What’s the state of internal communication?

The 16th edition of the Gallagher State of the Sector 2024 report is now available to download. The report provides insights on internal communication and employee experience based on 2,300 respondents across the globe.

It’s a helpful report that we often reference during our training sessions and internal communication audits and reviews, helping clients and comms friends learn about what’s happening within the profession.

All Things IC Communication Consultant Dan Holden shares a high-level overview of the report and ideas on how in-house communicators can use the insights.

What's the state of internal communication. State of the Sector 2024 report

What’s the state of internal communication?

I’ve always found the State of the Sector reports helpful and with many organisations starting to settle into new or revised ways of working after the Covid-19 pandemic, I was interested to see what the year ahead looks like.

Between all the Comms Consultants at All Things IC we could write a book of our reflections, but one thing I was pleased to see is that the use of measurement is on the up!  Knowing the impact of our work is key and I love helping clients and comms friends create manageable approaches to their internal comms measurement. More on measurement in a later blog article.

An increase of more than 20% in respondents using measurement data to tailor content and build the business case for additional investment.

Today let’s focus on how you, as an in-house internal communicator, can use the report in your role. It’s a detailed report, so I’ve highlighted some areas based on recent conversations that are top of mind, particularly from All Things IC Live.

The role of internal communication

In an ideal world, the role of internal communication would be the same. Still, with too many dependencies to list (organisation size and budgets are two that spring to mind) every organisation is different in how IC is managed.

If you’re finding it a challenge to push back on stakeholders when being asked to do those tasks that aren’t the best use of your time, page nine outlines priority areas of focus for IC with two key ones for me: Culture and Belonging and Strategic Alignment.

Having a clear definition for your internal comms function, aligned to the organisational objectives, can help you say no to those things that don’t support culture or belonging or that don’t fall under any organisational objectives. Sometimes, this can work by having several themes within your internal communication strategy, and when you need to say no, signposting to self-service resources such as how to post on Viva Engage can help.

Candid Comms Podcast

Internal communication versus employee engagement

The question about whether internal comms is responsible for employee engagement comes up a lot! I shared some insights on this recently, outlining the difference. Whilst we can use employee engagement metrics as part of our measurement and evaluation approach, it shouldn’t be your primary indicator of success.

Rachel has also written about this in her upcoming book, Internal Communication Strategy, which is available to pre-order today.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘Oh no, we’re using the annual employee survey as our only internal comms metric’’ don’t panic. I’d encourage you to make some time and think about what impact you want to measure from your internal communication.

This is often referred to as outcomes, the’ so what changed because of your communications’. Once you have this clearly defined, you can then start to look at the different ways to collect the measurement, using quantitative (i.e. click through rates) and qualitative (open feedback) data.

Exploring measures of engagement and the role of internal communication, photo of Mike Klein

Barriers to success

The top five barriers haven’t changed this year:

  • Lack of time / capacity in my team
  • Disengaged employees
  • Lack of budget / financial resources
  • Internal technology / channels not fit for purpose
  • Lack of analytics / measurement.

There are a few questions that you can ask yourself if the above list resonates with you.

Am I working on the right things? Having clear internal communication objectives as part of your IC strategy will help keep you on track and identify your priorities.

Do I know who my audiences are? Using personas can be a helpful way of knowing channel and content preferences, barriers to access, challenges and motivators of your colleagues.

What’s top of mind for your leaders? When considering securing additional budget or resources, research what’s keeping your Senior Leadership team awake at night and how internal communication can help with the solution.

What are the right channels? Sometimes we’re stuck with the channels we have, hopefully just for the short term. Here’s where a channels matrix can help, identifying what are the right channels to put your time in. Sometimes, the right decision can be stopping a channel, giving you the capacity back to spend more time on another, such as line manager communication.

Where to start with measurement? I know this can feel an overwhelming area for internal communicators or the pressure of the inbox means you don’t feel you have the time to measure. But if we aren’t measuring, how do we know what’s working? Focusing on outcomes can help you retire that excel sheet full of statistics you painstakingly pull together each month and collect more meaningful insights.Chart from State of the Sector 2024 report showing how internal communicators are using measurement data

Technology can be our friend

This time 12 months ago, Artificial Intelligence (AI) was something I had dabbled in but not fully got into. With the continual evolution of technology and some of the earlier insights on not having enough time and resource, there are opportunities to look at how technology can help.

I personally don’t believe AI will replace us but if we don’t understand the opportunities and risks, we can be overtaken by those individuals who do.

68% of respondents rated the impact of AI as high or very high.

Chart from the State of the Sector 2024 report showing sentiment of internal communicators about AI

If you’re hearing people in your organisation talk about AI, I’d encourage you to work with your Digital and IT colleagues on creating clear guidance on when, where and how to use AI. I’ve heard good examples of where AI can help internal communicators, such as taking a list of key messages and creating a potential speech outline or giving alternative ways to explain complex messages. Above all, be clear on what information you input into AI software and the potential risks but if done safely and correctly, there is a lot of potential.

Candid Comms podcast. An introduction to AI for internal communicators

Equipping line managers to be effective communicators

With 84% of respondents saying they rely on managers for communication to some degree, are we providing them with the tools and support needed?

Often, during listening sessions with employees and reviewing survey results, line managers are one of the top, trusted sources of truth within organisations and IC teams recognise the importance of line manager communication, yet often acknowledge they don’t give the right time to them.

A helpful tip is to review your channels matrix and add a column for the percentage of time you spend against each channel. This can give you a good indication of whether you need to adjust the time allocation. Page 31 of the State of the Sector report gives some handy insights on the topics where managers are most relied on and where you could put your initial focus on.

Before introducing a new line manager communication or if reviewing what you already have in place for them, have a dialogue to understand what they actually need from you and any training and ongoing support. It’s also worth checking their understanding of roles and responsibilities.

Internal communication is too important to be left to one team, department or person, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

A quote that always sticks in my mind from Rachel Miller, Founder of All Things IC is “Whilst communication is in my job title, it’s in your job description”. Now, I don’t suggest going round your line managers and quoting this directly but it’s a good principle to slowly educate your managers on.

Promotional image to promote the CIPR Inside Effective line manager communication report

Conclusion

The 2024 action list on page 35 of the report provides a useful way of reflecting on your current internal communication and what you want to focus on for the year ahead. However, you can’t do everything, so be realistic and, importantly, kind to yourself. I was saddened to see that since the last report 38% of communicators have reported a deterioration in their wellbeing.

We work in very visible roles with often competing demands from stakeholders. I hope you don’t find yourself in a situation where you need them but I’ve shared some wellbeing resources at the end of this article.

We’d love to hear your takeaways or actions from the 2024 State of the Sector report. Feel free to share them in the comments below or message us on LinkedIn or via hello@allthingsic.com.

Wellbeing resources

Workplace focused

Mental health in PR – Small steps that will make a big difference

CIPD – Wellbeing support and guidance

People Manager – Employee wellbeing needs to be a year-round conversation.

External organisations and charities

Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health UK

Mind

NHS.

Mental health support for comms professionals

How to look after your mental health as a freelancer

How to stay mentally healthy if you work in comms

CIPR Members – Health Assured service.

Post author: Dan Holden
First published on the All Things IC blog 12 February 2024.

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