Internal communications HR leadership forum with Helen Miller

Internal communications HR leadership forum with Helen Miller
Published: 27 May 2020

In conversation with HR leaders over the last few weeks, one of the challenges they have been facing is managing their internal communications effectively. This has included managing the various channels, consistency, transparency and how to cascade messages. With this in mind, we produced a thought piece with Helen Miller who, until recently, was Talent, Culture & Communications Director at The Very Group.

From the feedback we received on the thought piece we decided to host an online forum with Helen to discuss the topics in more detail.

We were joined by HR leaders across multiple industries, with Helen beginning by saying how these forums are important to reassure each other that leaders should not lose sight of their own prior experience and instinct, and they help to boost each other’s confidence. An inherent skill of HR and Comms professionals is to think laterally and make sound judgements, which should not be forgotten. Helen’s theme for a successful approach, and plan for internal comms, starts with leadership. She stressed that leaders should work together to design and deliver a range of communications that display strong leadership across multiple channels. Leaders need to work harder, now people aren’t under the same roof, to deliver sharp and clear messages, whilst displaying empathy.

Another key point from Helen was how a company’s values, culture, purpose and mission are more important than ever, and they should be brought to life through different channels. There are a lot of worries and anxiety, and so leaders should give their colleagues as much stability in their world of work as possible. With many different messages to relay, from government guidance, through to business performance and customer activity, picking the right messages to convey at the right time does need thinking through. It is quite easy to get channel happy and, whilst each has a place, make sure there aren’t duplicates and don’t make it hard for people to find the information they need.

Most communications can end up in the public domain, which brings great opportunity yet also reputational risk. In writing and creating comms, leaders need to be mindful more than ever of this, staying true to themselves and ensuring that the tone of the messages are consistent and thoughtful.

Discussion ensued around how to keep morale and engagement high now we are a few months into working from home. Looping this back to your values and mission is very important as well as allowing two-way communications, perhaps using a Q&A platform such as Mentimeter. Some HR leaders have used this and said it has been well received in their organisations. Also encouraging ways that all colleagues can drive an engagement agenda, so it isn’t just coming from HR, is effective.

Another important theme that came up was how businesses are helping colleagues with mental health issues. People are feeling isolated, alongside juggling family and possibly financial worries. A session around how people are coping and juggling different priorities might encourage open discussion. Hearing personal stories can really help resonate with individuals and having a support infrastructure can make a big difference.

To summarise, bringing messages back to basics, conveying them with trust and transparency, and having regular and sustainable contact is so important. Employees deserve to hear the level of difficulty that organisations are going through, and the truth as much as possible, even if leaders don’t have all the answers. Business rhythm is important, and leaders should admit if they get things wrong. How companies treat their employees now will be remembered for a long time to come.

We wish to thank Helen once again for facilitating a lively and interesting discussion, with positive feedback from attendees.

For further information on Berwick Partners’ work please contact Amelia Black, Consultant in the Human Resources Practice at Berwick Partners.

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