The Insiders’ Guide to Employee Communications

By Poppulo

Table of Contents

How to improve measurable results and add the value leaders want

There is increasing pressure on internal communicators to add business value instead of being seen as cost centers, to be drivers of business results and not simply communication activity. Here are key steps to getting there.

1. Don’t just focus on formal communications channels

The communications system in its entirety must be managed: leaders, systems and formal channels.

What leaders say and do has the most impact, so focus on getting leaders on board.


2. Select a leadership champion

Someone in a senior position with personal power, who knows the organization and is connected to people through it, and is operations-oriented.

3. Select a teacher/mentor

Because the leadership champion isn’t going to be the person working on the ground with you, you need to seek out someone who has done this before and who can be there to show you the way: this can be someone from within or an experienced advisor from outside the organization.

4. Pick a pilot project, start small

Choose a small change project with a good chance of success. Involve people in the process of creating a change they can own, that they can make happen and that they can celebrate when it’s a success. This success will appeal to others, who will seek to replicate it throughout the organization.

Here are some questions to help identify where the change opportunities exist:

  • Where are the best opportunities to improve results by better managing communication?
  • What’s the size of the opportunity?
  • What are the root causes of the underperformance?
  • What will it cost to improve?
  • Is the Return on Investment (ROI) acceptable?

Important: Note the important first question: “where are the best opportunities to improve results” not “where are the best opportunities to improve communication”.

My goal is not to improve communication. Communication is the means to the end. What I am talking to my leaders about is how I can improve the results they are being held accountable for, that they are getting a bonus for, and that if I help improve those results I am going to help them make more money.

– Jim Shaffer, CEO, The Jim Shaffer Group

5. It doesn’t matter that you’re at the table – what matters is what you do when you’re there.

Being able to go to your CEO and say our communication improved revenues by 23% or we saved $1 million and I can prove it, buys you a lot because you’re adding value – Terry Simpson, Manager of Internal Communication, FedEx Express.

It’s important that when you are at the table you are a business person, you are trying to help the business and, by the way, you are really, really good at managing communication too.

6. Do a value to cost assessment

  1. First look at your communication activities and rate how important they are. This is a survey: how many of these activities like supervisory meetings, town halls etc are important.
  2. What’s the performance like, how well is it doing in helping people do their jobs better, to improve their work?
  3. Look at the cost of these activities, the fully loaded cost (e.g. the cost of printing a newsletter and the percentage cost of the compensation and benefits of the people working on the project).

So if instead of adopting an approach of looking for more budget to achieve results an internal communicator does a value-to-cost assessment and redeploys money to achieve better results, it proves value to leaders.

7. Create a value proposition: help the company make money or save money

If we don’t help the company make money or save money we don’t do it” – Teresa Paulsen, a VP of Communication. “We will just not do that kind of work because we are draining the value of the organization.

Stop doing this work if it:

  • Has no clear connection to the business strategy
  • Doesn’t change how work gets done
  • Doesn’t promise sustainable results
  • Isn’t integrated with other processes, activities or initiatives

Start or continue doing this work if it:

  • Increases impact on strategy execution
  • Creates early wins in high impact places
  • Strengthens leadership communication competencies
  • Generates improved formal channel ROI

This section is based on a Poppulo webinar with Jim Shaffer, CEO, The Jim Shaffer Group: Prove business value, become a strategic advisor.

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