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With this year’s Internal Communications Conference just a few weeks away, we’ve decided to sit down with some of our world class industry speakers for a “Speaker in the Spotlight” interview to hear more about their role, responsibilities and what they are most looking forward to about the event. Today we are joined by Lauren Vaux, Internal Communications Manager (Retail) at British Heart Foundation…

Can you provide us with an insight into a ‘day in the life’ of your role?

I know everyone says it, but there really never is a typical day in Retail comms at the British Heart Foundation. One day I can emailing all of our shops to let them know that they received too much reindeer poo (not real reindeer poo, it was glitter) from one of our suppliers. The next day I can be presenting to the Retail Leadership team regarding the latest improvements and suggestions we are making to our internal comms strategy and channels. And I guess that’s why I enjoy it so much, the variety, always being kept on my toes. It is a great mix of operational information for Retail, from how to run their shop, to engagement content, such as wellbeing initiatives and research word searches for the volunteers to do with a brew.

During Covid-19 a lot of my days were spent reading government guidance for each of the four nations and trying to work out what it means, I’m certainly pleased there’s a lot less of that now.

One thing that does remain consistent every day is our ‘10@10’ team check-in. At 10am every morning for 10 minutes (we often run over) we catch up as a whole team, discuss what comms we have planned for the day, make sure we’re not over communicating to a particular audience and see how we can support each other where necessary. We were doing it before the pandemic in the office but it’s become even more important since working remotely, it’s a lovely way to stay connected.

How has Covid affected your internal communications strategies?

When we started communicating about Covid-19 to colleagues back in February 2020, I don’t think we could have predicted how much it would impact the organisation. Overnight we closed 750 shops, before the formal lockdown was introduced. We had to think of new ways to stay in touch with our colleagues whilst we were closed. Not all shop staff had email addresses at that point and contact details for volunteers were limited.

We quickly pivoted to Microsoft Teams using their live event function. It was something we were toying with before the pandemic but never brave enough to give it a go. During Covid-19 we had no choice and we just had to try it. Previously it would have taken us at least a month to test it, and to get the IT team involved to support and make sure we were all confident using the new system. But we didn’t have time for that! The pandemic made us braver in our choices and made us try new things. These changes have stayed with us.

When colleagues returned they told us they loved hearing people’s stories whilst they were on furlough, something that we didn’t always prioritise over the operational information previously. They also liked joining live events and having more regular interaction with senior leaders. These are things we’ve incorporated into our communications strategy and channels now to ensure our colleagues stay engaged and connected to the BHF.

We now offer a wider range of channels and are certainly reaching more colleagues than ever before. But we didn’t just introduce new initiatives, it also gave us the opportunity to pause some of our previous channels and evaluate what each channel was offering. I’m also pleased to say we now have email addresses for all BHF colleagues!

What do you think the future will look like for employee engagement?

I think organisations are going to have to adapt and change to meet the needs of today’s employees. Their expectations have changed, habits have changed, and priorities have changed.

In order to be an employer of choice, organisations are going to have to empower their colleagues a lot more. Let them choose where, how and when they work. Empower them to look after their wellbeing and safety. Empower them to pick and choose the internal news they wish to absorb.

We need to be more flexible and provide more choices for colleagues. In return we’ll get a happier and more engaged workforce so I think it’s a small compromise to make.

We’re very excited about hear your thoughts and opinions on the panel discussion! Any chance we can get a sneak peek about what you will be specifically discussing?

I hope to discuss many of the things I’ve mentioned here. Our ability to try new technology, the success we had with MS Teams during furlough plus how we’ve continued to use it and how we’ve continued to listen to colleague feedback about how they want to stay connected about our work.

I’ll also be discussing “empowerment” and the role it has in the future of internal communications and employee engagement.

We’re at really exciting time in internal communications with loads of new technology at our finger tips but it’s vital we don’t get carried away and do everything, remembering the needs of our audiences and what they want.

What are you most looking forward to about the event?

I’m really looking forward to hearing from everyone else! The world of internal comms has changed so much in the past 18 months to adapt to the impact the pandemic has had on our workforces. I’m excited to hear what other organisations have done, how they’ve supported their colleagues and looked after their wellbeing as well. I’m particularly interested to hear from EA sports about cutting through the noise. I’m sure every organisation has moments when there is a lot going on, with too much information and ‘noise’ for colleagues to really absorb everything thrown their way. So what can we do to prevent colleagues putting ear plugs in and ignoring it all? I’m hopeful Aisling from EA Sports can help me out!

Lauren will be taking part in the exclusive panel discussion focusing on “How Internal Communicators are Evolving their Strategies to Align with the Future of Work” on Wednesday 15th September – you can register your FREE ticket to the event and catch Lauren’s discussion live here

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