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Inside Insight 2017

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Inside Insight 2017

​It’s a great time to be working in internal communications (IC). This year's survey received our largest response yet, with nearly 600 IC professionals taking part and making up what we believe to be a healthy representation of the industry. The sector continues to grow and more opportunities are being created. At the same time,

the value and importance of IC continues to be recognised by CEOs, with 78% of IC professionals believing that their CEO truly understands the importance of the function. In addition, it’s equally important that the communications director sees the value of IC in their team. This figure continues to grow, although interestingly, it appears that the increase in CEOs valuing IC is happening at a greater rate than with communications directors. Only 59% of IC professionals feel their communications director values IC as much as other disciplines within the wider communications function. A shift in valuation will be crucial, as the demand for IC within organisations only looks set to grow.

As a continuing theme, we still see a lack of talent starting their careers in IC. This does give cause for concern as to where the IC professionals of the future will come from and begs the question of what we should be doing to attract junior communications talent and school leavers / graduates into the profession.

The average profile of an IC professional remains fairly constant, with the majority of people working full time in the office, five days a week. However, we are seeing a continued growth in the interim IC market specifically, as more companies find themselves requiring the skills and flexible resources to support organisational change projects, often focused on IT and technology developments.

Nearly 30% of respondents are currently working within the profession’s interim market. We found they’re often attracted to this way of working due to the clear cut nature of a contractor’s projects, combined with set deliverables and a specific end date, as opposed to the ongoing, broader remit of permanent positions. Furthermore, although Brexit looms large over the UK economy, over two thirds of our respondents remain open minded to the benefits this might bring to the interim market, rather than the death of it. In fact, Brexit seems to have had a rather limited impact on IC professionals and the sector as a whole. A quarter of IC teams increased in size in 2016 and another quarter expect to expand again this year.

Although the IC sector continues to develop, it’s still disappointing that some of the basics are still not taking place; a significant 30% of IC professionals admitted their team does not have an IC strategy in place. In addition, where a strategy does exist, only 25% review it on a regular basis.

One of the changes we have been able to track over the last few years is the closer integration of IC and HR, as the number of IC teams sitting in the HR function continues to see steady growth: 13% in 2015, 18% in 2016 and now 21% in 2017.

As the demand for IC continues to increase, it looks like organisations are still investing budget as required. 53% of IC budgets remained static last year and 15% increased. However, 26% of IC budgets experienced a cut. That said, 30% of IC professionals still report an IC budget in excess of £100,000 per year.

Although IC channels continue to develop at pace, often with the launch of new digital and social tools, it’s still disappointing to hear that 70% of IC professionals think that use of digital in their organisation is poor or average. There has been no improvement in the last 12 months, with exactly 70% of respondents saying the same a year ago.

Pay and benefits remain fairly static across both permanent and interim IC employment, with no significant changes noticed within the last 12 months. However, 82% of respondents state they are open to considering a new job in the next 12 months, even though 47% of IC professionals have received a pay rise in the last year. It would seem that salary is still a key driver, with 69% of people willing to join a company competitor for a £10,000 salary increase.

The one concerning factor highlighted by this year's set of results is the continued lack of training and development taking place in the IC sector by its practitioners. Although IC is more in demand than ever before (and whilst today's CEOs are more demanding of their IC staff and the development of IC technology advances every day), it would seem that IC professionals are not keeping up the pace with their own personal development.

Only 11% of IC professionals receive a formal training and development allowance as part of their salary and benefits package. Only 7% self-invested in an IC related training course in the last 12 months, whilst 64% seem to reject the value of a professional IC related training qualification altogether. In addition, over half (55%) of IC professionals are not affiliated with any professional industry body.

It’s difficult to see how IC professionals will keep their skills up to date with the evolving and increasing needs of their CEOs and organisations. It begs the question, will the sector eventually reach a point when the key element holding it back is itself?

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