5 Tips to Solve the Top Challenges for Small Internal Communication Teams
— November 1st, 2023
In a world where internal communication teams often resemble a minuscule crew, it’s no surprise that phrases like “non-existent” or “barely there” might spring to mind when you describe your own team.
Trust me, you’re not alone in this struggle. According to recent findings by Gallagher, the average size of internal communication teams in organizations with up to 499 employees is a mere 2.3 people. Those slightly bigger, with 500 to 1,499 employees, reach an average of only 2.8 team members.
I’ve been there myself, facing the challenges of steering a small internal communication team that sometimes felt like a one-person show (or was in fact a one-person show).
From playing the role of the metaphorical cook, whipping up strategies, to being the bottle washer, managing the day-to-day tasks—it can be a real balancing act.
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While being part of a small but mighty team can be incredibly rewarding, it’s not without its challenges. To help you navigate these common obstacles and find the bright spots within them, I’ve compiled five tips that will help you, even on the toughest days. Let’s dive in.
- Defining a Vision for Your Team’s Purpose
In many organizations, the internal communication team is often confined to the role of email deployment, which is a limiting and narrow vision.
When you’re on a small team or working solo, you have a remarkable opportunity to redefine what internal communication represents. Seize this chance to establish its identity as more than a mere copy-paste-send operation or an administrative extension.
Instead, aim to position internal communication as a function recognized for its strategic communication, collaborative partnerships, executive counsel, and storytelling capabilities. You hold the power to shape and elevate its narrative, moving beyond traditional expectations and expanding its role within the organization.
- Prioritizing and Setting SMART Goal
Acknowledging your limitations is the first step in charting a successful path. Even the most highly organized, efficient, and ambitious individuals aren’t superheroes.
While ambition is admirable, it’s equally crucial to ground your goals in the reality of your situation. Striving for stretch goals within your capacity is commendable, but remember that some constraints, like budget limitations, may be beyond your control.
To ensure your goals remain both ambitious and achievable, consider adopting the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) framework. SMART goals provide a structured approach that helps you define your objectives clearly, measure your progress, and stay on track.
By aligning your goals with this framework, you can maintain a healthy balance between ambition and realism as you navigate the unique challenges of life on a small internal communication team.
- Navigating Real vs. Fake Fires
In internal communication, distinguishing between real fires and fake fires is crucial. This corporate jargon refers to unexpected, high-intensity disruptions. Real fires encompass crises like malware attacks or employee tragedies, while fake fires arise due to a lack of preparation.
To make this distinction, consider three key questions:
— Does not communicating immediately endanger physical safety?
— Does it harm the organization’s reputation?
— Does it pose a financial risk?
If the answer is "no" to all three, it’s likely a fake fire. Address it and educate internal clients on the benefits of proactive involvement for better service. Be honest about your capabilities, and emphasize how proactive engagement enhances efficiency, making your small team more effective.
- Embracing Growth Over Complacency
In a small team, sticking to the familiar might seem like the safest route. When you’re struggling to keep the lights on, maintaining the status quo may seem like the only viable option choice. However, this path often leads to missed opportunities, a stagnant work environment, and stunted professional growth.
To avoid the trap of complacency, you must have the courage to step beyond your comfort zone. Making a difference requires innovation and a willingness to take risks. It involves embracing new strategies, harnessing technology, and engaging in authentic conversations that drive positive change.
Dedicate time, even if it’s just one hour a week, or ideally, every day, to focus on the bigger picture. Gradually, step by step, you can make a more significant impact and unlock the potential for growth that lies beyond the allure of comfort.
- Advocating for Your Team’s Achievements
“Tooting your own horn” may feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re naturally modest. However, neglecting to showcase your team’s internal communication successes risks your function being overlooked. When it’s budget season, a robust track record of achievements is essential.
Integrate your successes into regular one-on-one meetings with your boss or request to present them in broader team settings. Strike the right balance between confidence and humility.
Let your accomplishments speak through data-backed narratives. For example, when discussing a new intranet launch, use performance metrics like daily active users, unique page views, and total time spent on the site. Present these facts objectively, emphasizing milestones and exceeding goals when applicable.
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Each metric enhances your impact within the organization and can bolster resource requests. Demonstrating your value through metrics can lead to tangible outcomes, like securing a $15,000 budget increase in a year, even after initial skepticism.
Another effective method is the problem-solution comparison. Identify an issue, outline your strategy for resolution, and provide data and feedback to validate your solution's success. These evidence-based approaches speak volumes about your contributions to your small team’s triumphs.
As you navigate the unique challenges of life on a small internal communication team, remember that each step you take contributes to your team’s success.
And if you want to dive deeper into these strategies, my book, “Me, Myself, and IC: A Guide to Building Internal Communication as a Team of One,” provides comprehensive guidance to empower solo internal communication professionals.
It's a resource designed to help you establish a robust foundation and achieve success in the ever-evolving landscape of internal communication.