Monday, March 09, 2009

Internal Communications Manager - "trainer" for the informal learning era?

In my last internal L&D role, now some three years ago, I came to the conclusion that development of staff, in organisations large enough to have such things, really falls somewhere between three areas:
  • Training/HR
  • Communications
  • Knowledge Management
This (hardly revelatory) insight struck me as I wandered back across the car park to the ivory tower of the training department from yet another run to the top floor to get an IT 'hint' in the company magazine and a delve into the lair of the webby beasts to address yet another forum usability issue on our Intranet, all in the name of organisational improvement.

So is this qualification - Internal Communication Management PgDip - run jointly by Kingston University and Capita L&D, the future of L&D qualifications in an era of informal learning?

This item may have passed unnoticed, however, today I spotted another piece of junk mail that fed the same thoughts. The Internal Communications 2009* show boasts in the email (though not clearly on that link, but definitely on this PDF** ):
HR And Internal Communications Debate
Should internal communications and HR be integrated? Speakers from the BBC internal communications and HR teams share how they are working together to deliver an Employee Value Proposition and Employer Brand.***
Of course, the fault with both of these departments as they are traditionally arranged is that they are concerned only with information travelling in one direction: top-down. And I hardly need invoke the names of those commentators who would have something to say about such things.

Adopting an informal learning pose and looking a little more closely at the course spec, alarms bells ring louder:

Each module consists of a workshop, including expert speakers and topical case studies where you will study the role of the internal communication manager, employment practices and the nature of information and communication.

You will explore the effects of internal communication on the organisation and the impact of organisational factors on internal communication. You will look at the strategies and policies needed to underpin internal communication objectives and actions. You will also learn how to measure the effectiveness of internal communications.

Nowhere does the description suggest that any part of the course may take into account the changed nature of modern communications, or communications systems. In fact, it sounds so wholly academic and divorced from actual work that the only thing the course appears to teach you that you may apply directly back in the workplace is the measurement of IC - the old ROI game that training departments spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to prove - using up resources that precisely undermine their own case.

To be fair, I'd hazard that more than 80% of internal communication in an organisation is informal and I suspect that it receives a whole lot less than 20% of the attention of qualified internal communications managers.

Does your organisation 'get' peer-to-peer communication? Are you still having to develop 'training' solutions that really aren't?

* Is it just me or is it not beautifully ironic that an event devoted to the best in communications should have at the top of its blurb, A Sentence Written Entirely In Gratuitous, Distracting And Unneccesary Title Case? Oh, and there's a spelling mistake in the web page title. Makes me want to weep.

** Which you may care to look at if you really have nothing better to do with your time than wait for it to load. I really don't think these people haven't gotten over the age of print. But then, that's Hay Publishing through and thru.

*** I'm beginning to wonder if I've been too harsh. Surely this is the result of a faulty caps lock key?


Rach said...

Hi Dan,

Very interested to read your thoughts, bearing in mind I am an Internal Comms Manager and am currently on the Kingston Uni Internal Comms Post-grad diploma course you mentioned.

I'm now coming to the end of the year-long course and can totally recommend it. It is a good mix of heavy academic theories and also benefical as there are 35 ICMs from diverse companies so we are able to discuss our own practical experiences of Internal Comms in our organisations, to share that dreaded of all phrases - 'best practice' and also make fantastic contacts to help build our own networks.

The course content changes yearly to keep up to date with the relevant areas of IC, so this year for example Euan Semple visited to speak about social media.

I'm now writing my final dissertation to complete the post-grad (role of social media in Internal Comms) and would recommend Internal Comms professionals to consider this course to really help develop their thinking and help set a good benchmark to help push our profession towards an even higher standard.

Rachel Allen.

Dan said...

Hi Rachel

Thanks for your comment - getting feedback from an actual student on the course is an unexpected bonus!

I hadn't really been thinking too closely about this subject recently. My experience of it in the large corporate arena of late has been as an outsider only, so I'll confess I'm not exactly up to date with the latest thinking, but what is the focus in IC these days?

Are IC managers thinking about how to harness, rather than 'manage', social media and peer-to-peer comms? You say that your dissertation deals with the subject, but that is your choice. Is the rest of the field as switched on as you?