October 26th, 2017
Could the answer to the age-old question “why doesn’t internal communication have a seat at the top table?” be our distinct lack of universally recognised, credible practice standards? Russell-Oliver Brooklands certainly thinks so, which is why he’s on a mission to help set the standard.
It’s an exciting time to be an internal communicator. We know our value lies not in being the messenger but being the trusted strategic adviser. However, many business leaders still aren’t entirely convinced.
So, what is it that gives organisations confidence in the credentials and value of the finance team, for example, but less so internal communication specialists?
Last week, I attended a session run by Russell-Oliver Brooklands (ROB) on behalf of the IoIC Central Hub where we discussed this very topic and how the answer may lie in our industry’s lack of recognised standards.
ROB argued that as an industry we need to identify our core practices and create a set of empirical standards that we can all achieve and work to, creating a consistent approach. The reason no one questions an accountant’s ability and value, is that they are all trained and qualified to the same standards. All the industry bodies adhere to them and it is collectively agreed that these standards form the backbone of the accounting profession.
“Ask business leaders if they take IC seriously, and they’ll always say ‘Yes’. Ask them if they take it seriously enough, and they suddenly realise they have no valid way of knowing.” Russell-Oliver Brooklands
Being able to clearly articulate what our purpose as a function is, and what ‘demonstrably fit for purpose’ looks like, is imperative if we are to evolve into a critical business function. The finance, legal, and HR teams don’t have to justify their existence; they don’t have to rebuild their mandate when a new CEO or HR Director comes to town. People know the impact those functions have on an organisation’s very ability to function.
Creating credible, universally recognised practice standards for internal communication will enable us to articulate exactly what the value we add is, including financial. Yes, really. ROB knows we can clearly demonstrate to organisations the financial impact of communicating in ways which are unfit for purpose. He showed us the results of one financial audit he had been involved with and the results were sobering. And if we were all working to the same standards, being able to credibly demonstrate our financial value would be possible and then, over time, might eventually become unnecessary.
ROB and his associates are doing great work in this area, collaborating with various industry bodies and using the framework of the British Standards Institution to create a formal Code of Practice for internal communication. It’s still early days, but some fantastic ground work has been laid and it’s a huge step forward for our industry.
ROB hopes to be able to share more detail next year, but it looks like internal communication is getting ready to be a heavy hitter.
Additional thanks to John Kay and Ejaz Khan for hosting the event at Oxford University Press.