In order to pursue such long term aspirations, a strategic framework is required that will enable internal communication professionals to better plan and demonstrate the value of their activities across the wider business organisation.
The Hill methodology (1993) is one recognised approach to forming operational strategy. The model encourages operations managers to connect to different levels of strategy within an organisation.
By understanding the wider aims of the organisation and the way in which it wants to compete, operations managers can begin to put in place appropriate processes and infrastructures that best support the organisation’s overall ambitions. This process is not wholly sequential. The best strategies are highly dynamic in nature. They are continually re-shaped to best meet the changing needs of the organisation.
The strategic approach for internal communication professionals is no different. They too are operational managers. Their functional activities are pointless unless channeled towards helping their organisation achieve its overall business objectives. Key characteristics of Hill’s methodology are used in the following strategy mapping exercise. There are three levels to planning a strategy for internal communication.
1. Corporate level
At the Corporate level time must be taken to map out the organisation’s top-line Vision, Strategy and Tactics (see Figure 5). The Vision is essentially the corporate mission: a description of the ultimate destination and why the organisation wants to get there. The Strategy outlines what imperatives the organisation will focus on in order to attain the Vision. The Tactics address how the Strategy will be put into action.
Various planned programmes and initiatives with overall targets provide the Tactics for future success. Critically, communication has a key part to play in the execution of all Corporate Strategies and their accompanying Tactics. This has to be recognised at the senior level with a seat at the top table of all initiatives to enable internal communications representation and input.
Figure 5: The Corporate Level
Figure 6: The Operational Level
Figure 7: The Value Level
Once the top-line Corporate picture is clear as to where the organisation intends to go then the internal communication function can look at how to its activities will support and connect with the organisation at the Operational level. Again, this same logical structure is used to map out the operation Vision, Strategy & Tactics (see Figure 6). The Vision identifies the general corporate objectives for the operation. The Strategy outlines what the key areas of focus for the function’s output are. These are aligned to the imperatives for the business as a whole.
The Tactics scope the full range of activities that the internal communication operation has at its disposal in order to influence and achieve the Strategy and ultimately, the Vision for communications in that organisation. These tactics include the development of the most appropriate communication processes, infrastructure and technology. Establishing the right channels with the right level of resources to support them is vital.
Measurement has a key part to play in demonstrating the value of each internal communication activity in order to sustain and improve the operation as a whole. This has to be recognised by the lead internal communication professional with a commitment to implement tangible measurement criteria for each internal communication activity.
At the Value level the same process is used to map out a strategy for measuring and demonstrating business value (see Figure 7). The Vision makes clear the need for value demonstration within the operation’s activities. The formalisation of this intent through use of a strategic model is in itself the first visible sign to the rest of the organisation that the internal communication function is adopting a more practical business approach to what it does.
Results from our research highlighted some key areas of focus for internal communicators if their operations were to be successful. A subsequent process of synthesis delivered the following eight key areas of strategic focus for any internal communication function:
● Alignment with strategy
● Operational skills and performance
● Employee satisfaction and engagement
● Leadership relationships and support
● General management communication skills
● Financial support and investment
● Organisational structure and culture
● Impact on service performance
These areas are core to internal communication activities and therefore should be positioned at the heart of any internal communication measurement framework. No one ‘silver bullet’ measure was found to adequately gauge or demonstrate the business value of internal communication. Apparent from the project research was a need for a balance of measures. From the study, respondent’s confirmed that in practice they lacked a balance of measures for their activities.
Kaplan & Norton’s Balanced Business Scorecard is the best-known example of a performance measurement framework, which encourages a positive mix of measures. The suggested Strategy for internal communication measurement advocates a similarly balanced approach. Opposite are the key focus areas to be measured: