Last month I had the pleasure of travelling to Palma, Majorca to spend three days with my communication colleagues who work either for Thomas Cook Group or Thomas Cook Airlines and our tour operator communication colleagues – about 45 of us spread across Europe.
Many of us have worked for Thomas Cook only a short time while others have been there for over 10 years. Between all of us, there is a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills that we all bring. There were two objectives for the three day conference:
1. to get to know each other
2. get to know more about the product - both in terms of the hotels and the people.
Anything above that was a bonus!
There was a huge amount of passion and enthusiasm in the room and it was great to hear so much conversation. We all certainly had plenty to say (unsurprising for a group of comms people...)
It was a great start to a global conversation. The task now is to continue the conversation back in our workplace and we are all determined to make that happen.
As seems to be increasingly commonplace these days, our team is made up of those who mainly have an external communications responsibility and a small number of us who have an internal communication role. Like many other organisations, internal communications was seen as "sending stuff out". As we all know, this is certainly not the case. Getting my colleagues to understand the importance of engaging our staff at the same time as our external customers will take some time to embed, but we continue to chip away and I just love the challenge of changing people's perceptions.
One of the topics we discussed was the role of the communications team, what we want to be known for and what we need to do to achieve that. Across the team, one of the main points that came out was we all want to be known for ‘being champions of the business’. This is a saying that I’m sure we can all relate to.
I’ve worked in internal communications a long time and yes I do think I am a champion of all things internal communications (sorry Rachel, no pun intended!) There are many occasions when I have had to challenge managers about what they want to communicate and indeed how they want to communicate it. How many times have we all been asked for a poster?!
Of course, making your mark as a champion of the business will only be credible when there is buy-in from senior leaders and a willingness from front-line staff to ‘let you in’. However, gaining creditability and building the relationships with senior leaders takes time, so what's increasingly more important for me is to work with front-line managers and staff. Being visible, walking on the shop floor, sharing their stories, exploring new ideas, taking risks and yes, challenging what they’ve always done.
I don’t like the term journey but it does often feel like a bumpy road. I think something that helps get me through is knowing there are others out there who face similar challenges.
I am proud to be part the IOIC as it means I'm able to vent frustrations and focus on sharing thinking and best practice. Whether it is how we work with our leadership team, how we support our middle managers or how social media is used internally. Our meetings are a great place to share and with the next meeting at the airport on the 19th January, I’ve not far to go.
So, why do I do what I do? I guess it’s a desire to make a difference. How I can make a difference to the way people receive information, help to facilitate effective conversations between managers and staff as well as making others feel they are really contributing to the organisation and not just doing a job.
I admit there is still a long way to go for internal communications to go to get to a point where people truly understand the value of our function, but that’s all part of the fun.