With over 2000 respondents from across the globe taking part, the State of the Sector is one of the key resources for understanding the barriers and priorities for in-house communicators. We often reference the report in our Masterclasses and use it to help our clients and comms friends know they aren’t alone with some of the challenges they are facing.
Download a copy of the latest State of the Sector report.
All Things IC Communication Consultant Dan Holden, 2023 Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Internal Communication sub-group Inside, was allowed a sneak preview and shares his reflections on the latest findings.
I always look forward to the publication of the State of the Sector report as it’s one of the few regular reports available that lifts the lid on what’s happening across the internal communication discipline.
I hope we have seen progress this year against some challenges identified in the 2021/2022 report. With 59 pages in the report, it’s been a few evenings of bedtime reading, so I’ve highlighted some key internal comms aspects that stood out. There are also strong insights on employee experience and engagement, but I’ll leave them for another day.
A global profession
It was encouraging to see that more organisations took part and the gap between the countries represented is slowly closing, with more representation from outside of North America and Europe. I hope this means we’re going in the right direction to help communicators deliver world-class internal communication.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and I don’t think ever will, is that only 38% of respondents work in a purely IC role, with 34% working within Human Resources. With so much overlap between internal communication, employee engagement, workplace experience and employee experience, I think this will remain the case.
Further reading via All Things IC: How to work well with HR.
What does this mean?
We have an opportunity to learn more from outside our own countries. Whether it’s by joining webinars or reading case studies shared on platforms such as LinkedIn by communicators across the globe, we can continue to learn from each other.
I’ve seen many conversations along the lines of ‘Should internal comms sit in Corporate Communications, Marketing or Human Resources’? This is a blog article in itself, but the latest stats show we need to continue working with our colleagues in Human Resources, fostering the insights we have as a collective about our audience – colleagues.
Settling into a new way of working
I was interested to see how communicators have adapted almost three years after the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. I hadn’t expected the drop from 39% to 19% as a priority on adapting channel mixes to support hybrid working.
Now, it could be that organisations have decided they have the right channel mixes in place. However, I’m convinced there is still much work needed on reviewing the use of channels over the last few years, ensuring their intended purpose is still right and that they are all working hard for their intended audiences.
Interestingly, only 31% of organisations have a channel framework, so there is a need to focus back on channel purpose and the longer-term plan.
Further reading via All Things IC: How to create an IC channel strategy.
What does this mean?
I’ve spoken with many comms peers and clients who have recognised the need to revisit their channels strategy, with many seeing declining engagement on enterprise social networks such as Yammer and Slack.
It’s important to remember that just because a channel was introduced in the pandemic, perhaps Microsoft Teams or Slack, it doesn’t mean it’s still right today. Keep measuring and revisiting your channels matrix and aligning to the needs of your colleague groups. You should never be afraid of stopping a channel if it’s not working.
A need to close the gap on listening
Even though 84% of organisations say they ‘value employees’ feedback’, only 47% of organisations had a robust means of capturing feedback. It’s not all bad news, with 65% of organisations believing they learn and act on feedback. I would add a degree of caution here, especially given the lack of robust feedback capture, and this isn’t representative of the views of the colleagues giving the feedback.
It can be time-consuming, perhaps overwhelming, collecting feedback from colleagues. But it’s critical in our role as professional communicators to truly understand what’s happening by having a listening strategy.
It’s a topic that comes up frequently during our Measurement Masterclasses and we spend time looking at how listening can be introduced without overloading the comms team.
Recommend resource: Who’s Listening: From measurement to meaning by Dr Kevin Ruck, Mike Pounsford and Howard Krais.
What does this mean?
When I’m reviewing listening, I always look to the action part first. What happens when you have collected the insights?
Take an employee survey as one example of listening – I want to know what happens after the closing date so I would look to find out:
- What is the timeline for analysing the feedback?
- When is the Senior Leadership reviewing and agreeing on key themes?
- What support are managers getting with their department results and actions?
- When will colleagues receive an update?
If these questions can’t be answered in advance, I’d be pushing back to my stakeholders before I start getting into the communication planning in support of completing the survey.
We’re still talking about poor people manager communication
I admit having a special interest in this subject following the release in September of the CIPR Inside research into Effective line manager communication. Now, overall there was a slightly improvement but when looking at organisation sizes, poor people manager communication skills is still in the top five challenges for the majority of organisations.
Further reading via All Things IC: Get help with line manager communication and Is line manager communication as scary as it’s been made out to be?
Before we go any further, I’m not blaming people managers as I know they have a lot going on. With 90% of respondents either using people managers ‘extensively’ or ‘using a little’ for communication, I’m not surprised this is still a challenging area.
What does this mean?
I always bring this topic back to two questions:
- Do you see people managers as a channel or audience group? It could be either or both, but regardless of the answer, factor them into your communication planning.
- If you recognise them as a channel, are you investing resources into them the same as your other channels? We spend regular time, effort and money on digital channels, yet people managers can be overlooked and not given the same focus, even though they are shown to be a trusted source of information and key channel.
The hot topic of benchmarking
We frequently get asked by All Things IC’s clients to help with benchmarking their internal communication activity against external insights. I remember asking myself this question in previous roles, with Comms Directors asking ‘how we compare to other organisations’. The State of the Sector report provides insights more specifically about team size, budgets, measurement, barriers and challenges which can be helpful but also can send you off in the wrong direction.
What does this mean?
This is a tough question, and comparing organisation A to organisation B is hard. There are so many variables to consider such as culture, channels, geography and internal projects to name just a few. I encourage you to focus on internal benchmarking, measuring where you are now and where you want to be. This might be a longer journey to have the insights you need to look back and help you look forward.
What’s your thoughts?
The above are just some things that jumped out to me, but I would love to hear your thoughts. On Thursday 16 March 2023, the CIPR Inside group will host a virtual session with Gallagher to run through the full report and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions.
Download your copy of the State of the Sector report to comb through the information and extract what’s relevant for you.
Thank you for reading through the report Dan and to Gallagher for collating it. I hope you find this article helpful if you’re in a benchmarking mindset and want to know what your peers are doing.
We’ve just announced All Things IC Live on 17 May. This is an ideal opportunity for internal communicators to be together face-to-face to swap notes, compare what each other are doing and learn from each other. See the dedicated site to find out more. Tickets will be released on 14 February and 1 March 2023. Dan and I hope to see you there, Rachel.
Post author: Dan Holden
First published on the All Things IC blog 7 February 2023