We grab a cuppa and settle in for a virtual chat with some amazing IC experts.
In the second of our series, we caught up with Allison Cary, Internal Communications Lead at Voyage Care, about the ever-evolving role of internal communications in Social Care.
How many people do you have at Voyage Care?
We have around 10,500 employees working in England, Wales and Scotland, and we support over 3,500 people. Working in Social Care means there’s so much crucial information to share – there’s just three of us in the IC team, so there’s always a lot going on.
What was your initial reaction as an IC team to the COVID-19 situation?
Being in the industry we are, it didn’t come as a shock to us but we had to jump in with both feet. Our frontline teams do amazing work, and we owe it to them to help them in the best way we can. There was a lot of planning in the organisation and we went out with support comms before lockdown and remote working properly ‘began’. As a team, we focused on putting tools in place early to make the barrage of information from the Government digestible for our people.
By the time lockdown was in full swing, we’d already established a hub for COVID-19 resources on our new intranet, and started a daily broadcast communication to all staff. We keep this really simple – just an email with bullet points and links, so it’s clear and concise. We also started sharing a weekly video from a member of our leadership team; our leaders really have led and that’s been received so well.
How have your communications had to evolve?
We have always had to be responsive to business needs. The way we do things hasn’t changed massively, but I’d say the tools we use have, like introducing the daily broadcast, increasing our use of video and making more use of social channels.
We’ve tried to strike a balance between content focusing on regulatory guidance and content bringing people together through people stories – they really help people process information. For example, we’re running a positivity campaign to share inspirational stories and ideas. We’ve used social channels in a way we haven’t before and have seen a growth in staff using these to stay connected.
What have your main communications objectives been?
Our communications are action focused, so people know exactly what they need to do. We’ve been working a lot with the quality team to translate guidance and make actions clearer – our frontline teams are busy and not office based, so they don’t have the time to ‘figure out’ what we mean. We have a defined voice and try to keep things simple and succinct, but we’re trying to underpin everything with a genuine expression of gratitude and admiration.
We’re also paying a huge amount of attention to wellbeing, it’s been a massive focus for us and the response from the organisation has been amazing. We share a weekly ‘clap for carers’ video and the things we see our services doing never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
What have your main challenges been?
We have a huge emphasis on collaboration in our team so one of the main challenges has been keeping that sense of connection going. It’s been key to me that people really understand the new channels we’re using, like Teams, and how they can be creative with them, so we can find new ways to work collaboratively. Things are unlikely to be the same again and it’s a delicate balance to strike but we know we can be effective even when we’re not all in one place.
What positives can be taken from this?
A key positive is a greater emphasis and recognition of the power of internal communications. We’ve been very much a part of the organisation’s crisis response and there’s been a lot of value placed on what we do. We’ve been working hard over the last year or so to put new tools in place, like our new intranet, and this situation has brought these to the fore and shown the impact they’ve had. If this situation had happened a year ago, things could have been much more challenging.
I’m hugely proud of the attitude the team has shown as well, to do things right and get people what they need when they need it – everyone has really pulled together.
What lessons will you take from this?
We were trying to introduce a storytelling aspect to our content and how we communicate prior to this, but it is happening organically now – carrying this forward will be an import part of our comms approach.
We’re a small team with big ambitions and this has taught us that when we put our minds to something, we can make it happen. This situation brings into sharp focus things you’ve already achieved, and being able to stop and take stock of it, is in itself a valuable learning experience.