A study from VMA Executive – the global search arm of the VMA Group – has shown a significant increase in demand for internal communications professionals. In its latest Business Leaders in Communications Study 2014/15, 95 per cent of respondents listed staff as the key audience for their business – on a par with the media and above all other stakeholders. Yet the same survey suggests that communications professionals should worry less about narrow specialist skills and develop the more general business skills such as the ability to negotiate and influence. Business acumen was also considered important, with 49% selecting this as a vital element for communications practitioners. I couldn’t agree more. In fact I have always banged the drum for the business brain in the communications function and keeping business issues and challenges at the front of what we do. Why else are we coming to work? Surely not only to fill up the coffee machine and organise the summer party (although these are both vital contributions to employee engagement at theblueballroom).
What slightly bugs me in the debate about the development of the internal communications function is the idea that the responsibility for driving employee engagement remains in a silo. Rather than assigned where it should be right across the organisation – to the leaders of the business, to anyone who manages anyone in the organisation and to individual team members, all of whom contribute to an environment that is either conducive or not to productive and collaborative working culture.
Surely there needs to be a trade-off here: if more communications colleagues embrace the language and behaviours of business, then let more business people embrace the language and behaviours of communicators. For sure, the responsibility for employee engagement needs to be shared but it is too important to delegate to one function.