Why leaders need to change their opinion about internal communication
Back in the eighties, I studied HR management. During this study I noticed that teachers were prejudiced towards the HR students. They had no respect for the students. I wondered about the reason for this. “HR People weren’t to be trusted”, “HR people will take good care, especially of themselves”, “HR People have no real strategic influence, they are merely handyman for management”, “Working for HR means that you do not have a backbone, no balls, no guts” and so forth. All very wrong and very prejudiced visions indeed.
However, during my internship at a large Truck factory I soon found out that this vision was not only shared by the teachers; HR lacked respect. Especially during crisis.
A few mis perceptions that were responsible for this poor image:
- HR did not have a focus on achieving results.
- HR only needed to manage the administrative organization with regards to people that need to keep their job.
- HR did not have a ROI, at least it could not be measured.
- HR did what they were told to do. They followed a policy that had been set out for them.
- HR Managers lacked balls. They were selected for not having a backbone or guts to stand up and put on a fight.Although “Human Resources” in general were known to be the most valuable asset a company could have (and the most expensive one) HR managers didn’t get credits for their job
Over the years HR managed to overcome these stereotype visions, at least at larger companies. But it took 20 year or so to get there.
So, why did it took so long?
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy:
- Companies did not look for competencies that could change the way people think about HR, so they would hire those people whose profile would fit their biased vision,
- HR managers were not taken serious, they did not have a chance to develop strategy and policy.
- Obvious, it’s no job for Goal getters.
Also, there is nothing more difficult to change then a corporates’ culture. Entire societies can change their values and ideologies faster than corporates change their culture.
- Top level management hire only those who will fit their biased profile.
- Top level management raise their successors so they will share the same values.
- Top level management often are “Laggards” when it comes to innovative change. Most certainly so if that means they have to revise their way of thinking and working.
During the last few decades, HR managed to alter this incorrect vision. They became more professional and accountable for their job. People working for HR also have different competencies then before.
What about internal communications?
It often seems as they now suffer under the same incorrect perception HR had back then.
- Internal communication have no real ROI at least, it can’t be measured.
- Internal communications is a girls job, therefore worthless compared to “real work”.
- External stakeholders communication is far more important, so it gets more funding and staffing.
- Internal communication requires no special skill other than to say what we want to say” because employees “have to listen…they need the job”.
- Internal communication can wait because management needs to focus on achieving results.
Although these assumptions are incorrect, they give internal communications a bad image. It needs to change and you don’t get 20 years to do it!
Why such a hurry?
Social Media alters the way we communicate. It defines a new set of rules that can’t be controlled by any authority. So, if you don’t communicate well with your employees, they will not be your companies ambassadors on Social Media.
You often hear that Social Media democratizes information. But that is not true. It anarchizes communication. Obviously, your company better train its employees to deal with Social Media in a way you would like them to. Internal Communications can and should play a large role in this. But to make it happen, they need credibility, decent funding, sufficient staff and the right mindset…and they need it fast. Perhaps even, some of them do not have the competencies needed for this “new role” but that’s another discussion.
Help your Internal Communications wherever you can, you deserve it!