Following the opening of its new office in Hong Kong and the creation of LinkedIn group, the Asia Internal Communicators Professional Network, theblueballroom was pleased to host an interactive roundtable discussion in partnership with Prospect Resourcing. Twelve senior communications and HR professionals gathered to discuss the changing landscape of internal communications in Asia.
Employees are your most important brand advocates
The group discussed how employees are a communication channel that leadership teams need to treat with as much, if not more, importance as their other channels. They are vital advocates for their company and the digital revolution has increased their voice and influence. They can influence how their network feels about a company: whether it’s a business they trust, and whether it’s somewhere they would want to work or have their family members work. Effective communications can also drive improved retention rates. As HR topics – such as career development and flexibility – are becoming more important, companies have an opportunity to engage employees on these issues.
A challenging speak-up culture and the issue of trust
Culturally, the group felt it is more challenging in Asia for employees to speak their minds and therefore for companies to really understand how their employees are feeling. Effective communications are about listening as well as cascading, responding to what matters to employees to drive their engagement and mobilising a workforce as positive advocates of a company. It’s vital for companies to encourage their employees to speak up and have a voice, and identify employees who are willing to lead by example. The middle management population must be leaders in this space and create environments where their staff are willing to find their voice. It’s critical for leaders to develop trust with their teams in order to empower people to use social media channels and be advocates of the business. It’s natural for people to talk about their job or their company with their fellow workers, friends and family. Indeed, WhatsApp and WeChat create informal platforms for co-workers to have these dialogues. Effective internal communications can positively channel a company’s purpose and agenda through these conversations, and encourage employees to amplify the conversations offline and online.
The leadership role in effective communications
A lot of the discussion centred on leadership. Most important was that communications from a leader must be authentic while having a style and approach the leader is comfortable with. Board-level support is critical to successful internal communications programmes and to instil a culture of regular employee feedback and communications. Asking for and listening to feedback is only genuine if the leaders of the business are seen to take action as a result. Middle managers are again a key group. Messaging can often get lost or misunderstood amid the multiple priorities that middle managers are juggling. Recognition by middle managers that communications are important for employee engagement can help smooth the communications path.
Where should an internal communications function live to be most effective?
This is a common debate in communications discussions throughout the world. Across the discussion group, people had experience of internal communications being in HR, corporate communications and marketing. Overwhelming, people felt it is more important for internal communications to sit in a function where it has board-level advocacy than it is to debate organisational structures.
The roundtable touched on a lot of powerful conversations – the growing importance of internal communications, engaging the C-Suite, building trust in the employer-employee relationship to empower advocates, and confronting cultural barriers – all over breakfast!