Internal Communicators’ Expansive Role

I recently joined the 21st century by attending my first webinar. I’m a bit technophobic, so this was a big step for me.

My experience was positive due to the seamless technology (provided by iLinc Communications) and the informative content by presenter Victoria Mellor, CEO of Melcrum.

In “How to Build the Ultimate Business Case for Internal Communication,” Mellor shared key findings from Melcrum’s 10 years of research. There was the usual reinforcement of what most of us know about the critical role of senior managers and their influence on trust and employee engagement.

Check out this pie chart

But what really surprised me were the numbers (based on research by Towers Perrin) that sorted out primary communication sources and their impact on employee behavior:

  • 61% comes from an organization’s leadership (their messages, actions, etc.)
  • 32% from infrastructure (corporate culture, systems, policies, etc.)
  • 7% from formal media (memos, newsletters, meetings, etc.)

What is it that most communicators focus on? The tools that collectively only have 7% impact! That’s not to say their internal communications efforts are unimportant. On the contrary, we need these folks to help craft & deliver effective and consistent internal messages.

The “gotcha!” for me is that communications professionals have a much greater strategic role to play – beyond managing internal media -by working with their companies’ leaders.

3 Comments

  • Sybil November 15, 2006 Reply

    Jim, thanks for the update on your work in this area. I agree that we need to shift our focus from outPUT-based to outCOME-based results.

  • Jim Shaffer November 15, 2006 Reply

    The research you’re referring to is on-going in that we are continually testing it.
    The numbers we see are approximate: leaders (what they say and do)65%; systems infrastructure (goals, rewards, measurement, work environment, etc.) 30% and formal channels 5%. This is based on all companies surveyed over 15 years or more. It varies by company and type of company. There’s isn’t necessarily one right percentage distribution.
    The point I’ve made over the years regarding the data is precisely what has been made many times before–if communication practitioners want to influence performance, they need to shift their focus to those areas that disproportionately have more influence on performance. Many are. I’m seeing more companies today prctice what I refer to as outcome–based communication management versus the traditional output-based communication management. Output-based focused on distribution. Outcome-based focuses on results. If you want to influence results, you need to infuence those things that produce results.
    A very simple and realistic concept.
    Jim Shaffer

  • Victoria Mellor October 11, 2006 Reply

    That’s great feedback on Melcrum’s Webinar. It was a lot of fun to do so thanks.
    RE: Primary communication sources and their impact on behavior change. I agree that this research is compelling. I’ve used this slide numerous times over the past years to show non communicators, managers and leaders mostly, the influence they hold. Whether they like it or not, communication is actually a huge part of their roles.
    One disclaimer though: it is actually fairly old ie. last century at least! Which means there’s definitely a case to update it, especially considering how much media has changed over recent years. New generations coming into the workplace comfortable with social media may react differently to employees more accustomed to face to face communication etc. There’s lots more info on this on http://www.internalcommshub.com. Also full credit should go to Jim Shaffer who conducted this research while at Towers. http://www.jimshaffergroup.com/
    Maybe this is a project that Melcrum should undertake?

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