Time for IC to “take the fork in the road”

“If you see a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra

The famous American baseball personality Yogi Berra was well known for his seemingly malformed or silly statements.

Yet, in his classic comment above, he actually pointed a way forward for internal communication (IC) – to pursue more involvement in tangible business initiatives while continuing to drive engagement and overall awareness of strategy and purpose.

For many years, presented with a fork between all-employee activities, like engagement and communicating corporate strategy, and targeted support for specific business initiatives, the IC world has moved in the all-employee direction.

According to the latest Gatehouse State of the (IC) Sector survey, more than 70% of IC teams reported heavy involvement in all-employee messaging around corporate strategy, values and purpose. Fewer than 50% said they were heavily involved either in change communication or supporting individual teams or functions.

The value of added internal communication effort has proven notoriously difficult to measure. But one thing I’ve noted from my own experience in a number of leading multinationals is that communication teams often let opportunities for business impact go begging.

“We don’t have the time, we don’t have the resources,” is a frequent comms-department response to a change owner or business manager asking for support for a key initiative. “Here’s your toolkit.”

But for communication departments that are pressed for time and resources, accepting requests for support from key initiatives can actually help justify more resources over time. Measurement pinpointing the financial value derived from communication improvements is crucial, and possible to execute.

One set of measures focuses on how initiative outcomes are achieved, measured against initiative expectations and comparable efforts elsewhere in the company. These would include completion speed, overall budget spend, cooperation from other parts of the organization.

Another set would be more closely aligned with communication activities themselves: awareness levels, perception of the initiative as a corporate priority, sense of individual role and responsibility, and he extent to which employees use the initiative’s nomenclature versus making up their own negative or positive words to describe the change.

Aside from being able to prove their worth more effectively, communicators who are successful at supporting business initiatives could also increase their stakeholder support.

A leader or manager who has seen what effective, strategic communication can do is far more likely to advocate for adequate IC resourcing than one who has been thrown a toolkit or one who went to an engagement program last year. In an environment where budgets and resources are continuously under pressure, stepping in both directions may be key to a viable future. It’s time to “take the fork in the road.”

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