones, who I recently came across via Twitter (you can find her @redjudy). Judith is from New York City and is executive director of employee communications for The New York Times Company, where she partners with newsroom and business leaders and leads change communication efforts. She is also an adjunct faculty member of N.Y.U., and teaches courses in writing and social media to future leaders in public relations and corporate communications. Her philosophy is simple: Internal communication is the vital ingredient that connects people, communities and organisations for success and I’m delighted that she has penned her thoughts here for you.

Please do share your feedback with her using the comment function at the foot of the page, Rachel. Over to you Judith…

Internal Communication in the Chain
Recently, I was reading an excerpt from a 2008 Journal of Organizational Behavior article about positive organizational behavior and…  Whoa there! Before I continue, I can tell I’ve almost lost you, dear reader. Trust me. I stumbled on this article. I’m not the type that looks up academic periodicals and goes all high hat with a lot of scholarly mumbo jumbo. Usually, I much more interested in kittens and dancing babies, which have an important internal communication function that I’ll prove someday. But until then, let’s get back to the article excerpt.

As I read, the theme that stayed with me was the connection between the organization’s environment and employee psychological states and employee performance. I imagined a workplace culture expressed as a chain of cause and effect, with environment, affect and performance all in a neat row:

Workplace Environment -> Employee Psychological State -> Employee Performance

Then I thought:  Where does internal communication fit in this chain? Does the work contribute to the environment? Or does it have an impact on peoples’ emotions? Or would it be characterized as related to employee performance? And how would it be placed – as a stimulus or a result? Recognizing the work encompasses both products, such as announcements, intranets, etc., which are easy to point to, and practices between people, which are tougher to objectify, where does it all go? And I found myself moving an imaginary internal communication label across the chain, above and below, leaving me unsatisfied wherever it was placed.

So I ask you: As a communications professional, where would you place internal communication? Along the chain or somewhere else? And why?

Many business leaders are uncertain how internal communication fits into the clockwork of the business machine. These leaders have a deep respect for the discipline, yet their definition of the function is narrow and as a result their vision is limited. It’s not their fault; they’ve never considered an alternative. That’s why your point of view will be helpful to all internal communication practitioners. Perhaps your ideas will help to craft a broader and more compelling explanation of internal communication that we may share with our business leaders.

Thank you Judith. If you would like to write for my blog, do get in touch: rach@rachmiller.com

Post author: Judith H. Jones.

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5  responses on Internal Communication in the chain

  • Shikha

  • 22 June 2011 at 1:50 pm

Great post Judith, you have a great perspective.

I completely agree with you. As an internal communications professional, it is always challenge to first explain the discipline and then explain the benefits of focusing your message internally. In the past I came across a senior leader who put is best; “Internal communications, like any other function should be at the leadership table. They understand how to best provide information to employees and how to best handle change management.” Communicators don’t always have all of the answers, but if internal communicators can participate in the thought process, it can often assist in providing great engagement opportunities and help guide change management and awareness.

In addition, internal communicators can help shape the environment that employees work in, day in and day out, which in turn can help further engage and drive employee performance. As a growing area of communications, internal communicators play a great role in shaping how internal stakeholders receive information and how it can impact their environment.

Hi Judy,
I think that internal communication impacts each link of the chain. Providing employees the information they need to be successful at the right time, and in the context, is a precursor to creating optimal Workplace Environments, Employee Psychological States, and boosting Employee Performance. I also think the roll of internal communicators is expanding from traditional communication to digital information curation. A shift being driven by the proliferation of social media and user generated content inside of companies. I’d be interested to hear you thoughts (and others) on this as well.
Best,
Andy

  • Judy J

  • 23 June 2011 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for great comments, Shikha and Andy. Yes, Andy, I agree – internal communications relates to each aspect of the chain. Perhaps, if I were drawing a picture, I would place the chain within a circle labeled Internal Communications. And Shikha, you’re right – a seat at the leadership table is a great place to be! The internal comms pro would have first-hand knowledge of the change and be able to contribute valuable insight about challenges and implications. You seem to have worked with an enlightened leader! Some business heads don’t feel exactly the same way. And others feel that they’re already great communicators, and don’t need a special focus to ensure that the work meets business objectives.
The content curation topic is an interesting one. I think that corporate communicators have dipped their toes in this area somewhat, but with new technologies there are new opportunities to use contact curation and shape the internal discourse. I am going to continue to explore this topic!
Judy

  • Judy J

  • 23 June 2011 at 1:10 pm

Silly me! Did I say “contact” curation? I meant content curation. I hope I wasn’t too confusing!

  • Shikha

  • 26 June 2011 at 11:13 pm

It would be great to see what others are doing interms of digital internal communications. It would be interesting to see how we could tie in internal communication practices to an organization and increase collaboration both at the leadership level and non-management level. I find that employees often have some great ideas that can help us get our messages out there.

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