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Building an IC function – from scratch

Zoe Chiverton, Head of Internal Communications, is the driving force behind Priory Group’s new in-house IC function, which she has spent two years establishing. IC Mag asked her about the experience.

Superwoman has nothing on Zoe Chiverton.

Zoe is an IC professional, communicating single-handedly with Priory Group’s 20,000-strong workforce, dispersed across 400 hospitals, care homes and schools and four head office locations.

The job on her hands is huge. Yet she’s getting it so right that she’s just been highly commended by the CEB in the Internal Communicator of the Year category at its annual CEB Internal Communications Summit and Awards.

Zoe Chiverton

“When I arrived at Priory Group, there wasn’t really an IC function. Bits and pieces were being picked up by the marketing team, but nobody was dedicated to it,” said Zoe.

“It’s still just me, but it’s fantastic because I get to do everything. It’s a big, busy role.”

It’s a challenging one, too. The company’s four divisions – healthcare, adult social care, older people’s care, and education and children’s services – are diverse in culture and demographics.

But Zoe hasn’t let that faze her.

Hitting the ground running, she immediately took over the weekly newsletter – which was a Word document attached to an email – revamping it and switching it to an online platform.

She set up a text messaging alert system to share ad hoc announcements instantly with managers, and has introduced in-house filming for regular CEO broadcasts.

In addition, Zoe has refreshed the company’s intranet, giving it a new look and feel.

“It now has a much greater focus on news on the homepage and is updated more frequently.

There’s also a ‘contact the CEO’ quick link through which we are getting weekly comments and questions from frontline staff.”

The quarterly, 40-page employee magazine, Priority, has also been relaunched, with Zoe in the driving seat as its editor.

“I really love print! The magazine’s mostly about sharing knowledge and best practice.

“For example, in our employee survey, one of the lower scores is often about action being taken after the survey.

“That’s fundamental in terms of trust, so now the magazine contains examples of what’s changed in each division as a result of the survey.”

In another big project, Zoe launched a one-stop, self-service, online benefits platform, which colleagues can access from work, home or via mobile devices. It brought 10,500 colleagues online between January and April 2016.

“That was absolutely one of my biggest achievements,” she said.

“It was groundbreaking for the company, and there was so much communication needed to launch it and engage people.”

Zoe has also updated the company’s annual employee awards programme, creating quarterly divisional awards, which feed into an annual, national award.

In addition, she’s arranged for the CEO to send out ad-hoc ‘thank-you’ cards and chocolates to recognise and reward colleagues throughout the year.

As a result of her hard work, she’s received some of these herself and a champagne reception, alongside other excellent feedback.

“I am very lucky that IC is so well regarded at Priory Group and that the CEO gets it!” she added.

PRIORY GROUP
• 76% engagement score
• 85% of colleagues have a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ understanding of the company behaviours
• 94% of staff say the employee magazine is a good channel for finding out what’s happening at the company
• 50% increase in intranet engagement when it was refreshed.