Clear criteria to tell us if our IC practices are good enough
we’ve all inherited a paradigm in which…
…we don’t yet have a clear set of criteria which will tell us if our internal communication practices are DFVP?
So we have a stable definition of internal communication, and a logical purpose for it, complete with ‘workings out’ for anyone to see. Our next job, then, must surely be to look at how we might be able to maximise the possibilities of our IC practices being as demonstrably fit for that purpose as we can make them. And there are two aspects to this:
- Inputs: the validity of the method we use for defining our practice standards
- Outputs: the extent to which the communications are fulfilling employees needs
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we’ve found it most useful to start with the employee needs and work back from there to come up with the inputs method which we’ve used in our training design. Working it through – and looking at it from a risk management perspective – we identified nine key criteria. None of these should come as much of a surprise; they’re all pretty obvious, but, as always, it’s useful to state them out loud, as it were. And to make them easier to remember, we’ve summarised them in the acronym TRACELACE.
Timely communications are inevitably preferable to having them:
- turn up late,
- arrive uselessly early, or
- be buried in so much other ‘noise’ that they risk being overlooked.
And while this is blindingly obvious, it does have implications for a number of internal communication practices. This essential timeliness could easily be put at risk if any of these processes are anything other than DFVP:
- taking briefs from clients,
- campaign planning,
- running a message calendar,
- eliciting and managing feedback,
- getting communications approved and signed off.
The alternative here would be that communications are wasting people’s time with stuff they don’t need and can’t use. This is not only because of the cost of that wasted time, it’s also because we need to guard against getting in the way of communications they do need to pay attention to. Here too there are DFVP implications for the briefing process, campaign planning and feedback processes.
This is obviously preferable to communications being misleading. It is often one of the criteria which is well taken care of most of the time in any organisation that has a half-decent approvals process.
…as opposed to vagueness. Clarity is something that can often suffer when people resort to corporate speak. And it can affect the conversations people engage in during the very process of producing communications. So your language standards need to be able to handle this in all situations (not just when people are writing).
To fulfil the purpose of internal communication, its intended audiences have to feel “this is talking to me, so I need to act on what’s being said here”. Otherwise they might switch off and leave the tasks to other people. If that happens, those communications will have failed with some or all of the people they needed to get through to. This is something your briefing process and language standards need to handle.
This is preferable to bouncing people back and forth to find the information they need. And while it’s true of individual communications, it applies just as much to campaigns, and to the way the intranet, Enterprise Social Networks, or SharePoints are set up. The briefing process and campaign planning have a role to play here, as does the feedback process, and possibly even your channel mix. And of course the approvals process should be flagging up issues here too.
There are two strands to this: accessibility in terms of people simply being able to get to the information itself – obviously a matter for your channel mix. And, less obviously, perhaps, it also has implications for your message calendar (how ‘accessible’ is information going to be if it’s buried in a mass of other noise arriving at the same time?)
Then there’s the question of how accessible the language is for some people – especially if it’s a technical subject, or you’re dealing with employees who are relying upon their second or third language to take on board what you’re saying. So your language standards need to step up here.
Vital to avoid leaving people to fill in the blanks for themselves. This again relies on a combination of the briefing process, campaign plan, feedback process and approvals.
This could be affected either by the content of what’s being said, or the manner in which it’s being expressed. The language standards should be taking care of the latter. But it’s likely to be your organisation’s very mission and values which will be in play if people are being asked or told to behave unethically.
These, then, are the criteria we have identified as being necessary to meet if you want to consider your internal communication practices DFVP.
- Logically organised
We’re not saying our list is exhaustive (we are no less prone to blind-spots than anyone else) so if you have any suggestions about other criteria we should consider, by all means get in touch. As a starting point, though, we feel it’s reasonably robust. And they require your team to have a series of IC practices which are DFVP. As far as introducing IC Practice Leadership is concerned, you need five such practices:
- Language Standards
- Briefing process
- Channel Mix
- Outcome Feedback
- System Feedback
(On top of these, it would be ideal to also have DFVP practices for:
- Campaign planning
- Message Calendar
- Approvals process.)
An unexpected bonus
Knowing your team have to fulfil TRACELACE criteria makes it easier for you to focus them when it comes to their professional development planning. They can look at everything through this TRACELACE lens and identify anything which is holding them back from meeting these criteria.
Not only does it help tease out issues they might otherwise miss, it also makes it easier for you to make your business case. After all, you can show how missing out on X or Y resource will risk TRACELACE-ness of your organisation’s internal communications. So any decision to deny your people the needs they’ve identified must, by definition, be Demonstrably Unfit.
And we’re currently offering free workshops which will help you understand more about making this work for your organisation. We’ll set it up for a time to suit you, and anyone you want to invite. It will:
- spell out more of the business benefits (emotional, financial and reputational)
- walk you through the mechanics of moving your IC Specialists into the Sweet Spot, and
- show you how to make the business case for introducing this new paradigm.