Shaking HandsI’ve been participating in a spirited discussion about internal communications and employee engagement on LinkedIn. And this has caused me to reflect on the changing role of internal comms, and how we can help to solve the challenge of engagement in today’s working world.

First, let’s agree that it’s a real challenge, and not some empty piece of jargon that people like to throw around in meetings. I think you’ll get that from

But here’s what I was thinking about in terms of the role of internal comms.

In the past, engagement was about a survey and internal communications was positioned to drive participation. Without doubt, worthy work. We determined a timeline and integrated it into the greatcompanywide communications calendar. We partnered with our marketing and graphics colleagues to develop a survey identity that we applied to posters, intranet pages, email templates – you name it. We scripted our leaders to announce the survey, and video-taped their calls to action and played them on screens around our offices. Then, as we beat the reminder drum oh-so-many different times, we eagerly vetted our daily participation rate reports, gleeful as the numbers climbed.

But in some organizations that was the extent of communications’ support. I know, because I’ve experienced it.

In one company in which I worked, once the results were in, the internal communications function’s only task was to make sure the CEO said thank you, and shared the high-level results at a all-employee meeting. Oh, and we posted an intranet link. Then, with a big mission-accomplished grin on our collective face, we moved onto other things. And the CEO left everything else in the hands of the HR department. I love HR folks, and they work hard. But really? So I wasn’t surprised when a pulse-check of employees a year later revealed that they didn’t see any outcomes from the survey. In my view, that wasn’t HR’s fault. They needed partners to address the survey results – partners, who would help them work on solutions to advance the unique engagement agenda for that organization.

Okay, maybe that made sense for that company at that time, but in today’s world I would say not including internal communicators is a missed opportunity. Internal communicators have knowledge, experience, and capability to offer in the quest for an engaged workforce. We share the same objectives as every business leader, and we are great at partnering with others in the organization to address results analysis, and to help craft solutions in service of what’s needed.

For example: If we actively collect and analyze our communications data, we have channel and employee insights to bring to the strategy and planning conversations, before any go-forward decisions are made. If we’re innovative communicators, we’re aware of trends and tactics in the marketplace, and we’ve got fresh approaches that work to strategically achieve objectives. If we have smooth corporate communications operations, we have a calendar and planning tools, style and usage resources, multiple tried-and-true channels, and well-oiled processes to cut through noise and reach employees effectively.

Internal communicators, let’s step up as partners on the quest for employee engagement.