By Jos Harrison
Over the last 14 years I’ve provided interim leadership of internal comms for businesses as diverse as MotoNovo Finance, ITV, Principality Building Society, and Wonga, and for me the key focus areas have remained pretty much the same – albeit with new technology playing an increasing role.
Following our recent popular blog, ‘Top tips for hiring a good Internal Comms interim’, we’ve been asked for our views on the top skills for Internal Comms Managers more generally. Since starting the agency back in 2004, I’ve had the privilege of recruiting many skilled Internal Comms specialists both into our core team of internal comms specialists and our wider associate team. I also recruit for clients when a team build or rebuild has been part of my remit as interim leader of internal comms. Here’s what I look for:
Commerciality and Business Acumen
CEOs want Business Partners who are on their wave length. That means having people with strong business sense who can tap into the leadership team’s view of the organisation, its challenges and opportunities. To earn a voice at the leadership table, today’s IC Managers need to be able to link internal communications plans intrinsically with the business strategy – ultimately supporting the CEO to deliver the business priorities.
Strong people skills at all levels
Of course Internal Comms specialists need to be able to move confidently among the senior team to provide strategic counsel…but they also need to understand the audience. All too often in client reviews, we uncover a disconnect between the leadership and frontline employees who are the lifeblood of an organisation. A successful communications strategy depends on being able to relate to the different audiences and dissolve perceived boundaries and barriers with interactive, two-way channels that connect leaders and employees.
Brilliant writing skills
It should go without saying that an Internal Comms Manager must be able to write well. So I’m frequently amazed by the number of people in the industry who lack this basic skill. From key message development, to drafting announcements, video scripts and blogs, the ability to create accurate, compelling content is fundamental to the role. For me, the first ‘red flag’ is a poorly written CV…it doesn’t make it past our recycling bin.
A creative approach to channels management
The ideal IC Manager will have solid experience of managing the full communications mix. It’s no longer simply about print, face-to-face, email and intranet, but a much broader spectrum that now encompasses Enterprise Social Networks, webinars, Vlogs, infographics… and so on. Companies are increasingly looking for internal comms people who can respond to business challenges in creative and innovative ways that hit the spot – particularly with millennials who are an ever-increasing presence in the workplace.
Great planning and organisation
As an agency we’re often asked for people who are great at pulling together complex plans which reflect increasingly complex work environments. This means factoring in multiple and diverse audiences, cross-geographical teams, international preferences and demanding stakeholders! And there’s a need to control the ‘air traffic’, too. Your Comms Manager needs to be adept at looking several months ahead, planning key launches around to fit with the ‘Business as Usual’ activity, rallying the right people and predicting resource hot spots.
For internal communications advice, support or resources, drop me a line at email@example.com.
If you’ve rarely worked with Internal Communications interims you may be wondering what to look for in the ideal candidate. In our recent social media campaign we shared our views based on what our clients say they value most. Here’s what we said…
They’re one of the team from the start
In most permanent jobs you can expect a settling-in period of a few weeks: with interim resource this is fast-tracked. It’s common for contractors to be called upon to fill unforeseen gaps at times when the pressure’s on…so our clients tell us they need Internal Comms managers who can get up to speed and build their internal networks quickly. They should be assessing the culture and working style from the outset, bringing their wide experience of working in different organisations to bear. Before you know it, they’ll seem like an invaluable member of your team.
They deliver brilliantly, even in challenging environments
Every organisation has its politics and no-one knows this more than an experienced interim Internal Comms Manager. They’ve seen it all…from companies in the throes of mergers and acquisitions, to changes of leadership team, performance issues and resource shortages. Crucially, they don’t let this distract them from the task in hand and will always deliver to a high standard, on time. Resilience is their middle name.
They add value above and beyond
When recruiting an interim Internal Comms Manager, aim for someone who not just delivers brilliantly to your brief but also looks for opportunities to implement continuous improvements while in your team. You might be bringing them in to manage communications for your systems implementation, but they could also be tidying up intranet pages to remove out of date content or improving your e-zine.
They are great at managing stakeholders – even challenging ones
Your ideal interim should be able to deftly manoeuvre around senior leaders with differing views and dynamics without it compromising delivery. The chances are they’ll have encountered similar situations on numerous occasions. A good internal communicator will identify whether they can play a role in reconciling opposing positions or whether it’s best negotiated with care. More generally, you should be able to trust your Internal Comms Manager to keep the right people in the loop with the right level of information at the right time.
They leave you in a good place at the end of their contract
There’s nothing worse than being left high and dry at the end of a contract, with enquiries pouring into your team and no-one to manage them. A conscientious interim will plan in plenty of handover time at the end of the assignment to transition the work into ‘Business As Usual’, ensuring your existing team are well prepped. This includes filing documents, notifying stakeholders and having an ongoing plan for managing the work.
If you need interim support, we can help. We have an in-house team of talented, experienced Internal Comms Managers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more.
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The internal communications reviews that we deliver for organisations across a variety of different sectors reinforce that line managers remain a critical channel for most organisations, despite the growth of enterprise social networks and digital channels inevitably leading to more ‘direct’ communication.
With the Summer drawing to a close and the Autumn almost upon us, Internal Comms Managers are starting to turn their attention to their strategy and plans for next year. Drawing on our Internal Communications Review work and experience over the last year here are some things to think about to ensure your internal communications continue to help your organisation deliver its strategy and goals.