Tag Archives: internal communication

Get the word out first – communication during change is crucial to engagement

An IC faux pas by French car manufacturer PSA Group led to a communications backlash following their £1.9 billion purchase of General Motors’ European unit, which includes Vauxhall.

News of the deal broke in the press before it was officially announced to thousands of employees at Vauxhall’s factories in Luton and Ellesmere Port, raising questions over job security and pensions. In the confusion and worry that followed, some people even vented to the media.

“Everybody is in the dark at the moment. We just don’t know what will happen,” one worker told the BBC. “Is the pension we’ve all been paying into for years going to be protected?” asked another.

Et violà – Vauxhall (and PSA) found itself with a significant PR issue and a major blow to employee engagement, all because it had not communicated news of a major change to its workforce early enough.

So how could this situation have been prevented?

Research by the CIPD – the professional body for HR and people development – has identified some techniques common to organisations that successfully land transformational change.

These include:

• Mass engagement events – Events involving every person in the organisation are costly, challenging to organise and require senior managers to front them. However, staff participating in the CIPD research commented on the effectiveness of such events.

• Achieving clarity through brevity and translation through detail – Much is written about how change visions must be simple and memorable. However, it is increasingly recognised that the most important part of a vision statement is a shared understanding of what the words mean for the organisation, and that they translate into something tangible.

• Repeated consistent communication from the top – Consistent and continued endorsement from the top during programmes of change helps maintain momentum.

In Vauxhall’s case, many of these techniques were used (including a live presentation by senior leaders to employees in Luton), but only after the story broke. Whether things would have played out differently had they been used earlier is open for debate. Every situation is different, after all.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that an absence of communication during a period of change allows anxiety and speculation to take hold, which can harm engagement and cause resistance.

A spokesperson for Vauxhall told Headlines: “Like most organisations, telling employees first, before they read it in the media, is a key strategic objective. However, in this case, the talks were at an advanced stage when the story broke and so we had a rapid period of ‘catching up’ to do.

“We will continue to provide written information to employees and use our internal social networking site, a forthcoming webchat and face-to-face employee meetings to provide opportunities for two-way dialogue, to ensure employees feel as informed as possible and confident about the future.”

Claudio Ranieri – did employee empowerment go too far?

Claudio Ranieri has departed Leicester City only months after leading the club to a spectacular Premier League triumph.

But what role did Foxes’ players have in his sacking?

Debate has raged over whether Leicester’s stars turned on the likeable Italian boss as the team struggled after last season’s fairytale.

Vice-Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha insisted the decision to sack Ranieri came from the owners alone – and was quick to distance his players from the rumoured revolt.

“It is unfair that our players, who supported Claudio fiercely, are being accused of disloyalty,” he said.

But in his Guardian column, Chief Football Writer Paul Doyle presented another view; one that supports two-way dialogue and employee empowerment – in this case, football players.

He wrote: “Even if it were true that Leicester players expressed disagreement with the way Ranieri was running their title defence, is that so bad?

“It is a dumb strain of conservatism indeed that demands workers blindly follow their leader.

“Consultation in the workplace is usually a sign of enlightened rule and generates an empowering sense of shared responsibility.

“A workforce that feels its feedback is ignored can become less productive. Or play like oafs.”

In May 2016, just after Leicester were crowned Premier League title winners, IC Magazine managed to secure an exclusive interview with the people’s champion, Ranieri.

Speaking of his management style at the time, his tactics seemed to be those of someone who knows how good internal communication works.

He told us his approach was one of involvement, communication and employee empowerment.

“I just want everyone to feel involved – medical staff, sports science teams, our Chief Executive,” he said. “Everyday decisions or jobs – we are all part of the project.”

So, at least it seems that Ranieri and Doyle are singing from the same hymn sheet. Only on this occasion, it is rumoured not to have worked out so well for the former LCFC manager.

Measure outcomes, not outputs, to judge the impact of communication

“If we want to be taken seriously as business people specialising in communication, then we have to stop desperately trying to prove our value to organisations.”

So says Sean Williams, Founder and CEO of Communication AMMO and adjunct professor of Public Relations at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Sean and his colleagues from the US Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission have just finished work on a study to identify a series of standards for IC measurement.

Their findings are due to be unveiled at the International Public Relations Research Conference in Orlando, Florida, in March.

Throughout their research, the group avoided looking at output measurements, such as circulation figures for internal publications and number of intranet stories published.

This kind of data is a staple in many IC audits and status reports, but Sean argues that it doesn’t reveal anything about how successful IC activity is.

For him, effective communication isn’t about the size of your audience, but about how that audience reacts to your message.

“We call it ‘look mommy’ communications,” said Sean. “But we have to be certain that we’re adding value to the business.”

Sean explained that during his research he and his group analysed three aspects of internal communication and how it feeds into measurable outcomes:

• IC activity (what we do)
• Outcome (what happened as a result)
• Business impact (how the outcome affects some aspect of the business)

For Sean, this goes to the heart of how we define ‘effective’ communication, and what needs to be measured.

He said: “The sophisticated IC measurer is going to make sure that whatever they’re doing – focus groups, interviews, whatever – they’re capturing information and trying new things to effect an impact.

“What is it that happened as a result of our communications, that changed the way people think or act? And did they take some sort of action in support of business results?

“When you can look at things and say, for example, ‘productivity is up but safety is down’, there might be a communication disconnect somewhere.

“That’s when you start to look at things like where you’re wasting time, where you’re losing productivity, where you can reduce your touchpoints, and so forth. That’s where we all need to be.”

To read more of Sean’s thoughts on the world of IC, check out his blog.

How IC can help you find and hire the best employees

Paul Peters from applicant tracking system Betterteam blogs on how a company’s current employees can be an untapped source of excellent job candidates.

We’re living in one of the toughest hiring climates of all time.

It’s taking a record 29 days to find employees and more job openings are going unfilled than ever before.

But what many companies are failing to realise is that current employees are an untapped source; they can identify the very best candidates for your business.

They can help you reach ‘passive’ candidates who are not yet on the market or who aren’t actively looking for jobs – and who make up about 75 per cent of your potential pool.

Leveraging employees can also give you inside information that helps you find and attract better candidates on LinkedIn and job boards, especially for competitive roles.

How to handle referrals

This is the most obvious, tried and tested way of leveraging current employees to attract new ones.

Many companies reward successful referrals, which may be expected in some industries. For me, this puts the emphasis in the wrong place.

You want employees recommending people not because of a bonus, but because they really want to work with those they’re recommending.

Working with great people improves everyone’s day and makes the company more profitable. In turn, people ideally get paid more, receive more promotions and have more job security.

That said, recognition doesn’t cost a thing and can go a long way towards making an employee happy. If a referral is successful, be sure to thank the referring employee when you announce the new hire.

How should you approach asking for referrals?

At an education startup I once ran, we found many of our best employees by putting out a message via email or Slack, informing employees that we were hiring and which positions we were hiring for.

We would generally ask: Where can we find the best person to do this job? Or: Do you know someone you would love to work with?

I’d also recommend sending employees some pre-written copy that they can post to social media to help put the word out. This is an effective way to reach passive candidates.

If you’re hiring engineers, for example, engineers at your company are likely to have contacts from their past or on social. Even if they aren’t seeking employment, they may see your employee’s post and get in touch.

Leverage employees to win at LinkedIn recruiting

This is a bit more proactive than asking for referrals and a great tactic in tough hiring times.

Talk to your very best hires and ask them about the best teams they’ve ever worked in, and where and when it was. It’s likely that their experience links to a high point at the company they worked for.

Through LinkedIn’s advanced search tool, you’ll be able to find out who else worked there at that time.

Ask your current employees to introduce you to anyone who looks like they might be a good fit. Talk to them about why the potential candidate might like the position and use that when you make contact.

How your employees can help you write killer job postings

If there’s any risk to getting help from your employees with recruiting, it’s becoming too dependent on it.

By failing to post your job elsewhere, you may not reach a diverse enough audience and could miss out on potentially great hires.

But yet again, your current employees can help you succeed, by influencing your job board postings.

Nearly all job postings are the same; they read like a bullet pointed list of demands by the employer. This gives you a terrific opportunity to set yourself apart.

Forget writing out all the possible qualifications and requirements for a job – keep them to a minimum.

Instead, ask current employees what it is about the job, the workplace, their fellow employees and the location of your business that would make someone want to work there. That’s what to include in your job posting.

Potential applicants are like customers you’re trying sell to. A little effort into this part of the recruiting process will reap big rewards.

At Betterteam, we’ve helped several clients rewrite their job postings this way.

After taking this approach to an endodontist position that hadn’t received an applicant in months, the company received two well-qualified applicants within three days, and hired a great employee a short time later.

Don’t let this tough hiring climate hold you back! Improve communication with your employees and let them show you the way to making your next great hire.

Designer Chris highly commended in IoIC ICon Awards

Headlines’ very own Chris Keller was highly commended in the Best Designer category at the prestigious ICon Awards ceremony yesterday.

Run by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), the awards – at London’s Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel – celebrated the industry’s best and most talented IC professionals.

Designer Chris said: “I’m over the moon to have won this award and to have been recognised by the industry. I feel passionately about internal communication and am very proud of this achievement.”

Six Headliners were shortlisted, including Peter Bennett in the Best Editor category, writers Holly Whitecross and Katie Nertney in the Rising Talent – Best Young Communicator category, Head of Video Sara Wilmot in the Best Visual Creator category and Brian Amey in the Best Designer category.

In 2015, Headlines’ Duncan Boddy brought home the Best Designer Award.

Simon Dowsing, Director of Media Operations at Headlines, said: “This is excellent news. We are very proud of the talented, hardworking and dedicated people we have at Headlines.”

According to the IoIC, the ICon Awards recognise “the people who consistently turn theory into great internal communication practice”.

In recent weeks, Headlines has won a host of awards including Best Mobile/App in the industry at the IoIC Awards 2016, three Awards of Excellence at the same event and a Silver Award for Best Mobile App at the MK Digital Awards.