IC Inside Track: Why people ‘buy people before anything else’

IC focus: People 'buy people before anything else'

July 29, 2014

Elizabeth Harraway, Head of Communications, Excellence in Delivery at Aerospace and Defence company Cobham plc, shares her career highs and lows and her thoughts on the role of internal communication.

How long have you been in your current IC role and what does it involve?
Since May 2012. My role was initially focused primarily on the internal communications for and employee engagement with Cobham’s major business transformation programme, Excellence in Delivery, which was centered on 13 of our sites. Now my role has grown into a group-wide internal comms role.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy getting out of my office in Marlow, Bucks, and speaking with employees – it’s good to get under the skin of what really matters to them. I travel to our major locations in the UK, US and France at least twice a year.

… And least?
Spending too many days in the office.

What did you do before your current role?
My background is fairly diverse but for the past 20 years I’ve been involved in marketing – above & below the line, PR, government affairs and communications in general.

How did you get into internal communications?
Whilst in a marketing role at travel technology company, Travelport, I noticed that companies can fall into a trap of omitting or not recognising a significant customer group – the employee.
I became passionate about this and wanted to tap into and enhance the goodwill of employees as a major contributor to a company’s success. Having convinced my employer, it was a natural progression to take on this role full-time.

What’s been the proudest moment of your IC career so far?
Creating and delivering ‘The Journey’ – a global internal and external communications strategy, which articulates the company vision and objectives in business transformation to engage employees. The Journey is supported by pioneering the use of Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys and employee listening groups.

And the worst moment?
Waiting for the results of our first NPS survey!

What are the benefits of good internal communications?
People buy people before they buy anything else. Communication, by definition, is a two-way thing, so encouraging and coaching leaders and managers to communicate with employees face to face, helps the employee to understand the message better and in turn provides valuable feedback to the leader. This builds trust and creates authenticity to the information we’re delivering.

What do you think is the effect of bad internal communications?
It creates panic, uncertainty and a lack of trust.

How has the world of IC changed since you started working in it?
IC is now recognised as a valuable, if not vital, requirement for a company and is supported at the most senior level.

How important do you think the social media boom has been on IC and what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?
Social media is another tool in the communications box, but we need to think carefully about how we use it so we don’t abuse it. I love the idea of ‘pull’ communications rather than the usual ‘push’ – it gives us another measure of employee engagement and a good indication of what information employees are interested in.

What would you like to be doing in five years’ time?
I’d love to have five Executive Directorships, giving the benefit of my experience and providing advice on IC to a diverse range of companies, helping them grow and be more successful by engaging their employees!

What would be your advice to anybody wanting to start a career in internal communications?
Remember that you too are an employee – how you feel, what you want to know and how you want to be told is the same for everyone.


Quick fire…
When I was growing up, I wanted to be… an actress
My very first job was… working in a call centre for a Tour Operator
I couldn’t live without… my credit card
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would… do everything on my bucket list!