Some regard it as producing content for PowerPoint, emails, briefings, intranet and newsletters.
Others see it as an integral part of the change process, helping to identify new behaviours and embed those within organisations.
As an integral part of the change process the role focuses on getting under the skin of the organisation’s culture and understanding people’s needs (stakeholder management) to ensure change is communicated in a way that they can hear, feel and experience for themselves.
It is relatively easy to put content on an intranet, read from a presentation or cascade an email, however the point of communicating is to get people to hear your message, understand it and act upon it. In order for people to understand the message they need to see how it affects them and have it delivered to them by someone who supports the message, understands the impact and who can deliver it in a way that each one of their audience will understand. For complex messages this will rarely be achieved through email or reading from slides.
Communication now becomes far more about the effectiveness of your line manager, how much they have bought into the aims of the message or the change and their capability to deliver messages effectively to all members of their team
This leads us to look at line manager capability, we have to look at how the organisation encourages, incentivises or rewards behaviours like good communication with their team. For most organisations this will mean finding metrics, by which managers communications skills can be assessed. However, the choice of metric could also drive other new unintended behaviours.
For instance, if the measure for communication is around response rates to staff surveys, this could drive managers to put pressure on their teams to complete the survey. Staff may then feel antagonistic and complete surveys in such a way to distort the ‘real’ picture.
This leads us to look at what learning and development is available for managers to help them communicate. Do managers understand their own communication style? Can they recognise other people’s styles and preferences when it comes to learning and absorbing new information?
Suddenly communication could be about influencing or changing the learning & development strategy for the organisation in order to develop new skills or capabilities. In a short time we have moved from communication being about sending emails to how line managers are developed and rewarded.
The cry is often heard from within the organisation, we don’t have time or budget to provide managers with this sort of support. In other organisations I have even heard people say that managers will automatically acquire these skills.
If the message forms part of a critical change for the business, then doesn’t it become critical for the organisation to ensure the change is understood by everyone affected?