PEOPLE: Staff engagement - PRWeek examines internal comms in The Best Companies to Work for in the UK survey

With the ill wind of economic downturn blowing across the Atlantic

companies are alreadycutting budgets and staff. So, what will be the

impact on the role of internal communications?



For the first time this year PRWeek has undertaken an in depth

investigation into the systems of internal communications that exist in

UK companies.



Rather than applying this to financial or external reputation indices

PRWeek asked companies that had been ranked in terms of what their

employees thought of them. Internal communications is undoubtedly an

increasingly important aspect of business.



Reputation is not just affected by external factors but by internal ones

- i.e. employees. Indeed, some would argue that engaging staff helps

differentiate companies from one another. The Sunday Times' and Great

Place to Work's Best Companies to Work for, in the UK, was published in

February this year. The latter were responsible for researching and

writing Fortune magazine's US equivalent.



The majority of the report's research involved quizzing employees of

firms, as well as asking management what internal communications, human

resources structures they have in place and about the culture and

philosophy of the companies.



PRWeek investigated all of the 50 companies in the ranking (see table)

to determine who headed internal communications, what their job titles

were, how many staff they had working for them in that capacity, as well

as whether they used an outside consultancy. The rationale in doing this

was to establish the degree to which those companies - voted favourably

by their staff - had introduced internal communications. And whether its

handled by the human resources teams, the marketing teams, the PR teams

or senior management.



Internal comms is apparent in all of the companies featured in the

ranking.



However, the extent to which IC has been formalised within those

companies varies widely. 40 per cent of the featured companies have

dedicated heads of internal communications, 30 per cent with specialist

teams. In many cases, though, the responsibility lies with a range of

departments and individuals, from public relations and communications

departments to human resources and board-level management.



The number one company on the list, Cisco, does not have a formal

internal communications structure. It is driven by the senior

vice-president in the US and falls within the remit of the company's

various human resources departments. It uses the company intranet to

disseminate information to employees and also enables employees to

communicate with the CEO.



BP Amoco's structure divides internal communications into four

parts.



Each business stream has its own head of internal communications, where

the overall strategy is driven by its chief of staff David Allen.



IT consultant CMG's internal communications is headed by its group

communications director Tony Richards, who oversees both external and

internal communications.



He pools staff on a project basis from various departments. He stresses

that the company's internal communications strategy is driven from the

chairman down to other levels of staff.



Sun Microsystems has no formal internal communications structure, but an

element of it sits in marketing, corporate positioning and human

resources.



At Carphone Warehouse, responsibility lies with the head of

communications Tristia Clarke and strategies are handled by the press

office.



Law firm Simmons & Simmons' internal communications is dealt with by the

director of marketing and the marketing communications, media and

business relations managers. Head of media relations Martin Richards

cites an example of a brand review the company conducted last year. It

asked its staff what they thought made the company different from other

law firms. As part of the rebranding the company ensured that all staff

at every level were given a presentation about the new identity.



The use of intranets is now de rigeur for most companies. Many of them

have a facility enabling staff to communicate with managing

directors.



For example, HR consultant Watson Wyatt provides an intranet service

called 'Ask Alan', allowing staff to direct questions to its managing

partner.



The use of outside agencies seems for the most part to occur on a

project basis. Some have used the services of consultancies to advise on

the setting up of their internal communications structure. Ernst &

Young, for example, used the services of specialist MCA Banner McBride.

BP director of corporate affairs John Pack says that on a particular

project it may bring in an external agency. Deloitte & Touche does

likewise. Many companies says that they might use design agencies to

work on the design of their staff magazines, but the trend leans towards

managing internal communications in-house.



Andraea Dawson-Shepherd, senior consultant and co-founder at internal

communications specialist Hedron, commented on the findings. She says

they highlight the question as to whether internal communications should

sit with human resources or internal communications. The answer would

seem to be both: 'You have to be good at communications but good at

management too. You've got to have a balance between the two.



It's a matter of understanding management as well as communications

techniques.'



Executive director at MCA Banner McBride David Young agrees. 'Marketing

and human resources must be in harmony,' he says.



Senior partner at specialist agency Smythe Doward Lambert Robert

Goodsell believes that rather than being just a message carrier for

management, internal communications should be seen as a process that

defines and facilitates a good relationship between an organisation and

its staff a marriage between management, human resources and

communications.



So, with the prospect of a recession how will internal communications be

affected and what is its role in minimising damage? Young reckons that

most companies do cut their internal communications budgets but that

those featured in lists such as this have a greater belief in its value

and are more likely to take a long-term view. '(These companies) have an

ability not to go into a knee-jerk reaction and go slashing here and

slashing there,' he says. With all the investment in external

communications and other forms of business strategy one of the remaining

differentiators for businesses is being an organisation that is

represented by its people. This especially applies when profits and

share prices are down and marketing budgets are being cut.



With the prospect of redundancy looming over the heads of staff good

internal communications is vital in maintaining morale. 'There may be

redundancies but this is sometimes necessary. You've got to address

staff, not just in an intellectual sense, but in an emotional sense as

well,' Young says. 'By being upfront you can have more of a positive

impact on staff and ensure that they don't suffer from survivor

sickness.'



Goodsell says: 'Take all collateral damage upfront - be open and honest

from the start. I'd suggest that the next source of productivity gain

that companies need to tap is increasing employee engagement. Heading

into a recession might just prove that.'



Great Place to Work For is currently in the process of receiving

nominations for next year's Sunday Times report.



It would seem that the companies that feature in the survey are less

likely to cut their internal communications. By the fact of their

presence they take the issue of investing in their staff very seriously.

So from an internal communications perspective the economic downturn may

even have a positive impact and highlight the need for effective

implementation.



If you can't differentiate through business strategy then you can do so

through engaging your staff.



INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS AT THE BEST UK COMPANIES TO WORK FOR*

Rank Company Type of company Head of IC

1 Cisco Internet products

supplier -

2 Microsoft Software supplier Rachael Kinnibrugh

3 Capital One Credit card issuer Sarah Murphy

4 Timpson Shoe repairer Christine Hickman

5 ASDA Supermarket chain Gillian England

6 Intel Microchip maker -

7 Abbott Mead Vickers Advertising agency -

8 Bacardi Martini Drinks supplier -

9 Morgan Stanley Investment bank Euart Glendenning

10 Pret A Manger Sandwich outlet Nigel Adams

11 Sun Microsystems Computer maker -

12 Bettys & Taylors Coffee and tea supplier -

13 Agilent Electronics company Fiona Lane

14 Wragge & Co Law firm Liz Whitaker

15 Hewlett-Packard Computer company Tina Green

16 DLA Law firm Kevin Greig

17 MBNA Credit card issuer Karen Noble

18 Pearson Publisher Jessica Stark

19 Churchill Insurance Car and home insurer -

20 Mondial Assistance Car breakdown service -

21 Carphone Warehouse Mobile phone retailer Tristia Clarke

22 Ulster Carpet Mills Carpet weaver -

23 Pfizer Pharmaceutical company Alison Quest

Darren Howe

Nigel Edwards

24 Simmons & Simmons Law firm -

25 Future Publishing Magazine publisher Terri Davey

26 Trifast Fastener maker -

27 Fidelity Investments Fund manager Sally Murphy

28 Deloitte & Touche Professional

services provider Lisa Baitup

29 Friends Provident Financial services

provider Andrew Diggins

30 Nationwide Building society Janice Banks

31 Arthur Andersen Professional

services provider Kirstie Hills

32 Admiral Car insurer Louisa Scadden

33 PA Consulting Management consultant Emma Ridgeon

34 HP Bulmer Cider maker Heidi Mcdougal

35 CMG IT consultant Tony Richards

36 Co-operative Bank Bank Simon Williams

37 KeyMed Medical equipment maker Luke Calcraft

38 BP Amoco Oil company David Allen

39 Iceland Frozen Food Frozen food retailer Dee Maguire

40 Ernst & Young Professional

services provider Edmund White

41 American Express Travel/financial

servs provider -

42 Watson Wyatt Human resources

consultant Madeleine Kavannagh

43 Sage Software supplier Emma Oliver

44 Accenture Management consultant Tony Smith

45 One2One Mobile phone service Maxine Blumfield

46 Oscar Faber Engineering consultant Jon Kerbey

47 IBM Computer company Sophie Austin

48 Bayer Drug and chemical maker Steve Painter

49 Kent Messenger Newspaper publisher -

50 Maersk Container ship operator Emily Messenger

Rank Company Job title Staff

1 Cisco - -

2 Microsoft IC manager 9

3 Capital One - -

4 Timpson Promotions manager -

5 ASDA Head of internal communications 10

6 Intel - -

7 Abbott Mead Vickers - -

8 Bacardi Martini - -

9 Morgan Stanley Corporate communications various

10 Pret A Manger Head of internal communications 2

11 Sun Microsystems - -

12 Bettys & Taylors - -

13 Agilent IC manager 1

14 Wragge & Co Director of communications various

15 Hewlett-Packard Corporate comms officer various

16 DLA Media director various

17 MBNA Communications manager 2

18 Pearson Head of IC various

19 Churchill Insurance - -

20 Mondial Assistance - -

21 Carphone Warehouse Head of communications various

22 Ulster Carpet Mills - -

23 Pfizer IC manager, sales and marketing various

IC manager, manufacturing various

IC manager, research various

24 Simmons & Simmons - -

25 Future Publishing Group IC manager various

26 Trifast - -

27 Fidelity Investments IC manager 1

28 Deloitte & Touche Director of IC 3

29 Friends Provident IC mangager 4

30 Nationwide IC mangager 10

31 Arthur Andersen IC mangager various

32 Admiral Communications manager 2

33 PA Consulting IC manager -

34 HP Bulmer Head of IC -

35 CMG Group communications director -

36 Co-operative Bank Head of corporate affairs 16

37 KeyMed Head of corporate affairs various

38 BP Amoco Chief of staff 4

39 Iceland Frozen Food Head of IC various

40 Ernst & Young Director of IC 25

41 American Express - -

42 Watson Wyatt Head of IC 1

43 Sage IC manager 4

44 Accenture Head of IC various

45 One2One European communications manager 2

46 Oscar Faber Head of IC 1

47 IBM IC manager various

48 Bayer Head of corporate communications 1

49 Kent Messenger - -

50 Maersk Head of IC various

* Ranking source: The Sunday Times' and Great Place to Work's Top 50

Best Companies to Work For (www.greatplacetowork.co.uk); PRWeek UK

ERNST & YOUNG

Head of IC: Edmund White

Total UK staff: 7,267

Staff turnover: 22 per cent

Edmund White emphasises that Ernst & Young's internal communications

mission statement is to keep staff informed of the values and direction

of the company. E&Y has an internal communications network consisting of

25 people. He sees internal communications as a separate function, not

just as an adjunct to human resources or marketing. His role is defined

as supporting local management in the effective use of communications.

PFIZER

Heads of IC: Quest/Edwards/Howe

Total UK staff: 5,165

Staff turnover: six per cent

Pfizer's company structure includes its UK internal communications

group. It is split into three divisions, with the internal comms manager

for each working together to create seamless internal communications.

The divisions are sales and marketing, headed by Alison Quest, research

(Nigel Edwards); and manufacturing (Darren Howe). Quest explains that

while the audiences differ, the overall strategy is co-ordinated by the

three managers.



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