We’ve worked with internal comms expert Teresa North for more than a decade, and we’re delighted that she’s come on board as one of our Associate Consultants.
We caught up with Teresa to talk about the art and craft of employee engagement, and we started by asking about the beginnings of her career in IC.
I was doing internal comms before I knew it was an actual job! I started my career in a junior role in a company that was expanding rapidly. Because I was on the directors’ floor I had a good overview of what was going on, so I started helping with company comms. One day my manager came in with an article she’d printed out about internal communications and said ‘this is what you do!”
I looked into it and ended up shaping my own role. For a long time, internal comms was a role that people seemed to fall into. Now it’s much more strategic. Companies have started to realise that the kind of employee engagement you can harness through internal communication can make a real difference to their success.
IC teams need to be great communicators AND great facilitators of communication. We talk about communication being two-way rather than top-down, but actually it’s multi-way. When I work with comms teams I encourage them to think about how to be great facilitators of communication, rather than just transmit the message. Have they got a system where someone in China can pick up the phone to someone in Ireland and ask a direct question? That’s the real challenge, to make sure company communication is as good as if you could just walk right up to someone’s desk.
Work is such a big part of our lives, it should be something we all really enjoy. So, my starting question is always: what can we do to make the workplace as great as it can possibly be? It might be about keeping employees informed, so they feel motivated to do great work. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, it might be a company that’s making people redundant. That’s never going to be nice, but there’s a difference between doing it in a way that makes people feel depressed and hard done by, and a way that makes people feel that they were treated fairly. It’s about how you give people the best possible employee experience.
Working successfully with a CEO means understanding their personal communication style. One of my mentors used to bump into his CEO in the lift every morning, and his CEO would ask him how things were going. One of my mentor’s skills was understanding communication styles and so he made sure he responded to the CEO in his preferred style. The CEO started waiting for him in reception in the mornings so they could get the lift together, and eventually my mentor got promoted above his boss. When he asked, ‘why me?’, his CEO told him ‘it’s because you’re like me and I need someone like me’. In fact, he was nothing like his CEO, but he knew how to communicate with him.
With strategy comms; look at your strategy from the point of view of all your employees. It’s something that a lot of companies could benefit from. If you’re having a restructure, think about what the personal experience is going to be like. Ask, “what do we need to do from a communication point of view that will make that journey as fair and good as it can be for each of those people?”
Putting on big employee events is something I love. It’s the one time in the year when everyone gets together to celebrate everything they’ve worked on, get clear about what they need to do and slap themselves on the back for a job well done. Seeing the look of enjoyment on everyone’s faces just clarifies for me why I love what I do. To make people feel proud about where they work; that’s the goal.