The Gatehouse Blog

The five hallmarks of a great IC function

Gatehouse, a Gallagher Company, has collected huge amounts of insight into how leading organisations communicate with their people through auditing dozens of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, carrying out our annual State of the Sector research and interviewing over 150 thought leaders in our Journal of Internal Communication. As the summer season begins, Gatehouse’s Director Simon Wright shares some thoughts as to what internal communication functions should aspire to do.


1. Be the guardians of the corporate culture

Employees want to have a clear sense of purpose, and they want to know how what they do in influences where the organisation is going. A powerful thing for IC functions to do is to create ‘one version of the truth’ – driving clarity and alignment from the very top of the organisation, helping the leadership team articulate the direction of the business and create a compelling case for change. As organisations grow in complexity, they need to identify the ‘common denominator’ that keep diverse parts of their organisation together. Great internal communication means actively shaping the messages and using our expertise to ensure that they resonate with people.

2. Coach your leaders

Organisations need to adjust to change and uncertainty at an ever-increasing pace, and employees want to know how their leaders plan to respond. A 2012 study by Great Place to Work shows a clear correlation between good communication and intent to stay in the organisation. Internal communication functions need to constantly keep employee engagement and communication top of mind for leaders, but it doesn’t stop there. They should also set the expectations for leaders and managers – and support this by helping leaders find their own communication style and engage with employees in a personal and authentic way. This means equipping leaders and managers with the talking points, tools and skills that they need to champion the corporate messages in their respective parts of the business.

3. Facilitate dialogue within the organisation

Employee feedback is critical to gain buy-in for any change programme, and internal communication has a significant role to play in facilitating that process. Internal communication functions
should aspire to be the ‘voice’ of their employees in front of the leadership team, using focus groups, pulse surveys and communication champions to constantly take the temperature of the organisation. They need to create an infrastructure that enables a dialogue between employees and the leadership team, whether that is through IC Audits or more informal channels like town halls or feedback sessions.

4. Drive continuous improvement

Increasingly, employees expect an experience that is consistent with what they experience outside of work – which puts pressure on internal communication to deliver more personalised, visual and instant information. Internal communication functions need to keep abreast of the latest channel innovations and constantly explore opportunities to deliver more relevant content on a ‘self-serve’ basis, without losing sight that each channel needs a clear purpose. It also means that IC functions need to adapt their communication style to the way in which people consume information and use creativity to come up with more impactful, visual and bite-sized content.

5. Demonstrate your impact

Impact measurement has long been a weakness of internal communication, and it’s still something that many organisations struggle with. Our main challenge as internal communicators is to move away from a simple metrics- based approach and understand what business outcomes we want to achieve – in order to be in a position to measure these. While there are some lessons to be learnt from the technology developed to measure and manage external reputation, internal communication measurement cannot rely exclusively on metrics but needs to incorporate a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback from employees.


Biography: Simon Wright

Gatehouse co- founder Simon has  specialised in internal communication and employee engagement for over 20 years. Having studied a Retail Marketing degree in Manchester and worked in various senior-level roles, he has since consulted for a number of large organisations across a variety of sectors, in the UK and across the rest of the world. Simon is a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Communications and of the Royal Society of Arts.