Increasingly, corporate leaders are recognising the value of Internal Communications and are looking for IC leaders to bring their voice to the top table. C-Suite executives are starting to understand that employee engagement is directly connected to business outcomes, that retention and advocacy from employees can be directly linked to the bottom line, and that it is possible to identify the direct financial impact of excellent internal communications.
So, what are the C-Suite looking for from Internal Communications leaders and their teams? We look at the top 5 behaviours and outcomes that your board and shareholders want to see from you today.
Value to the business (and the data that proves it)
With the innate value of internal communications increasingly understood at board level, C-Suite execs are looking for hard data that can connect the dots between IC efforts, employee engagement and business success, and it is in the IC leader’s gift to demonstrate this. Combining the output from tools such as Ripple’s Campaign Dashboard with employee engagement surveys can provide valuable data on the combinations of messages, channels, styles and approaches that have the greatest impact on employee engagement. With engagement not just a simple measure of happiness but rather an indicator of valuable employee behaviours – such as likelihood to stay, willingness to refer a friend, and productivity – it can clearly be linked to business value. A cash value can be assigned to lowering the risk of employee attrition, reducing recruitment costs, and driving up employee output, directly linking the efforts of the IC function to the organisation’s overall success.
Take away: With the right communications tools and engagement metrics you can show up at the board with the numbers, the hard facts, and the story that proves business value for every successful campaign.
Credibility and depth of knowledge
Executive leaders want and need their IC teams to be both expert communicators and credible business principals with the ability to understand and navigate the issues and priorities that affect the business as a whole. From senior management to junior practitioner, IC team members should be able to demonstrate sound business acumen – this will include financial literacy, stakeholder awareness and organisational knowledge as well as the confidence to be able to apply those skills in the context of challenges that affect the wider business. IC teams have the opportunity to exemplify this every day in the way they plan and schedule communications in line with the business calendar, and frame compelling messages to drive employee engagement.
Take away: Appreciate that your C-Suite knows that IC is more than the visual output, and values the thinking, the planning and the wider business knowledge that sits behind each internal communications campaign.
Support and understanding
The C-Suite need to have the confidence that their IC teams will understand the needs of the organisational leadership, to deliver the right support at the right time. Whether this is helping to manage change across the organisation – by planning and executing a finely tuned narrative across multiple channels – or gathering intelligence and understanding employee attitudes to inform strategic thought, the C-Suite rely on a capable IC team to have the right tools and resources to execute the solution. In the event of a business crisis, leaders will also look to the IC team to provide expert advice on how to respond to colleagues, to educate and avert long term impact on engagement.
Take away: As IC experts, your C-Suite is also looking for you to be their internal PR team, with a depth of knowledge across business challenges and affairs that means you are equally equipped to react quickly and effectively to unexpected change, crisis or even success.
IC veteran Mike Klein interviewed C-suite executives for his series on the future of internal communications and, in the report, these industry leaders stated that they were looking for internal communicators to be proactive about entering and participating in strategic discussions. The more the IC team can demonstrate depth of critical business knowledge, the more the C-Suite can – and will – rely on communications leaders to play a part in shaping strategic direction. CEOs understand that the chances of successfully implementing strategic initiatives are significantly improved if employees understand the part they play in the delivery, and how they can support key objectives. This puts IC activities right at the heart of strategic change in any business and calls for IC leaders to be part of the process from conception through to execution and evaluation.
Take away: Recognise your role as an IC leader in acting as a counsellor and advisor in strategic planning and decision making, and be proactive in lending that knowledge and expertise.
Engage the business
Most importantly of all, C-Suite executives know that their IC team is the best route to engaging their most valuable of resources – their employees. They want to be confident that their IC professionals have the tools they need to plan, execute and measure strategic communications in line with overall business objectives. Tools such as Ripple’s Planner, Publisher, and Campaign Dashboard give IC teams a reliable mechanism for meeting the expectations of senior leaders and provide them with the confidence and the space they need to put their energies into strategic planning, creative thinking, and maintaining a wider business view.
Take away: Look to remove repetitive or manual tasks wherever possible, to free up your teams to establish their wider business knowledge. Establish a communications platform – such as Ripple – that you can rely on, that gives you the flexibility to plan long term but also to adjust those plans in times of crisis. Ensure you have the capabilities you need to be confident that you can engage your employees right where they work, by being able to target your campaigns, and deliver the right content in the right channel.