Internal communication: at the heart of it all

If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it is the importance of talking to each other. When so many of us have been separated not just from those we love but our colleagues, the ability to stay in touch with others has been vital in keeping us all on the rails. 

I imagine that if anyone had ever wondered why internal comms was such a crucial part of the communications canon, the scales have now fallen from their eyes. If it hadn’t been for internal comms, people might well have found the challenges of the pandemic a great deal more unsettling.

Times of change

It is at times of change that internal communication comes into its own. It will play its part in the reshaping of the Government Communication Service, ensuring that our discipline remains on top of its game. 

Internal comms is key to making sure that we not only stay connected to each other but also connected with our purpose and those we serve. But, and here’s the tricky thing, there is no one size fits all solution to doing this. What works well in one department, won’t in another. The same goes for the private sector. It will depend on your business and your people.

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Internal communication at DfE

Here at the Department for Education (DfE), we have a geographically dispersed workplace and are spread over 12 sites. When the majority of staff began working from home this presented the internal comms team with a logistical challenge they had never dealt with before. 

Most of us know the mantra that people like to hear news primarily from their leaders and their line managers. DfE’s internal comms team ramped up the number of live all-staff broadcasts by the Permanent Secretary and expanded the format to include different guests from the leadership team each week. Every broadcast included time for questions. 

In this way the leadership team was regularly connecting to a workforce of more than 7,000 in an immediate and intimate way. This provided vital reassurance at a time of considerable anxiety for all of us. 

When people are worried it can be all too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture at work. At DfE, we serve a huge swathe of society from children in care and foster homes to schools, colleges and universities. Our skills reforms are at the heart of the government’s levelling-up agenda. 

From February this year, the internal comms team have been rolling out virtual visits to a variety of settings, from meeting young apprentices at a car factory, to nurseries and further education colleges. Thanks to the magic of Microsoft Teams, we have met children, adult learners, stakeholders and a huge number of others who rely on what we do. 

These visits have been a stand-out success, linking people who might never have had the chance to meet and chat to a young apprentice, say. It also went a long way to humanising a government department which is not always an easy task. 

Reaching new audiences

Previously any government internal comms specialist would have used IC Space, a dedicated website that contained a lively mix of news, views, professional guidance and case studies. From 24 May, IC Space will be moving to a new home within the relaunched GCS website. This will give it the chance to reach and support new audiences, as well as those who already find it a valuable source of resources and guidance.

The pandemic may be easing but new ways of working might be here for some time to come and internal comms will continue to be at the heart of it.   

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