As times change, jobs morph into something new. Industries like health care, facing a unique set of financial, regulatory and political challenges, are seeing new jobs emerge while some existing staff positions are taking on more responsibility and are playing a more strategic role.

One of those positions, Internal Communications, is becoming an important strategic partner for the Chief Executive Officer and other members of the C-suite. Given the employee engagement challenges many businesses face, this cannot happen soon enough. In far too many organizations, the job of internal communications has been assigned to someone in PR — a good writer who also held several other responsibilities. They were buried in the organization and had little or no responsibility for strategy or contact with the “brass” in the C-suite. In essence, internal communications was an important after thought, not a valuable resource for the CEO and his team to use in improving employee engagement.”

With industry consolidation in a number of business sectors, including healthcare, some executives are realizing that the role of internal communications is mission critical. Corporations with far-flung operations like Disney, Holland America cruise line, GE and others, long ago bought into the importance of this role. They invested in talent and technology to make this function an integral part of how they operate. It is not fluff, it’s substance.

Some smart healthcare CEOs are beginning to realize that if they want a more engaged and committed workforce, they must do a better job communicating — early and often — and they must provide conduits for feedback. This is not just a flack position responsible for publishing press releases designed to impress the workers. If that is what you think internal communications is all about, save your money. No, it is far more strategic, a resource for the CEO to use to improve his own performance.

When you realize that 70 percent of American workers say they are unengaged or only marginally engaged in their work, and that those people are probably already thinking about changing jobs, this position takes important financial considerations. When companies fail to communicate effectively, this contributes to employee turnover. The cost of turnover is damned expensive even though few companies report it on their income statements. Not reporting this expense is not reason to maintain the status quo.

A robust, effective internal communications strategy can enhance an organization’s recruiting brand which is essential if it hopes to attract the top employees who typically happen to be the top performers.

So, in highly competitive industries in highly competitive markets, there will be important winners and big losers. The winners will be those organizations with the best employees who are fully engaged in their work and their company.

And they also will be the organization with a best-in-class internal communications team. It is time for healthcare goes all in to engage their employees.

I am betting that health systems will begin looking for these communications champions sooner than later.

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