Last week I co-hosted an event for CIPR Inside with Angela Gostling to discuss the career pathway model for internal communicators. There was representation from IOIC, Melcrum, in-house practitioners and recruitment agencies all interested in discussing how we can understand more about the skills needed to be an internal comms professional.
Our objectives were to:
- Stimulate professionalism amongst practitioners
- Help internal communications practitioners plot a career path to their ultimate career goal
- Closer alignment to other professions – such as law, engineering, HR, marketing
- Link to a CIPR-wide professional development project to create an online career planning model.
This set the scene for some conversations around competencies and skills, exploring what we do and how we do it. We explored how qualifications fit into the industry and had some debate around whether you can map the career model for internal comms in isolation.
What is interesting is that many people came into the profession through various roles. Some worked in journalism, others in the industry or the business and ‘fell’ into internal comms and some of us have been in comms since leaving university/college. But where does a qualification come into the career? And where is our industry? Is it even a profession yet?
I noted some key points made during the 90 minute conversation:
There are different levels of IC everywhere
Every company and industry is different. I heard once that for every 1,000 people in the organisation there should be 1 person in the internal comms team; by that logic I should have a team of 10! My biggest challenge in the industry is that it seems anyone can be given the task of internal comms. It can be someone who is experienced, with qualifications and internal comms knowledge or it can be an add-on role for a PA or HR professional. How can you map a career pathway when there is no fixed understanding of where and what internal comms really is. There are so many varying degrees of what the function does; some produce magazines or company wide emails and others are strategic partners to the business – the scales is huge.
We did agree that the business needs to take ownership of internal comms and at the same time we need to do what is expected, but also surprise our CEOs and stakeholders. We shouldn’t be asking what do you need, we should be finding out what their challenges are and then we can find the solution. I have said this before and will continue to say it; we need to be the experts in our field and own the communications.
Being the glue
We need to understand the business and how people are connected across it. We need to be able to speak in the language of our business, knowing what is important to different people and different departments. I was told just last week; “I need you to be the glue” and this is something we also discussed. It is our role to bring people together and make connections across the business. This became quite a passionate debate and something some felt should be a key focus for the career model of internal comms.
GP Vs Consultant
We referenced the T model during the presentation and had a great medical analogy from one of the delegates. He described the internal communicator as a GP and that sometimes the problem needs to be referred to a consultant or an expert. I loved this. The GP role seemed very close to reality and certainly in my role there is always a need to bring in the experts for projects that involve video or design work. So what would make up the skills of the consultants? And should every ‘GP’ have some understanding of these?
What we do and how we do it
We showed the chart below to the delegates and after some debate around what those skills and competencies are we also agreed that this list explains quite nicely what internal comms is all about:
As always, a few statement takeaways
- You cannot take IC expertise and apply it across all industries and business – it is not text book
- Hybrid roles are needed more in current climate
- Specialist roles are needed to manage change and transformation programmes at the moment
- Leaders are not always where they are because they are good communicators
- Balance between learning and application – you don’t always get the chance to manage a crisis even though you learn the text book approach
The debate and discussion continues so please take part!