Internal communication was long considered to play a secondary role in business organizations, an in-between HR and external communication, where no important impact would be made. However, the corporate world is changing. Employees are looking for meaning and belonging and internal communication is playing more and more a strategic role to accompany changes in companies. All the more within those who are experiencing strong developments abroad. At each stage of the internationalisation process of a company, whether it be an organic or external growth, Internal communication must reach out to employees to bring meaning, to reassure and engage. There are many different challenges faced by Internal Communication managers, let’s have a look at my top 3.
Internal communication must create the conditions for a good flow of information
I agree that this goal seems childishly obvious for a communication manager, but is not always easy to achieve in this era of information bulimia. Being well informed means being informed effectively with information that arrives on time, clearly and precisely. It is a balance between too much information and not enough information. In a global business, there are multiple levels of information and all employees are not affected by the same messages. A selective and targeted dissemination will have to be implemented and this often involves relays with regional people that can be called network of ambassadors or correspondents. Their role is to digest the global information coming from headquarters and re – route to the employees in their territory. They are also responsible for sending back up the relevant internal information to be shared about them to the rest of the company. Depending on the organisations, leaving more or less autonomy to its regions, these local communication relays will circulate the information according to a clear common process. They will need to distinguish messages about life on a daily basis, messages about the future of the organisation and messages about the social and collective life. Special processes should also be implemented for communication in the event of a crisis.
Internal communication must integrate and unite employees
Whether it be external recruitment or arrivals following a takeover, a company that grows outside its national market faces the challenge of integrating new employees, making sure they find their place, and have a feeling of loyalty and belonging in the new structure. Internal communication should contribute to make them adhere to shared goals and common values and understand the company’s project, history, values, ethics, and models of management. Old and new employees should be led into a new common dynamic. Some will want to be reassured, others excited – but all will need to be united. Internal communication manager have several solutions to create this cohesion: integration seminars, team-building, regional conventions… human and emotional exchanges are often very good tools to strengthen the sense of belonging and encourage employees to join the new project. The goal is to create a sense of community, a collective interest that goes beyond the individual or groups of colleagues. Without denying the particular cultural differences inherent in an international group, internal communication actions will seek to find a common conductive line of shared and clear objectives and understandable by all. To sum up, this integration must bring conviviality, establishing a good relationship between people whichever their functions, business unit or geographical territories.
Internal communication must encourage involvement and participation
To achieve optimal efficiency, the company must mobilise all the skills of its human resources. Communication can no longer be a simple transmission of information from top to bottom. Following the model of participative management, employees become stakeholders, and the role of Internal communication is to ensure that everyone has the tools and megaphones to be heard from decision-makers and influencers. More than a support, this function become a strategic relay, opening the way for dialogue and consultation, allowing to take into account the ideas of everyone, the recognition of their role, independence and confidence. In an international company, Internal communication should give particular attention to the cultural differences that may be source of imbalance or misinterpretation. Different cultures have different ways of giving their opinions and not everyone is at ease with expressing his/her personal ideas in public. It is therefore important that everyone has a media he/she feels confortable with to be heard. In this exercise of “participatory democracy”, it is essential to maintain the basics of “non-judgment” and “equality”, but also to convey the feeling that each effort will lead to a visible result.
Internal newsletter, internal TV, social networking, communication charter, annual conventions… Internal communication teams have many tools they can include in their strategy to bring international employees together. Taking into account the basic difficulties related to language, distance and lack of time in employee agendas, each company will have to find its own solution keeping in mind the main goal: that each employee feels heard, valued and useful to the organisation. It is not an easy challenge… which makes it, in my opinion, all the more exciting…