Category Archives: News

David MacLeod speaking at the recent Engage for success event on culture and values in the workplace.

Developing culture and values in the workplace

Innovation is changing the way businesses think. The pressure to perform no longer comes only from competitors, but the idea that a new concept could change the nature of an entire industry. Much like how Uber swept across the world, making traditional taxi ranks redundant in many cases, this kind of foundational change threatens the futures of many companies.

However, a strategic solution, although tempting, isn’t the way forward when ensuring you have a workforce that is ready to deal with sudden change. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” David MacLeod said, “we must look at the bigger picture as external pressures bear down on an organisation.”

The strains felt by a workplace are too often harsh management and command and control, which lead to work intensification. These contrast greatly to what employees typically want from work, which is inclusion, empowerment, fairness and trust, and meaning and purpose. This causes a culture collision, the outcome of which is low trust between a workforce and senior leadership.

David said: “Seven out of ten employees are neutral or do not trust their bosses. Therefore they are already mentally out of the door.

“A disengaged workforce leads to low confidence, low ownership of tasks, less efficiency, low agility, and less innovation.”

As employers, we have the choice to squeeze, control and monitor our workforces, or to inspire, respect and trust them. Creating a culture where people are the solution, not the problem, makes employees more invested in a business when it goes through times of change or when things get tough.

According to David, there are four key enablers that help a workforce to feel valued.

  • Organisational integrity – a company’s values are reflected in day-to-day behaviour. Behaviours are explicit and are bought into by staff, so be genuine as people see through a corporate spin.
  • Enable employee voice – the job of the senior leadership team is not to command and control an organisation but to ensure that the right conversations are happening between the right people.
  • Engaging managers – great managers will focus staff and enable the job to get done. Positively reinforce good work but don’t turn a blind eye to dysfunctional behaviour as this undermines your authority and gives everyone permission to act that way.
  • Strategic narrative – strong leadership provides a strong strategic narrative about the organisation. Employees need to understand the context of the work they are doing and the journey they are part of.

To find out more about culture and values in the workplace and Engage for Success, visit

To find out more about the Milton Keynes Engage for Success group or to join the mailing list for future events, email Sue Kiddy.

Stand up and be counted

We all want internal communication to increase employee awareness, understanding and engagement. But what if an IC channel could do more?

The University of Strathclyde has taken a new approach to face-to-face communication, reinventing the concept of the daily team briefing as a ‘daily stand up’.

This new approach is helping to embed a culture of continuous improvement across the university, and the impacts are hard to ignore:

  • Over 70 per cent of university employees who take part in daily stand ups feel more confident about raising concerns and improvement ideas.
  • 70 per cent feel more empowered in their role.
  • 100 per cent feel that teamwork and collaboration has increased.

The net result is that thousands of improvement opportunities have been identified by employees and put into practice – everything from sharing keyboard shortcuts to methods for cutting waiting times during student registration.

“Internal communication is one of the key building blocks of a continuous improvement culture,” said John Hogg, Director of Continuous Improvement at the University.

“Having clear communication every day makes everyone clear on what their responsibilities are, and how their role contributes to the objectives of the team and the wider organisation.”

But what makes these daily stand ups different to the kind of daily briefing many of us will be familiar with?

The concept is based on three pillars:

  • People – it’s a team meeting – not a manager’s meeting. Everyone is expected to contribute and a rota is used to appoint each day’s leader.
  • Performance – performance measures specific to each team are introduced. Teams are always aware of how they’re performing and how their performance affects the wider organisation.
  • Improvement – recent performance is analysed and opportunities for improvement are identified. Agreement is reached on who is responsible for executing any necessary actions. Successes are shared and celebrated, too.

“Because you’re standing up and because there’s a common structure, these meetings are very organised and disciplined,” added John. “They’re very short, sharp and focused.

“Another difference is that you’re dealing with things as and when they happen. You’re always preventing small things from becoming big things.”

Stand ups have so far been adopted by more than 50 teams at the University of Strathclyde, and that number is growing. Often, all that is required is a 2-3 hour training session to get them going. The biggest barrier, according to John, is the initial fear of change.

However, with persistence, the stand ups have not only been accepted, but have become integral to a cultural shift at the University.

He said: “A lot of people aren’t used to standing up and talking – you’re initially taking people out of their comfort zone. But do it every day and it will boost their confidence.

“There’s also a focus on how we can improve how we work every single day. The focus of these meetings is continuous improvement.

“Over time, that has an impact on the thinking of a team. We’re empowering teams to make changes, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.”

Click here to read more about continuous improvement at the University of Strathclyde.

What’s the best way to connect with five generations of employees?

For the first time ever, there are now five generations of employees working alongside one another.

From Maturists – whose parents fought in the Second World War – to Generation Z, who were born after 1995 and were raised in a completely digital world, it’s now more difficult than ever for managers to find a communications channel suitable enough to reach out to every different kind of employee.

The five generations



Baby Boomers


Generation X


Generation Y


Generation Z

(Born after 1995)

Percentage in the U.K workforce 3% 33% 35% 29% Currently employed in part-time jobs or new apprenticeships
Communication media Formal letter Telephone Email and text message Text of social media Hand-held (or integrated into clothing) communication devices
Communication preference Face-to-face Face-to-face ideally, but telephone or email if required Text messaging or email Online and mobile (text messaging) Facetime
Source: Barclays

A study conducted by Dr. Paul Redmond, an expert in generational theory, suggests that Maturists and Baby Boomers prefer to be given information face-to-face, whereas recent generations of employees favour a more digital approach.

IC shouldn’t be governed by generational differences, but employers need to be sensitive to the fact that each generation has had very different experiences and education, which means they can have very different communications preferences as a result.

Baby Boomers grew up without PCs, while the internet enabled Millennials to have the answer to any question at their fingertips. It’s not surprising then, that older generations tend to prefer face-to-face communication, because the Internet was introduced to them at a later age.

It’s too impractical to have managers relay a large amount of information verbally, especially if your staff work in different locations. And while relying on email to appeal to younger generations is easy, it can be difficult to achieve the right tone, so there is a risk that the message could be misunderstood.

You should never fall into the trap of grouping colleagues into generations, for example by assuming that older people don’t know how to use mobile phones, or that younger employees are obsessed with social media, but also it is important to understand that your workforce will be extremely diverse, and there will never be a catch-all solution to getting messages out effectively.

Use a variety of channels to target all your employees – without going overboard.

For important comms, it may be useful to send out an email and a written letter, in order to get the message out to both digital and traditional employees. More relaxed comms can be integrated into channels that people like to use, such as Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter.

Social media is an ideal channel for light-hearted comms, like alerting colleagues about the Christmas party, spreading the word about a charity event or just recognising someone for a job well done. However, remember that many people do not use social media, or may not want to use their personal accounts for work, so you may need to encourage them to join in with the conversation.

Stick to variety in order to reach out to as many people as possible, while ensuring that there is one consistent channel that contains every bit of employee information. This lets colleagues rely on a source for information should they wish to seek it.

The intranet is a great channel to use as a foundation for internal comms, as long as employers ensure that every colleague has access to it. Employers could also choose to use their own digital notice board or a website such as Workplace by Facebook, as a channel to publish all internal comms.

While the intranet acts as a database for internal comms, email, Instagram and letters operate as secondary channels to reinforce information and to reach out to all generations in the workplace.

It might be useful to review your internal comms mix to make sure that the channels you are using are successfully getting information out to all and are offering colleagues the opportunity to engage with you in a meaningful way.

IC budgets in a post-Brexit world

Whatever your views on Brexit, nobody can deny the uncertainty that surrounds it. And if there’s one thing finance directors hate, it’s uncertainty.

It feels inevitable that leaner times lie ahead – at least in the short term until the metaphorical mist surrounding Brexit clears.

But what does this mean for internal communication professionals? Will we be expected to deliver the same – or more – with less? If so, how? Or could there be ways to preserve budget allocations going forward?

Headlines’ CEO Peter Doherty shares his thoughts on these and other questions.

Q) Should IC professionals be anticipating smaller budgets post-Brexit?

A) “Most people I talk to in business agree that the big issue is not Brexit but productivity. The current uncertainty around Brexit isn’t helpful and people are having to plan budgets around it, but decision-makers see it as a short-term blip and are confident there will be future stability.

“Despite a recent small upturn, productivity remains the big underlying challenge and is an enduring priority with or without Brexit. Failure to improve productivity is a major reason why the UK’s growth has slowed and why some businesses are tightening their belts. This will put internal communication budgets under pressure, but there is no harm in having to justify spending by demonstrating the return it generates.”

Q) Is it possible for IC professionals to do the same (or more) with less?

A) “It’s always possible to do the same or more for less – and in most cases that does not mean by working harder. Economic growth and improving prosperity only occur when you do more for less – and IC is not exempt from doing its bit.

“Improving productivity involves working smarter, being better organised, cutting out the things that get in the way, using better tools, technology and ideas, prioritising the things that you can demonstrate make the right kind of difference, and getting rid of the things that don’t.”

Q) What advice would you give to IC practitioners who are likely to be faced with difficult budget decisions?

A) “If you can justify what you do as delivering the right kind of results, you have a very good case to avoid budget reductions. If you can’t, you don’t.

“IC departments should be playing a key role in helping businesses to improve productivity, and at the same time they should be improving their own productivity. So when funds are hard to come by, more than ever they need to demonstrate they are making a measurable difference in helping the business to perform better, and therefore delivering a return on investment.

“I’d be making the case that my budget was well spent and delivers a return. I would be scrutinising every aspect of my spending and looking for evidence that it is making the right sort of difference and ultimately contributing to the bottom line.

“With my team, I would revisit the core purpose of internal communication – and benchmark our activities and spending against these criteria.

“I’d also look at how effectively we’re working and how we can eliminate or mitigate the things that waste time, money or effort. “

Measurement: taking the easy way out

It’s 2017 and internal comms still has a credibility problem – too often it’s marginalised in favour of ‘sexier’ comms; Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising…even Social Media.

To really prove IC’s worth, we need evidence to back it up. Hard, empirical data that proves IC’s impact.

For that, we need to turn to measurement.

Measuring comms is notoriously difficult, bordering on impossible. But it’s no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have.

The foundation to rock-solid measurement is to identify and agree your communication objectives. Without objectives, everything else is pointless.

The problem with objectives is that, too often, IC professionals fixate on outputs rather than outcomes.

What is an output?
An output is an easy-to-distinguish, tangible communication result — think email interactions, pageviews etc.

What is an outcome?
An outcome is something more subjective — think behavioural changes, corporate culture shifts etc.

It’s easy to see why IC professionals choose to focus on outputs, they’re inherently easier.

Think about how easy it is to share intranet statistics that show thousands of colleagues visited a certain page and stayed on it for a set amount of time – but does this really tell you if they absorbed the information?

Will they change their behaviour after reading the content? The real value of IC lies in its ability to perform ‘outcomes’.

So, how do you begin to measure ‘outcomes’? Well, once you’ve identified your communication objectives, you need to be able to turn outcomes into measurable data – either quantitative (numbers) or qualitative (words).

For example, your company has a new process that all staff need to use. You produce a printed leaflet, posters for public spaces, a company-wide email and an intranet story.

But how do we find out if employees have actually changed their behaviour as a result of the comms activity?

Let’s split it into quantitative measures:
? How many copies of the printed material were picked up?
? How many people opened the company-wide email?
? What were the statistics for the intranet story for the duration of the campaign?
? Line managers to supply numbers of staff adhering to new process.

And now qualitative measures:
? Ask a focus group of colleagues how effective the comms were for them. Did they pick up a leaflet? See a poster? Read the email, or intranet story?
? Ask the focus group if they understood the message of the comms. Was it clear?
? Ask the focus group if they have now started using the new process. If they have, what were the contributing factors?

It’s only by taking the results of all of the above together that we can start to paint a detailed picture of the ‘outcome’ – did employees change their behaviour? And why did they (or didn’t they) change their behaviour?

The beauty of this approach for IC professionals is that it not only proves your impact on the business, but helps you implement better comms campaigns in the future. Win/win.