As the work of Internal Communication becomes more complex from factors ranging from new generational thinking, high employees expectations, digital disruption, increasing diversity in the workplace and the need for employee engagement, it is increasingly difficult for PR Managers to build internal communication teams that can rise above these challenges and be able to create and run communication campaigns that deliver on key objectives that impact the bottom lines of their organizations.

Even in normal situations effective team building has never been an easy business. Success hinges on your ability to enhance the effectiveness and satisfaction of the individuals who work in the team. Studies have shown that the PR manager who will succeed in building an internal communication team that works will have to do the following:

Understand What A Team Really Is

A team is not the same thing as a group as many would think. It is “a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, common performance goals and an approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”, according to Ricky W. Griffin and Gregory Moorhead in their book, Organizational Behaviour: Managing People and organizations.

A team requires diverse skills related to the assignment at hand but a group can be people with the same skills. Teams are always selected on the basis of complementary skills with full consideration of interpersonal dynamics but deliberate efforts are not always required in group formation. Some groups, such as peer groups, come together on their own. The number of people that make up a team is usually few; but a group can comprise of any number of persons. Decision making in teams is participative largely because of shared responsibility for success or failure. That is not always the case in most groups.

Why is this differentiation necessary? Because you might be tempted to build a group while you think you are building a team. Understanding these differences will help you avoid such a mistake.

Know The Purpose Of Internal Communication

My dictionary defines the word ‘purpose’ as the end to be attained in doing something. Today, the purpose of internal communication is nothing else but employee engagement. To achieve that the PR professional must be able to help employees understand the strategy and direction their organization is heading, manage change, keep employees informed of company news, build employees pride in their organization and help them understand and live the values of the organization.

A clear understanding of the purpose of internal communication is crucial to building an effective team. It helps PR managers begin with the end in mind and recognize  that “if you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else”, according to Yogi Berra.

Determine The Spread Of Work

In some organizations, internal communication work involves news management, change management, issues management and crisis management. By determining in advance what your team will be doing, it is easy to assess the competency and skills available in your team, identify the gaps and fill them effectively. It also helps you to know the number of team members required. 1:1000 ratio of internal communicators is a popular rule of thumb.

Create Conditions For Collaboration

Quoting J. Richard Hackman, Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen in their Harvard Business Review article, The Secrets of Great Teamwork, explain that what matters to collaboration of team members most are not the personalities, attitudes or behavioural style of team members. Instead, what teams need to thrive are certain enabling conditions, namely: compelling direction, strong structure, supportive context and shared mindset.

A team with a compelling direction is one with a clear, precise, common and challenging goal. The goal should not be frustrating; rather, it should be one with some forms of reward, either extrinsic such as promotion or pay rise, or intrinsic such as a sense of meaning.

They argue that in the dispersed workplace of today, a balance of technical and social skills, diversity in knowledge, perspectives, age, gender and race is what it takes for any team to succeed. It is the right mix and number of talents that makes a strong structure.

Supportive context, according to these scholars, refers to the right resources, information and training. A reward system that promotes good performance, an information system that provides access to relevant data and an education system that offers constant training is fundamental to collaboration and success..

As team members may be drawn from different locations, time zones and cultures, it is important to foster a shared mindset and avoid an “us-versus-them” mentality in a team. The scholars suggest the use of unstructured time; that is, time blocked off in meeting schedules, to enable team members converse on matters not related to the task at hand.

According to them, teams can achieve this by reserving the first ten minutes before meetings for open discussions. Virtual teams can achieve this by having members meet and explore each others’ workplaces virtually. Altogether, these help teams to understand each other and interpret situations better.

As their research has shown, these principles work for all kinds of teams. Internal communication team cannot be an exception.

Evaluate The Team

Continuous team evaluation is important to ensure it is still effective. Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen give three criteria for effective team evaluation as team Output, Team collaborative ability and individual member’s development.

Team building is hard work. A thousand random men and women may make a group, but it takes a critical selections process, a clear sense of purpose and the right conditions for collaboration to build an internal communication team that works.