There's Never Been a Better Time to Make a Strong Case for an Increased IC Budget
— September 17th, 2021
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to come around once a year, aside from another birthday, it’s the annual budget round.
As an Internal Communicator (IC) does that fill you with dread? Do you submit a random figure hoping you might get lucky? Do you add an X% increase to last year and cross your fingers, or do you use it as a time to really showcase your effectiveness by submitting a robust business case with supporting evidence?
It can be a challenge. There will be organizations that have the necessary tools and resources to do this, while others will have to work harder to obtain supporting evidence.
Poppulo Webinar: 3 Strategies to Get the IC Budget You Need
This year, more than ever, Internal Communicators have the ear of senior leaders with Gallagher demonstrating that over 66% feel their influence has increased (State of the Sector, 2021).
That, along with the prioritization of re-engaging our people in a post-pandemic workplace makes it the perfect time to leverage the power of IC.
According to Gallagher, a typical IC budget in 2021 ranges anywhere between £82k to £227k (excluding salaries and platforms) for organizations with between 500 and 50,000 employees.
How does that compare to your budget and how are you ensuring that you have the appropriate funds for 2022?
Let’s have a look at some key areas to consider as you put in your bids for next year.
1. Align to your organization goals and objectives
First, take a step back and think about what you want to achieve as a communicator.
Many colleagues will still be adapting to hybrid working; trust needs to be re-built as safety and wellbeing remain priorities and leadership visibility is key, with active two-way listening playing a major role.
Key topics for communication next year include
- Health and wellbeing
- Purpose and strategy
- Colleague stories, recognition, and celebration
- Social responsibility, ethics, and values
What are your key organization priorities? Talk to key stakeholders about their plans, what they need to achieve and how you can help.
Will it require new channels? More resource? Demonstrating how communications will support these plans will increase budget prioritization.
2. Review your evidence
Where have you achieved success with your IC this year and how can you use that to influence next year’s budget?
This is where measurement is crucial.
Poppulo Insights: The Ultimate Guide to Measuring Internal Communications
What do you/can you measure in terms of your IC? Start with a view of this years’ performance. Think about measures for:
How have your communications moved your employee engagement needle?
One company that I worked with correlated the value of listening sessions and the resulting communications, with an increase in employee engagement by asking a specific question around employee voice in its Employee Engagement Survey and comparing it to the previous year where no listening sessions were held.
This resulted in budget for an increased number of sessions the following year.
Another directly linked increased engagement to a pilot for a new social media channel for sharing stories and recognition, which secured an increased investment in the channel.
Review your surveys and employee feedback to find measures that support your future requirements.
Most engagement platforms and apps will offer measurement dashboards (take a look at Poppulo’s for a great example). Look at open rates, click-throughs and likes for your communications year on year and highlight areas of increased engagement.
You may also be able to correlate these to verbatim comments in other IC or Pulse surveys to really bring these to life.
From your data you’ll be able to produce a channels audit to highlight what’s working well and what may need further investigation or even replacing.
By showing that you’ve done your homework, you will increase the confidence of the budget holder.
In the current employment market, employees are taking a closer look at what they consider important in an employer. As every HR person knows losing employees costs a company not only in terms of money but also in time and productivity.
The Work Institute (Retention Report 2020) shows that poor communication is showing one of the highest gains for why employees are leaving their jobs.
Talk to your HR Team to understand the impact of losing an employee in your business and look for metrics to demonstrate how communication can help to reduce attrition.
3. Do your research
Communications tools, particularly technology, are improving all the time. Do your research and look at the market before you bid for technology.
Are you getting value for money from your existing supplier? Are there new entrants that may be able to offer an improved or more cost-effective solution?
It’s our professional role as ICs to keep up to date with the market, so showing that we’re on top of this increases confidence.
Write a report of your findings, clearly demonstrating the benefits of your requirements vs existing and/or competitive products.
This equally applies to other communications channels. I was once questioned by Procurement on the value of my company’s annual Conference.
Requiring a major budget investment during a period of cost-cutting it was perceived as an unnecessary level of expenditure.
Having done my research, I was able to clearly demonstrate not only a return on investment in terms of employee engagement scores, but also provide a detailed comparison of the value and consistency that my team brought to designing and delivering the event vs alternatives.
Not only did we secure the budget, but it was also never challenged again while I worked for the organization!
4. Demonstrate your value
Once you’ve built your case, align it to industry benchmarks. According to Gallagher State of the Sector, only 5% of ICs currently do this consistently. Demonstrating how your organization compares to your sector is powerful. What CEO or Senior Leader doesn’t want to be in the top performance quartile?
5. Use your influencers
Finally, use the power of your influencers to support your case. Talk to the stakeholders who will benefit from your communications and share your plans with them. Familiarize them with how you can support them to achieve their goals, especially with some of the key measures discussed above.
The best communications leaders I have worked with create dashboards that clearly demonstrate the value of IC to the bottom line and share this regularly with key stakeholders. Understanding the value of IC in this way will hugely support your case when it comes to securing the budget you need.
Back in 2011, The Holmes Report showed that the cost of poor communication was estimated to be $62.4m per year due to employee misunderstanding or receiving misinformation about company policies, business processes, job function or a combination.
It also goes on to show that companies that have leaders who are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that have leaders who are the least effective communicators.
As Internal Communicators, now is the perfect time to secure and retain our seat at the table, not only by demonstrating the benefits of our discipline but also being able to evidence the tangible value that it brings to the bottom line of organizations.
Use your findings to plan your future metrics, so that this time next year you have a robust set of measures to secure your budget bid.