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The inside story of being an IC pro this year

What has the past year been like for internal communicators?

What’s the perception of internal communication in your organisation?

What’s your budget and team size like compared to your peers?

Sara-TehraniI’ve got a guest article for you today to lift the lid on who’s doing what. It’s been written by Sara Tehrani, who is a Manager within recruiter VMAGROUP’s Internal Comms, Employee Engagement & Change Comms practice.

She’s an Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) Affiliate Member and Committee member of CIPR Inside, the Chartered Institute of PR’s Internal Communications subcommittee.

I invited Sara to share the recent results of VMAGROUP’s Inside Insight report with All Things IC’s readers. I know you like to compare team size and know who’s doing what among your fellow Comms professionals. This report will help you do that.

Sara has specialised in comms recruitment for eight years and has developed a significant network and expertise in this market across London and the South. She focuses specifically on Internal Comms, permanent recruitment at the senior level.

I’ll hand you over…

Inside Insight VMAGROUP

We have been running our Inside Insight Internal Communications survey for a number of years now, including a recent survey we conducted in 2019. When COVID 19 hit last year, we felt it was necessary to go back and compare the answers with a secondary survey in 2020.

The results have been really interesting to look at, reflecting some interesting changes within the industry!

Internal Comms (IC) has a world of new issues to contend with, including remote working, a creation of new digital channels (and really using previous ones), and the immense pressure that our communicators have been under.

Our report highlights how Internal Comms has aimed to tackle these new challenges, while foregrounding up-to-date stats that shine a light on where Internal Comms is heading.

When looking at the typical profile of an internal communicator (86% white and 71% degree educated), we can see that there is still much work to be done around diversity and that any change must be industry-wide in order to have a meaningful impact.

VMAGROUP 2021

VMAGROUP accepts that the profession of recruitment has an enormous responsibility to diversify the workforce, and we will continue to work towards opening doors for people locked out of opportunities.

Though change within individual companies is often part of a wider societal process, we recognise the urgency to the situation.

As expected, working patterns have changed enormously since COVID 19 – our survey shows that most people are spending the majority of their time working from home. It will be interesting to see how work from home models develop in the future, but I would say that most of the communicators we have spoken to this year are adopting a hybrid working model for their Internal Comms teams.

Further reading via All Things IC: The internal communicator’s guide to hybrid working Online Masterclass.

Team size

Although the average size of an Internal Comms team stagnated in last year’s survey, due no doubt in part to exceptional circumstances, our most recent surveys show that team sizes are getting bigger overall.

This has hopefully had a positive effect given the amount of work communicators were doing last year to manage workload.  Based on my experience, I can safely say we are seeing lots of IC roles being recruited for this year, with a high demand from businesses to hire talented IC professionals.

VMAGROUP team size

Internal Communication plans

Prior to Covid, the Internal Communications plan was being reviewed more regularly – year on year we are finding a drop in annual reviews and an increase in quarterly reviews.

Last year, planning for Internal Comms seemed more difficult than ever with the official guidelines changing so regularly, making it difficult to plan past a month! Our findings did show that 32% of businesses didn’t actually have a plan in place and were working more reactively. Now that things are a bit more stable, more and more communicators tell me that they are back to planning again for the long-term!

VMA GROUP IC plan

VMAGROUP perception

VMAGROUP value

Advocates for internal comms?

It was also positive to see that following COVID 19, communicators noted a shift towards Senior Leaders being likely advocates for Internal Comms, or at least they had a deeper understanding of what the role entails. In some cases, IC is truly being viewed as the business-critical function that it is!

We asked our respondents about budgets, and for those who had access to the relevant figures they reported that budgets had increased significantly since 2019.

From my experience, I am now seeing more investment than ever in digital channels. When we asked why internal communicators thought their use of digital communications was average/poor in 2019, one of the top answers was lack of employee engagement with these channels. Naturally, our 2020 survey highlighted a big shift in engagement with digital channels, as it was one of the only forums through which to communicate with employees. This is a welcome change in results, demonstrating progress on the digital communications front.

VMA GROUP budget

When looking at remuneration it was good to see that the majority of our respondents felt they were being fairly paid, though over 25% felt that they weren’t fairly paid; there is clearly still work to be done in making sure internal communicators feel valued and are paid appropriately for the work they produce.

We always ask about professional development and qualifications in our surveys, and it’s been great to see that our respondents are finding time for it. It’s worth noting that almost 50% of respondents weren’t part of a professional body. I would highly recommend joining one, as they offer comprehensive support and are valued by many employers when looking at CVs.

Please do take a look at our ‘Inside Insight’ survey for more detailed findings – it is available to download from the VMAGROUP website.

Post author: Sara Tehrani.

First published on the All Things IC blog 29 September 2021.

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