Making the business case for IC. Part 1: Remind the Boss That Internal Communications Saved the Day
— September 1st, 2020
So you finally have the seat at the table you’ve been longing for. With budget season on the horizon now is a great time to remind those sitting around you about the value your team – internal communications – brings to the organization.
Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, a sense of purpose, connectivity in a distributed world, and the almighty bottom line – these are all topics that should be addressed when making your case to the person holding the purse strings.
Front and Center
The Covid-19 pandemic finally put Internal Comms front and center.
- When tens of millions of employees suddenly had to work from home...
- When we really didn’t have a grip on what coronavirus was or how it spread...
- When technology suddenly had to shift to accommodate stressed, distributed frameworks...
- When executives suddenly had to conduct town hall meetings from their bedrooms…
- When we all thought we’d be back in the office by now...
How to make the business case for employee communications and engagement technology
Internal Communications was on the frontlines to ensure that all messages were timely, clear, and acted on.
Companies struggled – first in Europe, then in the United States – with how to function in a severely disrupted work environment. It was up to Internal Comms to deliver the goods in three main areas:
- Health and safety
- Technology and connectivity
- Keeping morale high and employees in-the-know
You must remind the C-suite of this fact: communications saved the day.
Since Internal Comms went above and beyond in 2020, you’d think it would be easier than ever to get what you ask for in the upcoming budget request. And yet here we are again...struggling to justify an “overhead cost,” fighting not to have your budget cut, and begging for more funds to increase the size of your team or modernize outdated employee engagement systems.
Seasoned IC professionals are so familiar with the benefits our profession brings to a company that it’s like oxygen -- we breathe the facts. We know that high rates of employee engagement are tied to important company metrics, like productivity, innovation, retention, performance, happiness, and profit generation.
- There’s plenty of research out there that justifies what we do for a living.
Yet we forget that we still operate in our own thought bubble. For many leaders, it just hasn’t clicked that the things they need for their company to be successful -- mainly knowledgable and inspired employees -- are cultivated by what IC does day in, day out.
- As tired as it may be for us, it’s important you run through IC’s fundamental benefits and contributions with your leadership.
In your budget pitch, quickly remind leaders that highly engaged employees make for a more productive, profitable, and competitive organization. Startle decision-makers with eye-popping stats, like:
- Poor communications results in about $15,000 of wasted time per employee, each year. (The Grossman Group)
- 47% of workers are "not engaged" -- they are psychologically unattached to their work and company. They're also on the lookout for better employment opportunities and will quickly leave their company for a slightly better offer. (Gallup)
- Organizations with highly effective communication strategies are likely to outperform their industry peers by a factor of 3.5. (Poppulo)
Remind your leadership that Internal Communications is there to remedy ills like the three listed above by improving and streamlining communication and boosting employee engagement.
- These efforts hit the C-suite where it matters most: the bottom line.
- There’s plenty of easily accessible research on the importance of an engaged workforce.
- Get started in finding useful stats, infographics, and pie charts with Poppulo’s white papers and Gallup’s research.
Show, Don’t Tell
Executives love data, especially figures that boost market share and profits. During this tumultuous year, your team shifted strategies on-the-fly and executed dozens of communications tactics that helped the company adjust to a crazy reality. Now is the time to let those numbers shine.
Stay away from shallow metrics, like the number of emails sent, newsletter open rates, and instances of social activity on the intranet. Those metrics are important for your team, no doubt, because they give you a sense of how your team is performing on a daily basis.
- But executives don’t care about the nitty-gritty of what your team grinds out every day. That stuff is table stakes anyway.
Show metrics that affect the company’s bottom line, such as:
- How your team bolstered employee retention or limited churn
- Satisfaction with executive leadership and communications, because 71% of executives believe strong leadership leads to success
- Installations of new software and cybersecurity tools on home computers that keep the firm (and clients) safe
- Decreases in calls to the help desk over time, so tech support could work on bigger issues
- The publication and maintenance of a Covid-19-specific microsite or resource center, because when it comes to information about the coronavirus, 63% of people trust their employer more than the federal government (U.S.)
- Videos and messages written, produced, and sent on behalf of senior leaders (In this instance, shallow metrics are good to share when they’re about senior leaders, because egos need to be massaged.)
Lastly, we live in a moment where
- Black Lives Matter
- Essential workers aren’t lawyers, CEOs, or salespeople, but rather are humble cooks, delivery people, grocery clerks, and nurses
- Political divisiveness stoked by media echo chambers is at a frenzy
- Economies are in recession and unemployment is sky high
All of this on top of a transformation that was already underway. Last year the Business Roundtable, which is made up of 181 of America’s top CEOs, declared that driving shareholder value is no longer the primary concern of corporations.
Employees, especially younger generations want to work for something greater than themselves. Increasingly executive leadership, often made up of the Baby Boomer generation, is embracing that idea.
Activating that sense of purpose “is impossible without storytelling, at both the corporate and individual levels,” says John Coleman in a Harvard Business Review essay. He continues:
While purpose is essential to a strong corporate culture, it is often activated and reinforced through narrative. Individuals must learn to connect their drives to the organization’s purpose and to articulate their story to others.
- Who is going to uncover the narrative?
- Who is going to tell those stories?
- Who is going to connect an organization’s purpose to an employee’s drive?
Internal Communications, that’s who.
Don't miss Parts 2 and 3 of this Poppulo series on making the business case for investment in Employee Communications.
Part 2: The Chaos Around Covid-19 Is Past Us. That’s Why Employee Communication Is Even More Vital. It will be published on Wednesday, September 9.
In the final part of the series, Shaun Randol will focus on employee comms in The merging workplace of the future. It will be published on Wednesday, September 16.