PS bosses must be comms fans

'Three per cent of Canberra's workforce could be in firing line with public service job cuts' - www_smh_com_au_nationIt’s hard times ahead for Federal Government communicators working in internal communications. Last week’s budget eliminated agencies, slashed projects and left a lot of people inside and outside Canberra feeling jittery.

Working in internal communications (IC) has always been tough.  I think it’s the hardest role of all the communications disciplines.  IC teams are generally small and rarely see the money or glamour of the big budget public campaigns.

Funds are forever tight and agency staff are savvy, can spot the bull and know more about the business than a communicator ever will. They instantly judge communications against what’s happened before, who’s providing the information and the reputation of the boss. Things are even tougher when sweeping change is in the air and staff are nervous.

Last year IABC Chapters in Australia joined with Coral Communications to conduct the country’s most thorough survey on the internal communications industry. Results showed change management is not done particularly well by Internal commsorganisations right across the board. While leaders talk about the importance of communicating to staff, doubts remain if they really walk the talk.  And the survey noted the frequency with which leaders engage with employees is disappointing and irregular.

But there is hope.  Change management can be done well even in agencies where the smell of redundancies hangs heavy in the air.  But it will take more than a good PR team.

The IABC survey showed the top floor – or senior management – needs to be involved every step along the way in reaching out to the shop floor, their employees.

The survey suggests effective change management shares three traits:

  • Leaders must not only support communications but must be highly visible in communicating change.
  • You need a strategic narrative to build trust.  And it must illustrate the destination and journey for the individual, her team and the organisation. In other words tell people where all this change is heading.
  • Internal communications need to be measured, balanced and progressive.

In Canberra and elsewhere agency leaders routinely say they support internal communications. Ladies and gentlemen, if ever there was a time to really step up, now’s the time.  And that means pencilling in much more time with your communications team.


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