“Our best people fail the most” – Melcrum Summit 2013 internal communications

I recently attended the Melcrum Summit 2013 – and it was two days of non-stop discussion and insight into the world of internal communications. The art, the passion and the science of performance in internal communications …. a fascinating mix of art and commerce. Here are my observations:

Internal communications is a people business

Obvious, yes I know. But it’s good to stop and remember that we are all humans.  As internal communicators we are at the centre of a group of people. Our team, other departments, stakeholders, senior management, and, of course, employees. Within each of those groups are people. We each are responding to (struggling with, at times) the daily forces of the 21st century. Speed-of-sound communications is making it hard to process and act – and social networks have blurred the lines between what happens inside and outside the office.

Here are my five biggest Aha! moments from those two days. (You can find a nice round up of case studies that were presented at the event here)

  1. “Every day we go to work and fail. Our best people fail the most” This is part of the Novartis culture, part of the vision for their employees. Imagine how powerful a message that is for their employees to receive, believe and live. It inspires the very best in people, because it is removing the fear of failure.
  2. The importance of having two dashboards – You need to have a measurement dashboard that connects what you do everyday to the priorities set by your CEO. If you can measure it, you can move it. It’s numbers with CEOs, that’s what they buy into, before they agree to more budget to move it more. If you have success doing this, you’ll see a shift in your role from just another department to advisory. What’s the second dashboard? One for employees. Just as with CEOs, employees need to see numbers and results to buy into the organisation. A bit different than ‘bottom line’ economics the CEO wants, the numbers and results employees need are more emotional, and gives them a line of sight across the organisation. It should show how well everyone is doing, in whatever the objectives are: customer retention, improved safety, increased sales, etc. Think about what you need to put into these two types of internal communications dashboards.
  3. There are few hiding places for companies in today’s world – The lines everywhere are blurred. Internal and external. Partnerships in internal communications are so important now. You should align with corporate communications, align with public relations, align messaging to happen in real time. So easy to write here, isn’t it? But it was a point made throughout the two days.
  4. Information is beautiful – The theme of the Melcrum event was ‘The Art & Science of Performance’ in internal communications. – A whole new view of data is one that makes it art. If it is told in a beautiful way, we humans can absorb and understand it so much better. Infographs are extremely popular for this very reason. They help us process and make sense of the information we’re given, and can use it to make us more effective at our jobs. It engages us and helps us understand the story. Storytelling is the future in internal communications.
  5. Yes, you can reach all employees – With so much emphasis on ‘online’ and social business networks, there can be a feeling of urgency to get ‘everyone online’ in order to reach them. It’s important to take a step back, and think of other ways to effectively reach offline employees. For example, two thirds of Avery Dennison’s  employees are on the work floor, without internet access. Avery Dennison reviewed how to eliminate paper, yet still reach this group of employees. Rather than strive for reaching them somehow online, they took a small first step – moving from the current channel of paper to real face-to-face conversation. This move immediately increased employee engagement. Why? The conversations provided immediate measurement and the organization could course correction right there on the spot in reaching and engaging these employees.


If you’d like to get insight into the three types of engagement you need to focus on to increase the effectiveness of your communications, with case studies – you will want to watch our webinar with Andrew Blacknell, a seasoned IC professional with over 20 years experience in internal communications and change management,  Drive Employee Engagement Through Communications.


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