10 Internal Communications skills every practitioner needs
10 mins read
Mon, Mar 22, '21
We talk a lot about highfalutin concepts in the Happeo blog, but let’s take things down to basics for a moment.
If we’re focusing on Internal Communications and the people who work in the profession, what kind of people are we talking about? They like comms – that’s for sure, but balancing the communications of an organization is a rocky road:
- Only 40% of Internal Communicators say that employees have a good understanding of their contribution to the corporate strategy
- 57% of employees don’t think they receive clear directions
- 69% of managers report that they don’t feel comfortable communicating with employees
Now, that’s less than ideal. But what skills do you need to be an Internal Communications specialist? Here are five soft and five hard Internal Communications skills to brush up on.
5 soft skills in demand for Internal Communications jobs
What does empathy mean?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person or group of people — to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes.
What does empathy mean for Internal Communications and why is it important?
The Internal Communications specialist is there to act as a bridge between the business and its employees. To do this, they need to be able to speak the language of both the C-Suite and the front line to enable a better understanding of all positions and communicate important information in a way that gets the message across. Still, empathy in business remains a skill that needs further development, as only 40% of leaders are reported to have the necessary empathy skills.
What does listening mean?
Listening is defined as the active process of receiving and responding to spoken messages. Listening means to truly hear and understand what the other side is saying, not just waiting for your turn to speak.
Why is listening important in Internal Communications?
In her Remotely Interested research, Jenni Field found that remote workers just want to feel like their voice is heard by HQ; the same can be said for any worker in any situation. One of the most sought-after and important skills in Internal Communications jobs is the ability to truly listen and to be able to turn what you hear into a strong Internal Communications strategy that moves the business forward while making employees feel like they are part of something special.
What does leadership mean?
Leadership is the act of guiding and motivating an individual or a group of people to achieve a common goal. In a business, leaders direct employees with a strategy to take actions, they need to succeed.
Why is it important in Internal Communications?
Leadership is one of those words that gets used a lot in business, and its meaning is assumed — though it can mean different things to different people in different contexts. In the case of Internal Communications jobs, ‘leadership’ means the ability to set direction and build an inspiring vision. It’s about mapping out where you need to go, how you’ll get there, and what will happen next.
Internal Communications specialists have been accused of not being strategic enough, so leadership is becoming an increasingly important skill to the profession. The Internal Communications specialist will need to both set strategy and lead employee communications, while also working with and dealing with those in leadership positions across the business. In fact, 3 in 4 employees say that the ability to communicate effectively is the most important leadership quality, but in reality, less (!) than 1 in 3 employees see that in their leaders.
In this podcast, Jason Anthoine - the managing founder of Audacity - an American IC Consultancy, goes into detail about the role of Internal Comms in leadership and the other way around:
What does flexibility mean?
Flexibility is the ability to adapt as circumstances change. Flexibility means literally that: to be able to flex and keep your eye on the ball in a dynamic environment.
What is flexibility in Internal Communications and why is it important?
If you’re the sort of worker who needs rigid parameters and a setlist of tasks, then Internal Communications jobs are not for you. This is the role that always has something thrown from left field, that is brought into long-held projects at the last minute and expected to run with it, that is often trying to be creative with little resources. You must be able to both plan and be able to divert from the plan at a moment’s notice.
What does influence mean?
Influence is the capacity to affect the behavior of someone, to get someone to see and work in a different way. It’s aligned to, though distinct from, persuasion, another key soft skill for Internal Communicators.
What is influence in Internal Communications and why is it important?
The distinction has been described as the difference between having a vision of the optimum outcome and motivating people to work towards that vision (influence) and presenting a case in such a way as to sway the opinion of others (persuasion). This is important in Internal Communications jobs because, at the end of the day, you are there to get employees to think, feel and do certain things for the good of the business.
5 hard skills to develop as an Internal Communications specialist
What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the skill of writing persuasive sales, marketing, and promotional materials. The goal is to motivate people to take action, such as purchasing, clicking on a link, donating money, or entering an email address.
But let’s ditch the “copy” prefix, and just say writing skills are important for Internal Communications jobs as much of the role involves creating content. Copywriting, though, is the ability to put concepts into words in a way that is engaging and persuasive.
Why is copywriting important in Internal Communications?
When it comes to Internal Communications, copywriting is also an important skill to have. Internal Communications specialist Helen Deverell writes on her blog that the craft of writing is a fundamental skill for Internal Communications: “We need to banish this idea that it’s easy and something everyone can do,” she writes. “While it has a tactical application, it’s absolutely strategic. Understanding your audience, your culture, and your values and being able to reflect that in words that not only convey a message but inspire and influence takes experience and skill. And let’s not forget shaping corporate narrative, storytelling to engage employees with the change, and ensuring your content remains ethical at all times.”
What does business literacy mean?
Classically defined business literacy means having a working knowledge of how to run a business and being able to speak the language of business leaders.
Why is it important in Internal Communications?
With Internal Communications jobs increasingly becoming strategic and working with the C-Suite, business literacy or business acumen is becoming an essential hard Internal Communications skill. “You don’t have to be a financial expert, but to make an impact you do need to have business acumen, to understand how business works, and what drives CEOs and MDs,” says Advita Patel, Chair of the CIPR Inside Committee, adding that terms like EBITDA, profit and loss will come up in meetings with senior leaders. “Business acumen as an Internal Communicator will put you leaps and bounds ahead of any other communicator out there, and help you to add value,” says Advita.
What does strategic analysis mean?
Strategic analysis is the process of researching a company and its operating environment to formulate a strategy. It’s an essential step for organizations in formulating strategic planning and a premise for making decisions and working smoothly. Intranet analytics is a great tool in this process.
Why is strategic analysis important in Internal Communications?
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Internal Communications must get more strategic, and so the strategic analysis is an essential Internal Communications skill. Yet, 60% of organizations still don’t have a long-term Internal Communications strategy.
The strategic analysis helps the practitioner gather insights, set SMART objectives, and develop their Internal Communications strategy for optimum impact. Taken in tandem with the business acumen skill, it makes the Internal Communications specialist a difficult team member to ignore.
What does confidence mean?
Confidence is the feeling or belief that you can do what you need to do, and do it well. Think of it as self-belief.
Why is confidence important in Internal Communications?
We don’t mean you have to be an alpha male or a total egomaniac to work in Internal Communications jobs — far from it, as you’ll see from the list of soft skills. But Internal Communications specialists must speak in public, talk one-on-one with senior business leaders, and work to influence and persuade an entire workforce. To do that, they need to be confident in their abilities and be able to get up in front of very important people or large groups and make sense while doing so. Confidence is not inherent and can be learned.
What does planning mean?
By “planning”, we mean the ability to make plans, to organize, to arrange or to do the groundwork. It’s thinking before the action takes place.
Why is planning important in Internal Communications?
Whether it’s planning a campaign, planning tactics to deliver a strategy, or planning events like town halls, the Internal Communications specialist must be something of a master planner. If you’re not organized and don’t know how to plan, you’ll find your need for flexibility resulting in a total mess and lots of missed deadlines and objectives. Unfortunately, that’s the case for 21% of the Internal Communicators around the world and for 31% of them in North America, who admit that they don’t undertake any kind of formal planning.
Don’t forget tech literacy for Internal Communications jobs!
All of these Internal Communications skills are great enablers for the job, but they will mean little unless you are technologically literate. In today’s business world, technology is the focal point for everything — from the way we do our work to how we communicate with each other. When a business is driven by cloud-based software such as Google Workspace, those in charge of the company’s Internal Communications must know how to harness that technology to help improve productivity, collaboration, and engagement.
Today’s Internal Communications specialist must know how to use technology to:
- Communicate with employees
- Collaborate within their team and across business functions to break down silos and work smarter
- Research and gain insights into how employees are behaving
- Plan and execute Internal Communications campaigns
- Test new Internal Communications strategies and tactics
- Measure the impact of Internal Communications
When you combine these hard and soft Internal Communications skills with tech literacy, you’ll be ready to take the next leap in your Internal Communications career.