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Survival of the fittest… adapting to survive

How are internal communicators adapting to survive?  This week I read some insights by David Broome, Head of Internal Communications at resourcing specialist VMA Group, from their annual survey, Professional Development in Internal Communication.

The survey is the largest of its kind in the UK and this year’s results show that 74 per cent of internal communications functions have either stayed the same or increased in size over the last year. By comparison, that statistic was 58 per cent 12 months ago. Hurrah! Looks like a corner has been turned, particularly if teams are starting to grow, I’ve certainly noticed an increase in the number of companies actively looking for and approaching internal communicators.

After a fairly dark time in the world of internal comms, it seems there is a glimmer of hope that things are moving in the right direction. Based on conversations I’ve had with my network of contacts, I think it’s fair to say the recession bit hard, resulting in slashed budgets and smaller teams alongside larger workloads and a sense of uncertainty.

The VMA research revealed that the recruitment decision-making processes remain drawn out due to uncertainty in the broader economy, with the average search taking three to four months. I’m not surprised that people are thinking carefully before spending. I came across an article today about how companies are using employee referral schemes for recruitment to help them save money:

What about salaries?
This is a topic which crops up a lot and was featured in a PR week article today,

According to VMA’s survey, internal comms salaries have shown a slight decline over the last year. David Broome said: “This is the first time such a fall has been recorded, however it’s hardly surprising given the general employment climate in the UK”.

So where are the opportunities? Financial services comes out as the strongest sector in terms of activity levels, followed by professional services and the energy sector.

The trend of having Interim Managers to manage communications for transformation projects such as redundancy programmes, mergers or other significant change programmes remain in demand. But VMA say to fully take advantage of a changeable market, internal communicators need to demonstrate core strategic and operational skills in order to be considered for the best opportunities the market has to offer.

Back in February, David wrote an article for my blog on ‘What will make you stand out from the IC crowd’ outlining what employers are looking for from IC pros. You can read it here.

Where are we at now? Well according to the 2011 VMA survey, today’s employer is even more proscriptive about the type of candidate they are looking to appoint and the survey revealed four key requirements:

  • Impact and Influence: internal communicators looking for career progression need to view their role as an influencing discipline for senior management rather than a delivery mechanism
  • Business Understanding: any successful internal communicator needs to be able to demonstrate strategic business understanding. Focus on your business skills before focusing on tools and channels
  • Writing: what should be a ‘given’ is often lacking – ensuring your ability to write well should be a key priority
  • Change Communicators: organisations demand big impact strategies that drive real change. Make sure you develop experience of managing communication change programmes

What happens next?
If you’re looking for your next career step within internal communications, VMA recommends developing these skills to give you the edge.

The final touches on this year’s survey are happening at the moment and the results will be shared in the near future including updated benchmarking. In the meantime, if you would like see last year’s stats, you can download them here.

What do you think of the information that has been released so far? Do you agree with it or are your surprised by the findings? I’d like to find out what my readers think is the most important from the list of four requirements. Do please cast your vote below. You can also leave a comment or contact me via email:

[poll id=”2″]

Post author: Rachel


  1. Judy Jones says:

    Rachel, terrific post! I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts, as an internal communications practitioner: While writing is a core competency, my experience has been that influencing skills (among leaders, peers and employees) are even more critical assets for the internal communications pro. Why? A written piece gets so much input from managers, clients, legal departments, etc., it has its own life, so to speak. To me, the real game changer for any internal communication effort is the ability to win hearts and minds for the strategy, communication element (or elements) and implementation – that’s impact and influence. That said, I find that internal communications is needed when there’s a change – whether it’s business direction or an employee program. That’s when the rubber meets the road! And that’s the performance that I’m measured on – not writing, not influencing, and not my understanding of the business.
    Again, great post! Thank you for writing it!

  2. Rachel Miller says:

    Hi Judy, thank you for your comment and for offering your view into the mix, Rachel

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