Internal communications: necessity or luxury

I recently read an article from a few years ago that suggests, as I’m sure many of us ourselves have from time to time believed, that corporate culture crushes creativity.

I do not entirely agree with this argument as some of the most creative people I’ve worked with in marcomms have worked as part of large organisations you could describe as having a ‘corporate mentality’.

So, what is the key to achieving a culture where we empower employees at all levels to be creative and share accountability without following in the footsteps of Apple or Google? Not all organisations can put in ‘nap rooms’, ‘thought pods’ or have an office designed like a teenage boy’s bedroom and ‘dress like a pirate day’ or casual Friday might not always be appropriate. Especially if you work in the public sector where you are often held to higher levels of accountability by the public than shareholders looking out for their financial stake in a private firm.

As suggested in the article the key is for everyone throughout an organisation to be focused on what goal they are trying to achieve. Companies that have a clear vision and well defined strategic plans are the ones I have always enjoyed working for the most and that focus on demonstrable benefits delivered.

This is where good internal communications and organisational development come in. In the current economic climate many organisations are focusing their investment on external communications, believing that good internal communications is a luxury. For me it is a ‘no brainer’. Employees are happier, and therefore more productive, if they understand what a company is trying to achieve, what their part is in achieving it and feel valued for their contribution. There has been much research both in the public and private sectors that supports this idea:

• In 2008 a study of 90,000 employees by Towers Perrin found that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement achieve better financial results and retained staff. A similar study by Watson Wyatt showed that firms that communicate effectively internally can expect up to 20% higher financial returns

• A survey by Towers Watson in 2010 found that in the private sector, engagement stayed high in high performing companies through the recession resulting in improved product quality

• In the public sector Ipsos MORI research has shown that councils that perform most effectively are most likely to have staff who would speak up for their council externally and where they keep their staff well informed they are rewarded with more motivated staff

• The LG Communications and LGA New Reputation Guide states that employees who are engaged and who understand and live and breathe the values of the organisation are likely to be 43% more productive, perform up to 20% more effectively and take 3.5 fewer sick days per year.

With the degree of change and uncertainty employees are feeling at work internal communications should a necessity not luxury.

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