I recently started a discussion on my company’s group on Linkedin about using the site as an Internal Communications channel. The main strands of the feedback were:
- We don’t need yet another channel to have to keep an eye on
- Fear that ex-staff are also part of the group
- Fear over security features on the site
- The lawyers said no!
I was somewhat surprised at the push back until I realised that it was my fault for not positioning the idea quite as I had intended.
My own considered definition of Internal Communication is likely to be very different from everyone else around here – after all, I’m the only one who thinks about it all day every day, and occasionally wakes up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night thinking about it too…
Most people not immersed in the dark art would naturally assume that Internal Communication is communication exclusively within an organisation. The fact is, these days with the speed, ease and penetration of digital and mobile communication, there is growing convergence between internal and external communications. There has to be.
One reason for this is simply because staff are participating in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter in ever increasing numbers. And just as we can’t and shouldn’t attempt to regulate what they say to their friends in the pub or their family across the dinner table about what it’s like to work here, we should not attempt to do so online either.
Most staff are natural and willing advocates of the company they work for, and rather than trying to script them with carefully crafted words, or banning them from contributing to certain online communities, or threatening them with disciplinary action if they cross some digital line, surely companies are far better off working hard to constantly improve their experience at work.
The growth of social media channels is making even email look very slow and cumbersome these days, and communications professionals have to assume that anything broadcast internally has the potential to reach the outside world within seconds – and spread across the globe just as quickly. At best, IT security measures can only ever hope to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted and provide the necessary evidence to invoke disciplinary procedures.
Of course there have to be some rules and there certainly has to be some advice and guidance. But demonstrating trust in people and creating a climate of authentic advocacy through increased transparency, openness, humility, honesty, integrity, personal growth, professional development, meaningful work and fun looks to me a lot more effective and rewarding.
I agree that we should not be in the business of creating more places where people are expected to have to visit to find information or provide give feedback. That was never in my mind. I know how hard it is to drive traffic to a single very accessible source already, let alone encourage them to contribute to discussions and leave feedback.
My thinking here was simply that where you have an existing pervasive channel it feels like a lost opportunity to ignore it just because it is external. It would only ever be a complementary alternative place for people to find out what is going on and have their say in case they were finding it hard to find their way to the single source of corporate truth that is the intranet.
The presence of ex-staff is a complete bonus! I’d like to think that most people that have moved on from the company still love the place. Academic institutions and many large companies make an effort to keep in touch with their Alumni and so should we. Plus their perspective on issues has real value. They are just as likely as current staff to be customers and investors.
Oh yes – nearly forgot. It came as no surprise that Legal would be so dismissive. I think it’s time to go and talk to them!