Good internal comms ‘is glue that keeps an organisation together’

Communicating job losses is 'toughest part of internal comms role'

December 11, 2014

Sasha Watson, Director Internal Communications at ARM Holdings, whose products are at the heart of the world’s most advanced digital developments, shares her career highs and lows.

How long have you been in your current IC role and what does it involve?
Since January 2014. It involves overseeing internal communications globally including Corporate Responsibility. We have more than 3000 employees in 18 countries across three continents.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
No two days are ever the same – in my role I’m leadership counsel, advisor, journalist, creative director, event manager, ideas person, mentor and accountant and I have enormous diversity and scope. I’m surrounded by brilliant, intelligent people. It’s constantly challenging and I love that I am still learning after all these years.

… And least?
I never manage to get to the end of my to-do list!

What did you do before your current role?
I was heading up an internal comms team in the retail bank at Barclays. A large proportion of people were offline as they spent all day directly talking to customers. I learned how important it is to understand your audience, see things from their point of view and make sure anything you do will resonate and make an impact on your audience and ultimately the business.

How did you get into internal communications?
It started agency side when I worked in PR and drafted newsletters and CEO messages for clients. I then did a bit of HR inside a PR agency and because I enjoyed it, I considered going into HR management. However, I realised IC and engagement was what I was passionate about – for me it brings together all the best bits of HR and PR.

What’s been the proudest moment of your IC career so far?
Being able to make a real difference to people’s lives. I love the Corporate Responsibility element of my work and have consulted for a charity called Working With Men, which I still support. Seeing my people grow in their careers also gives me great satisfaction.

And the worst moment?
Having to announce job losses. It’s always hard to disengage from the fact that you are dealing with people’s lives.

What are the benefits of good internal communications?
If done well, IC acts like glue and is what keeps an organisation together. This brings with it a plethora of benefits, with everyone inside a company facing in the same direction, a fantastic culture and of course engagement.

What do you think the effect of bad internal communications is?
Everything is everywhere. Loss of productivity, wasting company time and colleagues left feeling disconnected.

How has the world of IC changed since you started working in it?
The fundamentals haven’t changed but there’s been a massive shift in focus as companies increase in complexity and the impact on people increases – more companies need Internal Communication. Another change is that IC has moved from being a team that issues a newsletter to one that advises CEOs on how to connect their people with their vision.

How important do you think the social media boom has been on IC and what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?
It’s very important – this is the way the world is moving so you would be foolish to ignore the boom. The advantages: increase in touch points, innovation and the excitement this can bring, speed – you can move information around quicker, measurement – it’s easier to measure and analyse digital data. The disadvantages: you must not underestimate the impact of traditional channels – if you want someone to feel engaged, spend time with them face-to-face.

What would you like to be doing in five years’ time?
I always want a role that involves communications but I may be doing a broader role that incorporates Corporate Responsibility, communications and leadership communications/ development.

What would be your advice to anybody wanting to start a career in internal communications?
There are many different views of what IC is, so get experience in different organisations and in different industries to give you access to a breadth of challenges. There are also many complementary disciplines – PR, HR, journalism, marketing – all of which give you transferable skills, so don’t box yourself in.