Essays: Employee communication seeks a happier home in the corporate organization

Where does employee communication belong on the organization chart? HR? PR? Legal? It’s a question practitioners have debated long and hard over the years. It’s a question they debated at a recent conference. Moderator Tom Lee describes the debate, and out of it pulls a primer on how to find a better home for employee communication in your organization.

A few months ago I moderated a wide-open discussion on the structure and reporting relationship of employee, or internal, communication. The question we addressed that day had long been on the mind if not the lips of many of our colleagues: Where’s home? In other words, to what organizational or bureaucratic entity in the corporate hierarchy should staffing for workplace communication belong?

Should it reside with speechwriting, media relations, and government affairs in Public Relations or Public Affairs? Should it function alongside benefits administration and personnel management in Human Resources and Organizational Development? Should it be part of the Law Department? Should it be closeted in yet another department, line, or staff, such as Marketing or Strategic Planning? Or, tossing out the bath water but not the baby, should it stand alone as a separate entity, reporting directly to the ceo?

Probably 45 or 50 corporate communication managers, many of them at fairly senior levels, attended this discussion. Within minutes it became clear that all these managers had wrestled with the question. Many of them were still uncertain of their thinking. Others were convinced that one domicile or another was always right. Needless to say, we enjoyed a lively and reflective give-and-take.

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