Time to go all-in: six steps for reshaping the future of #internalcomms

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In recent weeks, the conversation about “whether there’s a future for #internalcomms” has heated up again.  

IC consultant Simon Rutter addresses these issues extensively – if defensively – in his comprehensive piece called “Is internal communication dead?”

But I’d argue that for #internalcomms to establish a viable role in the future of business, it needs to be more proactive, and much less defensive. 

Indeed, it’s time to go all-in.

Here are six steps we need to take to help shape the future of #internalcomms in a more constructive direction.

* We should be leading the charge to move our “low-value work” over to AI – even if it means a short-term loss of #internalcomms headcount

This step involves confronting two of the most persistent laments of many internal communicators head on. 

The first – that they are overburdened with “low-value” work like poster distribution and design, vanity newsletters and job-change announcements that they lack the time and headspace to add strategic value, and the second – the fear that AI will “take their jobs.”

Rather than try to bunker down, try to persuade leaders not to burden them with “low-value work” and attempt to convince them they can add more value up the food chain, internal comms pros have a unique window of opportunity to look critically at their current work portfolios, and find maximum opportunities to offload “low-value work” onto AI tools.

* Rather than obsess about our reporting lines, we should be offering additional support to C-suite leaders outside our reporting lines and to other ambitious leaders in the business.

The debate about whether IC should rightfully report into the CEO, or more naturally into HR or Marketing belies another huge opportunity that many #IC pros resist: seeking out opportunities to provide extra support to ambitious leaders in the business who would actually want and benefit from their support. 

While there is some potential risk – of taking on additional work or arousing the ire of one’s boss, the potential upside is huge: having additional senior stakeholders in your corner who will fight for you even when your own boss might consider you expendable.

* In addition to maximizing the use of AI tools in our own functions, we should be proactive in creating and driving broader narratives around AI-fueled transformation in our businesses.

Unlike the vast majority of leaders in organizations, comms pros are actually in the narrative business. 

And when AI unleashes multidimensional and multidirectional digital transformation – and does so without the down-to-the-detail governance and project management that once typified technology change – having a coherent narrative and clear priorities and guardrails will be the main way to avoid organizational chaos. 

This is a space we could own – and it’s available for a limited time only.

* We need to do what it takes to collect and create credible data that demonstrates alignment and understanding gaps in our organizations – and illustrates our ability to close those gaps.

I’m not talking about click rates, open rates and employee engagement scores.

I’m talking about starting with simple qualitative questions that produce a lot of data, data that can be easily analyzed, quantified, and used to illustrate both real gaps and the ability of effective comms to close those gaps.

* We need to take ownership of our own professional development – regardless of how much or how little budget we get from our organizations.

In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of organizations consider their “permanent” hires to have a short term shelf life.  That has them  pulling back from investing in training and development.

Having the attitude “my company isn’t paying/giving me time so I’m not going to do it for them” is brutally short-termist and self-defeating.

* If any or all of the above require us to do more than our “100% workload”, then we have to bite the bullet and do it.

Not forever. But for a short time – so we can demonstrate the relative value of higher-impact work and gain some influence over our own priorities.

I know there are huge complaints in the industry about mental health and overwork.  But expecting organizations to relieve our workloads with no initiative of our own can only add to the insanity. Finding an extra 10% to take on projects that can clearly prove your value and/or lead to low-value work being taken off your plate may well be worth the short-term discomfort of an added push.

I don’t intend for this to be an exhaustive list – but to challenge the prevalent feeling that our best hope is to try to defend ourselves from the ever-increasing power of AI and the never-ending appetite of clients and bosses for low-value executional work.  

Rather than fight these trends, we need to transcend them. And do it now.

It’s time to go all-in.

 

mike-klein-face
Mike Klein

Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a consultancy focused on internal, change and social communication. Mike has worked with organizations in the US and Europe for more than 20 years on pressing strategic communication challenges, and is a prolific writer and commentator on communication strategy topics. Mike is also the Founder of #WeLeadComms, an initiative to drive open recognition and in the communication profession. He holds an MBA from London Business School, and is a former US political consultant.

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