Prompted by a conversation with a client. I set out to see if there was a pattern to the staffing of internal communication functions.
The specific question I had in mind was whether my client with a team of 3 FTE, servicing a population of 3,500 people on a single site was overworked or hard done-by! Things were not helped by a government friend who told be that here team of 10 served a population of 2,400!
So, I thought I would ask the IC community and see what they thought.
I posted a simple question on a variety of LinkedIn fora with some interesting results! With thanks and apologies to everyone who posted, here are some observations.
First up, there is a widely held belief that there is some form of industry-recognised rule of thumb that says that for every 1,000 colleagues you need one full-time communicator. Quite a few people shared this figure with me but few people were able to say where it had come from.
Second and entirely to be expected, were the multitude of people pointing out the futility of trying to pin down a number. I won’t list the excellent arguments but suffice to say that the size of the team will be shaped by a rich range of factors which could be summarised as “it depends on the job in hand”.
Third, several people emailed me to say that they had a problem with the idea that people could be tagged as purely internal communicators. The message was that a few organisations are merging the roles – the difference between internal and external doesn’t really apply.
Four, a few people told me that there were employee engagement people who sat in different departments. I have noticed this recently in a couple of places where HR sets up its own engagement team and I have been puzzled a little by how anyone knows the boundaries of their respective roles!
Finally, a couple of people commented to me privately that IC in their organisation is a highly diffused role. Although there may be a central team but commonly there are people out in divisions or remote sites who spend a day or so a week on IC in addition to other roles. These are often the unsung heroes of our profession and my research wasn’t going the shed any light on them.
Below is a summary of the data that I received – I have omitted a few because the data was unclear. And the two charities gave me both employee and volunteer figures (I have taken just the employee numbers which may be misleading).
I have sorted the figures by size of organisation and it does not seem to make much difference apart from suggesting the number of communicators does not change much below 2,000 – once you have decided to have an IC person, you have one.
And that number doesn’t really start to rise until you get past the 2,500 mark.
I couldn’t really see a pattern by sector as I half expected.
So, make of it what you will, for me it confirms my belief that the answer depends on so many factors. Years ago I heard Bill Quirke warn conference delegates not to hope to mimic the practices of other organisations. He said “You can’t take someone else’s medicine”
In this case it seems particularly true.