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Sian Jones, head of internal communication for Bank of England, says IoIC’s new profession map framework and its focus on business acumen will help organisations get the best out of their IC function. 


Why were you keen to be involved in the evolution of IoIC’s profession map framework?
 
I was part of something similar a few years ago – just before IoIC launched its original profession map – when I worked in central government, as a deputy director leading on internal communications at the Department of Work & Pensions. I helped lead a significant piece of work on professionalising internal communication, which had been seen as the Cinderella of the government comms function. 
 
I did a lot of work thinking about the professional skills and competencies government communicators require and the expertise you need to make your way through that career pathway. We linked those in to a revised learning and development framework. 
 
I felt I had some understanding of what IoIC was trying to do, and that I had a lot of different experiences in comms that might be helpful.
 
 
Are the skills needed in government comms different to those in the private sector?
 
The core skills are absolutely the same. Perhaps 10 to 15 years ago, people in the public sector and government weren’t quite as budget conscious as those in the private sector and less focused on return on investment as they have to be now. 
 
Austerity bit hard during my time in central government. We lost a lot of talent and we had to justify why organisations had to invest in team members and comms as a discipline. Now, people in the public sector equally have an eye on budgets and costs and making sure they deliver examples of where they are making a difference.
 
 
How do you think internal communication has changed since IoIC launched its first professional map?
 
Three things have changed. The focus on measurement and evaluation in internal comms is more needed and expected now, so having a robust framework to measure the impact of what you’re doing has come to the fore.
 
Linked to that, our people need to be great not just at managing channels and content, but understanding data and analytics – especially on internal social channels – and really interrogating the data. 
 
And we need greater business awareness. One thing that’s strong about the new framework is the focus on business acumen, from the perspective of understanding the environment in which your business operates, and how your business runs internally. What are your organisational design principles? What change and transformation projects are going on? What does your balance sheet look like? You now have to be more involved in seeking out that information.
 
 
What was your experience of being part of the advisory board? 
 
I joined two sessions, in Milton Keynes and London. They were very mixed groups of people. I thought the IoIC team did well in getting people involved from a wide range of organisations and who were at different stages in their careers. It could have been tempting to ask a load of senior people who’ve been round the block a few times. But one member of the advisory board was in her first role in internal and she brought a refreshing perspective. 
 
The opportunity to get involved with likeminded peers with different insight and ideas was incredibly valuable for me.
 
 
What key skill or change to the framework do you think will be most of interest to internal communication professionals?
 
The point about business acumen as a distinct skill might not have had the same traction in the group if it hadn’t been pushed so hard. One of our group was very persuasive – and they were right to be.
 
 
How will you use the new framework?
 
I have a small team of four people who previously worked in different areas of the bank, but none of them have came from a comms background. They are all highly talented and enthusiastic, but haven’t got the formal theory and practice. 
 
I’m going to use the framework with them, especially when I set objectives. I’m going to sit down with them and we’ll discuss where they are on their career journey. It will help us identify the skills they need to develop and display to progress to the next level.
 
That’s exactly how the framework should be used.
 
As a team, our different skills and experiences complement each other, but we have got gaps we need to fill. So I’ll use it as a dynamic tool to help with my team development.
 
 
How can the framework support ongoing development of internal communication as a function?
 
I think it’s all about reinforcing that internal communication is a really powerful business tool. The more we ensure that people working in the field have the right professional skills and competencies, the better we’ll be able to support business development.
 
I see IC as such a big part of transformational change and supporting organisations to develop their offer to employees. That’s not just about maintaining channels or creating great content, but being at the heart of your business’s core objectives, whether it’s being profit driven or social responsibility. Internal communication needs to be at the heart of that. 
 
Until we have the confidence in our professional capabilities, organisations won’t get the best out of us and we won’t be able to offer our best to them. 
 
 
Find out more and view our relaunched profession map framework here
 
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