Friday 21 September 2012

HR, IC, and the Melcrum Summit


   As you may know, I’m a big supporter of integration – within HR and between HR and other functions. Hence this comment on a recent Harvard blog post focusing on the integration of HR and Marketing:

“Yep, of course, but you could make similar but different arguments for HR and or Marketing to be integrated with IT, Finance, Procurement, Facilities etc.  Actually the whole organisation needs to be integrated together.  Surprising huh?”


Despite the comment, I do agree that integration of HR and Marketing, and in fact broader alignment of everything we do for employees and everything we do for customers is one of the most important points of integration to get right.

In terms of aligning employees and customers, the focus is very often on the role of Internal Communication. Do we see the IC function being part of HR or Corporate Comms? And more importantly, are IC messages shaped to support HR needs or to cascade from external customer and stakeholder communications? And how do we inject enough alignment so that there’s no difference between these questions and that where IC sits in the organisation doesn’t matter any more?

I think these are key questions and am surprised they aren’t asked more often than they are. I know business leaders, line managers and employees are taking more responsibility for both HR and IC, but this doesn’t stop there needing to be a clear ‘home’.

I’m also surprised that HR doesn’t get more interested in IC than it often is (other than in those organisations where IC is an actual part of HR). So for example I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve long followed progress at Melcrum’s annual summit, even if I’ve never previously managed to attend. I am attending this year (the dates are 10 and 11 October) but I suspect there won’t be a huge number of people coming from a broader HR perspective. Those that do are showing they understand the need for broader alignment and I’m sure they’ll learn a lot. They’ll also find a lot of content emerging from a common ground. Take the themes of the summit for example:

  • Redefining the role of Internal Communication
  • Enhancing the leader-manager-employee relationship
  • Supporting business transformation
  • Building a collaborative organisation
  • Making measurement more transparent and compelling.


- Any of these topics could find its way into a good core HR conference too.


Of course, none of this means that HR isn’t interested in IC at all. Many of us see IC as an integral part of HR and many HR functions do include responsibility for IC. Many IC professions understand that alignment with HR is critical to their own effectiveness. I just think we could do a lot better than we currently do.

Human Resources magazine also ran a good article on the topic recently and I thought covered the agenda very well. I’m less convinced by the solutions offered in the article however:

“The question of who has control over internal comms can be problematic for firms, as there is more than one natural home for the discipline. HR directors, as guardians of the staff within the firm, have a compelling case with which to lay claim to internal comms, but corporate communications or the PR department can have an equally strong case to take ownership.

For organisations with both an HR and a PR department, the load is often shared between the two. ‘Corporate communications are professional specialists,’ points out David Gillies, HR director at electricity and gas market regulator, Ofgem. ‘But if you look at the messaging from HR, it can often be quite formal and sensitive stuff that is being communicated.’ The obvious answer is for both departments to work together, with an understanding of each other's strengths and areas of expertise. This means harnessing the creative expertise of the communications department when it comes to deciding through which method to communicate.

Where responsibility is shared between the departments, HR can often end up as the 'angel of death', only communicating serious or negative messaging. ‘Our messaging does tend to be about formal things, and take a formal tone, so there is a risk,’ admits Gillies. ‘The problem we have is that if that is how HR is seen, it is not engaging with the audience very well.’ “


There’s got to be a better way of sharing(!) and I may come back to this again around the dates of the summit. In the meantime, however, if you are interested in the link between HR and IC, or simply in bringing IC more effectively into the broader HR agenda, then I’d suggest you might like to come along to the summit, and it’d be great to link up there.

If you don’t manage to attend then I’d encourage you to keep following this blog and in particular drop in on the 10th and 11th October as I’ll be posting from several sessions during the two days!


See also Melcrum Summit site


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  1. Jon

    Great post and thanks for introducing me to some of those articles.

    I spent the last 10 years of corporate life sitting between the HR and Marketing departments. I think Marketing grasp the importance of integration much more than the average HR team.

    An example is the interview I conducted for the HR Tech Europe blog ( where Rob Ballantine, one of Infosys's Customer Experience experts discusses the link between employee experiences and customer experiences.

    My time in / with marketing teams has been split between IC and Brand / Brand Research with some work with Customer Experience. I think all are equally important to HR. When being responsible for new joiners in a global bank I fought an uphill battle trying to increase the amount of time employees spent learning about customers and our brand messages. It was quite clear this is vital to developing a sense of individual purpose, so important for engagement. HR struggled to see it as relevant apart from for customer-facing teams.

    The depressing fact is that most marketing teams are better placed to create and run internal change programmes than most HR teams are at doing branding / comms work. Few in HR are willing to invest the time and effort to understand the sophisticated techniques necessary to do 'marketing' well. Far too often their approach is 'this is what we want them to know' rather than 'how do I make my messages relevant and encourage demand'.

    Ultimately it shouldn't matter where it sits, however any firm with a true, integrated, multi-stakeholder approach will have a significant head-start.

    It's a shame I can't be at the Melcrum summit but let's catch up over this in Amsterdam at the end of Oct.


  2. Thanks Andrew, I don't disagree with any of this. And absoluetly - I look forward to seeing you there! Many thanks for the comment.


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