By William Trout, Director of Internal Communications, BBVA Compass
It’s a new year and there’s no time like the present to demonstrate your value to senior management and stakeholders across the organization. In that spirit, here is a list of 10 “must do’s” to help you and your company move forward next year.
1. Harness your senior leadership. No one’s voice speaks as loudly as that of your CEO. Get her and other top leaders in front of your people at Town Hall meetings or the like. At BBVA Compass, we’ve had success with our “Coffee Talk” chat sessions (where selected groups of front-line staff meet over coffee with the CEO), which we leverage by podcasting out to all employees.
2. Adopt the employee voice. The internal communications of many companies read like corporate memos. Abandon the proverbial “Voice of God” on your Intranet and other channels and let your workers’ stories shine through. At BBVA Compass, employee testimonials (video and printed) consistently rank among the most visited content.
3. Commit to two-way communication. Giving employees a voice means letting them comment on content, directly or via community platforms. You may need to be resourceful: At BBVA Compass, our 10-year old Intranet platform did not allow for two-way dialogue. But when we launched a separate, externally hosted video platform, we made sure to include a “comments” function.
4. Beef up your “Employee Value Proposition.” The EVP is the “deal” between company and employees, and it needs to be a lot more compelling than just pay, benefits and working conditions. It should embrace how employees view their company (e.g. a soon-to-be industry pacesetter vs. a train wreck in the works) and their personal stake in its success. At BBVA Compass, recent employee survey results (90% of employees say they understand how their roles fit within the bank’s overall strategic direction) suggest that we’ve been able to articulate a robust EVP that emphasizes each employee’s personal and professional development.
5. Work to embed a communications culture in your company. At BBVA Compass, we like to say that ‘communication’ does not belong to the Communications department. Rather, everyone is a communicator. To reinforce this concept, we established the “Network of Communicators,” a resource group of mid-to-senior level staff from across the bank. These communications enthusiasts meet monthly and help eliminate black holes within the organization, clue in Internal Communications to projects as they reach the pipeline, and support line managers in their cascade communications efforts.
6. Build out your brand internally. Employees are your best ambassadors, and internal perceptions should mirror what you are telling the world. At BBVA Compass, we deployed our “Solutions Built Around You” brand promise with great effect inside the organization. While we highlighted our flexible benefits programs and employee-friendly policies, we worked especially hard to explain the concept and strategic positioning behind the new brand to employees “live.” We even positioned individual communications channels (such as segmented VOiP telephone blasts) as based around the needs of specific employee populations. The result: countless examples of employees “living the brand.”
7. Measure, measure, measure. Hit rates and time spent on sites and other digital channels are only part of the picture. Work with your market research team to create a quarterly employee survey that captures indicators such as recall and credibility of messaging, employees’ sense of connection, etc. You’ll know if you are making a difference if you track these trends over time. Share these trends with your peers and superiors and they’ll know it too.
8. Engage the managerial cadre. Managers can be a bottleneck of information or a source of inspiration for their teams. Start by taking the pulse of these managers; you may be surprised by the degree to which they may be disaffected, cynical or just plain uncomfortable communicating. Give these managers message points and other tools to help give them the confidence to truly engage employees.
9. Re-invent the tried and true. An employee survey or (even anecdotal information) can give help you gauge which of your channels are most effective. Recast those that are lagging. If you are using a cascade structure for key communications, adapt it to the 21st century. A hybrid cascade incorporating face-to-face meetings, video and email communications can be very effective. And consider the effect that new technology can bring to older channels. We have had great response to segmented VoIP telephone blasts. More than one employee has fallen off his chair in surprise after picking up the phone and hearing the “live” voice of the CEO.
10. Sell yourself. Positioning yourself as a change agent within your organization is one of the most important things you can do as an internal communications leader. Get out into the field and share what you and your department can do. You’ll get a sense for how people perceive you (if they think your job is to “send memos,” then you know you’ve got a lot of room for improvement) and you’ll increase and strengthen your sources in the field.
As the Houston-based director of internal communications for BBVA Compass, a top 15 U.S. bank, William seeks to inform, energize and empower employees in support of the bank’s business goals and vision. Prior to joining Compass in 2002, William worked for a boutique financial advisory firm focusing on investments in Latin America as well as a consultant on government-sponsored development projects in Eastern Europe and Russia. His professional interests range from marketing communications to employee engagement to stakeholder outreach.