Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Editor’s note: This article was published in full on the blog Todo Significa. Its author, Alejandro Formanchuk, is chairman of the Argentine Internal Communication Association, CEO at Formanchuk & Asoc., specialist in Corporate Communication and lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires. He has been kind enough to let us publish a summarized version on ZyncroBlog. Thanks, Alejandro!
We strongly recommend you follow his blog Todo Significa. There, you’ll find the best strategies and tools for internal communication.
Many people ask what does internal communication do? They’re quite right to be curious.
In this piece, I’ll discuss “The Model of the 7 Areas of Value in Internal Communication”. I’ll give the key areas where internal communication can and should intervene in bringing value to an organization.
Each area is interconnected, making up a system and tracing a spiral path (not circular) where the picture is changed with each turn of the spiral.
The 7 Areas of Value:
1. Essential: That the organization exists
An organization is born from a conversation, it is the result of a “conversational commitment”. Everything starts with dialog, with a founding word that sets the wheel into motion.
Once the project is configured, communication comes into play again to get it going. An “organization” is two or more people who become linked to achieve their objectives; they coordinate their activities, time, resources and responsibilities.
If we look at the etymological root of the word, we’ll discover that the word “communication” means “make common”. For that reason, I believe it is a key resource, because, whether it’s a family, a multinational enterprise or a nation, they must generate meeting points to achieve their goals.
We could even say that communication is more than a “resource”, it’s the “being” of the organization, its fuel, its vital blood; if there is no communication, the organized activity ceases to exist
2. Operational: That people know how to do their work
The next step is for people to go into action to achieve the objectives set. Time to work. Internal communication plays a key role in this stage so that everyone knows what they have to do, why they are there and what is expected of them. The basics, the must-know stuff, the essentials.
This means communicating:
- Who they are working for: What is the organization, how is it made up, what place it holds in the company, in the market, etc.
- Where they are working: What is their place within the structure, who they answer to, what are the links and relationships.
- What are the rules of work: schedules, procedures, codes, places, spaces, regulations, etc.
- What they have to do today: Information on their position, their work and their activities.
- What they have to do tomorrow: Everything that affects them, like changes in procedures, schedules, tasks or responsibilities.
3. Strategic: That they know why they must do it
When we implement internal communication actions within a strategic plan, we do it with the aim that all members of the organization know why they do what they do.
A good example of this can be found in the story of three men who were laying bricks. When all three are asked about their work, the first man replies that he is “laying one brick on top of another”. The second says, “building a wall”, and the third “building a church for the people”.
The different answers are due to those different “strategic communications” that each man received from the organization. We can assume that the last man will be the one who will give his all to the job because:
- He feels focused: He knows where he is going to. He knows the path, the goals, the vision and mission of the organization.
- He feels committed: He knows what his personal goals are and how his effort will help achieve the global goal.
- He feels respected: He is no longer a simple “bricklayer”.
- He feels valued: Someone explained to him the importance of his work and told him the final goal.
- He feels motivated: He works for a greater and more important cause.
- He feels integrated: He forms part of a team and hows what the impact of his task is on the rest.
- He feels content: Knowing the goal of the task helps to lower conflict and bad feeling created by uncertainty, among other things. People who don’t receive strategic communication can end up considering that many things they do are useless or the organization gets them to do them out of whim, malice or stupidity.
3. Cultural: That they know how they must do it
Let’s some add flavor to the previous story, I believe the last man will give his best if as well as knowing the objective, he shares it.
This encourages us to reflect on the importance of aligning the values and objectives of the organization with those of its members (and viceversa), so that the people participate on a deeper level in their task, experience the significance of their actions and feel proud about the way they “do things”.
Because, when it comes down to it, organizations all over the world have similar objectives. What differentiates each organization is their way of achieving those goals.
For that reason, a person can join a company with much enthusiasm, but a week later, flee terrified by what they saw, discovered, by the MO, by the way in which things are done and achieved.
Managing the “cultural area” means communicating:
- How things are done in the organization
- What the culture, values, rules, codes, principles and ethics are.
- What is allowedand what is not.
- What is above all.
Apart from stating it (the easiest part), it must be demonstrated with facts. Communicating values is one of the most difficult aspects to manage because it must be 100% true, demonstrable and applicable.
There’s no room for error. In an organization, the objectives, tasks and responsibilities can change, but the values and culture are not flexible, they are not circumstantial.
The organization is established with principles (although they are not written down nor are people fully aware of them at the time) and it must take responsibility for its choices and the consequences. If the organization is set up with good values and they are correctly communicated, integration, unity, strength and attraction can be achieved.
5. Motivational: That they want to do it
People know how to do their work, they know why they must do it, they know how to do… now they’re only missing the most important part: they must want to do it!
Motivating others is a challenge. It requires crafted, personalized and painstaking work because each person has individual interests. When you work the “motivational area”, try to generate positive communications so that people:
- Feel proud to form part of the company.
- See prospects of growth and opportunity.
- Feel that the company is fair and that everyone gets what they deserve.
- Feel understood, valued and listened to.
- Feel treated like an individual, not simply a “human resource”.
- Have a positive attitude that promotes a good working environment and interpersonal relationships
6. Learning: That they know how they are doing
While the person performs the task, you should open a “learning area”, a communication space in which feedback is given on how they are doing in their job, and if necessary, making adjustments, changing something or telling them to continue as is. The key is that each member knows how they can improve what they are doing.
The learning space must be simultaneous to the task. What’s the point of giving someone feedback every 12 months? It’s crazy. It’s not going to help anyone.
Then, the communicators, we need to ensure that the organization:
- Opens spaces for dialog.
- Clearly defines what it expects of each individual.
- Pays attention to people and their performance.
- Finds objective actions for evaluation.
- Acts with fairness.
- Transmits the idea that adjustments are normal and positive.
- Chooses the right people to give feedback.
- Assumes feedback as part of its culture and not a mere tool.
- Brings feedback constantly and not just at the end of year or when some external regulation requires it.
7. Intelligence: That they suggest how to do it better
Finally we reach this area, which I call “intelligence” because it involves opening a space for dialog where people can bring their ideas and suggestions on how to improve the organization.
The impact of this area is enormous for the organization because:
- It enables it to grow, learn and improve.
- It gives the possibility of getting ahead on changes or challenges.
- It motivates people, because we all like to be treated like intelligent people and feel that they listen to us, value our contribution, reward our ideas and let us to carry those initiatives out.
- It encourages human capital.
This participative space can also give rise to the start of the process, in the “operational” phase. There people can make proposals and define jointly the action plan. But it is also useful when it opens onto the end of the journey, once the job is done, once they have experience. It’s the famous bottom-up feedback.
My intention with this post is to show that internal communication finds, wins, keeps and extends more genuine spaces within organizations. Organizations shouldn’t use internal communication to exaggerate their promises or reject its immense power of action and transformation.
Faced with the question at the start on the usefulness of internal communication, I conclude by saying that it is tool that lets the organization to exist and the people:
- Know their work
- Know why they do it
- Know how to do it
- Want to do it
- Know how they did it
- Propose how they can make it better