Working safer through effective internal communication

Brand messaging is powerful – that’s why advertising spend in the UK is estimated at more than £20bn per year, according to data published by the Advertising Association and the World Advertising Research Centre.
We already know the benefits of a good business narrative and how storytelling can help your business grow – but to be really successful, you have to be just as good at communicating inwardly as you are at sending messages out to the market.
The power of internal communication is often overlooked. While some recognise the importance of an open and continual dialogue with staff, others underinvest or miss the opportunity entirely.
Some view internal communication as a way for business leaders to deliver news that’s pertinent to them. Others realise there are different types of internal communication, different ways of delivering it, and huge benefits to an effective internal communications programme.
It’s not just about telling your own people how well the business is performing or that the third stall in the gents’ bathroom is out of order again. It’s a little bit about that – but in addition to the latest internal news, successful businesses use internal communication to unify, motivate and inform their employees.
It’s no surprise that amongst the best internal communications case studies of 2016 are names such as AXA, Aviva, ITV, O2, TalkTalk and Virgin Trains: significant, forward thinking companies with meticulous branding and tens of thousands of employees between them, in hundreds of diverse roles.
At PR Week’s Strategic Internal Communications event in November, Drew McMillan, Head of Internal Communications and Innovation for Virgin Trains described how they recognised that brands spend lots of time, resource and budget to understand the makeup and behaviour of customers, but rarely apply this to understand and engage their employees better.
They felt the never-ending cycle of employee surveys adds little value, so replaced it with a qualitative approach, choosing 600 influencers within the business to visit colleagues in their homes and discuss thoughts face-to-face.
This in-depth research is carried out every three years and gives Virgin Trains the insights necessary to understand what information needs to be communicated to which people, and how best to do it.
An example of the type of information that can be delivered better using contemporary internal communication methods is the essential, but typically dull, Health and Safety training. This tends to include a generic film played during induction, and ongoing classroom based training for relevant roles.
However, latest figures by the Health and Safety Executive still show:

  • 1.3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 2,515 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2014)
  • 144 workers killed at work
  • 72,702 other injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR
  • 621,000 injuries occurred at work according to the Labour Force Survey
  • 30.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £14.1 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2014/15)

As companies grow and become more diverse in terms of personnel, more disparate, culturally and geographically, and more exposed to risk in dangerous working environments, how do you ensure the right information is heard by those that need to know it, and that no important information is missed?
National Gas Distribution Company (NGDC), a UK gas distribution company serving 6 million homes and businesses, faced challenges of poor information flow to 2,000 field based engineers, outdated and inefficient policy information, and limited connectivity in remote locations.
With mHub, NGDC created a simple and secure branded Health & Safety application that is pushed to each engineer’s mobile device, secured by Single Sign On and complete with health and safety content neatly organised into channels. Engineers are instantly notified when a new policy is received or updated.
Access to information is quick and easy: content can be easily found with powerful in-document search and downloaded for offline viewing. Overall, the app has improved operational effectiveness and productivity, ensured engineers work safer and are compliant, and has significantly increased internal engagement between teams and business leaders.
NGDC is a good example of a business getting internal communication right, with measurable success. However, it is just one of many high-profile utility companies in the UK, and many are failing to address the same challenges.
Image source: