5 thoughts on “Wouldn’t it be nice if…

  1. I love the idea. I want to say YES!!! And you know Kevin unfortunately I think it depends.

    It depends on how strategic the employee comm’s team is
    It depends on how well they understand the business and what really makes it work well and what doesn’t
    It depends on how connected they are as individuals and as a function to the real influencers in the organization
    It depends on whether they really understand how to orchestrate communications across a system and with and through various internal stakeolders
    It depends on how well they understand both the formal and informal aspects of communications and how to work with both to accomplish the organizations goals
    It depends on how much empathy they have for the wide array of internal target audiences any communications plan has
    It depends… And boy do I wish someone with courage and imagination would take you up on this dare.

  2. Two more thoughts Kevin.

    1: Leadership team commitment/involvement – When marketing gets it’s budget there’s minimal commitment required from the leadership team. In fact beyond some level of creative approval they don’t need to be involved at all. Even if we got the budget, employee communicators would need the involvement and leadership of the leadership team.

    2: Impact – With the budget, leaders leading, and an employee comm team that is able to pull it all together, I think the impact of this infusion of funds over a sustained period of time would result in more than productivity. I think it would definitely lead to improved brand experience and impact important marketing metrics as well as improving operational metrics like productivity.

    So where is the employee comm’s team with the audacity to go for it. And the leadership team that has the courage and imagination to invest 5% of the marketing budget where it can do even more… ?

  3. Great question, Kevin, and many thanks for those really useful comments.

    To be subversive, I’d ask whether the question kind of implies there’s already a nasty divergence of objectives between marketing and employee comms areas. And also, a deeper implication, that there are some very unhelpful perceptions leaders have of the two functions. The question assumes that the leaders (‘parents’ for the sake of a cod-psychology metaphor) view and treat the two functions (‘children’) differently, favouring one over the other (‘giving that one more pocket money’) and playing one off against the other?

    I’d argue that to go into the thinking about these issues with this phrasing of the question, then, would be reinforcing any assumptions that exist or encouraging ones that don’t – something which isn’t the most helpful for better achieving business objectives/enhancing performance.

    Rather than taking budget from one to pay another, how about organisations put a bit of time/budget into creating better cross-functional partnerships and setting up focused, cross-functional projects that support the business’s strategic objectives. I imagine there’d be some great improvements in performance.

    Strictly speaking, functions can’t really continue to remain solipsistic and maintain that their objectives and activities are unique and theirs alone, hence fighting for budget. Particularly, since the lines between internal and external have been becoming so blurred. Functions not only can work together to positively affect the organisations’ performance – they have to.

    When I was at Melcrum, we produced some interesting research about best practice when it comes to employee comms functions partnering with other functions. Unsurprisingly, we found a huge amount of this kind of bitterness, non-cooperation (never mind collaboration!) etc mentioned above, born from years of assumptions and reinforcement in the corporate culture and subculture/language/etc – it was actually hard to find companies that wanted to be involved in the research because there were few companies that had positive stories to tell.

    One inspiring case study that immediately comes to mind from the research was Marks & Spencer, where the internal comms team worked in partnership with pretty much all functions on the Plan A eco-programme – an initiative that was implemented internally and externally. With blurred lines in the nature of the project, everybody in the cross-functional working group had to put aside their expectations when it came to the role they would play and their importance/influence. In this way, internal communication (and its partners) could leverage various communication platforms (external website, in-store displays, HR comms) ordinarily ‘owned’/tightly controlled/not shared by other functions and work together to secure major external ‘business’ partners such as Oxfam. Furthermore, the senior leaders were supporting it and involved all the way, with the CEO chairing the working group meetings.

    I think this is a great example also because, by virtue of its nature as a retailer, M&S is marketing driven, with the department having a much greater headcount than internal comms. Yet, marketing didn’t have greater influence than employee comms here – it was a balanced relationship.

    I imagine that employee comms and marketing didn’t only work well on this project, but the experience strengthened the relationship more generally, helping to wipe away (at least some of the) assumptions, us-and-them attitudes, etc, that previously existed between the functions/function directors, and the functions were able to work better next time. So, the more working together, the better the relationships and the less there’ll be a feeling of “marketing robbed us of our budget” or, conversely, “Employee comms doesn’t add any value to the bottom line – we’re the ones who get the customers to part with their cash”.

    [Some might say Plan A is a bad example, because M&S had their eyes on an uncontestably good, moral, non-business goal. But we’re not so green (ho ho) as to imagine there was no eye on the profits in M&S with this initiative. Indeed, the initiative helped the company make some large operational savings (£50m) and no doubt there were some excellent PR consequences.]

    I guess at the end of the day, this change in attitudes will need to come from the top. Senior leaders will need to work with the function directors to define the business objectives and develop powerful, cross-functional projects to support them. The functions will have to then work together (whether they initially like it or not). This won’t be comfortable in those organisations where there are deep-rooted rifts. But it is necessary as the nature of business and customers’ expectations change.

    1. Awesome response, I couldn’t agree more. While it’s getting better and working in some organisations … others have a long way to go yet….

    2. I also think, having reflected on it, the disproportionat ROI that could potentially be achieved if we believe all the research. The bet is – would you get more from the 5% loss in advertising-driven revenue from the shift in employee engagement, productivity, improved retention and customer satisfaction.

      I suspect the answer is yes.

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