I’m not sure who’s the most frustrated: CEO’s who can’t get their communication people to help improve business results, or communication people who want to add value but don’t have what it takes to do so.
Most internal communication people play the role of town crier rather than business problem solver. They’re focused on distributing news and information rather than removing communication breakdowns that impede organizational performance.
What’s preventing them from taking a value-adding role?
The big barrier is they often start by measuring the wrong things. Measures like tweets, retweets, page views, content consumption, readability and channel usage don’t represent what matters to customers or shareholders. So why measure stuff that doesn’t matter to the success of the business?
Quality, service delivery, cost, productivity and on time delivery are examples of what matters to the customers and shareholders. If these are important to the health of the business, why aren’t communication professionals targeting their work at these things?
It’s certainly possible.
Take Kristin for instance. Kristin helped bring union members and managers together at one of her company’s operations in New York. She helped employees improve a production process that reduced costs by $700,000 and generated a 700 percent return on the investment made to improve the process.
Bob is another example of a communication professional who’s focused on improving results and adding value. He led an effort that reduced damage in a distribution center by 65 percent, increased productivity by 16 percent and reduced turnover by 27 percent.
Courtney helped her Texas operation improve on-time delivery by 50 percent, sales by 30 per cent and reduced recordable accidents from 13 to zero.
What do these communication professionals and others have in common? They’ve elevated themselves from “getting the news out” to fixing communication flaws that impede organizational performance.
These folks start by measuring what matters to the business, not what time their newsletter is going out. They eliminate communication breakdowns such as mixed messages, slow, inaccurate or missing information. They bring people together to communicate with each other and attack communication breakdowns that are impeding the business.
What else is there?
Communication professionals build the competencies that enable them to improve business results and do so while adding value. This means that they can create gains that are larger than the cost to create those gains. Real ROI.
What kind of competencies do communication people need? Here are a few:
- Strategic adviser skills: Communication professionals can add more value by shifting from tactical doers to strategic advisers. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Academy has my online course, “How to Add Measurable Value as a Strategic Adviser.” It’s a great starting point.
- Change management: Bob’s work to reduce damage and turnover while improving productivity is an example of managing change. Scott reduced freight claims paid at a major shipper by 25 percent and reduced truck accidents by 54 per cent.
- Business and financial acumen: If you want to build trust and improve performance, open the books and share information that improves operating and financial results. I enjoy taking clients to visit SRC in Springfield, Missouri where open book management was “born”.
- Leadership development: The best organizations are what I call leadership engines where they create clear expectations for leaders as well as develop, assess and reward successful leaders.
It’s rare to find a perfect organization that has no flaws or communication breakdowns impeding performance. There are opportunities nearly everywhere. You need to find them and make them go away.
KEY TAKEAWAY: You don’t have to stay frustrated with how the communication function operates in your organization. Place your attention and emphasis on fixing barriers or breakdowns in communication that affect the bottom line. It is possible to refocus away from “getting the news out” to fixing communication flaws that impede organizational performance. There is value to be added by allowing communication into the business, rather than merely reporting what’s been done.