Getting leaders to engage with internal communication

This guide is to help you get your leadership team to engage and inspire their workforce. It will be of particular interest to those responsible for leadership communications.

On this page:

Evidence about the impact of leadership

Leadership behaviours impact powerfully on employee engagement scores for their teams. Research recognises that engaged employees means a more productive workforce. 

Analysis of People Survey 2019 scores for 8,750 business units in government organisations found that:

  • there is a clear correlation between leadership behaviours, the culture they create and team engagement
  • leaders who consistently apply the enablers of engagement achieve high team engagement
  • leaders who inconsistently apply the enablers of engagement achieve lower team engagement
  • this correlation is most evident around the themes of leaders enabling employees to have a voice and demonstrating integrity in their teams

Check the Engage for success website and see the People Survey results on GOV.UK.

An engaged workforce has a direct impact on key organisational outcomes:

  • profits
  • customer satisfaction
  • productivity
  • Innovation
  • absence
  • turnover

Getting your leaders to engage

What are your top tips for getting your leaders engaging? Internal communications leaders from across government give their tips on how to get your leaders engaging, such as:

  • get leaders to meet people in person
  • play to their strengths, you cannot make an introverted leader be extroverted
  • telling stories showing some degree of vulnerability

Watch the video: tips for getting your leaders engaging (5 minutes 27)


Face to face. Getting our leaders to meet our people in person. Sometimes you might find your leaders a little bit reluctant to do it. I think it’s our job as internal communicators to encourage them to support them. You’ll find the more they do it, the more they enjoy it. Our insight tells us that, although we have a whole range of channels to use to engage with our people, that’s the format that they trust the most, that’s the route by which we build trust within our leaders, so encourage all your leaders to get out there, to do it you can’t engage enough and I guarantee the more they do it, the more they’ll enjoy it.



Top tips for getting your leaders engaging: play to their strengths you cannot make an introverted leader be extroverted think about how they come across and where their natural comfort zone is. The number 1.

Number 2 telling stories, we all like to hear stories of narratives and how people you know where people have come from. This really makes them accessible. So use the power of storytelling and including sharing some degree of vulnerability, of how your leaders have had the ups and downs, follow it through to the end.

Number three is around using data and evaluation, so play back those stats and figures along weaving that in with the storytelling to show the power of what these things have on staff. So well-being measures not just the people survey but continually gather data and show this evidence.

And then number 4, leadership is not just about broadcast it’s far more about a dialogue so listening to the staff and how getting your leaders in environments where they can listen to staff through a whole range of things, be that web chats be that town halls be that Skype calls be that live streaming. Consistency is key so whatever forum or channel you’re using with your leaders, the same message repeating that in different ways will appeal to different audiences.


Some of the kind of tips for engaging our senior leaders, so I think one example I have, is one how we support our permanent secretary, in helping him to engage with 69,000 people and at the Department for Education, and one of the ways we support him in doing that, is by allowing him to do a video log every week. So that helps him be in more places that he can physically be, obviously he does visit and kind of engage of teams on a face-to-face basis, but actually allowing him to talk to camera, be authentic and kind of communicate what’s going on at the top of Department, kind of really helps to, kind of keep him visible, actually helps everybody in the department understand actually, you know, how the department is being, you know well led or run any of the issues any issues any challenges. So that’s one kind of example, and another thing more broadly, is kind of, the some of the tips that I would say people can think about , sometimes what I do, is how you bring nuggets of insight to your senior leaders, to help them engage.

So it’s not just about kind of the message is, you know being in as many kind of, you know, useful meetings as possible, and so often as a head of internal communications, I’m in different forums so that allows me to bring in insights from. It could be from our focus groups, it could be kind of alongside with our stakeholders, but really drawing on those, and kind of you know, putting that into the meeting room with the senior leaders so that they can understand how they want to use that information shape their kind of local comms, or should help them think about how they want to keep they want to communicate, when they go back into their areas, so it’s really also about kind of hearing, and bringing, in those nuggets of insights and using them at the most appropriate time. Sometimes a full dashboard is very helpful but actually you need to bring some you need to bring it to life and kind of you think about how you use that.



So my top tip on to get leaders engaging is to play to their strengths.

Now we have a number of channels that we can use to support leaders in their engagement, be it face to face or articles on the intranet, vlogs, blogs, dial in or whatever it might be but I think it’s our role, as internal comms specialists, to be their trusted advisors and recognize where they’re comfortable and where they’re less comfortable. Every leader is absolutely different.

So for example, some senior leaders, in particular, actually aren’t very good and a big Town Hall but they come become much more comfortable and frank and authentic when they’re talking to smaller face-to-face groups and say six or eight or a dozen there are others who are absolute natural bloggers and are very happy to interact with the comments, and answer the questions and others who just find that a lot more difficult.

Likewise, there are some senior leaders who are very very good at fielding dial-ins and answering questions and indeed really importantly for leaders being ready to admit when they don’t know something rather than try and fluff their way through it. So I think the real thing we’ve got to do, is to get under the skin, us as internal comms people, get under the skin of our senior leaders, really try and work out, where they’re comfortable, where they’re going to come across best, where they’re going to engage more effectively.


Here are some resources to help your leaders engage.

Learning and development

Signpost your leaders to learning and development opportunities designed to strengthen their capability to engage and inspire

Case studies

Senior internal communications professionals from across government discuss how to influence leaders.

Watch the video: how can internal communicators influence (2 minutes 34) March 2020

Video interviews with heads of internal communications across government, with thanks to those who have given their time and insight:

  • Trish Macready, Head of Internal Communications at the Department for International Trade
  • Barry Mussenden, Deputy Director, Corporate Communications at the Department for Health and Social Care
  • Marie Dunaway, Head of the Arms Length Bodies Internal Communications Network
  • Penny Mitchell, Deputy Director, Head of Internal Communication at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Sherma Julien, Head of Internal Communications at the Department for Education
  • Wendy Proctor, Deputy Director, Head of Marketing and Internal Communications at the Ministry of Defence


The best practices to engaging your leaders are:

  • demonstrate to your leaders the powerful impact their actions have on employee engagement, using quantitative and qualitative evidence to make the case
  • use case studies of how heads of internal communications across government have influenced leaders and where they have seen leaders successfully engaging their people
  • point your leaders to learning and development opportunities designed to strengthen their capability to engage and inspire