Comms reflections from the Middle East

What is it like being an Internal Communicator in the Middle East? What challenges do IC pros face there, what are the key trends and what does the future hold? I’m delighted to introduce Nada Enan, an Egyptian currently living in Dubai, UAE, who has written a guest article for Diary of an internal communicator.

Nada (pictured) took over the Internal Communications function at Ericsson Region Middle East and North East Africa two and a half years ago. For the past six years she has been working in the communications field in different regions and countries including North Africa, Middle East, and Sweden. You can find her on Twitter @NadaEnMo. Over to you Nada…

Comms reflections from the Middle East
What are the first words that come to mind when your hear about the Middle East? Arab spring, sanctions, change, instability… the list can go on and on. As an Internal Communicator in this region, I can confirm, although this might come as a surprise to some, that we are facing the same exact challenges that IC faces in any every other company and every other region.

Crisis management and employee engagement
Yes, we do handle crisis management comms a little more than normal, and kind of consider it “business as usual” but we tend to look at it from a different perspective. In such tough times, you need two crucial elements for business continuation; employee engagement and leadership communication.

Our daily challenge is in keeping employees engaged, specifically during tough times and crisis, instabilities and change. And what better way to do that than through leaders? The biggest issue we faced was that the level of engagement decreased as we went down the organisation.

So, we decided to take a closer look at our communication flow and see where it  “slowed down”. We found out that most communications pass from the leadership team, through the 2nd level leaders, and usually slowing down a little after 3rd level going down…mostly middle management.

A closer look at the main issue
Through talking to some leaders, we came to know that the issue was related to tools and support from communications. Yes, leaders DO want to communicate, but sometimes they need a little more guidance from the experts. This is where we took a couple of actions.

Presenting new leaders with interactive forums was one initiative, however we also decided to step into the heart of the issue, and directly address leaders about how to become strategic communicators. We looked at how to exercise communication planning for each and every communication to ensure they were delivering the right message, to the right audience, with the right channel, at the right time.

We started carrying out Communicative Leadership sessions across the region. We workshopped with leaders for four hours on the “six-step process” of communication planning from Melcrum‘s Black belt Internal Comms course (below). We completed it by practicing on tailored-made practice cases to increase engagement through relevance (i.e if attendees are mostly project managers, their practice case will be about how to communicate changes in a certain project etc).

The six-step process we used:

  1. Set objectives:  asking asking yourself what you want receivers to know, feel and do
  2. Know your audience: categorising your audience into Primary (action doers) and Secondary (FYIs)
  3. Plan key messages: setting your top five key messages
  4. Plan your media: choosing the appropriate channel through determining which level of involvement you want your receivers at
  5. Communicate!: here we shared some general tips for efficient communications…and maximising the benefit of interactive communications
  6. Checking results: what do people know and feel and what did they do?

The reactions and feedback I got were varied but very similar in essence: leaders face the same challenges in everyday work life. They fail to find time to plan properly for their communications and so they depend on common sense most of the time.

Amongst the top questions I received were: What makes a good communicative leader? My answer? Well, a good planner and an even better executer. A leader who will make it relevant and use the right channels to ensure awareness and understanding of every single team member.

Feedback and outcome
We had 100% satisfaction rate from attendees in a post-session survey, with over 98% rating it useful for their everyday leadership needs, a positive difference in communications flow and more engaged leaders with higher trust from team members.

Leadership, virtual communications and social media
Leading in a matrix organisation forced us as leaders to communicate with our teams using various digital channels. The face to face meeting was replaced by video calls, and team meetings happen via conference calls.

The variety of channels are endless, however, some still face the challenge of utilising it as a two-way channel, as opposed to one way “push”. Now during each session we discuss how we can best utilise it and increase interactivity through small tips. For examples asking questions, story telling, keeping it relevant and so on.

As for social media, being an Egyptian myself, who witnessed how social media can start a revolution and change a country, we have decided to soon implement our first internal Facebook page in the region. During sessions we prepare leaders for this next step and address their concerns in an open discussion.

To sum up…
Communications is at the core of business continuity. I’m dreaming of a region where leaders are proactive communicators and employees are fully engaged. We believe in the importance of these two aspects to business growth and therefore, we will continue executing on our plans here but also we would appreciate very much any successful practices we can re-use.

Post author: Nada Enan.

Thank you so much for giving us an insight into the world of comms from your part of the Globe Nada. What do you think about what she’s written? Is there anything that surprises you or do you have any advice for her? Feel free to comment below, Rachel

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