Overwhelmed internal communications employee

Protect Internal Communicators from Burnout with Strategic Support Planning

Lean internal comms teams can be overwhelmed. Create a strategy that focuses expertise on the most important work and cultivate stronger corporate partnerships.

When my corporate communications colleagues used to quip, “I’m spinning plates here working on several deadlines,” or “I can’t take on another project. I’m underwater”… a literal image would pop into my head. Can you see it? An office is somehow anchored to the seafloor, and your team member is slowly floating up from her office chair as she struggles to make her way to the surface. 

Metaphorically, I often felt like I was drowning as an employee communicator. It was the norm to clock 60-hour workweeks and try to play catch up over the weekends. If you’re part of a lean, mean IC team, you probably can relate. Mix in a crisis the pandemic’s initial impact on business operations in mid-March, and you were undoubtedly working three times as many hours as you were sleeping. Aside from crises or mergers and acquisitions, just supporting business as usual (BAU) communications across an organization comes with its fair share of challenges. Oftentimes the areas of the business you support want white-glove service with every comms project. 

When reviewing Cerkl IC clients, on average, one internal communicator supports 5,000 employees. It’s not new news that as a support function, IC teams are stretched thin. According to Gatehouse, 21% of internal communicators admitted that they do not have a strategic formal planning process. 

When you’re underwater, it seems impossible to plan ahead. You may not be able to plan out each business unit’s communications semi-annually or even quarterly. However, you can set clear expectations for how you will provide service to each business partner. In a former role, I was underwater and felt pulled in many directions when it came to supporting HR. The plan was to hire a full-time HR communications person, but IC didn’t receive the funding to support this plan. The Compensation and Performance Management VPs, Head of Benefits, and Talent Acquisition leadership all had different ideas about how IC should support their important work and rightfully so.

With so much of their communications tied to company culture and employee experience, it was absolutely imperative that IC provided consistent support. After working on a few projects that had some challenges around communicating expectations, my manager and I decided we needed to create a Service Delivery Plan that scoped out which HR communication projects we would fully support, from ideation to delivery, and which projects we would provide employee communications counsel and guidance. We also identified those local, targeted messages that Human Resource Business Partner (HRBPs) in a regional area often send out (think flu clinics and benefits vendor fairs). We provided tools so HRBPs could own those employee communications with branded company email templates and training on how to post this information to the company’s intranet. 

So I developed a matrix of comm projects categorized into an easy-to-follow service delivery plan that was socialized to HR leadership.

Whether you’ve got bare-bones resources or part of a well-staffed function, I think every IC team should set expectations for service delivery with its business partners. The challenge is consistency when providing service and ensuring your team is equally supporting each business unit (BU).  From experience, I know there’s always that one demanding business unit leader who is vocal about needing full support. All. The. Time. To help guide these discussions with BU or divisional leaders, your service delivery plan should address key organizational communication priorities to ensure that IC owns the biggest brand-defining communications work. 

Cerkl Broadcast is purpose-built for collaboration. Real-world workflow and user permissions enable even complex organizations to set up content contributors and editors with varying permission levels and access to specific audiences. Our masterful configurations help to set guard rails for business partners, enabling them to contribute and curate meaningful company content based on your intranet and email governance. By offloading some of the content creation work and targeting from the IC team to contributors along with the automation and personalization Cerkl offers as part of its intelligent content delivery system, employee communicators are saving an average 46 hours a month. 

Identify comms projects that warrant IC’s exceptional support

With your communications leadership’s support, you should determine which employee communication projects IC should own and which projects you can limit support to providing communications counsel on approach, messaging, tactical execution, editing and review. Look at which smaller, generally hyper-local communications could be handled by the BU if you give them branded templates, contributor access to your intranet, or even digital signage boards. Each organization will have a different take on what warrants top-notch support—even IC ownership. 

Cerkl helps small teams by enabling all digital content sources to flow into a centralized content hub. External blogs, intranet content, job listings, learning management system notifications, and much more can automatically feed into a centralized system that allows you to prioritize, target, and display content for all your communications channels. Think the time your team could save by publishing once and your content appears on mobile, intranet, social networks like Slack and as an email digest. Have urgent messages? Cross-channel notifications are packaged and displayed as urgent content to alert employees wherever they consume content.  With the intelligence of Cerkl, know which content your employees have seen across channels and what’s new.  

Ensure the plan is a ‘living document’ 

Your service delivery with your business partners won’t be consistent unless you reintroduce the plan with each new project. Through reference and appropriate application to the communications project, you can reinforce that your business partners refer to the plan before setting up a planning call. Imagine how much time you’ll save knowing what your individual or team’s support will encompass before the planning call? With the plan as a guide, your planning/kick-off calls can be focused on the project details and timeline. Over time, you’ll see greater efficiencies with communications planning and execution. 

Continually communicate service delivery levels with your business partners 

Repetition promotes consistency so, remember to Wash. Fold. Repeat.  By repetition, I don’t mean cookie-cutter communications. Rather your interaction with your business partners and your management of the project (whether it’s owning the employee communication or providing good communication counsel and support) should become a formalized process. As you cultivate relationships across the company, look for opportunities to consistently communicate what each service level looks like with your business partners.

Review the strengths and weaknesses on an annual basis 

It’s always a best practice to provide a retrospective of your work with business partners. Obtaining their feedback within this process is also vital to ensuring your impact as an IC professional. The end of the calendar or fiscal year is a great time to review the service delivery plan and amend it as needed. With Cerkl Broadcast, you can create custom dashboards and automatically share analytics and insights with all your business partners. Pick a timeframe and see how their communications performed. No more cutting and pasting graphs into a presentation deck. Cerkl does the work for you. 

Arming you with an example of a Service Delivery Plan

By now, I know you want to see what a plan like this looks like. I’ve shared a simplified version here that can be customized. This one is specific to HR, but you can tailor your plan to any other line of business or BU. 
I would welcome the opportunity to help elevate employee communications within your company.

As a Cerkl IC expert with more than 20 years of comms experience with Fortune 500 to midsize companies, I can give you a hand with everything from the best approaches for communicating organizational change to assistance in executing communications strategies through technology. Contact me via LinkedIn or request a no-pressure discovery call to learn more.

I'm a strategic business partner who is passionate about supporting clients' internal communications programs in order to personalize the employee experience and give life to a brand's message through storytelling.