We were delighted to work with Prospect Resourcing to host an interactive round-table discussion on 26th April 2017 in Hong Kong with twelve senior communications and HR professionals to discuss the changing landscape of internal communications in Asia.
Prospect and Public Affairs Asia produced a “State of the Industry” report that highlighted how more companies in Asia are establishing employee engagement or internal communications functions, recognising that employees are becoming an increasingly influential and important stakeholder group.
We have recently launched an office in Hong Kong, to bring our expertise and passion for internal communications and employee engagement to the Asian market. We felt it was important to start building a dialogue with internal communications professionals to help learn from each other how to tackle the rapidly changing approach to internal communications.
To kick start this initiative we have highlighted a few themes that were discussed at our first round-table discussion.
Employees as brand advocates and how to engage them
The group overwhelming felt that internal communications is more important now than ever. Emma highlighted that the “recent Edelmann trust barometer shows the only people that are really trusted in an organization are its employees”. The group discussed how employees are a communication channel that leadership teams need to treat with as much, if not more, importance as its other channels. They are vital advocates of a company and its brand and strategy. Effective communications can have a significant impact on recruitment and retention. Whilst historically in Asia money has been the most important engagement factor, and remains so today, the group recognized that other HR factors like career development, and flexibility are becoming more important, and companies need to engage employees on these topics.
A challenging speak-up culture and the growing trend of social media
Culturally, the group felt that it is more challenging in Asia for employees to speak their minds, and for companies to therefore really understand how their employees are feeling. Effective communications are about listening as well as cascading, to respond to what matters to employees to drive their engagement, and mobilising a workforce as positive advocates of a company. It’s vital for companies to encourage their employees to speak-up and have a voice, and identify employees who are willing to lead by example. The middle management population must be leaders in this space, and create environments whereby their staff are willing to find their voice. The group discussed how powerful personal stories can be to changing perceptions, so engaging employees to proudly share their stories is key. It’s also vital for leaders to put trust in their teams, in order to empower people to use social media channels to be advocates of the business. It’s natural for people to talk about their job or their company with their fellow workers, friends and family. Indeed, Whatsapp and WeChat creates informal platforms for co-workers to have these dialogues. Effective internal communications can both positively channel a company’s purpose and agenda through these conversations, and encourage employees to amplify the conversations both off and online.
The leadership role in effective communications
A large amount of the discussion centered on leadership. Most importantly that communications from leaders must be authentic and in a style and approach that a leader is comfortable with. Board level support is critical to successful internal communications programmes and to instilling a culture of regular employee feedback and communications. Asking for, and listening to feedback, is only genuine if the leaders of the business are seen to take action as a result. The changing landscape means that increasingly, leaders need to recognise that the value of their corporate brand is in the hands of their employees. Middle managers are again a key group. Messaging can often get lost or misunderstood amidst the multiple priorities that middle managers are juggling, and engaging this population in the importance of communications to employee engagement can help to smooth the communications path.
Where should the Internal Communications function live?
The discussion of where in the business an internal communications function should sit came up, our Managing Director Kate Shanks shared this is a common debate in communications discussions throughout the world. Across the group people had experienced communications being in HR, Corporate Communications and Marketing. Overwhelming, the feeling was that it’s more important for it to sit in a function where it has board level advocacy, than to debate organisational structures.
Additionally, the group discussed some major trends that place greater importance on internal communications. Firstly, globalisation and the desire for consistent customer experience, and secondly the digital revolution, and the voice and power that this gives to employees.
Growing importance, engaging the C-Suite, building trust in the employer and employee relationship to empower advocates, and confronting cultural barriers – the round-table touched on a lot of powerful conversations, all over breakfast! The group found there was high value in a network of professionals working together as internal communications evolves in Asia, and we look forward to working closely with Prospect Resourcing to host more of these events to deep dive on different topics in the future.
If you are interested to be a part of the conversation and attend future events, feel free to get in touch.