Internal communication ‘fundamental’ to Post Office modernisation

Internal communication 'fundamental' to Post Office modernisation

July 9, 2015

Internal communication has emerged as an essential part of the Post Office modernisation programme, according to the man tasked with improving engagement within the organisation.

Group People Director Neil Hayward believes high levels of employee engagement are crucial if the loss-making publicly owned body is to successfully reinvent itself.

Yet the challenges are plentiful.

For starters, the audience is large and varied.

Today only 300 of its 11,600 branches are run by the Post Office. The remainder are operated as franchises – from the like of the Co-op to individuals – making engagement a complex business.

Throw in the pressure to convert the Post Office into a profit-making business while the government reduces its annual subsidy, the scale of issues facing the organisation begins to come clear.

“Our challenge is to get to a situation where this is a public service but commercially sustainable,” Mr Hayward told HR Magazine.

“The government asked us to do a tricky thing: maintain capacity while reducing the need for public funding. We have to reach break-even by 2017/18.”

The financial figures involved are daunting.

In 2014, the Post Office turned over £979 million yet made an operating loss of £93m. And the flow of cash from central government is reducing too.

Mr Howard said: “We are moving nearer to break-even while losing a proportion of the subsidy.

“In a few years time that subsidy will be reduced to £50 million a year, which is what is required to keep a community network open.”

Meeting these financial targets alongside pushing ahead with much-needed modernisation reforms is something that requires intense planning and communication.

He said: “There’s a phenomenal amount of change to manage in a heavily unionised environment.

“It’s a company with a strong brand and heritage – almost like a 300-year-old start-up. This is the most exciting and biggest challenge of my career.”

Mr Hayward places a strong emphasis on building employee engagement to try to ensure everyone is pulling together.

He continued: “We made a major effort to talk to people across the organisation about the commercial situation facing the Post Office.

“We have changed the mindset from people believing we are a public service, and that the government will write us a cheque if we run into trouble, to understanding we are trading as a commercial entity, without losing any sense of our social and community purpose.”

Mr Hayward believes the role of internal communication inside the Post Office has escalated from “important” to “fundamental”.

Annual survey results revealed engagement levels for direct employees to be around 62 per cent.

However this figure drops to only 46 per cent among sub postmasters.

He added: “It’s harder to engage with someone running their own business.

“We need to work much harder to get a higher response.”

To read the full article, visit HR Magazine here….