Lack of strategy and skills shortage 'to have greatest impact on internal comms'

One in three internal comms leaders believe an unhealthy obsession with talking tactics instead of strategy will have the greatest impact on the future of the discipline.

Meanwhile, almost as many (28 per cent) said a lack of skilled people would have the biggest effect, according to a survey of 1,500 senior internal comms professionals in the UK by Question & Retain.

Of those who believed the lack of focus on strategy would have the greatest impact, some of the comments included:

- "Every person in the organisation wants to talk tactics without thinking what is it they want to achieve and what is the strategy."

- "Organisations agree they need to communicate with staff but don't know why."

Those who cited the skills shortage made comments such as:

- "More resources are still generally given to external comms/PR without enough time and effort put into understanding internal stakeholders."

- "Everyone thinks they understand communications and are a good writer. For internal communications to succeed it needs to be recognised as a professional skill throughout an organisation and properly resourced."

However, one third also gave "none of the above" as their answer, and instead offered a range of alternative suggestions, including:

"The changing expectations of the audience. Millennials expect to be able to access information on their terms, via their own devices. They won't settle for an email announcement cascaded downwards."

- "Internal comms not wired enough with business objectives."

- "Technology solutions, and new and different tools to engage with employees."

More controversially, six per cent of respondents chose a fourth option, agreeing that the "dominance of women" would have the greatest impact on the future of internal comms.

One person who chose this answer wrote: "Let me preface my response by saying the best people I ever recruited were women. However, in internal comms at present, too many leaders still see it as a fluffy, unimportant activity, just trying to make people feel good. As a result, they see it as an activity more suited to women.

"Nowhere is this more evident than in banks, as a counterpoint to the otherwise prevailing macho culture."

A number of these issues were debated during a panel session last night at the Westminster office of Ellwood Atfield.

The lively debate was billed as a "fight club" between the four panellists: PRWeek deputy editor John Harrington; Claire Lucraft, a senior internal comms consultant who formerly worked at KPMG, BBC and Cadbury’s Schweppes; Paul Riddell, head of strategic comms at AXA Wealth, and Annabel Dunstan, co-founder of Question & Retain. It was chaired by Liam Fitzpatrick, managing partner of Working Strategies.

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