Archives for posts with tag: communications

This week I have been mostly thinking about communication, and specifically the business of internal communication in a business, and what it means to employee engagement.

Now you may say to me “really? You need to get a life” and I would find it hard to argue with you, but things like this are my stock in trade, my business, and so I do tend to dwell on them.

What prompted this was a few things; I am wont to peruse LInkedIn, that fine resource for all professionals and have noticed quite a lot of jobs advertised as “employee engagement manager”, had a look and seen what they are after is an internal comms manager. I have also seen a few discussions along the lines of “are employee engagement and internal communications the same thing?”. Stuff like that gets me thinking. (To be honest, pretty much anything gets me thinking, I’ve one of those minds; I spend hours trying to find ways of stopping it, and have just passed level 125 on Candy Crush. I even watch ITV unironically sometimes).

Anyway, I have thought and I will now foist the general burblings out onto th’internet, by way of this blog.

Firstly, I will address the s. When I first got a job as an internal communications manager, that was my job title: internal communications manager. With an s. I had a conversation with the boss, went along these lines.

Me: “I want to change my job title.”

Boss: “You can’t do that, you need to go through HR and I’ll have to fill out forms and stuff.”

Me: “I only want to drop the s”

Boss: <makes Scooby Doo noise>

Me: “Communications (with an s) is about channels and mechanisms and tech. It’s not even the medium, it’s the stuff that makes the medium work. We should be about communication.”

Boss: “What the badgery flip are you on about, Lewis?”

Me: “Communication is a process of emotional and psychological change enabled by and exchange of information; it’s not merely the transmission of information from one source to an audience, for which the use of the word ‘communications’ (with an s) in my job title is but a semiotic tag.”

Boss: “Fair enough. Do I have to fill in any forms?”

He didn’t, we just changed it on the structure charts.

Anyway, the minutes it took me to find that sound clip will not have been in vain if my point has been made: communications is about technology and making the media work; communication is a two-way exchange which creates something new. Yes? Yes.

And so, is it the same as employee engagement? Well, in my personal opinion, no. Engagement is psychological state on the part of employees, which evidences itself in behavioural outcomes; if people are engaged those outcomes will be positive ones for both employer and employee – greater productivity, creativity, absorption in work, better customer service, less absenteeism, loyalty and exemplifying the brand, etc etc etc.

If the state is negative you get negative outcomes – absenteeism (or, even worse, its beguiling but mindless cousin presenteeism), low levels of energy, lack of ownership, etc etc etc

As such, communication (no s) is an input – it is something that needs to be done, and done well, in order to create the positive state of mind required to get those positive behaviours, but it is not, in and of itself, engagement.

And here is the crux: communication needs to be effective and two-way in order for that positive state to be achieved. Leaders need to communicate effectively; this means that issuing a memo won’t cut it. 

I recall in my early days in the world of work internal communication from senior management came in the form of the “Chief General Manager’s Briefing”. This was a printed piece of paper stuck on noticeboards and usually contained the latest regulation issued by the regulatory body. People tended not to engage with it. It wasn’t communication.

The move to intranets and social media won’t change things, though, if the things posted there are effectively just the Chief General Manager’s Briefing in digital form. 

What is needed is for leaders to speak, and to listen, and to show they have listened – not just by giving an answer but by changing things in response to what they have heard and then communicating what has changed and why. The last step is hugely important, I call it closing the loop, and it is often forgotten.

Without it, you don’t create that positive state, because the point of communication is not just to inform, but to give the employee the chance to listen and be listened to; people need to feel they are listened to, that they matter, and when they feel this, they feel good. Hence, engagement.

So, have a think about your communication. Is it communications, or communication? Is it a memo (albeit a tweet or a blog or a speech or a town hall meeting) or is it a conversation?

I’ll be rambling on about communication, the channels, the medium v the message and all that in the next few blogs. Book now to avoid disappointment.

By the way, anyone know why I chose the header I chose? Fans of Paul Newman (and, quite possibly, Guns and Roses) send me a virtual postcard…



New research shows that up to a million people are on so-called “zero-hour” contracts – whereby part-time employees aren’t guaranteed set hours in any particular week. 

This is something of a surprise to the abacus wielders in Westminster, who reckoned only a quarter of that number were on the contracts, but a survey by the fine people of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (the BMA of HR) reckons that it is nearly a million.

There is a debate about this, with unions and poverty charities on one side, employers (including many charities) on the other; and at the core of the debate is flexibility.

Flexibility is very much the watchword of the modern employment zeitgeist – and I’m very much in favour of it. Provided  it is truly flexibility and not just exploitation wearing a cloak of zeitgeist-esque respectability.

Now I’m not an expert in employment law or terms and conditions – although I have dabbled, and have helped with getting new sets of terms and conditions accepted by a sizeable proportion of a workforce every now and then, and I am an expert in employee engagement and organisational development – and I know that truly flexible employment packages are ticks in those particular boxes.

Young, single people just setting out on their working lives are likely to want as much money as possible, and may be quite happy to forego a week or two of holiday to get a bigger number at the bottom right hand corner of their payslip.

More mature workers, with family commitments, may want more in the way of flexible time, and can afford to take a hit on the wage if they can get more generous leave or working from home.

All the while there needs to be balance – meeting the employer’s needs while fulfilling the needs of the employee. Having a flexible, home-based workforce doesn’t tend to be much use for manufacturers or bus companies, I would have thought; you need people operating those lathes and driving buses, after all. Call centres need people on the end of the phones (although do they really need to be in a aluminium-sided shed on an industrial park on the outskirts of a post-industrial city?).

In other words, there is work to be done and employers need people to do it in order to deliver what they need to do.

The trick with achieving this balance is to get both sides to understand what they want and need out of the process; this in turn requires really good communication channels both up and down the organisation.

So while I actually did write the book on a new set of T&Cs once, that wasn’t what swung it when it came to the ballot; what swung it was a really good quality conversation between the employer and employees before the proposals were even put into that book; followed by a series of equally good conversations at every level of the organisation to explain the benefits and drawbacks, address the concerns of managers and workers, and an organisational understanding of why this was the best for everyone.

It’s not easy, and can fall down spectacularly when managers forget to manage and indulge in the old affiliative behaviour (“look what they are doing to us”, when it should be “this is what’s happening and why”), but when it works it can deliver that level and quality of flexibility that really is win-win for everyone.

I can see the benefits of zero-hour contracts (to both sides, if sides have to be taken) and I can see the dangers (again to both sides; exploitation of the workers and brand damage for the employers, for example); what is required to ensure the benefits are realised and the dangers avoided is a really good quality conversation. 

If you’re in an organisation where flexibility is seen as the way forward, maybe ask yourself – is it flexibility, or something else? And ask yourself what conversation have you had about it?