On the relevance of internal communication at INESC TEC

A few days before a new Strategic Gathering of INESC TEC takes place, I am grateful for the invitation to write this month’s Editorial dedicated to the subject of internal communication at INESC TEC.

For many years now, the subject of internal communication has been unanimously considered as extremely relevant in organisations, and it should be one of the priorities of management teams. The COVID-19 pandemic proved its crucial role in maintaining our sense of community and overcoming difficult times together.

One of the roles of the Management Support Service that I coordinate is to support INESC TEC’s Board of Directors in the communication of decisions made by our management bodies, and to ensure the management of information in the institution.

Our action seeks to achieve a difficult balance in an institution in constant transformation within a context of great competitiveness and high levels of demand regarding transparency and access to information.

On the one hand, we know that internal communication contributes to organisational success at different levels – from the most operational to the most strategic -, with the key role of ensuring the accord among our teams, contributing to our culture, promoting participation in decision-making, facilitating other activities of the institution and giving a voice to our community. It is also of the utmost importance to lessen possible feelings of isolation in a new context of work organisation with hybrid working arrangements, the geographical dispersion of our various poles in multi-institutional contexts – where the lack of face-to-face communication may contribute to a feeling of lack of visibility by our employees.

On the other hand, we are on a path of more than a decade of significant growth in INESC TEC’s activity, with increased pressure and challenges for our teams, also influenced by the consequences of this digital transformation era, with the multiplication of communication channels, and flooded with information and communication from everywhere and in various forms. We know that the formal communication flow cannot only be top-down, it needs to go through our various organisational structures, with a key role of our leaderships, though they also must deal with multiple and concomitant challenges in their scientific and managerial roles.

In this context, what are the principles that have guided internal communication at the management level of INESC TEC? In all honesty, keeping it simple. Trying to be coherent and transparent in all communication actions, without excesses and trying to reach everyone, regardless of their location. Above all, there is a concern with timings: the community needs to be informed of relevant decisions made or critical events in a timely manner, and we try to integrate the media and means of communication, from offline to digital, from internal to external communication, involving several areas and structures of the organisation. The communication area is directly monitored by the Board and is perceived as an agent of change and internal cohesion.

In concrete terms, what does it mean? The communication flow between the Board of Directors and INESC TEC’s community takes place in two main ways: via e-mail, in the search for a unique and unequivocal tool to communicate decisions, critical events or other communications. The second privileged form is the organisation of sessions open to our community’s intervention. Thus, besides the annual sessions to present the Plan and Activity Report, Board initiatives like the launch of the Intellectual Property Regulation, the Code of Ethics, or even for Diversity and Inclusion or Social Responsibility, have always featured opportunities for debate, where everyone is invited to participate.

Of course, similar to other organisations, our other internal communication manifests itself through multiple channels: via e-mail, supported by the intranet and repositories, our website, the INESC TEC chat, social networks and, of course, internal events and actions where we try to foster our sense of community, i.e., the Roasted Chestnuts Party, the Multicultural Party, the Autumn Forum and the annual Strategic Gathering – besides other social events like the annual hiking or other team-building actions. It is worth highlighting the admirable work and dedication of our Communication Service, which is driving most of these initiatives, contributing to the construction of a shared identity, supported by the contribution of the Human Resources Service working towards a common sense of belonging.

In terms of information management on our platforms, such as the intranet, our focus has long been on the user’s perspective and experience, seeking to provide only the latest information available and making it accessible, in the fastest and most intuitive way possible, in order to assist our community in its needs (both in terms of activity and in terms of understanding our reality/organisation). Our operational information management and distribution system tends to mirror the principles that also guide our management: collegiality in decision-making, subsidiarity, and transparency.

No, I do not think that everything is perfect. I understand, given the principles and basic elements that I have listed, that many may feel that various aspects need to be improved, strengthened or reformulated. I agree, we are working on it and, as always, concrete suggestions are welcome. Even so, I know that if something is missing, it often stems from a lack of time or resources due to the multiplication of issues, and not from a possible internal misalignment of priorities.

An improvement could be made by better planning internal communication and, above all, by regularly measuring the effectiveness of our communication. We need to find new ways for our employees to hear and be heard and to ensure a more symmetrical two-way communication.  Despite our deep-rooted participative culture, and leaderships open to dialogue and sharing, we need the various generations living together at INESC TEC to make themselves heard and lead us to rethink our ways of action and adaptation, for the subsequent implementation of concrete solutions.

In our next Strategic Gathering, our community is invited to reflect on our purpose, vision, mission, and values in the context of the Strategic Plan 2030 that is being drafted. It is of the utmost importance, as we will be discussing and agreeing on what will form the basis of our identity and our joint commitment for the next decade. In essence, what unites us and moves us as a community.

Isabel Macedo, Head of the Management Support Service

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