These are the skills you need to be an IC practitioner

Do you know the skills you need to be an IC practitioner? Today the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) has launched its updated profession map following an eight-month consultative review with a broad range of practitioners on a newly established professional development advisory board (PDAB).

The IoIC’s original profession map was first introduced in 2016 and has since been used by practitioners to support their professional development, articulate the role they play within organisations and as consultants, and inform the structure and development of internal communication functions.

Four years on, and in a rapidly changing working world, IoIC recognised the need to ensure that the profession map was reflective of the role of internal communication professionals at various stages of their career, and effectively described their key responsibilities and activities, as well as the underpinning skills and knowledge required to perform those activities to a high standard.

The Institute of Internal Communication is the only professional body in the UK solely dedicated to internal communication and I welcome this updated profession map. It’s reflective of the practice I love and the behaviours that I value in not only my own work but my clients too.

How can you use it?
The profession map can be seen below, via the download and the IoIC website. I’ve been using the previous one in my work with practitioners 1-2-1 to help them map their skills and spot gaps.

I also use it with Comms Directors when we’re restructuring their teams. The six professional areas in the middle are a useful check and balance if you are trying to grow your understanding of internal communication. These areas are what you need to know (knowledge) and the expertise you need to demonstrate (skills).

What’s changed?
Among the changes made to the profession map are increased references to the need for IC professionals to have strong business acumen, commercial awareness and strategic knowledge and skills; a significant increase in the reference to enabling employee voice; and the acknowledgement that the IC function exists to both create and curate content and conversation within an organisation.

I’m so pleased to see this, I’ve been writing about the shift for us from content creators to creators for eight years and welcome this change.

The updates have also allowed for a distinction to be made between the activities that a practitioner might be involved in at each level of their career and the knowledge and skills required at the respective level. This distinction will improve the user experience of the tool when utilised in supporting practitioners’ professional development.

I’m also pleased to see the white on yellow from the previous map has been replaced with darker text – it’s much easier to see!

Four professional levels

Four distinct professional levels have been identified as part of the profession map,providing an indication of the activities and outputs that professionals at different stages of their internal communication career may be involved in or responsible for.
Level One: Delivering
Delivering high-quality communication materials, with a focus on content creation, potentially design and the day to day administration of communication channels/ infrastructure.

Level Two: Managing
Responsible for channel management, delivery, and evaluation; practical communication planning and providing advice to project teams and other stakeholders. Providing support to leaders and other colleagues in effective communication delivery and creating content which requires advanced skill and knowledge such as more complex, sensitive or change focused messaging.

Level Three: Strategically Advising
Working with business areas to advise on communication strategies and approaches; development of overall channel infrastructure and evaluation processes; and supporting leaders in becoming highly effective communicators.

Level Four: Leading
Working at a senior level to lead thinking on internal communication; ensuring communication strategies meet business needs and that effective communication is built into the fabric of the organisation.

Liz Cochrane, IoIC’s board director with responsibility for professional development, led the consultative workshops with members of the PDAB to get input into the new framework. She said: “It has been great working with a range of practitioners at different stages in their career to develop the map. The end result demonstrates the breadth of what we do as communication professionals – and the depth of knowledge and skills required to facilitate communication effectively. It dispels the myth that anyone can just ‘do’ communication and underpins the fact that internal communication is a distinct profession in its own right.  The next stage is for people to start to use the map and to give us feedback – on content and usability. That way, we can continue to refine it over time as necessary. We want it to be a living document that is, and continues to be, of real value to both practitioners and organisations.”

Jennifer Sproul, IoIC Chief Executive, says, “Updating the profession map allows us to continue to our work to drive skills, raise standards and advocate for the professionalism and strategic value and impact of good practice internal communication.”

IoIC President, Suzanne Peck, added, “The profession map really has been a collaborative project and it’s been great to hear different views and insights, then see them brought to life in this important framework that delivers valuable guidance and best practice for the modern communicator.”

The launch of the new profession map for internal communication is an important phase of the IoIC’s professional development strategy. This strategy is set out to ensure that internal communication is established, and perceived, as a distinct discipline and strategic function with specific professional standards and requisite knowledge and skills that can be gained via education, CPD and engagement in lifelong learning – and it will drive the work of head office over the next four years.

Alongside the review of the profession map, the IoIC has conducted research with practitioners to understand what it means to be a professional internal communicator and the ways in which the IoIC can continue to drive the narrative of professionalism and standards among practitioners and leaders within organisations. The results of the research, and the subsequent action plan for the IoIC, will be shared among the profession in 2020.

The new profession map is now available to download via IoIC’s website. Details of a roadshow of events to introduce the map to internal communication professionals can be found here.

What the IoIC Board think…

Oli Howard: “The development of this framework has been driven by IC people at all levels and, as a consequence, it reflects both the reality of practice today and the profession’s ambitions for the future. It should, and will, become a vital tool for raising standards of practice both across the profession and within individual organisations – a real step in the evolution of internal communication.”

Caroline Waddams: “As an Institute, we’re striving to raise the standards of our industry and this updated profession map will help to support our members in their career progression, setting out the standards required at each level.”

Rich Baker: “The first iteration of the IoIC profession map in 2016 was received with great enthusiasm and used by practitioners to assess, review, recruit and understand our profession. Building on that success, the map has been brought up to date to help us help organisations in 2020. It’s a core part of any serious internal comms practitioner’s toolkit.”

Justine Stevenson: “As businesses face change at a greater scale and frequency than ever before, now more than ever they need to rely on their internal comms teams to inform and engage colleagues to maintain business performance. This framework helps practitioners and team leaders to identify they skills that they will rely on daily and those that they will want to develop as they step up to the challenge.”

Well done IoIC, this is a sterling piece of work and one I will be sharing with my clients and Masterclass attendees.

What do you think of the new profession map? You can see the previous one via my blog. As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

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