5 strategies to defend and expand your internal comms budget
The EX winter is coming and it’s painting a bleak picture for already under-resourced internal comms teams. Fear not! Using up-to-the-minute insights from employee communication and experience agency Gallagher, combined with real-life examples from teams already smashing through the ceiling, we uncover the actions internal communicators can take to defend their budgets in the year ahead and beyond.
The EX winter – Will internal communicators find themselves frozen out?
There’s a gathering chill in the air at the moment, and we aren’t just talking about the weather. Forrester are calling it the ‘EX winter’ - a predicted freezing of employee experience investment that threatens to hit internal communicators right in the budget - and Gallagher’s forecasting agrees with this sentiment.
"2 out of 3 communicators expect to see a real-terms reduction in budget"
So, what should IC leaders be doing to tackle the issue head-on and secure – or even expand – the funds they need to move the needle on employee engagement?
We recently paired up with Gallagher to pin down some powerful approaches for internal communicators looking to build a rock-solid business case for the budget they deserve in 2024. We gathered up our shining customer examples, insights into tech in action, and success stories of high-performing IC teams to share with them. In turn they brought along the data that tells the industry-wide story and their gold-standard standard of measurement when it comes to comms and engagement.
Together, we uncovered techniques that will thaw even the iciest C-suites and boost comms coffers like never before.
How to defend and expand your internal comms budget for 2024
With the weight of ongoing employee engagement challenges resting on the shoulders of internal comms, the question of how to attain the budget needed to make an impact is back on top of the agenda. We've partnered with Gallagher to help you craft an action plan so you can make the case for more in 2024.
#1. “The customer is always right”
"1 in 5 IC professionals believe customer experience is the purpose of internal communications"
Customer experience is at the heart of any right-thinking organization’s strategy and being ‘customer obsessed’ is something many modern businesses aspire to. Leaning firmly into the customer benefit of on-point internal communication is the right move for budget-seeking IC teams who hear the phrase ‘the customer is always right’ on a regular basis.
The angle to take
Gallagher’s research shows that a quarter of internal communicators are expecting a brand and offering change in 2024. Who better to get this shift in proposition out into the world and flying than an organization’s employees through the messaging conveyed to them internally?
Similarly, when internal communications teams sit side by side with customer success teams and have a strong understanding of the pains of customers and the frictions they come up against, they can much more easily support their CX colleagues and the overall business mission to exceed customer expectations.
For internal comms teams taking this approach, it’s important to make crystal clear that the comms function isn’t just a content creation department dealing in ‘nice to have’ articles, but that internal communicators are the key disseminators of vital business knowledge.
Savvy IC teams who can position themselves as a knowledge-sharing powerhouse and emphasize their necessity to the success of the customer offering, where exciting projects and programs secure funds and move rapidly, can secure themselves a slice of the delicious customer experience budget-pie.
"If this is a strategy you're looking to employ sometimes comms is not the right word to use. I've worked with leaders that think comms is news articles but actually what we do is super important; it's knowledge, it's information, it's alignment. Sometimes picking apart the terminology that we're using with leaders and those that are budget holders is important. Instead of using the word communication, changing it to knowledge can help with the mindset shift needed to unlock greater understanding"
See the strategy in action
Luxury travel brand Kerzner discovered that their resorts with best-in-class customer experience were those with the most investment in and engagement with internal communications resource. By being able to present this correlation to leadership, the brand’s IC team can clearly show that customer experience relies on the alignment that is realized via internal communication.
In order to increase revenue at a resort, customer experience improvements need to be made, and the methodology for this includes effective communication and knowledge-sharing. The realm of the internal communicator!
Unite 23 - Mastering mobile: Creating an app employees love
Discover how Kerzner, the world-famous luxury hotel operator behind Atlantis Resorts & Residences, One&Only Resorts and Private Homes, SIRO and Rare Finds, is transforming employee engagement with an app that empowers its people to create amazing experiences and everlasting memories for guests all over the world.
#2. “Think like a leader”
The decision-makers who set departmental budgets in your business (hopefully!) aren’t plucking the figures out of thin air. Internal communicators who get a firm grip on the figures and KPIs being used to make the financial decisions put themselves in a winning position when it comes to upping their allocation.
The angle to take
When internal comms teams understand the high-level stats that inform their organization's leadership, they can set about understanding and ultimately showing how their work affects each and every target.
Case in point: when Gallagher surveyed internal communications pros on their success indicators for the first time, ‘employee engagement’ came out on top. As a comms purpose, this absolutely makes sense, but it’s not engagement itself that matters when we zoom out and take a view from the wider business.
Looking through the leadership lens, it is what engagement brings that matters, like the fact that engaged employees are more productive and proactive at solving problems or going above and beyond to delight customers. While over half of the internal communicators Gallagher surveyed are measuring the reach of their efforts in terms of click rates and attendance, only 30% consistently keep tabs on the behaviors and business outcomes they cause.
Tapping into that leadership mindset to measure what matters and show tangible cost benefits is a sound method to draw a clear link between IC activities and the bottom line.
"We don't want engagement, we want what engagement gives us, and that's where it's about thinking like the leader"
See the strategy in action
Leading global learning platform Pearson provide a shining example of leveraging metrics for leadership buy-in.
Using Gallup’s iconic Q12 as their framework to measure against, the organization’s internal comms team takes full ownership of a portion of the set criteria. By tailoring solutions that set out to improve these specific areas and offering each option along with its means of measurement and predicted impact, decision-makers can quickly and easily understand the value of IC’s activities.
Unite 23 - Using your intranet to drive high-performance culture
Discover how the world’s leading learning company Pearson, is using its employee experience platform to drive growth and help 22k employees worldwide focus and work simpler. By using Gallup's 12 elements of engagement, they are able to guide decision-making to optimize business impact and drive engagement.
#3. “Combine and conquer”
Despite the best of intentions, many organizations still struggle with totally effective cross-functional collaboration. For internal communicators who find themselves in a silo, finding their allies and working together to share budget allocations that are ultimately geared towards the same aims is a winning formula.
This idea of creating a squad around a shared challenge with an allied department or two – whether that’s HR, IT, Marketing, or a more unexpected function – means no more competing for finite budget. Instead of scoping multiple siloed solutions to the same challenge, cost efficacy can be found in developing a joined-up approach that sees departments working together to share the load.
The angle to take
A canny IC team can and should capitalize on allies with potentially deeper pockets than their own. If we think about internal comms as the megaphone for amplifying company initiatives, particularly those that involve change management, there are endless departments that can benefit from a strategic partnership with IC.
Given that IC pros told Gallagher they expected systems and technology to be the biggest change area in 2024, it stands to reason that a word in IT’s ear about how their comms-owned intranet platform could support roll-out and adoption challenges could pay dividends. Meanwhile, HR teams that are equally focused on driving employee engagement gains could provide budget buoyancy for culture campaigns and initiatives where goals align. Operations departments could take advantage of ICs ability to communicate and embed new ways of working with greater success, while marketing, sales, and customer experience teams can leverage IC to support the amplification of brand and offering changes set to hit the market next year.
Working with these departments to highlight the ways IC can help ensure success will not only help to solidify the value of IC across key stakeholders, it could also open up additional budget that can be put toward improving tech or protecting resources.
"There are so many common challenges across allied departments but, at the moment, we see them as separate challenges. What that means is they go out looking for point solutions, separate tech, and separate investment and they find it hard to get that investment. But, if they can make one single, solid business case together, they can go further."
See the strategy in action
A great example of departmental collaboration delivering results comes from German multinational chemical company, WACKER Chemie. To enable significant investment in an enterprise-grade employee experience platform, the company pooled budget from beneficiary stakeholders who were brought into discussions at the earliest phase. By demonstrating the value different stakeholders could get from an intranet transformation project, the enterprise was not only able to bolster project investment, but the solution was also designed in a highly collaborative way, producing a cohesive experience for employees that helped to demystify a complex organization.
#4. “The changemaker”
What is the purpose of internal comms? According to the latest Gallagher research, 75% of respondents cite strategic alignment as the purpose of internal comms. The same research finds that the most communicated topics include Vision, Strategy, and Purpose (ranked #1) and organizational change integration (ranked #2).
When internal communicators can tie their value to enabling big picture business strategy, particularly anything surrounding change and transformation, purse strings become looser. Leaders need to understand that without effective communication, change becomes messy and lofty aspirations are harder to achieve.
By activating a strategy that leans into internal comms role as an enabler of change and alignment, teams can elevate their perception from nice-to-have to non-negotiable. The key here is to get into the room where these changes are being discussed and ask questions that make the need for a robust comms strategy evident.
"Nobody ever wanted an internal comms department; the department is a means to an end. People want employees who are enabled to participate in the strategy so the business can go in the direction it wants to go."
See the strategy in action
One company that put this strategy into action with great effect is WSP Global. With a strategy centered around aggressive acquisition, the internal comms department built a business case for intranet transformation based on its ability to solve Merger and Acquisition (M&A) challenges.
By quizzing leaders on the pain points surrounding M&A process, the internal comms team was able to demonstrate the value of a new employee experience platform for streamlining the onboarding of acquired employees. Tapping into this critical business challenge allowed for significant investment into a high-profile internal comms tool that also serves to tacitly elevate the value of internal comms as a function of strategy enablement and value alignment.
#5. “The sneaky pilot”
The final strategy we recommend to internal comms leaders seeking to up their budget to solve a specific challenge is the sneaky pilot. Inspired by a conversation at a recent event, we found that IC teams have had success finding some extra pennies when they were able to prove the efficacy of a proposed approach on a small scale.
Let’s say you have an idea for improving employee value alignment, but you know you’re going to need extra resource to make it happen. In the scenario, think about how you could trial your thinking with a small subset of employees and what measures you can collect from that activity to prove its value. By taking a microcosmic approach, you’ll be able to show leaders what could be possible if you scaled across the organization. Instead of pitching in the realms of whimsical possibility, this strategy will give you the metrics to support your case.
Build your business case with our free worksheet
To help you put these strategies into action, we’ve created a nifty worksheet that makes it easy to plot your internal comms activities against high-level strategic value areas. With this tactical overview at hand, you can get clear on how what you do as an internal comms team impacts the big business goals your leaders care about.
Let’s make 2024 the year we solidify internal comms as a strategic business function that’s critical to enterprise success. We know it already, but with these strategies in our back pocket, it won’t be long before everyone else does too!
Download the worksheet
Align every IC project and campaign to key business outcomes and KPIs. Demonstrate value and grow your budget!