The debate of where the internal communications function ‘lives’ within an organisation continues to rumble on. At the recent CIPR Inside AGM, Sasha Watson from Arm discussed how she views this question – and eloquently argued that our ‘home’ should firmly be within HR.
We’re not quite HR, not quite PR, so where do we belong?
Ultimately, internal communications is about people – like HR. But it’s also about communicating and engaging with our stakeholders – like PR and Communications. Our organisations will have whichever structure that best meets its business needs, but we need to have a close relationship with both HR and PR functions.
I think the professional competencies and skills that we need for effective internal communications probably most align with PR. My skills have developed more for being with fellow communications professionals – going beyond internal communications and having feedback and discussing issues with colleagues from PR or journalism backgrounds have been incredibly beneficial.
But, so much of what we do in internal communications links to HR. We’re about people. We’re about connecting our organisation with its people in a meaningful way – as is HR. We want our employees to be engaged, to take an interest in professional development and grow with our company – as does HR. A lot of our internal communications objectives are shared with HR.
So, how to best manage this?
I think that, for internal communications to thrive and flourish in a company, to fulfil its role effectively and increase employee engagement, we need to occupy a shared space with HR. HR’s outputs will inevitably shape a lot of our engagement activities, and has a potentially huge impact on our people.
In return, internal communications can help to improve how these HR messages are received, and can increase engagement with the organisational HR function.
I’d argue that an internal communications function divorced from the HR department will struggle, and an HR department that doesn’t receive internal communications support will find it difficult to reach their people.
By straddling organisational structures and occupying a space between PR and HR, we can all benefit. Most importantly, our employees will benefit from consistent messaging and a cohesive organisational culture.
What do you think? Where are you situated within your company? What works well and what are the challenges?