Internal Communication Must Add Value to be Credible

Paul Barton Internal Communications

By Jim Shaffer
Guest Blogger

Most internal communication functions are cost centers. They drain money. They rarely affect organizational performance. A few renegade internal communication departments are demonstrating that it doesn’t have to be that way.

What are the renegades doing that elevates their impact on business results which in turn significantly increases their pay?

The do four things:

  1. Build a business case with a value proposition that clarifies what they will and won’t do. One of our client’s value proposition states succinctly “We either make money or save money.” In that company, if you’re not making or saving money, you’re a drain on the business.
  2. Manage the communication system, not just the formal channels. Many internal communication people distribute news and information. They manage meetings and events. But formal channels have little impact on organizational performance. Communication includes what leaders say and do. It includes systems and processes that communicate what’s important and by what is measured, rewarded and recognized.
  3. Measure what matters most to the organization. Traditional communication functions track measures such as tweets, retweets, page views, readability, and channel usage. But these activities have little to no impact on organizational success. Nor do they reveal the state of our business. Contemporary communication functions measure what’s important to the business such as quality, productivity, on-time delivery, cycle time and profitable sales. Why would you not measure what the primary business measures are?
  4. Build needed competencies. Traditional communication departments typically possess skills and knowledge related to distributing news and information. Performance-based communication departments possess similar skills but have a deeper understanding of business, finances, leadership development, change management and consulting/business adviser skills.

Some communication functions have begun the journey. FedEx’s communication team led an effort to increase export sales by 23 percent in less than 90 days.  It generated a 1,447 percent return.

ConAgra Foods communication leaders reduced workplace injuries by 35 percent in one Midwest U.S. operation cut damage and improved productivity by 65 percent and 16 percent respectively.

Similar gains have been made by communication professionals in consumer goods, manufacturing, high tech engineering, a diversified technology, software engineering, logistics, and food products.

It is doable!


Jim Shaffer, IABC Fellow, is an internationally recognized business advisor, leadership coach, author, speaker and leader of the Jim Shaffer Group. Before starting the Jim Shaffer Group, Jim was a principal, vice president and global leader of a Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson) center of excellence. His book, The Leadership Solution is a popular treatise on leadership, change management and creating high-performance organizations.

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