Tuesday 5 and Wednesday 6 July were key dates for internal communicators, with the return of the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) Festival at the Goosedale in Nottingham; our own Glastonbury, with legends of IC presenting, facilitating discussion, networking, and bringing out great ideas and solutions.

It was time to connect, inspire, and learn face to face. We had all longed for that human interaction and effervescent feeling you get from attending big events, especially with people you haven’t seen for ages or have never met in person.

I was excited about the festival having recently been elected as an IoIC Board Member and invited to be part of a panel discussion, chaired by Working the Future Director, Cat Barnard, to share my views and predictions on the future of internal comms as an enabler of organisational success. Being joined on stage by fellow IoIC Board Member, Laura Colantuono, and Eduvie Martin from IABC Board, I knew we’d have a great discussion.

I shared my POV in three sections before going into the Q&A session with the audience of senior internal comms professionals:

Looking back, before moving forwards
Gone are the days when comms teams dreamt about delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time. On a daily basis we would hear: “I’ve written this piece of comms, can you please send it to all employees at 10am on Friday?” That doesn’t sound like much of an aspiration or challenge now, however, when I started my career in internal comms over two decades ago this was the goal.

Looking back, our skills set and value add hadn’t yet been recognised. We were not developing strategic narratives, connecting audiences with values and purpose, or helping to solve business challenges through employee engagement. We had no idea how interesting, exciting, and critical our roles as internal communicators would become.   

Employee engagement: the beginning, not the end  
Employee engagement is a hot topic and something close to the heart of all internal comms professionals, with more informed employees outperforming their peers by 77% (CEB/Gartner). For years, we’ve tussled with and tried new and creative ways to increase employee engagement. I challenged the audience to consider two things:

First, to stop solely focusing on improving engagement scores and to remind ourselves of the desired outcomes we’re trying to achieve. What do we want employees to think, feel, and/or do differently? That’s the real goal. Having engaged employees is just how we get there.

Second, I shared how, in my opinion, five years from now CEOs and MDs will no longer ask internal comms to drive employee engagement. In the future, having engaged employees will be both the norm and the expectation. Our challenge will be to help deliver better, demonstratable, and measurable business outcomes.   

Growing from the inside, out
Social media continues to go from strength to strength, with 98% of employees using at least one social media site for personal use and about 50% of them posting about their company. It’s a battleground for big brands showcasing their products and services, and for organisations hoping to attract new people.

As IC professionals we can help. Companies with a successful employee advocacy program are 58% more likely to attract, and 20% more likely to retain, top talent (LinkedIn).

Employees drive the success of organisations and are the most trusted voice online and across social media. So now and in the years ahead, converting internal comms into external action will be one of our key focus areas, if not our ultimate goal.

More than ever IC professionals will be expected to create brand connections, build pride, and drive employee advocacy – so organisations grow from the inside out. Delivering employee engagement alone will no longer be enough.

Being confident and knowing how employees will show up online to support external launches, campaigns and initiatives is where we’re headed.

About the Institute of Internal Comms (IoIC)
The Institute of Internal Communication is the only professional body solely dedicated to internal communication in the UK.  Helping organisations and people succeed through promoting internal communication of the highest standards, for over 70 years. Find out more: The Institute of Internal Communication