Transformation Quarterly 02_2023

The demands of the young generation as well as socio-political topics are posing challenges to top management and internal communications teams. We asked Ikbal Hatihan, Corporate Communications Manager at Roche, for her perspective.

In many companies, “baby boomers” are in the top management positions and terms of communications they find themselves confronted by the new demands and expectations of the younger generation. Setting aside the generalised nature of these attributions, where must “boomers” revise their thinking in order to avoid talking past the up-and-coming generation? 

I believe that self-reflection is the key concept here. We live in such a fast-moving world, and society is also in transformation, with all the discourse and variety of opinions out there. My recommendation to the “boomer generation” is that they should reconsider their own assumed structures and be open to the opinions of the younger generation. Trying to get to the bottom of things, focusing on subjects such as sustainability, diversity and equal opportunity – this all creates chances to make your own values visible through the management communications process and enter into dialogue with the younger generation.

Outside of work, many young people produce their own content via social media and give expression to what they expect out of life. How can the internal communications team make use of this commitment? Or should it even do so?

The professional profile of “content creators” is a discipline in itself. Young people often opt for this path because they want to live their own business concepts independently. The internal communications team must always have its finger on the pulse in this regard, and specifically: If company employees produce good content that fits in with your own values and themes, you should incorporate this content into the company’s own communications strategy. Internal communications are for the people working in organisations, and are more authentic if they are actively driven by the employees themselves, instead of taking the form of impersonal corporate texts or image and video material from a range of platforms. The internal communications team can make use of this content when the occasion arises – for example, during European Sustainability Week or the German Diversity Day. These are areas in which employees can take the floor with their own ideas on these topics as part of internal communications campaigns, e.g. with a video, blog posts, or even a company podcast series. I believe this is an area that offers a large number of creative opportunities to put this commitment to use.

At a personal level, diversity is a topic that’s very dear to you. Aside from the gender debate, what bias do you still perceive in the communications industry despite increasing openness in this regard?

Sometimes I have the feeling that people in communications take only a half-hearted approach to this topic and are not prepared to learn more about it themselves. Our industry is very homogeneous and very white – at industry events you usually see the same speakers year after year, who have no motivation to review their own privileges and make way for groups with low visibility. The equation “many years in the industry = good communicator” is something I sometimes fail to understand, since an absence of motivation to undertake further self-development sometimes means the relevant skills are lacking. I believe people in our industry can ask themselves what contribution they are making at an individual level to the question of diversity. That may mean gender-inclusive speech, or also social origin and inclusion. I firmly believe that good communications work can succeed only when you drive forward sociopolitical themes based on an honest interest in the subject.

Ikbal Hatihan is Corporate Communications Manager at Roche, with a focus on management communications, change and internal communications. After studying economics in Nuremberg and Istanbul she was distinguished as one of the 100 brightest minds in PR in 2020. Since 2021 she has been a Certified Diversity Manager – the theme closest to her heart. Outside of her job, she applies her passion for diversity and inclusion to promote these issues as an unpaid committee member on the Bavarian State Board of the German Public Relations Association (DPRG).

Photo: Ikbal Hatihan