We caught up with Kathryn Kneller, an Internal Communications consultant whose career spans 15 years at blue chip companies in sectors ranging from tech, financial services to big pharma. What’s been really interesting to learn is the way in which internal communications as a function of a business has evolved to keep in step with the times.
In her career, Kneller has seen a shift from internal communications operating in a “broadcast mode to deliver corporate messages to its employees, to a more two-way, conversational model. “The most interesting change is that we’ve moved to a facilitator role,” says Kneller. “It’s much more about driving dialogue and certainly we’re seeing leaders who are much more open to that style of leadership”.
Whereas internal communications functions once acted as a mouthpiece for corporate internal messaging, industry is changing rapidly. Now, the most successful leadership teams work hand-in-hand with their internal comms teams to drive dialogue and create environments where fruitful conversations can take place – and typically, high employee engagement and retention rates follow. However, not everyone is a natural communicator and for the more introverted leader who prefers listening to talking, this can be daunting. But Kneller says that supporting a “quiet” leader to find their voice to build trust and authenticity with their people is all part and parcel of the facilitator role.
Finding and expressing that authentic voice helps to strengthen employees’ perception of leadership and can quickly decide for themselves if they are to really believe senior leaders when they talk about purpose. Kneller has seen this in action over the course of her career: “When purpose is understood and lived,” says Kneller “performance follows”.
Knowing how to reach out and have a conversation on topics that matter to their employees can give any business a competitive edge. This is particularly helpful in an age where the next generation of workers are looking for companies that can prove they are making a difference.