People-Skills Needed Before Onboarding CommTech Tools

The CommTech framework plays out differently for folks tasked with employee activation than for people communicating with the public. In a series of three posts about People, Methods, and Tools, I explore important considerations for internal communication.

Part 1: People first

When it comes to CommTech—a combination of tools, people, and methods—communications professionals tend to jump straight to tools, but it’s critical to start with people and their skills. For internal communications—or, as I prefer to call it, “employee activation,” because ultimately we’re working to persuade employees to take action—there’s a suite of skills and expertise needed. We tend to think that superior content creation is enough to inspire behavior change, but what we actually need is the right balance of:

  • Stakeholder management
  • Facilitation
  • Content development 
  • Program analysis
Stakeholder management

In the CommTech domain, we find a lot of technologies that enable these abilities; what we too often overlook are the skills needed to apply the technology toward employee activation. For example, stakeholder management can be supported with whiteboard technologies, such as Miro or Mural. But driving meaningful internal change—the kind that can have a profound effect on the marketplace—isn’t possible by simply instrumenting the capture of ideas and plans.

Facilitation

For such change, communications professionals must elicit meaningful goals, inspire productive conversation, and hone ambitious plans. They must convene leaders across business organizations and prioritize activity. If you’ve ever participated in a virtual planning meeting, you understand why instrumented stakeholder management depends upon skilled facilitation. It’s not the tool that does the heavy lifting, but the people.

Content development

Nearly every employee communications technology platform comes with some form of dashboard that represents activity on the platform. Generally, they come with some capability to report data related to the consumption and use of content—whether its focus is email, as is the case with Poppulo, or employee intranets, such as Unily. While this information provides helpful points of analysis, unless it’s coupled with specific plans with concrete goals, data can only tell you what happened, and not where your employees are headed. To make practical use of available data, you must compare where they are to where you want them to be, then monitor and adjust to ensure you’re driving them in the right direction. This takes practice and skills-building, but not necessarily a degree in data science.

Program Analysis

In addition, if communications professionals are going to affect meaningful change within a business, they must interface with other groups where behavioral change is represented in data: HR, sales, or security, for example. Doing so effectively puts communications on the hook for business outcomes, which is the true path forward for our profession. Again: It’s not access to data that brings about change, but the skilled correlation, analysis, and application of data toward employee activation. This is why CommTech must first start with your people—even if the tools are just so-so.

When I stepped into my role at Bloomberg as the global head of employee communications I took a hard look at the toolset the team had in hand. But I only made that assessment after I’d spent time getting to know the team. I don’t think we made any significant changes to technology in the first year of my tenure. Why? Because a terrific team equipped with dated (or even the wrong) tools can have tremendous impact. 

I used to say, “let’s go to the beach and swim in the trunks we’ve got.” By that I meant, our ability to produce content, convene stakeholders, and measure progress may improve with an investment in tools, but I’d rather focus on the people on the team first. This being said, with the right tools—and the people who know how to get the most out of these tools—teams can truly contribute to consequential business outcomes. The hardest part is knowing which tools are right for your people.

The Integral CommTech Catalog to make things easier

This is why Integral has done the hard part and reviewed hundreds of CommTech tools that enable effective content management, relationship building, data insight, and more. Inspired by our work with Page.org on the resources for Communications professionals interested in communications technology, we’ve broken down what these tools offer and collected them in one easy-to-navigate spot on our website that we’re calling the Integral CommTech Catalog.

Looking for a tool to help with remote employee engagement? We’ve got over 30. Need help choosing the best tool for your business goals? We can provide that insight in a complimentary consultation.

Head to our CommTech Catalog to explore the tools yourself, drop us a line if we are missing a tool your team has grown to love or let us know if you want to chat about what the right tool is for your needs.

Ethan McCarty
CEO
Ethan is the founder and CEO of Integral, an award-winning employee activation agency serving leaders of Communications, HR, Marketing and Technology at organizations global and local alike.
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