This post is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.
What can internal communications do to create a sense of belonging among employees? Stated simply: increase employees’ level of motivation. I don’t understand motivation as the act of cheering and encouraging others. I view motivation as providing reasons and motives for action. Internal communicators should not simply ask employees to have a sense of belonging, or show them fragments of movies such as 300 or Gladiator. Internal communicators should be focused on providing employees good reasons that will encourage them to build and maintain high levels of motivation.
When I speak of internal communication I am referring to a system of messages (e.g., words, actions, and objects) that are shared by the internal communications department and the other individuals in the organization.
A sense of belonging is built when individuals adhere to an identity, choose to form part of a group, and share a culture. But what types of identities are we currently building? An identity that is questioned in its essence: we are constantly being told that we are adaptable Lego pieces, that resilience is key, and that survival requires rebuilding, reinventing, and rethinking ourselves.
Our work is constantly in a state of flux and we are often reminded that we need to have the capacity to adapt to change and work in something different in the future. As a matter of fact, when someone proudly mentions that they have worked for the past 30 years in the same company, many people will look at this individual with pity as he or she “did not have the courage to look for something better.”
Work is constantly challenging us. Humans abandon their roles as societal workers to become, as described by many experts, a “One-Person Company,” a “ME Corporate Enterprise,” a “Knowmad,” a “Start-Up You,” a “Me-Spere,” and a “Flux.” As communication is social, relational, and connected, this is a huge problem for those of us managing internal communications. Is our current reality positive or negative? I am not interested in making judgments. I am interested in trying to interpret and adjust to the difficulties we are currently encountering.
I believe that internal communicators need to be paying attention. In today’s society, movement is crucial. The more continuous the movement is, the better. It seems that the more adaptable we are, the better our chances to survive. Under this context, internal communication would need to be “liquid” (to reutilize Bauman’s concept). However, this could provoke a flooding of information. In fact, this is something that is currently happening.
Several of the initial diagnoses we have prepared for companies throughout Ibero-America have followed a common pattern during the past several years: employees believe that they are receiving too much information from too many channels, and that the information lacks relevance, credibility, and sustainability.
In addition to the thousands of challenges that internal communicators face, we are now facing a new one. At our agency we are more frequently confronting the challenge of designing communication plans that portray a common perspective. This is not an easy task when you are working with organizations that lack a clear identity. This hypodermic injection of speed goes through all of our skin layers, and can paralyze us when we don’t see it coming.
Research reports have been finding that the average tenure of a CEO has decreased from 10 to 4 years, that the number of organizations that are opening, closing, and merging is increasing, that consumers are no longer “married” to brands, that markets aren’t patient, that labor mobility is no longer a stigma but a sought-out value, and that as stated by Moisés Naim, we are no longer facing concentrated powers but empowered fragments.
Internal communicators have no time to lose in terms of understanding our new ways of living as well as being able to describe the behaviors, socialization patterns, and communication that takes place within companies. After all, a communicator’s role is to operate within a culture.
Alejandro Formanchuk is the Director of Formanchuk & Asociados, an agency which has developed +1000 projects for +250 organizations in 16 countries [www.formanchuk.com.ar]. He is the President of the Argentinian Internal Communication Association and the Director of the Ibero-American Internal Communication Federation.