A strong internal communications department can bring order, collaboration and cohesion to an organization. Often a thankless job, internal communicators keep everyone in the loop, coordinate company events and keeps everyone motivated to work their hardest.
When an organization communicates with its employees, those employees are likely to be more engaged. There is a difference between knowing your job and knowing your role in the greater organization. When you know your role, you’re doing more than just showing up to the office to do a job.
Each engaged employee can increase the bottom line by an average of $13,000 more to the bottom line, according to Paulson Training. Overall, the problem of employee disengagement costs U.S. companies about $550 billion per year.
Despite all the benefits that communication can bring, several companies don’t have an official internal communications (IC) department. If you are one of those companies, what should you do?
As long as it’s purpose driven, any communication is better than no communication, and there are steps you can take to upgrade your communication today — with or without a department.
In many cases, this indecision over who should take over the responsibility of internal communication holds corporations back. But it doesn’t have to.
If you don’t have an IC department, the collective wisdom is pretty much split between whether your human resources department or your marketing department should take over IC duties. There are pros and cons to both, and we are going to explore both of those in this article.
There is one main thing that HR professionals and internal communicators have in common: their focus on employee engagement.
For HR professionals, their priority is the people — which is exactly who internal communication serves. It's their job to bring out the best in employees.
They increase productivity, retain talent, offer career development opportunities and manage the organization’s employee brand. All of these things can be done better with a strong internal communication strategy.
Because of the common goal of employee engagement, many believe that IC duties fall nicely underneath the HR umbrella. But you’ll have to ask yourself — what is the specific goal of your internal communication?
Is it to improve your company culture? Is it to increase the proper utilization of benefits? To increase productivity? This will depend upon the organization.
Of course, an IC strategy can contribute to solving all of these problems. But when IC duties are placed within an HR department, team members must be 100 percent clear on how each task serves their greater HR goal.
And if this goal isn’t clear and specific, your HR team might get distracted from the goals of IC by specific HR duties, not doing the job justice. Remember, there are likely several other responsibilities that HR professionals are focused on. When there are metrics in place and clear expectations set, HR can be a great department for IC.
Marketing and/or Public Relations departments
Another common area where IC responsibilities can land is within the marketing, corporate communication or public relations department.
Although internal communication is different than external communication, both require complementary skills. And if your organization is currently producing topical, consistent IC content but is lacking engagement, you might want to call on other professional communicators for help.
Marketers know how to communicate a targeted message. They know how to write copy in an engaging, dynamic, attention grabbing way. The problem is, since marketing and public relations professionals are often used to addressing customers, it will require a shift in mindset toward the unique needs of an employee population.
If an external communicator can learn to talk to employees with the same intention as they give to their customers, then they can be rockstar internal communicators. It is important that this department is also in charge of IC, that individuals are given the time and resources to do both.
Many companies find it easy to slip into the pattern of putting customers above employees. If marketing departments aren’t held equally accountable for their IC duties, they might neglect them in favor of other assignments that serve customers above employees.
What about both?
What if you want the best of both worlds? Some companies have seen success merging IC responsibilities amongst HR and external communication professionals. Perhaps you can assign a portion of each department to work together on the project.
There are a few things you might want to consider before making your final decision:
- Which department has the most available resources?
- You won’t want to bring additional IC duties to a department that is already short-staffed and struggling to get already assigned tasks complete.
- How diverse are the skill sets of each departments?
- Put simply, can your HR team regularly develop out quality content? Is the department made up of individuals who know how to write? Or, are there ways to share this responsibility with your marketing department, external vendors or consultants? What are your specific, IC strategy goals?
- Is your corporation dealing specifically with a employee disengagement problem? If so, it might be more important to tap your HR department, as they are closely aligned with this mission. Or, if your organization struggles with finding the time to get relevant content out, you might want to lean on the communication skills of the marketing department.
The most important thing to remember is to set clear expectations. Without a dedicated department, IC managers might feel spread thin and pulled in many different directions.
No matter who you choose to take on IC responsibilities, it will be harder to ensure that things are getting done unless they are given resources, and held accountable.
So, make sure to lend them a hand!