What it Takes to Do Internal Comms for Global Organisations

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Whether we call it employee engagement or internal comms, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that global organisations are as reliant on the robustness of their internal communication practices as they are on the external ones.

When we say “global organisation”, that automatically implies large businesses in excess of 5,000 employees, with a presence in more than 3 continents or 10 countries. “Global” means “big” and “large”, whether that is by market capitalisation, geographical footprint, sales or revenue streams.

Doing internal comms for a global business is very different than doing it for a local business or government department. You need to demonstrate complete mastery of a variety of engagement drivers before you even get to channels and tactics.

And here is what really matters:

  1. Your exposure to and understanding of different cultures (not just nationalities but cultural regions, norms and customs).

The latest research on this subject demonstrates that

“[…] the larger the cultural differences between a majority and minority nationality, the less likely it is that employees will share information with them.”

What would be construed as offensive or inappropriate for a certain employee segment? What stories / examples would they find motivating and resonating ? What would make them share their genuine views?

2. Your ability to understand the meaning behind the words, actions, gestures of those who are not in a leadership position.

According to a study carried out by Cambridge Judge Business School,

“Those who feel less powerful within the organisation tend to recognise connectivity gaps in its internal networks, but they are less willing to take action in case they are seen to be overstepping their authority”

To be able to communicate effectively internally, across geographies / nationalities / religions / cultures, you need to understand those you are communicating to and with. Can you tease out their information consumption pattern, channels, interests and tipping points?

3. Your familiarity/ease with matrix organisational structures

According to Global Integration, 95% of Fortune’s Top 50 and FTSE’s Top 50 companies operate a matrix structure (explained in the video below), which is typical of complex, international organisations that have multiple business units.

You need to understand that your reporting lines may not be as clear cut as you’re used to. Before you act and react, there are several others whose permission you may need, individuals who have nothing to do with the Comms/PR/Marketing/Corporate Affairs department: country managers, business unit leaders, regional supervisors etc. And their views aren’t always aligned, so your job gets even more complicated …

As with any workplace, trust goes both ways: you have to be trusted by those you report to, but you also have to be trusted by those you communicate and engage with.

You need to understand these three, very simple prerequisites of successful internal communicators in global organisations mentioned above, to be able to demonstrate why you would be a good fit for that organisation.

Any communicator’s job starts (or should start) with research, analysis, understanding and formulating actions. As an internal communicator in a global organisation, you have a myriad of issues to contend with, starting with reach and ending with engagement/action rate.

Finding a middle ground in terms of your internal communication efforts is not always going to be easy, nor necessarily possible.

There will be times when you’ll need to devise different engagement plans and tactics for different segments, to ensure they yield the same type of data that would allow you to make sound recommendations to your leadership.

Success in internal communication for global organisations depends, in a very high proportion, on how well you understand your publics. This is not just about Public Relations or Communication – this is about profiling and applied psychology; this is not about posters or videos – this about relatability and giving a monkey.

This is not about social platforms – it is about whether your organisation is really interested in listening to its people.




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