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Andrew Harvey, chief executive of recruitment specialists VMA Group, part of the advisory board that contributed to IoIC’s new profession map framework, believes internal communicators must build their commercial skills and business knowledge. 

 
The professional framework launched in 2016. Why do you think it needs updating?
Internal comms has moved on a little bit in the past four years, in all sorts of ways. 
 
The framework is a great tool for demonstrating to IC professionals what best practice looks like at this moment in time, so it’s a good thing to give it a refresh. 
 
A lot of people come in to IC from different routes and into different organisations. This tool covers every eventuality you are likely to find in any IC role in any organisation, and supports your career development in terms of what skills you have and where the gaps are.
 
 
Who else might it be useful for?
It’s useful for those hiring IC professionals. We are seeing a lot of organisations that haven’t had to recruit into that role before, so I can point this framework to help those people develop their thoughts.
 
 
Why were you keen to get involved?
I massively believe in the value of continued professional development. I recognise the difference it makes to professionals. I hoped I could bring a different perspective, from having interviewed thousands of people and seen the benefits they got from studying in addition to their day job. 
 
 
What are the changes you’ve seen in internal comms since the first framework?
It’s been gradual. Increasingly, IC professionals are expected to have a commercial focus. VMA recently asked 20 CEOs from large FTSE organisations in the UK what skills they want from internal communicators. What was interesting was that not one person answered communication.
 
Leaders are looking for commerciality, strategic thinking, understanding of the business environment, and experience of managing ambiguity and driving change. What they didn’t say was writing or channel management. They want communicators to think business problem first, and comms second.
 
 
What did you take away from the advisory board sessions?
It was great to talk with people at different levels, and from diverse backgrounds, all coming together for the benefit of the industry.
 
We analysed the old framework – looked at where it is now and what it should be like going forward. We went through it line by line, skill by skill, to see where it was fit for the future. As a group, we debated where we needed to make changes. I think everyone was on the same page about the changes that needed to be made. 
 
 
What do you think you brought to the discussion?
I could help drive the commercial point, as the CEO of a small organisation who has interviewed other CEOs. Based on my personal experience, CEOs are more focused on reputation management than ever before and see the value of comms, but want it to be a commercially focused function in their organisation. People need to prove their business knowledge.
 
 
How can people use it? 
It’s a bit like a jigsaw. The skills you need are the pieces, so you need to look at which bits you have missing. If I’m trying to build a jigsaw of my skills development, I need to spend more time developing the gaps. 
 
Most IC professionals do not have a career plan that says where they want to be in five or 10 years’ time, and so they don’t have a career development plan that sits under that. The framework shows what you need if you want to be, say, a director. The framework lets you develop a career plan, and then a skills and personal plan. 
 
 
How will you use the framework within your team?
At VMA Group, we will use it in three ways: firstly, it will be useful for our internal marketing comms team to see what they should be thinking about; second, from a recruitment perspective, I’ll use it with candidates to look at where they are in terms of skills development and what they should be thinking about for the next steps in their career.
 
Finally, I’ll take it to employers looking to hire so they can build job descriptions or think about what skills they need. What do they need from a head of internal communication? Do those skills really fit in the spec of an IC person, or are they looking for a senior manager? Are they talking about an IC executive or are their requirements more in line with a head of IC?
 
 
How would you like to see the new map used?
It will benefit internal communication as a whole. Lots of ideas have fed into this, and I would encourage every person in IC, to look at it. It could be career defining. 
 
I don’t think the profession is where it needs to be, but the demand and enthusiasm is there – and this map will help practitioners focus on commerciality and business awareness. This is a great tool everyone can use, put together by people who know about the profession. 
 
 
 
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