Tackling the riddle of internal communications

Meeting in an office
Photo by Thomas Drouault on Unsplash

Apple is famous, not just for the products it makes but for the culture of secrecy that pervades the organization. Is that healthy? Or is it restrictive? Depends on who you ask. 

We live in a world of pervasive industrial espionage where every advance made by leading technology and manufacturing companies is watched with extreme interest by competitors and regulators.

That brings up the question – how open should a company be with its employees? And does it even have to be are questions that every leader has wrestled with.

The values of leaders at the top pervade organizations. And influence all interactions and actions within. How work is done. How people treat each other. How they respond as individuals or as a team.

Internal Communications should be in sync with employee belief systems

Each employee in a company has a set of beliefs – personal, related to work, ambition, values, and views of the world. Devdutt Patnaik, an accomplished author, leader, and mythologist put it well: Mythology constructs beliefs, and beliefs impact behavior which in turn affects topline and bottomline of the organization. Hence, CBO!

For a time Patnaik was the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group because he defined his job as aligning the beliefs of the employees within with the goals of the organization.

That’s a great objective to shoot for – aligning internal beliefs for employees gives them a clear idea of what is expected and how it can be accomplished.

Templated Communication is broken

Intranets and forums have evolved with time and in most cases, been the thrust of internal communication strategies. 

As organizations spread geographically, they come up against the natural order synchronizing time schedules. One team collaborating with a team in a different part of the world has to align themselves to cultural, conversational and commercial differences before they can get things done.

Templates and strategies crafted by a small group of people may not work as well as letting employees define their own levels of comfort and what they need help with. That can prove to be tricky as recent events have demonstrated.

When Internal Communication becomes an external discussion

The Titans have had major internal issues. Microsoft on taking up defense projects, Facebook on the problem of election interference and Amazon on developing face recognition technologies.

Each of these problems has grown far beyond internal communication. They have spilled over into mainstream media and debated. When growth and opportunities run up against value systems, it goes into unpredictable realms.

No internal communication system is built to withstand these pressures and pulls. What starts off as an exchange of views within can quickly escalate to strong positions being taken, a hardening of attitudes and internal strife is the inevitable result.

If it goes outside the organization, it can attract opponents and supporters in equal measure to weigh in, which complicates things internally.

The pressure points in Internal Communications

Induction programs provide the perfect opportunity to communicate company culture

Town halls are important to test employee sentiment

There are no easy answers. 

Social media signals may be more authentic

Direct communication works better than implied 

Understanding the core of the company’s values and communicating it consistently gets buy-ins

Uncertainty saps morale faster than a quick clean-up

Tell employees how the industry you are in is evolving and what it means for them

Focus on learning. Or teaching. Less controversy that way

Being unfair and giving off mixed signals is toxic.

Here are examples of what Ideascape has done in internal communication. Our projects were simple and straightforward! We’ve not had to deal with the heavy lifting that has been described above and we prefer it that way.

To start off on a project, write to us at contact@ideascape.in