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Supporting employees with stress in the workplace

21st March, 2022.

Supporting employees with stress in the workplace

As an internal communicator you have a lot of strings to your bow. One of those includes supporting employees with stress in the workplace. In this blog we explore the different steps that can be taken to educate and support employees.  

Stress in the workplace: the current picture

Data from the Health and Safety Executive shows an enormous increase in stress, depression and anxiety in recent years.

A second study found that 79% of workers have experienced burnout with 35% reporting high or extreme levels.

The increases we have witnessed in recent years is a clear indication that we need to better support and education our employees.

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Stress in the workplace: the challenges

Whilst stress can directly impact our mental health, it isn’t a recognised illness in its own right. That’s because some stress is good for us. Mild stress gives us determination and helps us get tasks completed. But it is this non-defined, sliding scale of stress that creates a number of challenges: 

1) There are so many causes of stress. This chart from CIPR shows the most common causes of stress for the UK population: 

While just two of these relate specifically to the workplace, all of the stress factors could influence behaviour and performance at work. When there are so many contributing factors, it can be difficult to identify what is causing our own stress and even harder again for line managers to pick up on.  

2) We don’t always recognise when stress levels are starting to become unmanageable. When we all experience stress and there are so many contributing factors, it can be hard to recognise when our stress levels have become excessive. As a result, stress can go unmanaged for greater lengths of time and often lead to illnesses such as anxiety and depression. 

3) Stress alone is often not perceived to be a big enough problem. The stigma of mental health is still prevalent particularly when talking about stress. One of the causes of this is the generalist way in which we use the term “stress”. For example, if we are experiencing ongoing financial problems, we would describe that as “stressful”. But we would also use the same word to describe a period of momentary stress such as doing a speech. 

The two are very different. One could have a negative affect while the other could be beneficial. As a result, if someone is reaching their ‘tipping point’, using the term “stressed” to describe how they feel may be overlooked. It may even prevent them from speaking up in the first place.

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What we can all do to reduce stress in the workplace

We all have a role to play in educating and supporting each other in the workplace.  

What employers can do to support employees with stress in the workplace

Ultimately as an employer you need to create a safe culture. One in which employees feel comfortable starting a conversation about how stress is impacting them. The more this can be focused on prevention and early intervention the better. Here are some suggestions of how you can achieve that:

  1. Stress audits – it is your legal duty to protect employees from stress at work. By carrying out a risk assessment you can identify the areas you need to improve. The HSE has a useful template to help you do this.
  2. A formal wellbeing strategy – in 2021 only 50% of UK organisations had a formal strategy or plan in place. With a strategy specifically aimed at the mental wellbeing of your employees it will emphasise the importance you place on their mental health and help guide your team when supporting employees.
  3. Ensure line mangers understand their role – it’s important for your line managers to know that they do not need to diagnose stress or come up with a treatment plan. Their role is to recognise the signs, provide a safe environment for discussion and to navigate individuals towards sources of help. Training could be beneficial to help your line managers better support their team.
  4. Mental Health First Aiders – with trained Mental Health First Aiders present you give your employees an additional route for support. Employees often feel more comfortable speaking to someone who doesn’t work directly in their team. Their training also provides reassurance that they will listen and understand.
  5. Be aware of the impact of change – any change can cause stress so be aware of how any organisational changes could be impacting your employees. Offer them additional support if needed and keep in touch more regularly.
  6. Create a community – this year’s Stress Awareness Month revolves around the theme of community following evidence of how impactful loneliness can be to our mental health. For all of the above points to be successful your employees need to feel like they are part of a community. One that is supportive and encouraging. Good internal communications are central to this.
    1. An employee engagement app can help you share useful information but also give your employees a voice – all of which is vital to achieve a community feel. For example, you could share useful information about stress, run employee surveys to establish work-life balance and launch a new exercise scheme, all within the same platform.

What line managers can do to support employees with stress in the workplace

Line managers play a massive part in supporting employees’ stress levels. But they are also a big cause of stress – the HSE reported that the main factors cited to be causing work-related stress, depression or anxiety are workload pressure and a lack of managerial support

We need to better equip our line managers so they can become a support rather than a cause. Here are some suggestions to help line managers reduce employee stress:

  1. Know the signs of stress – stress is multi-faceted. Line managers need to look beyond working life and recognise the signs of stress. This factsheet provides a helpful list.
  2. Be able to start a conversation – broaching a conversation with an employee about their stress levels could help prevent the stress from becoming unmanageable. This Talking Toolkit provides useful guidance and questions to help do just that. 
  3. Know where to signpost people – if line managers identify that an employee needs additional support they need to know what to do next. Having a list of the options will ensure the employee gets the support they need – whether that’s through a Mental Health First Aider, member of HR, external counselling service or a support charity. 
  4. Draw upon their compassion – showing compassion is absolutely critical for employees to feel confident enough to speak up. While some managers may naturally have compassion, others may need to work harder to develop those skills. The CIPD have some useful quizzes to help managers understand how their managerial style supports the wellbeing of their employees. This one looks specifically at behaviours and this one explores the barriers that may be holding managers back from supporting their team.

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What internal communicators can do to support employees with stress in the workplace

As an internal communicator you have the gift of reach. You can communicate with a large proportion of your workforce in a way that few others in your organisation can. Your communications should span everything from prevention to support, from policies to individual stories. Here are our top tips to help reduce employee stress:

  1. Talk about what your organisation is doing – if a new policy has been put in place or managerial stress awareness training is taking place – let your employees know. The more visible these initiatives are the more aware you employees will be of the importance your organisation places on mental health.
  2. Ensure employees know where they can turn – as an organisation you will have multiple support mechanisms for employees experiencing extreme stress. Ensure you promote these regularly to make it as easy as possible for your employees to seek help. This will include internal support such as line managers, mental health first aiders and links to wellbeing benefits, but it is also useful to include links to external support networks such as the following:
    1. NHS urgent mental health helpline – for periods of crisis
    2. NHS guidance on stress – including useful contacts and guidance 
    3. Side by Side – an online community where you can listen, share and be heard (delivered by MIND) 
    4. Rethink Mental Illness – providing practical help on a wide range of topics including living with mental illness, medication, The Mental Health Act and carers rights.
  3. Raise awareness of stress – our greatest weapon against stress is awareness. Help employees understand the causes, symptoms and coping mechanisms for stress. Rethink Mental Illness has a useful guide which highlights the signs and causes of stress, together with some guidance on managing stress levels.   
  4. Share stories – if you have any advocates who would be willing to share their story that could really help others. It can be very daunting to speak out. Seeing someone else’s story can give that little boost needed to take that first step.  

What you can do to support your own stress levels

Whilst we are busy supporting others with their stress levels, we can sometimes forget about ourselves. Take a moment to complete this stress test to find out where your stress levels are. At the end you’ll also receive recommendations for things you can do to reduce your own stress. 

Using technology to manage stress in the workplace

Technology makes a significant difference to the awareness and support of employees. VRAMP is an internal communication tool that helps organisations better connect with their employees. Looking specifically at stress awareness and support, this is what VRAMP can do:

  • You can reach all your employees no matter where or when they work – you can easily share messages via the employee app, desktop or email.
  • You can give your employees a voice through comments and employee surveys – helping to pick up on signs of stress.
  • You can target specific groups of people through employee segmentation – for example, if a team is undergoing significant change, you can keep in touch just with them to ensure they are OK.
  • Detailed analytics provide valuable insight including engagement behaviours. VRAMP shows you who is and isn’t engaging. Should engagement levels suddenly drop, you have early indicators that can be explored before they become impactful.

Find out more about how VRAMP can help you manage workplace stress by seeing a demo.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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Grab employees’ attention with internal comms

3rd March, 2022.

How to grab employees’ attention with your internal comms

People are a tough audience to crack.  Today you have to work even harder to grab your employee’s attention. Twenty years ago, research found that we have an attention span of 12 seconds. Today, this has reduced to 8 seconds!

But why are we seeing this decrease?

Distraction. We have distractions everywhere. I bet just by inserting the emojis below you looked at those before reading this sentence!

😍 🐪 🍓 ⚽ 🏝️ 🏍️ ⌚ 🔑 ✔️ 🐬👀 🍉 🥄 🔔 🎈 💡 😛 🧲 😺 👌

Today we are always connected. Smartphones, hyperlinks, pop-ups; they all grapple for our attention making it far harder for us to focus on one thing at a time.

So, if we don’t capture the attention of our employees in that 8 second window, there’s really little point in sending the communication in the first place.

This snippet of our Operations Director speaking at a conference explains our challenge perfectly.

 

10 tips for capturing employees’ attention

1) Consider the words you use

The 101 of internal communications: using the right language to capture attention.

Headers and subject lines need particular attention because these in themselves could use half of those precious 8 seconds. Draw upon your creative juices and really put yourself in the shoes of your employees to find a headline that will make them want to read on. Below are some of the best subject lines we’ve seen our customers use when covering some of the ‘drier’ topics.

The best internal comms subject lines

  • “Upcoming changes: action required” (used for a policy update)
  • “Your input is needed today” (used for a staff survey)
  • “Breaking news” (used for a COVID update)
  • “[name], thank you” (used for a financial update)
  • “The recipe for success” (used for a financial update)
  • “We did it again” (used to notify people of a health and safety standard)

8 best practices for writing internal communications

In addition to the initial hook of the subject line or title, keep these best practices in mind with everything you write:

  • Write for people, from people
  • Use the vernacular your employees use
  • Be succinct
  • Use headlines to break copy up
  • Ensure the purpose of the communication is upfront and clear
  • Be consistent
  • Always proof read!

2) Use visual elements

Use video, infographics and images wherever possible. A study found that 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than read an email or text.

The majority of us are very visual. We’re able to digest more information if it is visual and this captures our attention for longer. Even if text is necessary in your communication, consider using something visual at the start to draw people in.

3) Balance consistency with valuable content

Sending specific communications at set times can help with engagement. It becomes familiar for your employees to pause what they are doing and digest your communication. BUT this will only be effective if your communications are informative.

Just because you’ve always sent a newsletter every month for the last 6 months, it doesn’t mean you should maintain that rhythm if you don’t have anything valuable to say. If you believe employees have tuned into the consistency of your updates, instead of sending the full-blown newsletter you could just send a shorter message or even push out a note to say, ‘everything is ticking over nicely but it’s been a quiet month so just tune in next month instead!’

Don’t be afraid to break the mould. Employees will appreciate this level of honestly and it’ll help you keep their attention for longer.

4) Segment employees

In a commercial world we witness segmentation all the time (though it is often called ‘personalisation’ in this context). The messages we receive are addressed to us, the recommendations we receive via our online supermarket shop relate to what we’ve bought before, the adverts that pop up on web pages are items we’ve looked at but not yet bought. We live in a consumer-led world in which we are presented with information that is relevant to us.

If I repeatedly receive information that is not relevant to me, I will ignore it from the moment the message arrives. We’ve all been there. Think about the times you’ve ended up on a mailing list for something you have no interest in. Now, as soon as you see who the email is from, you do a quick swipe on your phone and it goes straight into your deleted folder.

Just as in our personal lives, relevance is key. Only send internal communications to the people it is relevant for, or of interest to. These segments need to be mapped against the type of communications you send and you will probably have multiple segments for each employee. For example, geographical segmentation, job role segmentation and project segmentation.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Just segment against your communication plan.

5) Personalise communications

Closely linked to the above point.

Ensure your communications are addressed to the individual. “Dear Team” doesn’t cut it when we are used to the level of personalisation described above. Our employees need to feel as though you are speaking directly to them.

Addressing your messages to a named person is a start but personalisation can go much further. With relevant segments in place, you can tailor messages much more precisely. Some technologies also enable you to respond to previous actions taken and tailor web pages against data and behaviours.

Ultimately, the more you can personalise your internal comms messages, the more engaged your employees will be.

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6) Connect people

On top of segmentation and personalisation consider the connections employees have with each other. People are interested in people. Utilising the connections that already exist will grab attention.

The sender

Your communications don’t have to be sent from the same person. And they certainly shouldn’t be sent from an ‘empty’ email address or account. For example, “The internal comms team” or worse still “do-no-reply@company-name”!

Think about the messages you are trying to get across and consider which ‘sender’ would capture the attention of your recipients the best. Would a financial update be better if it was passed down the chain and interpreted by each manager? Would the Christmas party announcement be better coming from someone at the centre of most social occasions?

Combining communications

Whilst necessary, ‘dry’ topics can make it extremely difficult to capture attention. If you aren’t seeing the engagement levels you want, consider wrapping your more mundane topics up with other people-focused updates. For example, while the financial update is important, your employees are more likely to be drawn to an update about their colleague. Using this as your hook could get their attention enough for them to then go on and read the financial update.

7) Consider the user experience

Within a few seconds an employee will decide if a communication deserves their attention purely based on how it looks. Take this blog as an example. If I had written this as it comes out of my mind without any paragraphs, breaks or headlines you probably wouldn’t have got this far.

Structure and layout

We need to make communications as digestible as possible. Consider the layout of your communication, the use of colour, images and bold text. Even the font you use will influence opinion.

Accessibility

Access to your communications also need to be as easy as possible. If employees need to navigate software to reach your communications what is that journey like? Multiple clicks that are perceived to be unnecessary will become a blocker. As would an ineffective search facility. Go on the journey you are expecting your employees to take and ensure it is as efficient and intuitive as possible.

Preference

If you are in a position to ask your employees what their preferred channel is for receiving information do so. By giving them control of how they digest information they will instantly be more engaged.

Piggy backing

Consider if your communications can sit alongside your employee’s day-to-day job. If there is a central access point for data or documentation could your communications also be located there? It’s no coincidence that intranets host HR documentation and employee communication platforms include employee directories. These sources of information act as a ‘pull’ to bring employees to a central point. With communications in the same place, you are making the process easier for your employees.

8) Utilise alerts

If you have something really important to tell staff, shout about it. You are just one communication amongst many distractions so use attention-grabbing techniques: push notification via text message, pop-ups on the intranet, urgent notifications on emails.

Whatever tools you have available, don’t be shy about utilising them. But don’t do it often. If you do, the perception of ‘urgent’ will fade.

9) Get the right timing

Be the source of information

Every internal communication needs to be informative, accurate and timely.

If I’ve heard news via the grapevine, I’m unlikely to read a post about it two days later. Even if the information I received initially went through a process of Chinese whispers and isn’t actually accurate, the arrival of the official update two days later will feel like old news and not grab my attention.

Wherever possible, internal communications need to be the first source of information, not an afterthought.

Accommodate working life

Whilst internal communications must be the informant of news, they must also consider the working patterns of employees. If there is always a ridiculously busy period at the end of the month, important communications should be reserved until there is greater capacity to digest the information.

10) Use data to learn

While all the above points are nuggets of best practice, ultimately it is your employees that will tell you what grabs their attention. Use all the stats available to you to build a picture of what works well. 

  • Open rates give you a good indication of the effectiveness of your subject line.
  • Click rates tell you if the content of the message is of interest.
  • Open times show you when your employees are reading your messages.
  • Heatmaps show you where your employees are looking.
  • Page visits show you what information people are most interested in.
  • Video views tell you if employees are paying attention all the way to the end.
  • Social media reactions show you what people feel about your messages.
  • Bounce rates tell you if the content is what your employees were expecting.
  • Surveys give you detailed insights on specific elements of your communications.
  • Device usage tells you how your employees digest your information. 

There is a plethora of data sources: the above is just a snapshot. Once you establish what data is available to you, build analysis into your schedule until you have enough insight to inform your decisions. 

This will make a huge difference. It will take away the guess work and give you evidence that you can build from. 

Round-up 

The purpose of internal communications is a good one. They exist to inform and create a community. But in the busyness of our lives this purpose can get lost. With these 10 best practices for engaging employees, you will bring your communications to the forefront and encourage employees to take notice. So go grab those 8 precious seconds with all your might!  

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author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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Blog Employee Wellbeing

Why we support apprenticeships

6th January, 2022.

Why we support apprenticeships

The second week of February is National Apprenticeships Week. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take off our internal comms and employee hats for a bit and talk about our experience of apprenticeships and why they are so effective.

We are a growing business. In 2021 our workforce increased by 25% and that is set to continue in 2022. As a business we are very aware of the social and environmental impact we have. At the start of 2021 we knew that we needed to expand our marketing team and were also very aware of the challenge young people had in finding employment during the pandemic. This led us to the Kickstart Scheme. The Scheme looks to get people aged 16-24 years, who are at risk of long-term unemployment, into work.

This is the first time we had explored such a route and, if I’m honest, it was a rocky start. We had very few applications at the start and those we had were a poor match to the skills and background we needed. In hindsight, I think this was more due to teething problems with the process but at the time it made us feel dubious!

After a couple of months of searching we came across one CV that seemed a better fit. A few weeks later Dan started with us! The Kickstart Scheme lasts for 6 months and during this time Dan settled in brilliantly. At the end of the Kickstart Scheme we offered him a permanent role but we also explored routes to expand his qualifications because he has a big thirst for learning. 

 

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Cue apprenticeships!

We quickly found a course that worked well for both Dan and us as his employer. Dan now continues to carry out his day job but also takes a day out a week to study for his Marketing degree.

The journey for us has been great. The process moved quickly and Dan was officially an apprentice just a couple of months after we looked into the options. The apprenticeship not only gives Dan an opportunity to expand his knowledge, it also brings fresh ideas and knowledge into our business. It’s this double benefit that made it an obvious choice for us.

But less about us. Let’s hear from Dan himself! Here’s his summary of apprenticeships:

“An apprenticeship appealed to me because it lets me learn new concepts whilst also putting those concepts into practice. It’s this combination of academic and practical experience that works really well for me.

Before I started I was apprehensive about fitting everything in. I always want to give 100% so to do that in work and in my studies, whilst also carrying on with everything else outside of work was daunting. But once I had a clear schedule I soon got into the rhythm and now it just feels normal!”

For us apprenticeships weren’t a planned route. As a business, we knew we wanted to support a young person in their career but what that route looked like very much depended on them. While we knew the format of an apprenticeship would work well within our business, unless it suited Dan as well, there was no point pursuing it. But as it happens, Dan’s enthusiasm and way of learning fits brilliantly, hence the success we’ve had to date.

If there are any businesses or potential apprentices considering an apprenticeship (or the Kickstart Scheme) we’d be more than happy to discuss our experiences with you. #AskAnEmployer #AskAnApprentice

#NAW2022

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

Relevant resources

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Blog Internal Communication

How 2021 will effect the 2022 internal communications agenda

6th January, 2022.

How 2021 will impact the 2022 internal comms agenda

With 2021 now behind us, many are reflecting on the year that has passed and planning for the year to come. Us included. 

2021 – what can we say about you?

It was an extension of 2020! COVID was still very present with many internal communication departments still being consumed by COVID updates. They were forced to be far more reactive than in the past and the disruption with sickness and isolation continued to challenge organisations up and down the country.

But, despite its challenges, the COVID pandemic has actually brought some positive change within internal communications.

  1. Digital transformation – technological solutions for internal comms have been on the market for many years now. Many organisations were considering their benefit, but the pandemic gave a new level of urgency bumping internal comms software up the agenda. As a result, many organisations are now far better equipped to communicate with their employees than they have ever been in the past.
  2. Leaders became more visible – COVID changed the dynamic between our leaders and employees. Leaders were asked to step up and lead from the front. Communications were more transparent and this approach was well received by everyone. As a result, many organisations are continuing with this more personable approach.
  3. A new understanding of wellbeing – employees were put first. Their wellbeing was the biggest priority and this has readjusted thinking for the long-term.
  4. Wider organisational agendas – with a greater focus on people, 2021 saw a shift in priorities. Everyone became more aware of the organisational impact on wider societal factors. Whether that’s how an organisation achieves work/life balance or how they respond to COP26. Corporate social responsibility has risen up the agendas and we believe this trend is set to continue.
  5. A greater need for internal comms – open, honest and consistent communications have been essential rather than nice to have. Senior leaders have directly seen the impact effective internal communications can have on an organisation. This recognition for internal comms has led many organisations to invest in a stronger internal communications function.

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This year’s focus

As an internal communicator, you are riding the wave of opportunity. Your internal communications have shone in 2021. They have demonstrated the difference strong internal communications can make to individuals, teams, and organisations as a whole.

We all hope that 2022 will be known as the year things returned to normal. But, for internal communications, we don’t want normality to resume. We want internal communications to continue as an essential function that sits centrally in every organisation. Not for internal comms to sink back into the shadows.

Continuing to evidence value will therefore be essential. You need to prove why internal comms should continue to be an investment for business leaders.

To evidence the best performance possible, you are going to need to run a tight ship that operates efficiently and delivers communications that engage with the right audiences.

Download our latest guide to delivering effective internal communications for guidance on:

  • Ensuring communications resonate
  • Removing internal comms inefficiencies
  • Creating an effective internal communications strategy
  • How to measure performance
  • How to convert an internal comms strategy into an internal comms tactical plan

Here’s to a positive year to come. Internal communications are on an exciting journey and we can’t wait to see the developments and growth that take place over the next 12 months.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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Blog Internal Communication

Steps to effective change management comms

25th November, 2021.

7 steps for effective change management communications

Change is a vital and common part of any evolving organisation. As such, change management communications consume a big chunk of an internal communication team’s time – whether that is communicating an acquisition, the implementation of new software or procedures, a new brand identify or simply a change in personnel.

Whatever the change, and no matter how positive that change, some of your employees will feel unnerved by the change while others will feel excited. Every change management project is complex for an internal communicator because of the strong emotions employees will feel.

We also have to deal with the fact that a significant number of change projects fail, or at least encounter serious problems. The statement that “70% of change projects fail” is well known in the corporate world and while some argue for this stat and some argue against, what is clear is that any change management project is very likely to experience a bumpy journey, particularly if it is a large project.

But what can internal communications do to make this journey smoother?

The role of internal communications during an organisational change​

Thankfully you don’t need to manage the change project which means you won’t be worrying about the ROI or how to resource the project. But you will need to provide timely and relevant information to those who need it throughout the change project. You are basically the mechanism for momentum: you stick together everything everyone is doing and bring other employees aboard for the journey!

The point of bringing employees onboard is a particularly important one. There is a saying that “you will only transform when you have changed how people behave” and this is particularly pertinent for change communications. No matter how successful the acquisition of a new company is, or the implementation of new software, the project can only be counted as a success if your employees embrace the new way of working and continue to align with your goals and values. Without this vital step, the success of the project will always be restricted.

So, what can you do to make an organisations change project as successful as possible?

The 7 essential steps to an effective change management plan

1. Segment your audiences effectively

We all know there is no point sharing a communication if it is of no relevance to the recipient. With change communications the recipient may be resistant to the project and not wish to hear your communication so the need to segment effectively is even more important.

Consider all of your audiences; from the employees who will need to adapt how they work as a result of the change, to the people making the change happen, to the leadership team.

Whilst your number one job is to communicate transparent updates to keep everyone informed, you may also need to do an element of education. For example, does your leadership team and deployment team fully understand the importance and value of internal communications during a change programme? If they don’t, you need to spell it out to them because a change communication plan without the support of leaders and managers is going to be an uphill struggle. 

So, while considering your audiences consider the type of communication you will need. Also consider whether each of those audiences may have people sitting in different camps. Could you have some that are in favour of change and some that are hesitant of change for example? If so, are there ways in which you can segment these groups so that you can build communications that are better suited to each audience?

Spend time considering each audience. Speak to some of them if that would be useful. By the end of this phase, you want to feel as though you could step into the shoes of each segmented audience member and be confident in the information they would like to, and need to, hear. 

Depending on the number of segmented audiences you have, you may find it useful to create an audience persona for each to refer to as you build your communications. These personas would be an average profile of someone in each group and include points that will really impact how they receive your internal communications. For example, what pains will they experience, what hesitations are they likely to have, who within the business is likely to influence their opinion, etc? These will help you keep your messages focused. 

The more you can understand the audiences you will be communicating with the more pertinent your internal communications will be.  

2. Consider your culture

 Statistics show that 70% of change projects fail because of culture-related issues. Your culture has the potential to either make or break this project, so it is important to take a moment to consider the strength of your culture before the project begins.

If you have a strong culture your task is far easier. Your employees will be invested in the change and that positivity will see most people through any challenging periods.

That said, depending on the scale and type of change, even the strongest of cultures can start to crack. This is something to keep a close eye on throughout the project. Scheduling regular employee pulse checks would be an effective way to monitor this.

Should culture be a concern for you it will be important to put a far greater emphasis on communications. Your employees are likely to need greater levels of communications to provide reassurance and keep them focused. Meanwhile your management should also play a heavier role in connecting with employees during the project to support and listen to them.

It will also be worth pointing out your cultural concerns to the leadership team to ensure they are aware of the potential issues. The more aware everyone is, the more can be done to help align everyone with the project and wider organisational goals.

3. Dig deep into the change project

 For you to communicate effectively you need to understand the ins and outs of this project; what the end goals are, how long it is anticipated to take, who will be involved, who will be impacted and why the change is necessary. The more knowledgeable you are the more transparent you can be with your change management communications.

This will also be an opportunity to get to know the individuals who will be responsive for rolling the project out. This will give you a good feel as to who is best placed to keep you updated throughout the project. The better this connection the more timely and accurate your communications.

4. Review past change management processes

 Have you, or anyone else in your team, produced a change management communication plan before? If so, great, your job may have become far easier! But be sure to analyse the previous project thoroughly. What you don’t want to do is inherit any past mistakes, failings, or even mediocre results.

If you are unsure of the effectiveness of previous change management communications projects, or if there is no evidence of any, speak to people. Inevitably, unless you are in a very young business, every organisation will have experienced change at some point and that change will have been communicated somehow. Speak to those involved in rolling out the project but also speak to people at the receiving end. While this process may not bring complete clarity over what you should do, it is likely to unearth some things that you shouldn’t do!

5. Establish your methods of communication

 Consider both the channels and mediums you are going to use.

First start with the how. How will you communicate to each of your audiences? Will the same method work for everyone or do you need to consider different routes. For example, while email might be effective for office workers, if you have frontline or shop floor employees they need to receive their information in a different way such as through an internal communications app.

If you already have effective channels of communication in place great, but if you don’t, depending on the scale of the change project, it may be worth exploring other options. If the employees who need to know about the project don’t receive your internal communications, or receive a diluted or delayed message, distrust and a sense of uneasiness is likely to manifest.

It is also worth considering multiple channels of communication. What works for one employee may not work for the other and for particularly important messages during the project, multiple channel communication will help to emphasis its importance.

You also need to consider the format of communication you are going to use. Traditionally we communicate in written form but could some of your change communications be better as a video, image, infographic or face-to-face. While you don’t want to create unnecessary work for yourself, it is important to consider all of your audiences and identify the mediums that are likely to best resonate with each group. 

6. Build your internal communication change management strategy

 In comparison to the other stages this is the easy bit – the writing! Using all the knowledge you’ve gained from the points above you can now start to plan your change communication plan.

We would recommend you have a high-level timeline for quick reference to help others in your team, and wider organisation, understand what needs to happen when. Download our free communication change timeline to get started on this. Change management timeline template

Throughout your communications as the duration of the project unravels, remember to regularly remind employees of the purpose of the change. As delays or problems occur and employees are inconvenienced by the work, it is easy to lose sight of the end goal. Regular reminders of how their working life will be improved once the change project is completed will always be valuable. 

7. Measure and review your strategy

The final but most important step in your change management communication process. This is often a step that is overlooked (48% of communicators do not monitor the effectiveness of their internal comms), but it will make or break your change communication plan.

After the time you have spent crafting your change communication plan you must track and measure its effectiveness. This will help you understand which communications are resonating and which aren’t. With the right data, you will also be able to see which teams are engaging with your communications and which aren’t. This is hugely valuable information that will enable you to adjust your plan and target specific groups with key messages.

With data in your back pocket, you can react and respond. You can identify ‘problem’ groups and adjust your strategy. Those who use our internal communications software will also use our analytics to identify potential issues before they have bubbled to the surface. For example, they can see engagement levels over a set time period and should a previously engaged team suddenly disengage they have conversations within the business to identify why. This means they can often resolve an engagement problem before it has impacted anyone else in the business.

In a project where there are so many variables this level of insight can make a massive difference to the effectiveness of the communications plan.

Of course, to be able to utilise this level of data you will need internal comms software to support you. If you are not currently in a position to utilise such software there are still other ways to measure your success. Granted they won’t give you the same level of insight but the data will still be useful. Here are a few methods you could use:

  • Email open and click rates – these will be a good gauge for the effectiveness of each communication and help you to establish strong subject lines and links.
  • Employee pulse checks – regular quick-fire surveys will help you to monitor overall engagement.
  • eNPS surveys – an employee Net Promoter Score will provide you with an employee engagement score. If you are embarking on a large change project you may want to carry out an eNPS survey at the beginning, the end, and potentially during, the change. This will help you to keep tabs of the impact the project has had.
  • Focus groups – bringing employees together and asking their opinion on your change communications and the wider project will give you a great snapshot of opinion.

The key takeaway is to measure as much as possible. The more you know about how your change communication plan is being received, the more you can do to improve it. The more you can do to improve it, the more successful it will be.

 

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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Blog Employee Surveys

Employee survey questions

11th November, 2021.

The best employee survey questions

In 2020 there were 44,000 businesses in the UK with over 50 employees. Our State of UK Employee Engagement research found that 52% of businesses send an employee survey at least once every 6 months. That means, every year, there is a minimum of 45,760 employee surveys going back and forth between businesses and employees. That’s a lot of opinions, a lot of data and a lot of questions to get right!

Before we highlight some of the strongest questions to include in your employee surveys, let’s cover some of the essentials first.

The 15 dos and don’ts of employee surveys

Employee surveys are a hugely valuable method of gathering information from employees but there are many things to consider for you to maximise what you achieve.

1) DO have a clear goal for your survey

Ensure you know exactly what you want the survey to achieve. Do you want to measure employee engagement? Do you want to gather opinions on new company values? Do you want to better understand learning and development requirements? Whatever your reason keep it in mind throughout your survey creation ensuring every question relates to the outcome you want to achieve. This will keep it focused and provide higher quality results.

2) DO NOT send a survey without the relevant leadership team agreeing to its value, goals and output

The leaders of whichever teams you are sending the employee survey to need to understand its purpose, benefit and outcome to ensure they promote it effectively to their teams. Any doubt or uncertainty will reduce the number of people that take part and potentially influence how they answer the questions.

3) DO have a clear understanding of what the employee survey results will contribute to

Will the output from the survey be the decisive factor for a business decision? Will it contribute to other opinions and/or research? While having a goal is a starting point you also need to be clear as to how the survey will contribute to that goal. This also needs to be known and agreed upon by the entire leadership team. Any confusion or disagreement will hamper the effectiveness of the results.

4) DO NOT send a survey without your employees knowing exactly what it is for

To maximise survey participation you need to explain why your employees should take time to fill in the survey. This is your time to “sell” the survey. Include your goal, how the results will be used and expected timescales for the results to be actioned.

5) DO stick to one purpose

So often employee surveys end up covering multiple goals. As a result, they either become very long or don’t ask sufficient questions to get a conclusive result. By having a single goal for every survey you and your employees will have a much clearer picture of what its purpose is.

6) DO NOT exclude employees from taking part in the survey

While you may not intentionally exclude people from answering the survey if they do not have direct access to the survey their opportunity will be limited. Either find an employee survey tool that can be sent and filled in via a mobile device or hold sessions in which those employees can have access to the survey. Without this inclusive approach, your results will never be accurate.

7) DO be consistent

If your employee survey will be repeated set specific times for the survey. We are naturally creatures of habit so this familiarity will help with completion rates. If relevant, also include how the results of the previous survey have influenced or changed the business. The reiteration of how the results were used will further build confidence that their time spent filling in the survey will be time worth spent.

8) DO NOT overcomplicate your survey

Keep your questions to the point. Unnecessary or confusing words in a question will increase the effort required to complete the survey. Avoid using any jargon and keep your wording as simple as possible. Make sure there are no double negatives and ensure every question only asks for one thing.

9) DO mix your questions up

Ensure your questions are varied enough to keep your employees interested. While you may want to ask five questions to really drill into what they think about one thing, your employees are likely to lose interest. Also, use a variety of answer choices such as multiple choice, radio buttons and sliding scales. This encourages the recipient to keep focused.

10) DO NOT include too many open-ended questions

While these are useful to give employees an opportunity to expand on a specific point, they also require more effort to answer. As such, many people are likely to skip the question or abandon the survey. They also make it more difficult when analysing the results of the survey. Due to the manual element of needing to review each answer, open-ended answers can become overlooked.

11) DO keep your employee survey questions neutral

Perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve because you are naturally thinking about how the responses will be used. But effective surveys ensure that every question is neutral. Leading questions that demonstrate opinion will influence the results. Employees will answer the question how they think it should be answered rather than giving their true opinion. For example, instead of asking “How would you rate the success of our leadership team?” ask “How would you rate the performance of our leadership team?”

12) DO NOT miss out answers in your multiple-choice questions

If using multiple choice take a step back from the question and ensure you include all potential answers. Think of it on a scale from worst to best and include a mid-way response that enables the employee to be neutral. If it isn’t clear cut include a ‘none of the above’ or ‘other’ option. As a survey participant, there is nothing more frustrating than not having the option to select the answer you have in mind.

13) DO ensure you and/or colleagues have the time to analyse the results

Recent research found that only 28% of those responsible for sending employee surveys are completely satisfied with how the survey results are used. Typically, this is often due to a lack of resources or time to fully delve into the results. It is also caused by a lack of buy in from leaders in the business who don’t listen to the insight gained from the survey. Therefore, ensure you have the time to tease out every bit of insight from your survey and ensure point 2 is fully completed before you embark on the survey.

14) DO not forget to communicate the results of the survey and the actions that will follow

The moment employees think survey results aren’t used or listened to is the moment your employee survey participation rate plummets. Once you have analysed the results ensure your share these with your employees and include the outcome of the results. What will happen next? What will change? What are the timescales?

15) DO consider the user experience

A survey that is clunky to complete or visually unappealing will increase abandon rates. You need to make it as easy and as pleasant an experience as possible. The right employee survey tool should do a lot of this for you but always take a moment to fill the survey in as an employee to ensure it engages you and flows naturally.

Find further tips on how to improve employee survey response rates here

The best employee survey questions

Employee surveys can cover a vast array of topics from learning and development to cultural alignment. To help you get the most out of your employee survey we have selected questions for the five most common types of employee surveys; professional development surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, employee wellbeing surveys, employee engagement surveys and company culture surveys. All of the questions listed have been chosen because of the quality of the output they generate.

For each closed-ended question consider your pre-defined answer set. Some may benefit from multiple choice answers while others may be better suited to a scale. This consideration combined with the dos and don’ts listed above will help ensure you gather highly valuable insight from your employees.

Questions for professional development employee surveys

Whether you want to understand what your employees need and expect to progress their careers with you, or you want to assess how effective your learning and development programmes are, these questions will help you get the answers.

  • Do you feel you have the knowledge and support necessary to successfully do your job?
  • Are your tasks and responsibilities clearly defined and achievable?
  • Does our organisation support you in your career progression?
  • On a daily basis, how challenged are you at work?
  • Can you visualise a career path at [organisation]?
  • How invested is your line manager in your success?
  • Do you see yourself working here in two years?
  • How well does your manager support your career development?
  • Do you utilise all of your strengths in your role?
  • What would you change about our learning and development programme?

Questions for employee satisfaction surveys

These are the questions to ask if you want to gauge overall employee satisfaction. They will collate the views, attitudes and perceptions of your employees. An employee satisfaction survey is often used if you suspect an element of dissatisfaction because the results can help to define what that dissatisfaction is.

  • How satisfied are you with your job requirements and targets?
  • Does your line manager value your opinion?
  • If you could, what’s the one thing that you would change about your job?
  • When was the last time your manager recognised your achievements at work?
  • How satisfied are you with your current compensation and benefits?
  • Do you feel your role impacts the future success of our company?
  • Do deadlines and workloads regularly cause you stress?
  • How effective do you think our leadership team is?
  • Are you confident in our organisation’s financial stability?
  • Hypothetically, if you were to quit tomorrow, what would your reason be?
  • If you were given the chance, would you reapply for your current job?
  • Do you look forward to starting work each morning?

Questions for employee wellbeing surveys

The following questions will help you understand the level of wellbeing within your organisation whilst also identifying if there are any opportunities to improve your wellbeing initiatives.

  • How would you rate your work-life balance?
  • How valued do you feel at work?
  • Do you have all the tools and equipment you need to fulfil your role adequately?
  • How comfortable do you feel providing feedback to your manager?
  • Does your physical workspace fulfil your needs?
  • How connected do you feel with your colleagues?
  • When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?
  • Do you believe you’ll be able to reach your full potential here?
  • Do you feel comfortable and relaxed at work?
  • How could your work environment be improved?

Questions for employee engagement surveys

These questions will help you understand employee engagement by delving into the levels of commitment and drive each employee has for the work they do at your organisation.

  • How transparent is our company when communicating company performance?
  • Are you proud to work for [organisation name]?
  • How inspired are you by the company vision and values?
  • How likely are you to recommend [organisation name] as a good place to work?
  • Do you understand the strategic goals of the organisation?
  • Do you feel like you are contributing to the strategic goals of the organisation?
  • Do you look forward to coming to work each morning?
  • How empowered do you feel at work?
  • How can we improve your engagement at work?
  • Do you believe we will reach our organisational objectives?
  • Are we a better organisation now than we were six months ago?
  • Within your role, do you believe you have a positive impact on the organisation?

Questions for company culture surveys

Is the way that your employees view their work environment aligned with your company culture vision? These questions will find out by helping you measure the effectiveness of your corporate values.

  • How comfortable do you feel contributing ideas and opinions at work?
  • Without looking them up, can you recite our company values?
  • How comfortable do you feel asking for help?
  • What three words would you use to describe our culture?
  • Do you believe we are achieving our company values?
  • Does [organisation name] adequately addresses discrimination and inequality?
  • Do you think [organisation name] is socially responsible?
  • To what extent do colleagues respect one another?
  • How well does the leadership team listen to your feedback?
  • What can we do to improve the company culture?
  • Do you think the results of this survey will positively impact the future of our organisation?
  • In your opinion, how does this organisation define success?

Do you have the right employee survey tool to conduct your employee surveys?

Our employee survey tool enables you to create bespoke employee surveys whenever you need them. Results are presented in real-time dashboards making it quick and easy for you to analyse the results. Thanks to the employee app, everyone in your organisation receives the survey no matter where or when they work. This, combined with the ability to communicate the results with everyone through the internal communications tool, makes VRAMP a very effective employee survey tool. Discover more here.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

Relevant resources

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Blog Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Explorers

26th October 2021

What kind of employee engagement explorer are you?

Employee engagement is a relatively new concept in the world of business. We’ve only been using the term “employee engagement” for 30 or so years and as such, many organisations are still finding their feet when it comes to realising the benefit of employee engagement.

Only 25% of employers have an active engagement strategy and 48% do not monitor the effectiveness of their internal comms (Source: State of UK Employee Engagement Report).

What about you and your organisation? Are you at the beginning of your employee engagement journey or is employee engagement engrained in your culture?

Let’s find out. Which of the following biographies best matches your situation?

Cultivating Crusader

Are you a Cultivating Crusader?

You are passionate about employee engagement and aware of the benefits it can bring to your business. However, your leadership team either do not see these benefits in the same light as you or always prioritise other things first.

As a consequence, you have limited time to spend on employee engagement strategies and tactics. Your existing internal communications function adequately but you get very little, if any, insight on how effective each of those communications are. Employee surveys are also inconsistent with some results being poorly utilised.

Conclusion

As a Cultivating Crusader, you are at the start of your employee engagement journey. But the good news is that you are far from alone; a huge proportion of UK businesses are in exactly the same place. Luckily for your organisation they have you. All it takes is one passionate individual, some solid evidence and a strong business case to get your employee engagement strategies underway.

Have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement to understand more about how you compare to other UK organisations and what you can do to raise employee engagement up your business agenda.

Are you a Purposeful Pioneer?

Your adventure has already begun but you have many routes still to explore.

While you have an employee engagement strategy of sorts this needs evolving and refining.

To date not all your employees know there is an employee engagement strategy and your leadership team have differing opinions on both the importance of employee engagement and the most suitable ways to engage your employees. As a result, you are pulled in many different directions. You are also very aware that there are far more efficient ways of working which you get frustrated by.

Conclusion

You are in somewhat of a catch 22 – until you are able to prove the value of your employee engagement efforts and convert any remaining sceptics, you will have limited time and resources. But whilst at a frustrating point in your journey you are making progress.

Have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement to discover how you can convert your frustrations into an established employee engagement strategy that starts to bring real benefits to your organisation. From the report, you will also be able to benchmark yourself against other UK organisations. During which you will probably recognise that as a Purposeful Pioneer you are actually doing really well. Many organisations are much further behind on their journey than you!

Purposeful Pioneer

Purposeful Pioneer

Are you a Purposeful Pioneer?

Your adventure has already begun but you have many routes still to explore.

While you have an employee engagement strategy of sorts this needs evolving and refining.

To date not all your employees know there is an employee engagement strategy and your leadership team have differing opinions on both the importance of employee engagement and the most suitable ways to engage your employees. As a result, you are pulled in many different directions. You are also very aware that there are far more efficient ways of working which you get frustrated by.

Conclusion

You are in somewhat of a catch 22 – until you are able to prove the value of your employee engagement efforts and convert any remaining sceptics, you will have limited time and resources. But whilst at a frustrating point in your journey you are making progress.

Have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement to discover how you can convert your frustrations into an established employee engagement strategy that starts to bring real benefits to your organisation. From the report, you will also be able to benchmark yourself against other UK organisations. During which you will probably recognise that as a Purposeful Pioneer you are actually doing really well. Many organisations are much further behind on their journey than you!

Valiant Voyager

Are you a Valiant Voyager

You have been exploring what employee engagement can do for your organisation for some time.

You have the luxury of a leadership team that believes there is real value in having an employee engagement strategy. Subsequently, your strategy is well known throughout your organisation and you are able to reach most of your employees.

However, as your employee engagement strategy has evolved, inefficiencies have crept in. There may be clunky processes, multiple systems doing similar jobs, silo working or the requirement to duplicate some tasks. You also wish you had greater insight to better inform your future engagement strategies.

Conclusion

While you have inefficiencies to overcome you already have a broad understanding of what needs to change. Now is your opportunity to take stock and ensure the next steps you take will cater for ongoing expansion of your employee engagement strategy.

For more guidance on how to move forward with your employee engagement strategy have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement. As well as guidance for progressing through your employee engagement journey you will also be able to compare yourself against other UK businesses.

Are you a Game-changing Guardian?

Congratulations. You have been on a journey of discovery but you now have a solid employee engagement strategy that is effectively engaging your employees.

Your leadership team are invested, you work fluidly with others in your organisation and you have all the data and insight you need to make confident decisions.

Since inception, your employee engagement score has increased and employee engagement is now widely ingrained in your company culture.

Conclusion

You have every right to feel a little smug! You have overcome many hurdles to get to this point.

But once you have given yourself a pat on the back remember that while your adventure has reached your target destination, new routes could open up and new hurdles could form. You need to keep an ear to the ground at all times whilst also looking for opportunities to further solidify your strategy.

Have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement for further guidance on how you can continually improve your employee engagement strategy. You’ll also find out whether your employee engagement strategy is on par with the best performing UK organisations.

Game-changing Guardian

Game-changing Guardian

Are you a Game-changing Guardian?

Congratulations. You have been on a journey of discovery but you now have a solid employee engagement strategy that is effectively engaging your employees.

Your leadership team are invested, you work fluidly with others in your organisation and you have all the data and insight you need to make confident decisions.

Since inception, your employee engagement score has increased and employee engagement is now widely ingrained in your company culture.

Conclusion

You have every right to feel a little smug! You have overcome many hurdles to get to this point.

But once you have given yourself a pat on the back remember that while your adventure has reached your target destination, new routes could open up and new hurdles could form. You need to keep an ear to the ground at all times whilst also looking for opportunities to further solidify your strategy.

Have a look at our report – The State of UK Employee Engagement for further guidance on how you can continually improve your employee engagement strategy. You’ll also find out whether your employee engagement strategy is on par with the best performing UK organisations.

No matter where you are on your journey, the fact that you are reading this would suggest that you are as passionate about employee engagement as we are. You are on the road to improved staff satisfaction, increased productivity, greater customer advocacy and higher profits.

At VRAMP we are proud to play a part in this journey. We help our customers implement their employee engagement strategy through our employee communications platform. Our customers can create impactful internal comms, encourage two-way communication and gain insight on content performance and employee engagement levels. To find out more about how our internal communications tools and employee engagement surveys could improve the working lives of your employees, request a demo today.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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what is employee engagement

Employee Engagement?

What is Employee Engagement? To answer the question “What is employee engagement?” let’s turn to the famous visit President John F Kennedy made

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Guides

Guide to buying an internal comms tool

Your guide to buying an internal communications tool

The way we communicate is changing. In part, this is due to technological advancements, but the COVID pandemic has also caused a big shift in how we work.

Many of these changes are set to last as outlined in this Gartner article. We have seen an increase in remote working from 30% pre COVID to 48% now. The pandemic has also resulted in an increase in responsibility for employee wellbeing and we continue to see a shift in which employees are taking back control. For example, we are seeing many employees demand more transparency from their leaders. Potential employees are also looking for clear evidence that an organisation values its people.

The digital transformation

Prior to COVID, we were seeing organisations adopt technology to support them with their internal communications. But in response to the greater demands COVID put on internal communications teams and the shift in how we communicate with employees, we are seeing an acceleration in the internal communications digital transformation. As company cultures shift it’s vital that businesses have an internal communications tool that is employee-centric and can deliver efficient, transparent communications.

The employee communication journey

To reach this digital transformation we have come a long way. While employee communications have always been part of everyday working life, historically announcements would be made in person through newsletters, bulletin boards or letters.

The arrival of the internet saw the entry of a wave of new channels such as email and intranets but all of these internal comms channels focus on pushing communications out. The information the business leaders believe employees should know has been sent out to them but that is where it ends. There is no understanding as to whether the information reached every employee and no opportunity for those employees to provide feedback.

The next arrival on the market was employee survey tools. These filled the missing gap and enabled employees to have their say. But, while employees finally had a voice, that voice was only heard at the time a survey was released. The results provide a snapshot in time but do not show a true representation of employee sentiment.

Cue internal communication tools. In recent decades technology has developed to an extent where all the outcomes achieved by ‘traditional’ internal communication channels have been wrapped up in one internal communication tool with a heap of additional benefits added too. As a result, top-down communications are a thing of the past and businesses can communicate quickly, easily and transparently.

Today, these tools also play their part in maintaining productivity. By connecting, more employees with the right information businesses are empowering their employees to achieve more in their roles. The digital transformation is leading to a cultural transformation.

The journey of employee communications: 

But which internal communications tool is right for you?

If you too are looking to transform your internal communications, your next step is to establish what internal communications tool will be best suited to your business.

We have moved from a time when there were no internal communication tools available to properly manage employee engagement to an era when there is an overwhelming number of options. You just need to look at a software comparison site such as Capterra to see this. Under the ‘Internal Communications Software’ category, there are over 200 options.

This guide will help you refine what you are looking for so that you don’t have to sift through 200 different software solutions!

Internal communications platform features – the pros and cons

Before we consider the pros and cons of the different internal communication tool features, it is important to have a base point. Below are the ‘additional’ features of an internal communications tool. These assume that the basics of sending messages, videos, files and images are covered. But it is always worth checking these basic capabilities of a system too. To be on the safe side, we have included these in the ‘internal communications tool procurement checklist’ so that you can double check when you start your procurement process.

The additional features to consider are:

An employee app

Typically speaking, an internal communication app is a reciprocal for the communications you create within your internal communications software. Once you have created a message and hit send, it will be visible within the app. Some providers also enable you to create messages within the app which will be very beneficial if you would like multiple authors (see below for more details on that).

Pros Con

An internal communication app is a highly effective way to reach employees if they don’t have a corporate email address or don’t work in front of a screen.

All employees will be required to download the internal comms app on their mobile device. For many this will be their personal mobile and they may be reluctant to have work-related app on their phone.

Information can be sent to employees quicker. Should you have an urgent message, some internal comms apps include push notifications alerting employees of urgent messages. For those who work away from a screen this will be a far more effective way to keep in touch.

The roll out of the software will require project management to ensure everyone downloads the app.

An internal communication app can be used by every employee. That means you will have one version of a message sent to everyone. No Chinese whispers and no delays; just one version of the truth.

When the internal comms app is on a personal device the lines of work/home life can be blurred. Expectations and, potentially, policies would need to be in place prior to the roll out.

The ability to email messages

This is exactly what it says on the tin – the ability to also send messages via email.

Pros Cons

For employees who do sit at their screen most of their time they may prefer for all their messages to come in via one channel. By receiving messages via email they will not need to have other browser windows open or keep an eye on their mobile.

With options, comes the need to understand preferences. If you choose to procure an internal communications tool that can also send messages via email you will need to identify which employees would prefer this option.

If email will always be a channel in your internal communications strategy an employee engagement platform will save you time. Rather than creating one message in your internal communications tool and one in your email platform, you will be able to create one message in your internal communications tool and simply select the relevant distribution channels.

Audience segmentation

The ability to group your employees so that you can send more targeted information to them.

Pros Cons

With segmentation you are likely to see higher employee engagement rates because you can send them information that is both relevant and of interest to them.

Any segmenting will require resource. Usually just at the outset but there may be an element of ongoing management.

Employee segmentation is also very valuable when collating information because you can just ask the people your research is most relevant for.

Some internal communications tools have limited segmentation options. For example, they may only allow you to segment by department.

Collaborative authoring

Collaborative authoring enables multiple people to contribute and distribute content.

Pros Cons

If you work within a team you can easily share the workload whilst still having visibility of the communications that have been sent. This removes any silo working and increases efficiency.

Depending on the number of authors you have, you may need an agreed structure to ensure employees don’t get burdened with too many messages.

Author access can be given to anyone which means important messages can be sent instantly. For example, a major health and safety alert could be created by a line manager at the site.

You may need to brief each author on your brand guidelines and tone of voice to ensure consistency across all your messages.

Some internal communication tools enable you to create content in the mobile app too which is perfect for messages on the go.

Translations

Particularly useful if you have a workforce that consists of multiple nationalities where English is the second language.

Pros Cons

By automatically translating your messages you can save significant time and money on translation services.

Translation features often come at an extra price. Consider the percentage of staff that would require this to calculate how essential it is.

You know that all of your employees are receiving your messages at the same time.

Some translation options can be flaky. If you require this as a feature ensure you see it in action to ensure the translations are accurate.

Chat options

A function to enable two-way conversations with individuals or groups, similar to that of Teams or Slack.

Pros Cons

Chat features can improve collaboration amongst employees.

By opening this feature up to your entire company it can interfere with day-to-day productivity.

There may be an opportunity to consolidate your systems if you already have a chat/messaging tool in place.

Some chat features may have limitations, i.e. you may only be able to have conversations with individuals rather than within groups.

Open and click rates

A way of measuring the success of the communications you send.

Pros Cons

Open rates show you how many people wanted to read more of your message once they saw your preview. This can help you to identify what content catches people’s attention.

Open rates are only an indication of the interests of a recipient. While they may have opened the message, you will not know if they read it in its entirety.

Click rates show you how many people clicked on a link within your messages which is an indicator of how interested they are in that particular link.

Open and click rates are often high-level statistics. They enable you to make a generalist conclusion but cannot influence future content strategies to any great length.

Open and click rates can often be distorted by multiple opens blurring the effectiveness of these statistics.

Engagement statistics

A way of measuring the success of internal communications that takes a number of variables into account. These may include the duration a message has been read, an emoji response and the number of employees that have opened a message.

Pros Cons

Engagement statistics typically dive deeper than the traditional open and click rates giving more thorough analytics that can be used to inform employee engagement strategies.

To fully utilise employee engagement statistics you will need time/resource to monitor the analytics.

Some internal communications tools will time how long someone reads a message to identify if they are skim reading or fully engaged.

Employee engagement scores usually monitor real-time engagement enabling you to quickly identify disengagement so that you can take corrective measures sooner.

With the right internal communications tool you will be able to set employee engagement benchmarks, using the statistics to monitor progress.

Analytics with greater depth will enable you to report on your work more effectively, whether that is to line managers or as a KPI in board reports.

In-built employee surveys

The ability to send employee surveys via the internal comms tool.

Pros Cons

With a survey feature included in your internal communications tool you only have one platform to access for all your employee engagement activities.

Some internal communication tools may have a limited survey feature. Our ‘internal communications tool procurement checklist’ lists all the potential options to help you ensure you get what you need.

All the results of the surveys will be recorded in the same place as your communication engagement statistics making it far easier to connect all your activities together. The right internal communications tool will also include additional statistics such as how many people have opened the survey.

Employees only need to go to one place to provide feedback.

Document library

A location within the internal communications tool that employees can access files.

Pros Cons

You will no longer need paper documents or forms.

If documents were previously printed and filled in manually you may need to convert these into editable files to make them usable on a screen.

Employees will be able to save time because all the documents they need will be in one place. No need to scroll through emails, multiple drives or to ask colleagues.

Some internal communication tools may limit the type of files you can share/store.

Forms

Digital forms accessible via the internal communications tool.

Pros Cons

Digital forms will eradicate the need for paper work.

Employees using the forms will need to have a basic understanding of tech to fill then in effectively.

Forms will speed up your processes because the data from the form will be immediately visible in the internal comms tool.

You may need to recreate forms to make them editable.

Employee directories

A directory of employees to help people find the right person to speak to.

Pros Cons

A searchable directory improves collaboration because employees can find the help they need with very little effort.

Most employee directories are reliant on the employee to keep their profile updated.

Skills overview

Often part of an employee directory the skills overview is a list of the skills each employee has.

Pros Cons

A list of skills further enhances the searchable employee directory for further efficiencies.

As this is often part of an employee directory it relies upon the employee to keep their skills updated.

Well considered internal communication tools will also give you a high level overview of all skills across your organisation. This combined view is great for identifying skills gaps.

Corporate branding

Instead of having the branding of the vendor on your internal communications tool, you will have your branding instead.

Pros Cons

With your own branding on your internal communications tool it will instantly feel familiar to your employees.

These elements may be hard coded and require a fee to update.

Some vendors may limit what you can update within the internal communications tool.

Integrations

A way of enabling multiple systems to link with one another.

Pros Cons

Integrating systems will often cut out laborious, repetitive tasks.

Sometimes businesses assume they need system integrations when actually a system consolidation would be more beneficial.

The efficiencies gained from system integrations can improve take up of the new internal communications software because it makes the life if the user easier.

‘Off the shelf’ integrations may have limitations. Ensure you look at the detail carefully.

With the above in mind have a look at our ‘internal communications tool procurement checklist’ to refine exactly what it is that you need from your internal communications tool. The checklist enables you to highlight the essential features as well as the nice to haves and long-term requirements. This will help you get a clear picture of which internal communications tool will be right for your business.

Questions to ask when you have a demo or trial

With a clearer picture of what your need from your internal communications tool, your next step will be to see some solutions in action. As well as delving into the features that you want to know more about, this is also your opportunity to explore the processes that sit behind the internal comms tool – the areas that will get you up and running and keep you running smoothly. Here are some important questions to ask:

1) How easy is it to use?

An absolutely critical point. If it isn’t easy to use those administering the internal comms software will struggle to stay motivated. If your end users don’t find it intuitive to navigate they won’t engage risking your entire adoption process.

When evaluating usability consider your entire employee base. How technically capable are they? If a large proportion of your workforce has minimal involvement with apps, consider what they would be familiar with and whether the internal communications software works in a similar way. If you have a tech savvy workforce, workarounds or unnecessary clicks are likely to really annoy them so put yourself in their shoes and analyse the user journey they would experience.

2) How do you access the internal comms tool?

The type of work your employees carry out will likely dictate the best method for accessing your internal communications tool. If the majority of your teams work at a computer and have a company email address, a traditional Username and Password may suffice. However, if you have a large percentage of your workforce that doesn’t have a company email address you will need a way of accessing the internal comms solution without the need for an email address. A passwordless login may also be beneficial because it is likely to increase adoption, particularly early in the rollout process.

3) Will the internal communications tool protect your data?

When handling any personal information it is important to ensure that data is protected. There are a number of certificates and competencies that will ensure your data is safe including GDPR compliance, ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials.

If you are based in the UK double check the GDPR capabilities of a vendor. For some, the data will be stored outside of the UK which could cause issues. It’s also worth checking that they adhere to UK GDPR legislation rather than EU GDPR legislation.

4) How easy is it to get up and running?

Adoption of your new internal communications tool will be very important. Firstly, the implementation of the software and secondly the widespread adoption by all your employees.

Assuming you like what you’ve seen so far in the demo, establish what will be involved in the implementation process. What resource will you need and what timescales will you be looking at?

Then when it comes to the rollout what do they recommend? Does that align with your thoughts? Do they offer any support to help you maximise uptake?

This will be a daunting time for many because us humans are often averse to change so make sure you have a solid understanding of what will be involved. You need to be comfortable and confident that together you can make the rollout a success.

5) What ongoing support is provided?

No matter how simple software is to use there will always be times when you need support. What support package does the vendor provide? Some will offer basic support and then provide a greater depth of support at an additional cost. Consider your team and how tech-savvy they are. This will help you to evaluate the available options.

Another question to ask is whether their support package is entirely responsive or do they also provide regular reviews? Account reviews help you ensure you are getting the most out of the system, potentially finding more efficient ways of doing things or highlighting other features that you can benefit from.

Questions to ask to ensure a strong working relationship

If you’ve got to this point and are feeling positive you will have found an internal communications tool that ticks most, if not all, of your wish list and meets your expectations when it comes to the implementation and ongoing support of the software. You will also have confidence in the security and integrity of the solution. Your final checkpoint is to ensure you would have a happy working relationship with the vendor. After all, you are purchasing internal communications software to improve engagement and communications – it makes sense to work with a provider that understands the value of relationships and strong communication.

Ultimately this final check is to ensure the vendor you work with is a good cultural fit. Some areas to discuss to help you conclude these are:

1) Responsiveness and quality of communications to date

You may only have been speaking to one person so far but their manner and approach should be a good representation of their culture. Have they been responsive and helpful? Have you liked their approach? If you have concerns now is your opportunity to ask further questions to ensure you won’t be frustrated working with them.

2) As part of the ongoing support do you have a named account manager?

It’s a small difference but if you build up a relationship with someone you are likely to resolve any problems far quicker than if you are just speaking to a faceless call handler.

If a vendor takes this approach it is also a good indication that they don’t just want to solve problems, they want to ensure you get the most out of the internal comms tool. It proves that they are invested in you as a customer.

3) How is their pricing structured?

A basic question but the answer can tell you a lot. Are they very transparent with their costs or are there lots of ‘additional extras’? Do they have different tiers and if so, is it clear what you get with each tiered package?

As well as needing to be confident there will be no ‘hidden extras’ now, you also need to be confident that you won’t get ‘stung’ further down the line. A transparent approach to pricing is also a great indication that the vendor will be open and honest with all other aspects of your working relationship too.

4) What is the history of the business?

 Understanding a little bit about why the business was started and who is behind it will be really valuable. What were the motivations for starting the business? Are the people that created the software still in the business or is the business now led by people focused predominately on the money? Ultimately you want to find out if the people behind the internal communications software have a passion for improving employee communications. If they do, they will be much more invested in your journey with them.

5) What are the future plans?

This question applies to both yourself and the vendor.

For you are there any future business plans that could impact your internal comms solution? How might your internal comms tool need to adapt and scale over the coming years? Can the vendor accommodate these plans?

It will also be worth you exploring the vendor’s plans. Nearly all internal communication tools will be SaaS (Software as a Service) products. If they are, explore the vision of the vendor? What items do they have on their roadmap and how do they manage that roadmap? Is it purely generated internally or does customer feedback inform future developments?

The questions in this section are perhaps the most important. The answers you gather will ensure that the internal communications tool, and the company that provides the tool, will not just work for you now but also long into the future.

Conclusion

Don’t forget to use our ‘internal communications tool procurement checklist’ to help you refine and find the right internal communications tool for you. Good luck on your buying journey!

Internal Communications Tool Procurement Checklist

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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Reports

‘blindly’ communicating with your workforces

Employee Communicate

12th October 2021.

Employers communicate 'blindly' with their workforces, shows survey

Nearly half of UK organisations still do not measure the effectiveness of their employee communications, a survey has found.

More than 18 months since workforce dynamics were changed irreversibly by the pandemic, the research showed 48% of organisations have no data about whether the information they send to their employees is being read or not.

We conducted the survey to inform The State of Employee Engagement in the UK report, released today.

“The pandemic heightened the importance of transparent, timely and informative internal communications, yet our research found that many employers are continuing to communicate with their fragmented workforces completely blindly,” said VRAMP operations director Darren Hepburn.

“Almost no other business function works this way,” he said. “Particularly in larger organisations, every other team is expected to evidence their performance on some level and they use the data they collate to inform future strategies.”

The high profile Engage for Success movement laid bare how effective employee engagement equates to higher productivity, profit and revenue, yet VRAMP’s research showed measuring the effectiveness of internal communications remains a struggle.

“Communicating with manual or non-desk workers has historically been more difficult, but the uncertainty of 2020-2021 highlighted the need for all employees to receive a single source of the truth, quickly,” added Hepburn.

“Communication became an urgent priority, yet more than a quarter (27%) of respondents in our survey said the issue of reaching all employees is still their biggest barrier to employee engagement.”

“The speed of the shift in workforce dynamics has meant that while some employers are keeping abreast of post-pandemic work culture, currently many still are not.”

“Measuring and monitoring internal communications will be essential for employers to compete in the ‘future of work’ era.”

The research also found that many professionals responsible for employee engagement and internal communications need more time and support from management to do so effectively.

A lack of time (38%) and leadership buy-in (17%) were two of the biggest challenges for those responsible for internal communications.

“Commitment from the top is so important,” concluded Hepburn.

“When analysing our survey results, we found that those who are fighting for leadership buy-in barely spend any of their time on internal communications, and have the least advanced employee engagement strategies – despite this being a task they are officially responsible for.”

VRAMP’s The State of Employee Engagement in the UK report can be downloaded here.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

Relevant resources

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Blog Internal Communication

Benefits of an internal comms app

23rd September, 2021.

15 benefits of an internal communication app

For many years we have relied upon ‘traditional’ communication methods to share information internally with our employees. From face-to-face meetings to posters in rest areas to emails and intranets. While each of these channels has its own merits, they also have their limitations.

This blog compares internal communications software with these traditional communication tools, highlighting the key differences and benefits each of those differences brings. Here are 15 reasons that an internal comms app will transform your business.

1. Give employees a voice

The traditional methods of internal communication do a good job of disseminating information but they give little opportunity for employees to have their say.

While for some business leaders enabling employees to ‘have their say’ is a terrifying concept it really needn’t be. They picture scenes of anarchy with strongly opinionated individuals standing on the pedestal broadcasting their views for all to hear, but in reality, giving employees their say is about giving them an opportunity to share their opinion on the matters that affect their working lives.

What’s more, giving employees a voice is a critical part of employee engagement. Without employees feeling as though they are listened to, it will be impossible to truly engage employees. At best you will just be good at internal communications.

2. Reap the financial rewards

As the point above highlights, internal communication apps give an opportunity to truly engage employees to a level not achievable with traditional methods of communication.

With greater employee engagement come financial benefits. There is a lot of evidence available to back this up. Here are a couple of statistics from Engage for Success that paint a very clear picture:

  • Businesses with engagement scores in the top quartile had twice the annual net profit of those in the bottom quartile.
  • Organisations in the top quartile of employee engagement scores had 18% higher productivity than those in the bottom quartile.

Switching to an internal communication tool that drives, and measures, employee engagement makes business sense.

3. Reach everybody

One of the biggest problems with traditional internal communication channels is that they rarely reach everyone. In fact, in a recent survey we commissioned, 27% of internal communication professionals stated reaching all their employees was their greatest challenge right now.

Historically, organisations have utilised multiple channels to increase their reach but even then, with different work patterns, locations and occupations, it is rare that communications reach everyone.

An internal communication app changes this. Everyone, from an individual sat in an office, to a warehouse operative, to a paramedic, will receive your communications. That is because an internal comms app can be accessed without a company email address. All that is needed is a mobile phone. (VRAMP also has a desktop version for those who spend more time in front of a computer.)

4. Put the right information in front of the right people

In addition to reaching everybody you also need to ensure you are not bombarding them with information. Employees in the sales department will require different information to those on the frontline. The last thing you want is for them to be sifting through information to find what is of interest to them. Over time this will become bothersome, they’ll give up and disengage.

An internal communication app allows you to segment audiences so that employees only receive what is relevant and interesting to them. Every time they open the internal comms app they will see the information they want to read which will further boost employee engagement.

5. Share information quickly

There are times when there is information that needs to be circulated fast – whether that is a major health & safety alert or a business announcement that cannot afford Chinese whispers.

When using an internal communication app, at a click of a button everyone receives the information at the same time. Push notifications and options to pin an announcement to the top of feeds mean that those messages are received far quicker than any traditional communication method.

Content can also be written on the go (via a mobile) enabling multiple people to contribute content. This immediacy can make a huge difference, particularly in a crisis.

6. Provide a single source of truth

Internal communication apps simplify the entire communication process. One message can be sent to every employee at a click of a button. Without needing to rely on other people to disseminate messages you know that original messages aren’t being misinterpreted or, worse still, missed altogether.

Every employee knows that the information they read is true to the original source.

7. Make it easy for people to engage

As a society we want things to be easy. If employees have to take time out of their normal working day, remember yet another password or learn how to use a new system you risk them losing interest.

An internal comms app simplifies the entire communication process. Apps such as VRAMP will be very intuitive to use, akin to many social media platforms that most of the workforce will be familiar with. There is no need for a password and the internal comms app can be accessed on any iOS or Android device.

By improving employee’s accessibility to your communications, you will automatically increase their engagement.

8. Put employees on a level playing field

The logistics involved with traditional communication channels would mean that inevitably, employees who work at a computer would receive information earlier than those who work in a different location. Purely because of the logistics of passing messages through the chain of line managers. This creates an unspoken division – a ‘them and us’ culture.

The simplicity of preparing and sending all communications from one internal communications platform means you can remove these unspoken divides. There are no hierarchies for receiving information and everyone can get involved through comments and surveys so no one feels less important than their colleagues.

On paper, this is a subtle benefit but it makes a huge difference to the culture of a business.

9. Connect employees

An internal comms app goes beyond sending and receiving communications. They also have additional features such as an employee directory and document library that help to connect employees with people and documents.

Employees can search the database to find colleagues they need support from or documents they need for a specific job. This boosts collaboration and improves productivity.

10. Monitor skills gaps

Internal comms apps such as VRAMP also list the skills each employee has to offer. This searchable database makes it even easier for employees to collaborate but it also helps managers identify skills gaps and training needs.

11. Collate more ideas

With an internal communication app, you will reach a wider audience. Through comments and survey responses these previously unreachable employees could contribute valuable ideas.

With a larger source of ideas available it will not only boost creative thinking, but it will also make employees feel more valued, increasing loyalty and engagement.

12. Strengthen the company culture

With better communications reaching more people your employees will have a greater understanding of the company vision and goals.

The other points listed above will also help each employee understand where they fit within those goals and how they contribute to the company’s success.

With a strong, well understood culture across your entire workforce, you will have a powerful army of people that will drive your business forward.

13. Communicate more efficiently

As many of the points above highlight, an internal communications app will enable you to communicate and engage far more efficiently. And if you choose the right internal comms app there will also be no need to swap between platforms for internal communications and employee surveys.

Having everything you need in one tool not only makes your working life easier, but it will also help you work more collaboratively with any other colleagues who hold responsibility for internal comms or employee engagement.

14. Measure and prove the ROI of employee engagement

Potentially the biggest benefit of an internal communication app is its ability to provide you with data. You will be able to see which communications employees have engaged with most, which topics of conversation are most interesting to them and what employee engagement scores look like on a company and team level.

Furthermore, if you choose an internal communication app that includes employee survey tools you will also be able to view all the employee survey results in the same employee engagement system.

This level of data is game changing. Particularly when the traditional forms of communication have provided very little if any, analytics.

It means that employee engagement finally becomes a valid, valuable Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that can be measured alongside other business goals to evidence how employee engagement contributes to business performance.

15. Improve employee engagement

Without accurate analytics you cannot be confident in any changes you make to better your employee engagement strategy. An internal communication app removes the need for guesswork or hunches. Instead, you can make confident improvements to your strategy safe in the knowledge that you can measure the effectiveness of each of your changes.

The level of data that an internal comms app provides makes it possible to continually improve your employee engagement strategy.

Take your journey to the next level

If you’ve read this far it suggests that you can really see the benefit of an internal communications app. And rightly so, these are 15 of the strongest points, we could waffle on for days about the brilliance of internal comms apps!

Perhaps now is the time to discover more about how our internal comms app could help you realise these benefits? Either give us a call on 01392 984175 and we’ll happily answer any questions you have or request a demo of VRAMP to see exactly what an internal communication tool can do for you.

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

Relevant resources