Why and how internal comms should add value

Rather than draining company coffers, your employee messaging efforts can boost productivity and curtail workers’ injuries. That’s a win for all involved.

Why and how communicators can add value

Most internal communication functions simply drain money and rarely enhance the organization’s performance.

A few renegade internal communication departments are demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be that way. What are the renegades doing that elevates their impact on business results, which in turn significantly increases their pay?

They do four things:

1. Build a business case with a value proposition that clarifies what they will and won’t do. One client’s value proposition states, “We either make money or save money.” In that company, if you’re not making or saving money, you’re a drain on the business.

2. Manage the communication system, not just the formal channels. Many internal communicators distribute news and information. They manage meetings and events. But formal channels have little impact on organizational performance. Communication includes what leaders say and do. It includes systems and processes that communicate what’s important and by what is measured, rewarded and recognized.

3. Measure what matters most to the organization. Traditional communication functions track measures such as tweets, retweets, page views, readability and channel use, but those these activities have little to no impact on organizational success, nor do they reveal the state of our business. Contemporary communication functions measure what’s important to the business such as quality, productivity, on-time delivery, cycle time and profitable sales. Why not measure what the primary business measures are?

4. Build needed competencies. Traditional communication departments typically have skills and knowledge related to distributing news and information. Performance-based communication departments possess similar skills but have a deeper understanding of business, finances, leadership development, change management and consulting/business adviser skills.

Some communication functions have begun the journey. FedEx’s communication team led an effort to increase export sales by 23% in less than 90 days. It generated a 1,447% return.

ConAgra Foods communication leaders reduced workplace injuries by 35% in one Midwest U.S. operation—and cut damage and improved productivity by 65% and 16% respectively.

Similar gains have been made by communication professionals in consumer goods, manufacturing, high-tech engineering, a diversified technology, software engineering, logistics and food products.

It is doable.

Jim Shaffer leads the Jim Shaffer Group. A version of this post first appeared on the Paul Barton Communications blog.

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