During my career as a consultant, a wide range of companies in America and Europe have hired my team to strengthen their Internal Communication and to help them design and apply Co-Created Internal Communication © Strategies.
But what does this mean? What do the companies really want when they ask for boost their Internal Communication? Basically, what they want are “technological tools”; they want us to help them create Internal Social Networks (Slack, Trello, Connect, Jam, Workplace, etc), Apps, Collaboration Tools, Wikis, and similar means of communication.
To be honest, those are the easiest things to sell. But these are the services I never promote (or at least, I never sell them at the beginning).
My approach is to focus on culture. Our consulting work always begins with a thorough analysis of the practices and culture of an organization. Although many companies have an idea of what they want from their internal communications, they do not necessarily know what they need.
That’s where I come in. I want to sleep well at night, knowing that I am adding long-term and sustainable value to companies and helping them to genuinely transform themselves by harnessing the loyalty and creativity of their workforce.
I believe, that we should distance ourselves from the “techno-centered” viewpoint focused on the media and use the culture of the organization as a “platform to launch communications”. People express themselves according to their personality and the same happens with companies. But instead of talking about personality, we use the word culture.
INTERNAL COMMUNICATION IS CULTURE IN MOTION
Internal Communication is Culture in motion and I think that the new communication follows several of the following paths:
Access and availability:
Co-Created Internal Communication © implies that companies provide their staff with broad access to information and data. Is this a test of faith? Of course it is! But let’s be honest: although many companies prefer to keep some information to themselves, nowadays it’s very easy to find whatever you want online.
Equality is a big word. But what does it mean in terms of Co-Created Internal Communication ©? It is reducing the imbalance between those who can create content and those who are only authorized to read and accept content.
Employees should be encouraged to create, enrich, release, discuss and reformulate contents. This calls for the organization to be sensitive to different experiences and individual representations and to avoid being tempted to reduce them or group them under only one model of things able to be said or thought.
In practice, you’ll see if the people want or deem it necessary to take advantage of these spaces to create contents or if they prefer to engage in lurking and consume information without commenting or taking part in the debate. Involvement and trust are two sides of the same coin. Involvement is a learning process, a test of value. You don’t get involved overnight. And even less when the previous logic was one of punishment, arrogance, imposition or order.
Collective Construction and Collaboration:
We need to accept that good ideas can come from anywhere, especially from the “bottom” of the pyramid. The challenge is to organize diversity, to articulate the differences and to get micro-actions or ideas together before they are dissolved. The benefit: to strengthen collective intelligence and to change from implied knowledge to expressed knowledge.
Listening, replying and taking action:
In my Co-Created Internal Communication © model, expression is the main value. When companies adhere to this culture, they minimize the logic of “broadcasting” and get ready to listen to the staff because they are truly willing to know what they think. They also take on the responsibility to reply to whatever is said and, most importantly, to do something about what they hear.
In one company we suggested that the “Customer Care Manual” should be prepared by the employees under a Co-Created Internal Communication © model where everybody could give their ideas and where the best ideas would be chosen regardless of the author’s formal hierarchy.
We faced a really big challenge: get the leaders to accept and believe that the people who dealt with customers were smart, knew a lot, knew even more than them (that turned out to be heretic on my part and I was almost hanged!) and therefore, they were encouraged to do the following:
a. To think together
b. To write together
c. To decide together
This is how the story ended: the “Customer Care Manual” turned out to be excellent, with millions of productive ideas, many more than if it had been written by a boss or a know-it- all consultant. A blow to the ego? Yes, all the 1.0 leaders’ egos were bruised. But the CEO, who I know well, told me later: “Ale, until now, I didn’t know that my company was full of so much talent at the base of the pyramid. Maybe it is time to redesign it. Thanks for showing it to me.”