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Changing the cascade process in an offline business
29 June, 2012 - 10:15
Communicator Jenni Wheller offers ten valuable tips to meet the challenges of cascading information to employees. Learn how the process can flow as smoothly as a waterfall.
By Jenni Wheller
Cascading news and information throughout any organisation is a challenge. There are networks that exist outside the hierarchical flow of the business and the need for dialogue and social tools adds another layer for the internal communicator to consider.
Whether starting from scratch, developing tools or looking to change the way the current business works, here are some ideas that might help.
1. Research what people want; don’t deliver what you want.
This is an easy mistake to make. In organisations where people are front line, serving customers or working in factories, you need to consider their environments and what they want to achieve from communication. The Board will always have an agenda for the role of communications but you are there to make sure the information going through the business is relevant for all the stakeholders and it is being delivered in the way people want to receive it.
2. Put the information in their hands.
Let people choose what they want to know. In the information age, we cannot subscribe what our colleagues should know about. For our business, I made sure that UK news was a must for all colleagues by automatically including them in that news feed and it has increased people’s awareness outside of their departments and their divisions. All other news is down to them, so if they’re interested in global stories, charity news, financial updates or HR changes, people can choose whether they want to receive them or not.
3. Have a budget that is realistic for your business needs. When internal communications is new to a business, you are never going to get a huge budget. There is always phasing to consider, but think about what you’re trying to achieve when cascading news: do you need a collaboration tool or a simpler intranet platform? It is all down to what the business and the people within it want and the budget needs to reflect this.
4. Think print in a digital age.
So many magazines go out when budgets are cut but in an offline world, but the employee magazine can be the only contact some of the team get with the business. Spend time bringing experts in for advice on names and designs and invest in doing it well – people love to flick through something with their coffee break.
5. Go where they are.
If your teams are on Facebook and Twitter, then go there – but go there with a robust plan. Identify what you’re going to use the tools for and how you want people to engage with them. And make sure you have HR on board from a policy perspective.
6. Take them with you on the journey.
Tell people what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Don’t be shy if things run late or if you’re planning out how cascade is going to work; involve people on what that needs to look like. Is it a monthly team brief presentation that heads of functions deliver, or is it a one pager every week from the top? Get everyone involved and the communication can be managed by you but owned by everyone.
7. Align with your EVP and mind the gap.
Remember the employee journey. If you sit in HR, this is easier because you are more involved with it. If not, get yourself in there! What we promise them before they arrive needs to deliver all the way through. And the language, branding and presence needs to all match up. Internal communications is not just telling people stuff. It’s engaging them in doing the best they can do at work with the right information at the right time.
8. Be realistic; Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I say this if you’re starting from scratch. Things take time to develop and getting cascade right can take years. You need to set the foundations, establish the messages and then map out the cascade. Take your time, look for the quick wins where you can and embrace the journey.
9. Decide where you want internal comms to be in your business – it’s in your hands.
I often hear and even have the debate about where internal comms should sit in a business. It’s in your hands. You can make this role whatever you want it to be. If you want to write magazines and add content to the intranet then go for it. If you want to get involved in how the Board package their messages and deliver them to the people then get yourself heard. Influence those that you need to and invite yourself to meetings you know you need to be at.
10. Have fun!
I have done more video, more creative desk drops, more themed events and quirky giveaways in internal comms than any other communications role I have had. The Easter egg hunt in the office is my favourite to date! People come to work every day, so let’s have some fun together while we’re doing our jobs!
About Jenni Wheller
Jenni started her career in local government. As a communications assistant she worked on all aspects of communication, from internal communication to local PR and event management.
After two years Jenni moved to defence company BAE Systems. As a Media Relations Advisor for one of their divisions, Jenni managed the media relations for regional press across 13 UK sites, travelling worldwide supporting events and exhibitions to ensure products/capabilities were featured in show publications as well as national press – both UK and/or international.
Jenni then joined Thomson Local to set up their internal communications function. Among her key projects was launching a new intranet and growing a four page newsletter into a 12 page magazine.
Following her stint at Thomson Local, Jenni moved to internal communications agency theblueballroom becoming their Business Development Manager.
In March 2010, Jenni returned to the in-house role of Internal Communications Manager, joining SSP where she has built the internal comms function from scratch. There, Jenni has introduced a new social intranet, a new internal magazine and is soon to launch a third channel to support crisis communications.
Having recently recruited an Internal Communications Executive she is hoping to drive the function further at the predominantly offline business.
Follow Jenni on her blog at http://jenniwheller.wordpress.com/
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