Claire Allan, Internal Communications Business Partner at Northumbrian Water Limited joined the simplycommunity in December 2020.
Tell us a bit about you, what’s your role and what drives you?
I’m Claire Allan, Internal Communications Business Partner at Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL). We provide water and wastewater services to over 4.5 million customers and have 3,400 employees based across the North East, Essex & Suffolk.
I love being a Business Partner as it allows me to work closely with senior management and help them understand how communications can support the achievement of business objectives through engaging with employees in the right ways at the right time.
What really drives me is when I see how committed our employees are to playing their part in achieving our company vision and goals. This tells me that the communications we share and the support we provide their managers to communicate is all helping them to connect the dots, see how they add value and making their experience of working at NWL a great one.
What's your focus for the year ahead?
My big focus for the year ahead is to design and launch a brand-new SharePoint Modern intranet site. Our old intranet site is over 9 years old and half of our employees can’t access it, so having one platform that everyone can access is going to be a huge step forward and I hope will bring so many new opportunities to engage all our employees whether they work out in the field, in our call centre or in one of our offices.
Tell us a bit about what digital workplace communication channels you have in place at NWL?
Like many people, our digital offering has grown significantly over the past 12 months. The main channels and tools we use today are:
- Intranet: Not fit for purpose so being replaced as per answer above.
- Page Tiger: Use this to create and distribute our weekly newsletter, H2info.
- Teams: New in 2020, but now the main way that most teams are interacting and having meetings.
- Teams Live Events: A great tool for producing live events and which we use to do a weekly Q&A session with our CEO and which has an average attendance of over 500 employees.
- Poppulo: Use this to send emails when we want to be able to track open rates and levels of engagement with the content.
- Zoom: During the Coronavirus outbreak we moved our key face to face channels online and host our bi-monthly Teamtalk cascades and leadership conferences this way for now.
You have a high volume of remote-based teams. How do you communicate with these colleagues?
Over half of our workforce is remote, which definitely poses some challenges when trying to engage with them. Most of the communication is done face to face as they prefer to receive information from their managers, but we do send emails too when there is corporate information that everyone needs to be aware of at the same time. Over the past few years, we’ve rolled out iPhones to all our remote employees, so with this change, we have started to make more use of text messages as they tend to prefer this quick-fire method of communication and it also allows us to share video links for them to watch.
What's your approach to measuring IC?
I believe measurement is key to understanding how employees are engaging with the communications they receive, and I am also a bit of a secret geek so love a good statistic. At NWL we use the analytics that are embedded in the communications tools we use to see what employees are interested in and use this to inform future communications. We also carry out an annual employee survey, punctual pulse checks throughout the year and use focus groups to listen to our employees and get their input on how we can drive forward communications that our employees want to engage with through channels that they trust.
What has been your biggest learning over the last 12 months?
My biggest learning over the past 12 months is to not be afraid to try new things. I often used to wait for everything to be perfect to try something new, do something differently or launch a new channel, but COVID-19 didn’t allow this luxury. So like me, I am sure many of you will have tried new things over the past 12 months and like me, some of them won’t have worked and some of them will have been a revelation as to why have we never done this before!
I will definitely be going forward a braver communicator who won’t be afraid to try something new.
How can other simplycommunity members support you?
I would love support, advice and best practice from anyone who has a launched a new intranet in the last couple of years. In particular, I am interested in the operating model you have in place (who owns what parts of your site, who produces the content for it etc), the change management activities you did to get employees to adopt the new intranet site and start using it on a regular basis and finally any lessons learned you are happy to share (good and bad) as to a developing and rolling out a new intranet successfully. Equally, as I go on this journey, I am more than happy to share my experience with the simplycommunity too, so I hope to get the chance to speak to many of you this year!