AVID framework for good internal communication

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Kevin Ruck presenting at Petronas
Kevin Ruck presenting at Petronas

On recent trip to Malaysia, I was invited to talk to managers at Petronas – the Malaysian government-owned oil and gas company – about internal communication and employee engagement.  A summary of my slides is below together with a short article I wrote from their in house magazine.

I hope they may be useful if you are talking to colleagues about the same topic.

Internal communication has its roots in internal newspaper publications that were established in large organisations in the UK and US in 1980s. Since then it has evolved to become increasingly recognised as a valuable strategic function that helps organisations achieve their objectives.

Contemporary practice remains heavily focused on briefings and news for employees, primarily via email, face to face meetings, videos, intranets and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) such as Yammer and Workplace by Facebook. However, it also incorporates an advisory role supporting senior managers to keep employees informed about key plans with an additional emphasis on listening to employee suggestions about how to improve processes and systems.

So, why is internal communication important?

Firstly it is closely linked to employee engagement which according to research in the UK is, in turn, associated with revenue growth, higher profit, better customer satisfaction, higher productivity, more innovation and lower employee turnover.

My own research into internal communication practice found that senior manager communication about plans, progress and change combined with employee voice had the strongest correlations with organisational engagement.

Secondly, organisations with highly effective communication outperform their peers.

In terms of the information that employees want to know, employees in five UK organisations in my recent PhD research said they were interested in information about organisational plans and aims, progress, the external operating environment and employee-related information. The average score for all four categories of information was 4 or above (on a 1-5 Likert scale where 4 is ‘interested and 5 is ‘very interested’).

A contemporary framework for good internal communication practice that is linked to employee engagement and organisational success incorporates four components:

  • Alignment – connecting team work to corporate strategy
  • Voice – giving employees a say that is treated seriously
  • Identification – with the organisation: understanding and belief in vision, values, strategy and objectives
  • Dialogue – informing, listening, discussing

In practical terms this approach entails line managers focusing on alignment where they ‘make the connections’ between local team work and corporate objectives. This is more than simply presenting a centrally produced briefing, it requires making plans and progress relevant and meaningful.

Employees expect to get regular updates on the vision, values, strategy and change from senior managers in person in informal gatherings. This makes them feel valued and enables them to better identify with their organisation.

Both line managers and senior managers are expected to give opportunities for employees to make suggestions and have a say (voice) and discuss what is going on in ongoing meaningful dialogue.

The evidence from my research is that internal communication practice that is underpinned by these principles is likely to lead to higher levels of engagement. The internal communication team itself also becomes much more strategic and adds more value when it adopts the AVID framework which moves practice on from just SOS (‘sending out stuff’).

Link to my presentation on Slideshare