Internal Communications and Engagement Live Recap

25 January 2024

This Wednesday was Communicate Magazine’s Internal Communications and Engagement Live, celebrating incredible, award-winning internal comms campaigns from the past year. As every event should, we started with our founder Henry Davies, joined by Sophie Bowkett of Bird & Bird, presenting our transformation of their brand and the insights we learned from rolling out a hybrid treasure hunt app for their organisation. It was a thrill to share our insights with fellow communicators and take pride in our accomplishments.  

Next up, Nick Peters and Stephanie Whitaker of the Ignis Agency walked us through the unique challenge of bringing human rights awareness to the 46,000 employees of the tobacco manufacturer, JTI. This was particularly compelling given the size of their organisation, operating in 130 markets with a multicultural workforce, from office workers to tobacco farmers. To navigate this, they developed a triangulation method that blended the viewpoints of stakeholders, internal, and external audiences to give a full 360-degree view of the issue.  

After analysing some key problems, they produced easy to understand content with individual modules to complete so employees could carry out this education on their own time frame. This took the form of an e-learning portal that allowed users to earn their human rights certificate and flag their existing biases in this arena. It relied on edutainment as a means of promoting recall and engagement and revealing these biases in a non-threatening way, allowing for cohesive upskilling.  

After some roundtable discussions, covering LGBTQI+ advocacy and behavioural science in internal communications, we came together again to hear from Lee Coleman and Richard Hurst on how WPA Pinfold helped craft an emotive return to core values at Arriva. After coming out of the pandemic, Arriva found that unaddressed problems had been brought to the fore and that they were still trying to operate like a smaller bus service provider despite the fact that they were taking on a wealth of new responsibilities.  

To return to their core values, they carried out over 2500 surveys of their 35,000 strong workforce and around 1000 focus groups based on a broad mix of candidates from every walk of the business. From that, they distilled what they found into a set of values that they translated into a video and a communications cascade to remind their workforce of what it truly is that Arriva provides: connecting people. They launched a new aesthetic to imbibe this sentiment more fundamentally and articulated the feelings of their staff directly and effectively.  

Following a gorgeous lunch spread, it was time for May Holloway (who you can catch at our Internal Comms Breakfast on February 1st!) and Kelly Blakey to tell us about the vital changes they were able to kick start at the British Transport Police. The BTP had had some reputational setbacks in the last few years and after some initial research, they found that the large bulk of officers didn’t have faith in their senior leaders and that half of them distrusted change. The goal was to excite leadership and empower their people to be more engaged and inspired. Although there was some pushback in the beginning, their Force On The Move campaign was the right strategy carried out through a cascade of comms that the BTP hadn’t seen before. This case study also flagged just how essential people managers are in championing these initiatives and how you cannot ignore the need to equip them with the tools they need to do so within their teams. Across the board, they were able to revitalise team dynamics by basing them around real conversations with established feedback loops to dispel change fatigue and build longevity into the cultural shift they necessitated.  

As the post-lunch sleepiness wore off, Alys O’Neill of United Culture and Paul Diggins of Santander walked us through how they brought positive change to a change resistant organisation. After their banks stayed open on the high street during Covid, Santander found they needed to refocus their efforts on providing the best service for their customers. Internally, United discovered that comms and HR were not communicating as openly as they could be. United took the approach of mixing these cultures to produce a framework that they called TEAMS (‘Think customer’, ‘Embrace change’, ‘Act now’, ‘Move together’, and ‘Speak up’.) They found influencers within the organisation to develop this change approach through clear toolkits, messaging, and face-to-face people management, which is where they discovered the core aspect of their campaign. They went further to facilitate understanding by allowing people managers the space to process these ideas and figure out ways to bring them to their teams authentically. Crucially, they found that making communications integral to business functioning was what made the campaign a success and personalising them to bring people back to the humanity of their colleagues.  

After a few more roundtables, discussing AI’s impact on the workforce and leadership vision, Roger Cayless of LEAP Create and Chloe Milham of Thales UK. As a global technology leader, Thales wanted to change their policy communication to 81,000 people they employed across the world. They wanted to ensure people were bringing their authentic selves to work and began to do so through employee journey mapping to find out where they could best communicate these new ideas.  

What emerged was a crossover of communication and design expertise with knowledge of their cultures and values that started from policy writing through to their delivery. By examining their existing policy development, they found new ways to empower their employees by giving them better understanding of the company policies. This led to new copywriting tenants, a new self-service intranet that gave employees access to policy information as they needed it and even introducing a toolkit for future policy introduction. By working from the ground up and comprehensively understanding how their employees functioned, they were able to streamline communications and allow for easier communication on under discussed topics, such as gender identity, menopausal leave, and others.  

Finally, a touch of science-based learning from Rich Milner and Sarah Murray of Cowry Consulting who found that spearheading a behavioural change campaign for Southern Water was best informed with psychological analysis. Customer service operations had a huge influx of negative callers, which required a new kind of upskilling for their employees to better navigate customer needs. Where Cowry started was by looking at how the human brain works, noting the distinct split between emotional and rational. This allowed them to understand the emotional state of employees during these more difficult customer calls that helped them build in positive psychology into their day-to-day functionality. By educating employees in this way, they were able to leverage psychological frameworks of reciprocity and commitment bias when helping customers. Through phrasing examples they were given in their call-in scripts and wider understanding of their own emotions, Cowry Consulting were able to deliver precision problem solving built from empathetic recognition of employee situations.  

Ultimately, it was day filled to the brim with innovative angles on how best to engage employees and inspired foresight into generating long-term cultural change. Communications has immense possibility to alter an organisation and not just build an identity but create a stronger purpose for employees at every level. 


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