Well-roundedness, not specialization, is a key element for successful employee communicators, according to a Melcrum report, “How to Develop Outstanding Internal Communicators” by Sue Dewhurst and Liam FitzPatrick.
Melcrum is a research and training organization that focuses on internal communication.
The report contradicts conventional wisdom that top employee communicators ought to work more toward providing strategic advice. Rather, Dewhurst and FitzPatrick’s findings suggest they should get involved in delivery work.
“In recent years, there’s been a general feeling that all internal communicators need to be high-level consultants,” Dewhurst said. “But when we talk to people, we hear that they’re really doing a much more balanced range of things.”
She and FitzPatrick conducted a global study in an attempt to better understand what traits and skills are necessary for effective employee communicators. They also sought to support their training courses.
FitzPatrick said the best employee communicators are comfortable wearing many hats, that they should not consider themselves to be just consultants.
“What this seems to be saying is that organizations need their employee communicators to be strong all-rounders — writers, planners, advisers and organizers,” FitzPatrick said. “What it’s not saying is that employee communication (EC) people can only make a difference if they’re working as employee consultants.”
He and Dewhurst compiled a list of 12 model competencies that organizations can use to aid in the recruitment, development and promotion of employee communicators.
These competencies, which survey respondents said encompass the basic skills, knowledge and experience they need to do a good job, are as follows:
- Building effective relationships
- Business focus
- Consulting and coaching
- Cross-functional awareness
- Craft (writing and design)
- Developing other communicators
- Innovation and creativity
- Making it happen
- Vision and standards
“Although no one could be expected to be a master of new media and all the tools at our disposal, there’s a clear consensus that EC people need to be able to at least write well and be skilled in the core areas that matter in their workplace,” FitzPatrick said. “Our research confirms that colleagues expect the EC team to be able to provide expertise in some fundamental areas.”
After the survey was completed, Dewhurst and FitzPatrick interviewed practitioners and conducted focus groups to better define and understand the aforementioned competencies, as well as identify basic, intermediate and advanced behaviors.
This research yielded the importance of employee communicators having delivery and advisory skills.
“We were continually told that EC professionals are most valued when they make things happen and don’t just talk about it,” Dewhurst said.