8 thoughts on “Employee communication is too important to leave to the professionals

  1. Great post, KK, but I’m tempted to go further and pose an even more heretical question: “Do we even need formal communication *per se*?”

    In three separate books, over the last couple of months, I’ve come across mention of “Dunbar’s Number” – most notably in Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” (with reference to Gore Associates) and Christakis & Fowler’s “Connected”. I’ve also seen it mentioned in connection with Semco, an organisation famous for a complete absence of all the usual organisational trappings of long-term strategies, org charts etc. and enjoying tremendous success in spite of (or, perhaps more accurately, *because* of) that.

    Where’s the role for IC if there is no explicit strategic plan/direction with which employees must “align”?

    Where’s the role for IC when, in groups of up to 150, it’s perfectly possible (and apparently more effective) for informal personal relationships and peer pressure to ensure co-ordinated effort and high performance?

    Formal communication set-ups, it seems to me, are inextricably bound with hierarchy and the “operational excellence” old-school – i.e. they only really become necessary because organisations (or units within them) grow beyond that limit and the social network dynamics degrade or break down completely.

    Of course, I’m not saying that we don’t need IC (organisations like Gore and Semco are, after all, remain a tiny minority). I just think it would serve us well, as business communicators, to think much more deeply about these kinds of questions.

  2. Ouch…and almost on the money for me. I’m about to attend the IoIC conference so will put this hat on. Dan is correct in IC being tied to hierarchy, but I sense a strong shift in needing to quantify the value IC teams bring as it’s being questioned. Thank god for the forces of social media which are pushing internal comms practitioners to think differently to address the (not new) change in how people are interacting. Increasingly internal comms is solving business problems, not helping to communicate better. There’s still too much talk and not enough game changing, results-driven action.

  3. Fair points all, Kevin.

    That much being said, I choose to stay firmly inside the tent, mainly because that’s where the people who care most about transforming communication are (even if their voices have yet to become the most significant), I often find it hard to, for example, justify conference fees and travel to my not-so-pliable boss. Indeed, that’s why I’m even taking up a post on the IABC’s Conference Review committee! Let me see how much I can do from the very inside…

    Best from Copenhagen,

    Mike Klein

  4. One in the tent and one outside – sounds like a perfect approach.

    Still, I’m not sure I agree about the transformation thing. Arguably, associations always chase something somone else outside the industry invented – intranets; social media platforms; heck, even measurement came from HBR, Gallup and ISR – these are all ideas and platforms that communicators co-opted. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it seems to me we’re great at taking ideas aboard – but less good at generating new ones perhaps. That’s the direction I’d like to head. Typically overambitious.

    I think your voice will be a welcome one on the conference committee – given ’em hell is all I can say!

  5. As much as I understand your point Kevin, it doesn’t represent the reality of what CIPR Inside are about. So it would be nice if you wouldn’t tar us with the same brush. Just consider our small group of volunteers as Commscrummers with a Chartered status. For the record, our recent event broke the mould on the crap that has become the norm. Rant over.
    But let us not forget the “profession” that we serve and the fact that it is very diverse “industry” The bottom line is that communications and engagement are management disciplines that somehow became functions. The shame is that both have struggled to find their purpose and there is something very uncompelling and unauthentic about their role. There is a crisis of confidence and competence in the profession. I attended a networking event last night and listened to the usual whining about not being at the top table, not being taken seriously and the expecattion to deliver tactical stuff. The discussion highlighted the usual tensions between comms v business, projects v ops, strategy v tactics, in-house v consultancy. Having crossed all these lines in my own career it made me smile. It made me think that comms folk are very priveleged and need a bit more humility. Those that are most effective understand their area of influence and operate at the circumference, pushing the boundaries and increasing their of influence through time. It took me back to my days as a nuclear fuel production manager, a million miles from the the board room, 1 operational error could have destroyed an area half the size of Cheshire. When I moved into corporate comms, I was walking the corridors of power, earning more money and sleeping at nights. 1 error of judgement could have resulted in an embarrasing spelling mistake in the annual report!
    Thankfully my current client work is far more rewarding and has a demonstrable impact on the bottom line.

    1. @ Kevin, I dont believe that CIPR Inside is perfect and we know that is far from reality. But to liken us to what other associations offer on the events and qualifications front is even further from reality.
      @ Mike, I also believe there is some value in “pointing at the porcelain” from inside a tent. Let’s make sure we stay on target or it might get a bit messy! : )

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