Why are you continuing to push out information when shifting your focus to where communication process breaks down can add so much more value? Internal communication functions have enormous opportunities to change their role from activity producing cost centers to results generating value creators.
How does your communication function make the shift—from sending out news and information of questionable value to focusing on improving business results? Start by doing what some of the best of the best have done and become part of a new, entrepreneurial push coming from some communication departments.
Shawna was an early pioneer, working with a large diversified technology business team to reduce the billing cycle by 10 days and cutting 1.4 million steps in a process. “Leaders do pay attention when you’re creating results they care about.” Shawna says. “They want more of it—a lot more.”
Bob was asked to attack a safety issue at one the company’s plants. Instead of communicating the safety problem traditionally with banners, posters, videos and town hall meetings, Bob identified communication breakdowns that were contributing to accidents. He then helped the plant develop a comprehensive plan that addressed accidents from multiple perspectives. In five months, accidents dropped 35%, creating an annual cost avoidance of $380,000.
“This work not only requires changing the traditional communication mindset, but also resetting the expectations and perspectives of the business leaders we serve,” Bob says. “Now, the company is seeing the value of driving outcomes instead of churning output. My light bulb went on when we decided to use communication to help one of our key plants do one simple thing: stop people from getting hurt.”
Bob adds: “We haven’t abandoned distributing news and information. But, we have identified its appropriate spot in the overall mix of solutions and use it surgically to improve an outcome. That’s so very different from churning output without a pre-defined outcome target.”
Terry, manager of employee communication at a global shipper, led an effort that increased export volume in one location by 23 percent while generating a 1,471 percent ROI. A follow-up effort created a 1,741 percent ROI in five other locations. Scott, who was on Terry’s team, said “the hardest part of the communication role-change process was building the courage to move out of my traditional-role comfort zone. But, once you get a success, folks line up wanting your help.”
So, how can your communication function transform itself as these people have done?
Follow these five steps.
- Assess what you do now and what you could be doing that would add more value. Start by assessing your current value to cost, i.e., what does the current work cost the organization and what kind of return are you getting, if any? Use the information to re-deploy spending in order to improve the value to cost.
- Identify the skills and knowledge you’ll need to make the shift. This often means building skills and knowledge in areas such as change management, leadership, consulting, and business and financial acumen.
- Build a business case for improving value. Your goal is to convince the organization’s leaders that what you do produces more good for your customers and shareholders than it costs. To do this, you need a clear value proposition–a statement that explains how you’ll add value for your customers—the people who buy your company’s products and services. It also should clarify the work you will start doing, stop doing and continue doing. You should get more high value on your plate and more low value off your plate.
- Introduce the results and value-oriented role to your leaders. Most senior business leaders welcome and will grasp the concept of performance-based communication. You’re offering a potential communication-based solution to a recognized business challenge. The more value you add, the more the leaders gain and the more they will want. You’re creating pull for your services.
- Create wins. Start small to prove winning is doable. Then tackle larger projects. Remember, Terry started with one project, then moved the process to five other locations. Because leaders’ pay was tied to performance, she was putting more money in their pockets. Terry and her team were in high demand.
Pressure is mounting in all disciplines and functions. Capitalize on others’ successes and transform your business into a value-adding performance enhancing operation.
Those who’ve gone before you have proven that it’s doable.
Key Takeaway: The more value you add, the more the leaders gain and the more they will want. Eliminating breakdowns in communication is the secret. You’re creating pull for your services instead of just pushing out stuff that doesn’t drive revenue.