In my last blog, “RIM Program Support – Education, Credibility & Communication”, I concluded by discussing, “Communication”. It occurred to me that though I provided brief insight into my experience as an ICRM Part 6 grader and writer, and what executives and senior management leadership look for in communication, I did not adequately expound on how to create effective communications.
Providing practical and applicable RIM guidance is the reason why I created my website, “Records Management Resource”. This blog is dedicated to providing you with tips and best practices for not only communicating with executives and senior management, but for assisting you with general business communications.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, many of us (including me), did not enjoy English, or literature in high school, and we may not have majored in English, journalism or literary writing in college. As business professionals it is important that we learn how to effectively communicate both verbally and through what we write. Our credibility as RIM professionals relies in large part on how we communicate. We can possess a wealth of RIM knowledge; however, if we fail to communicate it properly, we will not receive the desired outcome.
One of the quickest ways to lose credibility in your writing is misspellings and poor sentence structure. Thanks to MS-Word, Outlook, and applications such as Grammarly, we can immediately be notified of these issues. For more information on poor sentence structure, please see the link below:
The Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM) is a great resource for all RIM professionals. To obtain your Certified Records Manager (CRM) designation a candidate is required to pass five 100 multiple choice exam questions. Once a candidate passes Parts 1-5, they are able to sit for Part 6. Part 6 consists of two written essay exams. All parts of the ICRM examination are challenging. However, Part 6 of the exam is what allows the Institute to determine if a candidate is able to translate their RIM knowledge into effective written communication to the intended audience.
The ICRM conducts Part 6 workshops in conjunction with partner events as well as through ARMA chapters throughout the year, Part 6 writing workshops focus on assisting ICRM candidates in preparing for the Part 6 exam and enhancing the candidate’s business writing skills. The workshops are conducted by experienced CRMs who provide interactive and feedback-oriented sessions.
If you are not interested in pursuing the CRM designation, I recommend, if you feel you are deficient in your writing skills, that you seek out webinars or in-class instruction to assist. Companies like SkillPath offer webinars that can help. Also, ARMA’s mentorship program can put you in touch with a qualified member dedicated to assisting you with your RIM aspirations and needs.
Know Your Audience:
Knowing how to structure and deliver your message to your intended audience is key for obtaining approval and buy-in. Not all audiences need or want the same information:
- Executives and senior management want an overview (briefing/summary) that includes financial, benefit, return on investment (ROI), and timeline information
- Mid-level managers want early notification of initiatives including, an overview of the benefits, timeline, and resource impact to their department and employees
- Employees impacted by an initiative want an overview plus details of the process, and procedures
Executives and senior management leadership do not want to be bogged down with details, while frontline employees who are tasked and will be evaluated for carrying out initiatives want detailed procedural information.
Below are some words of communication advice based on my years as a RIM manager:
- When it comes to RIM, most departments/employees place RIM at the low-end of the priority scale. They view RIM as a “necessary evil”, something they do not enjoy but know they have to do/comply with
- Many employees do not want to have to, or are willing to dig into RIM policies and procedures to understand how to perform related tasks
- When it comes to RIM matters (and I have heard this many times over the years), employees tell me, “just let me know what it is I need to do, and I will do it.”
- Simplify the RIM process as much as you can in your verbal and written communications
- To help ensure compliance, keep these two items in mind:
- As much as possible, make RIM convenient
- Never forget the “What’s in it for Me” factor. The more you can demonstrate how RIM will benefit an employee’s daily work life, the greater chance they will comply
Before you communicate initiatives to employees who actually perform the work, you have to obtain approval for the RIM program and initiatives; you have to start at the top. Depending on your organization you may need executive-level approval and support for an initiative. In some companies, senior management authorization may only be required. Regardless of the approval process, most projects and initiatives will fail if middle management and employees perceive an initiative lacks executive/senior management support, directives, benefits, and consequences.
To obtain the appropriate top-level approval and support for RIM initiatives you need to learn how to draft an executive briefing, sometimes referred to as an executive summary. For the remainder of this blog, I will refer to it as an executive summary. The components of an executive summary vary depending on the industry and type of proposed initiative. However, the concept of the summary remains constant – “summarize” what is important to executives and senior management leadership. The summary for RIM purposes should be no more than 1-2 pages in length. Below are the basic components of an effective executive summary:
- Problem statement
- Proposed solution
- Cost/budget considerations
- Return on investment (ROI)
- Required resources (internal/external)
- Completion timeline
- Potential obstacles/options
Before you draft an executive summary, it is imperative that you are educated and knowledgeable of all aspects of the subject matter you plan to document and present. This includes extensive research of the initiative, working with the vendor(s), collaborating with departments that will be impacted or may need to provided resources, and monetary, budget, and ROI considerations. Also, it is important to anticipate questions you will receive.
In most cases the RIM professional will not draft the executive summary document and submit it directly to the executive or senior management leadership team. The summary will first be submitted and vetted through your direct management chain; this is where the questions and feedback begin. The questions and feedback vary, but typically include items focusing on grammar, length of the summary, clarification of points, budget, required resources, and how realistic is the completion timeline. This initial review is a valuable part of the process. It allows you to refine the summary. It is important to note that your direct upper management team is probably more in-tune with what the executives and senior management leadership team want and expect in an executive summary, increasing your chances for consideration and approval.
My hope is that the information in this blog helps you with your business communications. Please contact me if I can be of assistance:
Blake E. Richardson, CRM