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From fads to fundamentals

Management fads come and go.

And then some of them come back again. It’s often a bit of a consultancy merry-go-round.

Sometimes it’s hard to work out what’s a fad and what’s a genuine paradigm shift in thinking. For example, some organisational psychologists believe that employee engagement is a fad. I think this is a bit limiting and agree with the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) that employee engagement is more than just a passing phase. It’s a further, deep, realisation that people respond to being treated as people, not just cogs in a wheel. Of course, this is not new in itself. However, employee engagement, in its broadest sense as outlined by MacLeod and Clarke,  challenges the reward, recognition and performance management school of HR thinking that still holds sway in many organisations.  We’ve been focused on performance management for a long time now and engagement levels remain doggedly low at around 35 per cent. Clearly, it isn’t working.

The answer is not another fad tool or buzz name for getting people to talk to each other more. The truth is that the answer to raising levels of engagement is staring senior managers in the face. All that’s required is to recognise that internal communication is a fundamental component for employee engagement, if, and it is a big “if”, it is practised professionally. By that I mean keeping employees informed in ways that they value and giving employees a voice based on them feeling well informed. It still amazes me that internal communication is not always mentioned in the same breath as employee engagement.  A recent Dale Carnegie white paper is a case in point.

This past week, I’ve been involved in analysing the results of a survey I’ve been running with Sean Trainor, the Chair of CIPR Inside and Uber Engagement consultant.  It was designed to see what practitioners are spending their time on and what they’d like to spend their time on. We’ve had 350 responses and the results are very revealing and suggest we have a way to go before employee feedback is a commonplace activity.

More details about the research will be highlighted at the CIPR Inside conference on 6 October.  This is going to be a different kind of conference. Not only will there be some great case study presentations about practice, there will also be some theatre and a session on establishing some fundamentals for the development of internal communication as a profession.

Ultimately, it’s fundamentals that count, not fads.

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