Why world-class organisations are investing more in their internal communications

These days, internal communications are more than just cascading messages from senior execs down through the organisation. Although there’s always going to be an element of telling on the sending end – the focus is on receiving feedback by listening to what employees have to say. The best internal communicators gather real-time insight and bring it to the top table to guide and advise decision-making. It’s all about driving culture, coaching leaders, channelling innovation and facilitating dialogue.

Why world-class organisations are investing more in their internal communications

The ultimate goal of internal communication? Excellent employee engagement from pre-joining, to every day on the job, to leaving or retiring: the recipe for better business.

So why the chocolate bar budget?

The investment level in the internal communication function, on the whole, is ridiculously low: the equivalent of the cost of a chocolate bar per employee per month. According to Gatehouse, a Gallagher company, State of the Sector 2019 report which collates responses from internal communication professionals in 820 organisations globally, the biggest organisations – with 50,000+ employees – spend around £1 on communicating internally.

The power of influence and perception

What seems like a missed investment opportunity doesn’t appear to tally with the large majority of internal communication practitioners, who say their function is perceived as playing a key role in employee engagement (72%). The State of the Sector report also showed that about the same number agree it has a clearly articulated purpose (75%). And apparently this viewpoint is becoming more widespread within the organisation: 69% say internal communicators and leaders agree on the function’s purpose, up from 62% in 2018.

Where’s the evidence?

For organisations looking for insights, one series of papers in particular serves as a practical resource – highlighting key links between an engaged workforce and outcomes for sales, talent retention and the customer experience. It’s now a decade since the initial MacLeod and Clarke Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement (2009) report was published: a government sponsored, industry-led study. And seven years have passed since a follow-up document from the “Nailing the evidence” workgroup landed, bolstering the business case for investment in this area.

Most recently, the 2016 instalment ‘THE EVIDENCE: Case Study Heroes and Engagement Data Daemons’ presents 10 examples from various industries. They describe how these employers measured engagement, and then applied the results to improve it.

Findings from rigorous studies such as these demonstrate the all-important return on investment of engagement initiatives.

A shift to integrated communications

The current blurring of boundaries between internal and external communications has complicated message strategies. Getting ‘the inside out’ – communicating the brand and the employee experience to the outside world – has never been easier and at the same time harder, thanks to social media. Employees are now an organisation’s greatest brand advocates. Or its most vocal detractors.

All of these opportunities and challenges translate into a more pressing need for organisations to integrate their communication function, and they’re heeding that call. In 2019, for the first time, Gatehouse’s report found that over half (52%) of internal communication respondents declared that their function forms part of an integrated corporate communication, PR and corporate affairs team. This figure was just 30% back in 2015.

The way people experience the world is changing at a wholesale level. Perceptions of the role and influence of internal communication are changing too. It’s going to take some time to achieve a more widespread uplift in the chocolate bar budget. But all indications suggest a growing appetite for a significant shift.

The author is Ben Reynolds, managing director at Gallagher Communications.

This article is provided by Gallagher.

Gallagher is sponsoring REBA’s Innovation Day 2019. Join us on 28 November in central London to future-proof your reward and benefits strategy.

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