It is a truth universally acknowledged that a business in possession of an ambitious strategy, must be in want of strong internal communications. Nothing is more powerful for your brand than buy-in from your in-house experts, so when it comes to the way you communicate with your team, don’t take tips from Mr Darcy – you need to win them over from the very beginning.
Put your best foot forward
Your relationship begins before your new team member even applies for the role. Think of your recruitment process as your chance to present yourself – to attract the very best candidates you need to make sure that your business looks its very best from an external perspective. Fine tune the copy on your public website, make sure your social channels are up to date and look at the emails or letters that accompany any correspondence you send out to potential new team members. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Welcome them home
When your new team member arrives, now is the chance to reinforce their good impression of you. At Broker Network, part of the Bravo Group, we provide each new starter with a ‘Welcome Home’ box that contains everything they need to make their first day with us a great one, including things like a mug, pens, a tub of sweets to keep their energy levels up, and a comprehensive Kick Start Pack that clearly outlines our business strategy.
The key with this pack is that it communicates our key messages, helps each individual to see where they fit in the overarching Bravo Group, and hopefully starts to make them feel included in our story.
Clearly define your channels
To drive engagement with staff, it’s important to understand the content, format and frequency of communication that suits them best, and use this knowledge to set out definitive online and offline channels that meet their needs. To fully understand what your staff will respond to, ask them what they are looking for, and then pay close attention to what they engage with to help you shape your communications.
For instance, with Broker Network we ran a survey in 2017 with the sole aim of making BN a ‘great place to work’. One overwhelming piece of feedback was that staff were keen to implement an intranet; and told us that they wanted regular emails on a weekly basis to keep them in the loop with what’s going on around the business. We responded with the launch of OSCAR (standing for Online Staff Communication And Resource) which includes news, events, links to our HR system, the ability to book travel, and more. OSCAR (taking the character of a furry alien) has now become quite the character at Broker Network being instantly recognisable by staff as the voice of the internal communications team. We use his likeness on everything from posters on the fridge to our weekly email out to staff, The Week in Brief. This serves as a useful reminder for staff to login to OSCAR and catch up with what’s going on from a business and a social perspective.
Bravo Group is now also working with Compass on their internal communications, but every one of the Bravo Group businesses is distinctly different and so here we have taken a different approach to fit. With a comparatively smaller team who mostly all sit in one open plan office, it’s easier for the Compass guys to catch up on a daily basis, so our internal updates are just once a month in the form of a simple and snappy email bulletin to keep them up to date on how the business is performing and good news stories from their colleagues. They also need absolutely no encouragement from us to organise their own social outings which is fantastic to see!
We’re also supporting our Ethos Broking partners from a communications perspective, and again, as they are distinctly different from our other two brands they require a different approach. We’re also mindful that each of our regional partners has their own singular brand alongside the overarching brand of Ethos Broking, and we work closely with them to tailor their communications to suit their business and individual culture.
It’s good to talk
In terms of outlining your key messages, there’s nothing that beats a face to face get together. Get your business leaders in front of your team and encourage an open dialogue between them and your staff. Something that works well at Broker Network is our ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions, which we hold on a bi-monthly basis.
Three of the events are simple ‘huddle’ type catch ups where staff will gather together for half an hour; and the other three larger events really drill down into how we are implementing our strategy and bring the whole BN team in to ask questions, brainstorm ideas and raise critiques in an open forum. These events in particular are also crucial in ensuring that our homeworkers are included as everyone comes together for the day.
After answering questions from the floor, the exec team take all feedback away as the number one item on our next agenda and we make it our mission to implement positive change as a result, which we then communicate out to staff using a combination of online and offline channels. It’s vital for all of us that this is completely transparent, as this encourages staff to trust the exec team to do what they say they will, but also helps them to feel empowered that they can speak up and have their voices heard. Without a doubt, some of our best new initiatives come as a result of our Let’s Talk sessions.
Tweet all about it
Now comes the brand ambassadors’ piece. Once you have got that genuine buy-in and support from your team, if they feel proud of the company they work for they will naturally want to shout about it to others. Make it easy for your staff to share their experiences at work on social media. There’s a time and a place for being the ‘brand police’, but I firmly believe that social platforms are a place where individuals should be able to share their own opinions. It can cause some business leaders concern, but if your staff are happy and they are treated well, you should have no reason to be worried.
At Broker Network, we use the hashtag #LifeAtBN to showcase what we’re doing internally, and some of our staff have started to use this too when they share photos from events, work that they’re particularly proud of, or just something interesting that happened in the office or on the road. Culture and communications are always going to be tightly woven together for us and seeing these posts popping up on LinkedIn and Twitter reaffirms what we know in our hearts – that our people are our biggest asset and that when they are happy and thriving, the business does the same.