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Andrew Osterday

10 minutes

A New Partnership: What Internal Communications Can Learn from Great Marketing

$223 billion.

That’s the turnover cost American companies lose due to 20% of workers having left a job because of an unfavorable company culture, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

And it gets worse. SHRM’s recent report on toxic culture unearthed cringe-worthy findings around bad managers:

  • 60% of employees left their jobs because of their managers
  • 33% say their manager doesn’t know how to lead a team
  • 30% say their manager doesn’t support a culture of open communication

HR and Internal Communications pros should be shuddering at these stats. How can they ensure that employees and their managers – the “pressurized middle” balancing the needs of the business and their people – are set up for success and to make an impact on the business?

The good news is, they’re getting more of a chance to do just that, as HR and internal communicators are playing bigger and bigger roles in the employee experience. Conference Board’s recent Corporate Communications Practices 2019 edition surveyed 149 public and private companies and found more than 42% of companies surveyed expanded their communications departments in the last fiscal year.

However, the increase means nothing if the same old strategies and tactics are applied.

The Answer is Right Down the Hall

The greatest discoveries are the most obvious ones. Consider a dynamic new partnership between Marketing, HR, and Internal Communications – the business departments responsible for engaging people – as the key to employee engagement and a more positive, more profitable employee experience.

The internal communications role is changing drastically, requiring expanded skills sets that go way beyond simply writing or building a presentation. Communicators are now tasked with producing high-quality video and data-driven storytelling, and doing so with business goals in mind, while taking into account financial, operational, and HR considerations. It’s not unlike any marketing campaign. Marketing teams are staffed with individuals that have the skills, experience, and resources to supercharge your internal communications efforts.

What can you do?

Partner Up with Marketing

Internal and corporate communicators should be working with their CMO and CHRO regularly to identify these powerful influencers, create opportunities to build belief in stakeholders, empower managers, and demonstrate business outcomes impact.

When brands want to sell products and ideas to a group of consumers, they pursue intelligent marketing and advertising techniques such as market research, branding, audience segmentation, and data-driven content. Consumers have come to expect powerful stories from the brands they love. Why would it be any different for employees? People are people – we’re all the same emotional, irrational creatures, whether we are at home on the couch or in the office at our desk.

Hire Marketing and Advertising Professionals

HR has great ideas and big initiatives, but most HR professionals are not trained marketers. Important “launch” moments often fail or are ignored due to mediocre communication. Enhance your communication capabilities by staffing your team with expert communicators from the agency world. These individuals will provide immediate value by crafting your messaging for each audience and creating memorable communications that make an impact. It’s what they’ve been trained to do.

Show Your Value

Companies often spend millions on new technology or implementing new operating models, yet barely anything on proper communication – a critical factor in success. It’s true that consumer-grade communications require a bigger investment than sending a company-wide email, but don’t mistake efficiency for effectiveness.

Show the value of great communications through increases in employee engagement numbers and faster and broader adoption of new technologies or processes. A simple way to prove your direct business impact is to measure increase in Revenue/Full Time Employee (FTE) through top-line and bottom-line drivers:

Top-line Drivers:

  • Productivity: How much a person contributes (revenue/expense)
  • Quality: How well they contribute
  • Customer Satisfaction: How much value their contribution creates

Bottom-line Drivers:

  • Efficiency: How quickly they contribute (or decrease the cost of their contribution)
  • Retention: How long they contribute (and don’t contribute somewhere else)
  • Advocacy: How positively they speak and write about the Company

Internal Communicators are More Important Now Than Ever

Internal communications has historically been transactional based, limited to benefits and payroll updates. Businesses are suffering from the “engagement gap”, and the misery is expensive.

Creating powerful, effective communication programs that inspire and empower managers and employees is the #1 job of the modern internal communications practitioner. As study after study shows, the companies that grow their people earn more and keep their best people longer.

Reach across the aisle to your marketing colleagues and tap into their expertise. Your C-suite will thank you.