Good communications should work inside and out. In fact, great communications work from the inside our – that was the thinking behind Tesco and its ‘every little helps’ slogan. What began as a rallying cry for employees to improve service became a popular marketing strapline.
Some of the best internal communications is what your employees and stakeholders read about you in the media – whether that’s the nationals if you are consumer facing, or the trade specialists if you’re more of a B2B organisation. Either way, the messaging and the story is what counts – it is about reinforcing positive thinking, ensuring your people are engaged (see our piece on engagement for example).
How do you do that? And how do you measure it? Organisations invest hugely in surveys of staff to gauge how their people are connected or not, but do they act upon the lessons the results are giving them?
To get it right you need to work as a team with the HR department. In a sense the communications team – whether they are inhouse, or an agency delivering an outsourced service – is all about serving the rest of the business, telling other people’s stories, managing reputations, sharing good news, limiting unwelcome news. I did exactly that within Alfred McAlpine.
The HR director and I completed a review of employee engagement with the objective of enhancing the customer experience – because more engaged staff is linked to improved customer service (hence the Tesco model). Together we looked at potential solutions focusing on transparency and improving communications internally and externally. We needed to be aware of any dangers – and that meant setting up a regular risk assessment committee so we knew what bad things might be looming. In a nutshell we assessed all operational risks and designed a plan to transform the culture of the organisation.
We got the plan signed off by the Board and communicated it to all stakeholders – taking a top down and bottom-up approach. This led to the implementation (by me) of a new company wide web site, intranet and corporate stakeholder publication leading to a 15% increase in employee engagement and improved customer service.
Communications might not have been the panacea, but it was an integral part of the treatment and cure. And it worked from the inside out.