A Framework for Internal Corporate Communications
Internal Communications as the Planner and Human Resources as the Enabler
On the surface, a company's human resources department appears to be a good tool to implement an internal communications plan, as they are omnipresent in an employee's professional life within the company (Little & Little, 2009, p. 58). A company's human resource department is the "heartbeat" of the organization, as they are responsible for attracting and maintain talent, as well as monitoring operations daily to ensure strategic goals are met. Human resources also understands that a company's workforce drives the company's satisfaction rates. These satisfaction rates, of course, depend on a product or service's quality, the speed of delivery, and the supportive customer service. Human resources is also very good at communicating the administrative functions of an organization, especially very specific policies, such as healthcare benefits (Argenti, 1998, pp. 201-202).
However, if human resources is viewed as the enabler and internal communications is relegated to planning, the tone of the communications campaign may best be described as "business as usual." When communications is viewed as simply an administrative function, the company's employees can hardly express any levity toward their daily work. Human resource managers simply aren't trained to communicate an organizational culture in a fun, catchy way. They likely do not even use social media (even on an internal intranet) to communicate fun company brandings with employees. Rather, human resource managers are focused on maintaining the company's culture behind the scenes, including confidential employee data and records.
Human Resources as the Planner and Internal Communications as the Enabler
Human resources should be conceptualized as the main planning body for internal communications strategies. Strategy, according to Wright, Geroy, & MacPhee (2000) is a way to determine "… structure, or the linkages between an organization's operations. Structure, like strategy, needs to be flexible and adaptable to meet global mission and objectives" (p. 37).
After all, human resources is intimately linked to the executive board of a company, which will communicate the "bottom line" of business needs, as well as what needs to be done to accomplish those goals. As an administrative body, human resources should be setting goals because they understand which department(s) needs to be marshaled together to achieve a goal. However, since internal communications has the messaging expertise, they should be making their own goals to meet the objectives set forth by human resources.
Internal communications is often staffed by former journalists who know how to craft catchy, eye-catching messages that advance a particular ideological agenda. However, unlike a journalist, a practitioner within internal communications will advance the company's agenda to create a unique business organizational. This contrasts with the work of a journalist, who advances their own news outlet's liberal, moderate, or conservative political agenda. Many companies may not advocate a particular political agenda, rather, the practitioner must advance whatever the company itself advocates.
Much like those who work in external communications, they "… create global strategies to preserve the entity's reputation, to retain consistent messages and identity, and to participate and handle problems that might cross borders (Wakefield, 2001, p. 644). These globalized strategies can attract target audiences who will often be in agreement with the company's goals, values, and mission statement. Like a journalist, they also understand the role of outside news sources that can write encouraging or disparaging words on the company based upon investigative reports (Argenti, 1998, p. 203; Mueller & Morton, 2008, p. 127).
Internal communications understands that, while the process of planning with human resources takes time, the gradual implementation of the campaign could take several months, even years. Based upon the current digital usability standards, targeted advertisements should be made throughout the year, either through an external company social media site or a proprietary intranet site.
There are many issues that come up for a company throughout the year, and it is best if the company addresses each one separately for clarification to ensure strong attention is paid to the issue (Boulding, 1956, p. 10). In support of this, it would be ideal if internal communications fostered a partnership with the external corporate communications department (Argenti, 1998, p. 201). Not only could internal communications learn messaging strategies, but the internal communications could also ensure that internal and external messages align to the company's overall mission.
Since the interactivity of digital media often promotes two-way communication between the company and its workers, this can foster workplace pride, a democratized work environment, and ensure that the workplace undergoes cyclical improvement. Both human resources and internal communications have the tool to evaluate message effectiveness, especially with the many web-based social media analysis tools in existence today. In many ways, when employees feel like they're "insiders" into a company's business operations, this will increase their partisan loyalty to the company (Argenti, 1998, p. 200; Pearson, 1989, pp. 55-56).
Subsequently, when a company has loyal employees, they will protect the company's brand image (Roberts & Bea, 2001, pp. 72-73). Organizational culture is a good indicator as to whether an organization will succeed or fail. While human resources is needed to make this culture, internal communications is needed to "on-board" employees to achieve organizational goals. This mission becomes even more critical for organizations with a large number of employees or employees with highly specialized talent.
Of course, organizational culture is not just limited to within the geographic boundaries of the company. Thanks to digital media, social media sites can allow outside audiences to gain a sense of a company's organizational culture. In light of this fact, many organizations have trained employees on how to use the company's official social media presence. While employees are not necessarily forbidden from utilizing their company's social media site, they often must identify themselves as an employee of that organization, as well as state that their comment is their opinion alone. Employee comments, whether named or anonymous, can give external audiences an idea of the daily operations of a company.
Contrary to the inverse arrangement at many business organizations, human resources should be planning internal organizational communication efforts, while internal communications should focus on rolling out the campaign. Human resources is an ideal planner in this arrangement, as they understand the science of organizational culture, can set goals according to an organization's executive board, and are generally good with communicating the organization's administrative functions.
However, when human resources rolls out a communications plan, they are not focused on building and communicating culture in a fun, catchy way. Internal communications, often staffed by former journalists, are experts at crafting fun messages that build support for an organizational culture. They understand that messages, if crafted the right way, can actually motivate employees to remain loyal to their corporate brand. Internal communications will often roll out a campaign that carefully releases communications materials over a period of time, always aligning these materials to an overall fun theme.
Boulding (1956) believed that behavior depended heavily on the image (p. 6). The business world is a competitive environment. When a business can attract unique talent with outstanding loyalty, they will have a competitive advantage.
When employees feel empowered with these messages within their company, they will feel valued and may do whatever is in their reasonable power to ensure nothing bad happens to their employer. Especially in the digital realm, internal communications should be a two-way communicative effort between the employer and the employee. The co-creational perspective can lead to a shared meaning of corporate culture (Botan & Taylor, 2004, p. 652). From an external perspective, employee loyalty will shine forth as free positive publicity.
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