Internal communications can be seen as the oil that keeps an organisation working smoothly. It is the link that creates trust between people and functions, which increases trust and makes for a more open and informed culture.
Mediocre or non-existent internal communications can lead to de-motivated, and a workforce where the company fails to get the best from them.
Sadly, however, many people still see IC as a nice-to-have, non-essential function. Unfortunately, this breeds a culture where only some people get heard – their ideas are not necessarily on message or a good fit for the organisation as a whole.
Here at Ellwood Atfield, we understand the crucial role IC plays. Earlier this year we published a thought-leadership discussion paper focusing on who owns internal communications. As a follow-on, we published a further piece on internal communications and the boardroom. We posed the question ‘will IC ever make it into the boardroom?’ We are continually amazed at how few companies see the immense benefit that internal communication and strong employee engagement can bring to the table. There are far too many organisations that still see internal communication as they used to see public relations - as a fluffy department that sits anywhere but around the boardroom table.
The CIPR’s 2014 Inside Story awards celebrating Internal Communications demonstrated the direct correlation between a successful IC department and the overall fortunes of an organisation.
One such winner was Crossrail. Crossrail is the largest construction project in Europe and one of the most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken. The endeavour is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London and is a flagship public project for UK plc.
The core Crossrail ‘client’ organisation brings together 1,200 people from nine different employers in a ‘single use vehicle’, that dissolves after the project completes in 2018. With this background, Crossrail represents a unique engagement challenge: how to create a collaborative and inspirational culture in a complex, ‘meta-organisation’ that can deliver a world class railway, safely, on time and on budget’.
The employee engagement programme is multi-faceted but at its core Internal Communications manage a range of channels to inform, energise and inspire the team, including: ‘Connect in Brief’ - a weekly online newsletter; ‘OnSite’, its own monthly tabloid newspaper; ‘Connect Online’ – Crossrail’s intranet which includes a weekly leadership blog; ‘Connect Quarterly’, video update with stunning time lapse footage; ‘Toolbox talks’, weekly chats focused on health & safety; ‘Leaders cascade’ – a four-weekly team briefing.
Additionally, Crossrail’s leaders visit different project sites every month for staff meetings and Breakfast Briefings, with an emphasis on ‘big picture’ sharing, followed by lively question and answer sessions and debate.
Without a robust IC plan, it would be almost impossible to communicate effectively with the many different employees and service providers involved with the delivery of the Crossrail project – thus making it impossible to deliver the network safely, on budget and on time.
Asda is another glowing example of what a winning Internal Comms team looks like. As part of their employee engagement programme, they regularly communicate to their colleagues the various schemes that they can get involved with and benefits they are entitled to by utilising traditional engagement methods.
Asda has, among others got two schemes in place – one is called ‘Colleague Voice’ and the other is a Childcare Voucher scheme. They designed booklets and posters that were fresh-looking and distinguished themselves from other schemes run by the company. The booklets were designed to engage with colleagues effectively, whilst the poster was required to communicate key messages quickly.
It was very cleverly done: The Colleague Voice communications utilised a graphical approach that could be adapted easily for use on the ‘George’ brand. The Childcare Voucher Booklet used the emotive, intelligently cropped imagery of the children of Asda Colleagues to break up an otherwise lengthily publication.
As a result, The Colleague Voice Booklet is used as both a communication tool to all colleagues and as a means of promoting Colleague Voice to help enrol Representatives. The Childcare Voucher Booklet is used successfully to inform parents throughout the business about the scheme.
Through these examples, we can see that Internal Communications is vital to the success of an organisation or business – large or small.
Here at Ellwood Atfield, we have cemented our position at the top of IC recruitment, by holding a number of Simply Communicate events at our communications gallery and supported and were part of the IC crowd’s Big Yak.
We have placed some amazing candidates at some of the biggest global companies. Some of the positions we have filled for clients include: Senior VP of corporate communications; Head of IC; Senior IC and employee engagement lead; and Senior IC manager.
As head of Ellwood Atfield’s IC recruitment practice and having worked in the field for over a decade, I am a recruiter who really understands the IC profession. If you would like further information, I would be delighted to hear from you.
We recently hosted the launch of the CIPR’s new book: Internal Communications - a manual for practitioners at our gallery, well worth a read.