Three trends are reshaping the profession
Over the last couple of years we have been witnessing several changes to internal communication.
Commoditisation of the function is but one of them. What commoditisation means in practice is that organisations (both commercial and public sector) have increasingly come to rely on communication contractors, who mostly work on short-term assignments.
The financial case for such practices appears on the face of it to make sense – organisations can simply turn internal communication on and off, thus avoiding long-term outlays in the form of salary and bonuses to permanent staff.
However, there are several downsides too. One is the fact that external professional counsel does not come cheap.
Another is the short-termism inherent to contracted internal communication. Contractors come in, do their job and leave. Organisations that are concerned about their long-term business success should be investing in developing their in-house internal communication capabilities. A case in point is copy-writing. Quite often organisations view it as a relatively low-skill activity and happily outsource it to either internal communication agencies or contractors. External copy-writers, however, work for different clients at the same time and often are not very well versed in the specific terminology used in highly specialised organisations. Sloppily worded copy is the end result.
Specialisation is another trend. We are seeing the proliferation of internal communication managers working solely on ERP implementations, employee engagement, digital or change. What is often forgotten is that the principles of effective communications are applicable across business units and projects. Pigeonholing an internal communication practitioner in a limited field can be detrimental to their future career prospects. That’s why the business-partnering model (where internal communication personnel are embedded in a line of business) may not be best practice in internal communication. Instead, organisations may need to consider how their internal communication functions are structured and whether the internal communication managers may not benefit by developing into internal communication all-rounders.
The third trend shaping internal communication today is the proliferation of disruptive digital technologies. It has become fashionable to implement the latest social media platform within organisations just for the sake of not falling behind. Company magazines are out, enterprise social networks are in. This may not work quite well for all types of employees. Discontinuing an existing internal communication channel with a proven track record of delivering results should be carefully thought through.
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