Eight thousand employees, many different voices, various needs. How to answer them efficiently? I talk about it with Anna Waśniowska, who is responsible for internal communication at ING Bank Śląski.
What is important in internal communication from the point of view of a person, who is responsible for that communication? For Anna Waśniowska it is crucial that the relation is based on honesty, respect for employees and the willingness to get to know them. But most importantly, internal communication simply must exist, that is – it must be constantly taken care of.
It would be impossible to learn the people’s perspective and to respond to it in the right way without listening to employees, talking to them and keeping them updated about what is happening in the company. Anna’s musical knowledge and her experience as a news reporter helps her to grasp those employee emotions.
Companies as large as ING (eight thousand people employed in Poland, Anna calls it a “micro-world”) cannot speak with one unified voice, which poses a challenge to the internal communication division. It has to respond to various needs, at the same time speaking a coherent language. Anna emphasizes that the crucial thing is to accept the diversity, not to treat it as an obstacle and sending a subtle, measured message.
What we can do each day when designing internal communication, is to appreciate this diversity, respect it and show a lot of empathy in what we want to convey and when.
The tool which allowed to enliven communication with employees at ING is the intranet with a developed social zone. It includes nearly two hundred groups: theme, passion sharing, educative, about corporate competitions. These are created by employees themselves. And it turns out the intranet not only shapes their positive relation with the company, but also allows them to develop. Anna says:
The communities are alive. (…) They teach employees mindfulness (…), general knowledge, not being shut in one’s own world.
In communication with employees, companies often talk about values – behaviors which are to support the organization’s strategic goals and to unify employees into a community sharing the same set of ideals. These are not airy-fairy concepts at ING, but simply include: integrity, reason, responsibility. Leaning on their universalism becomes a way to get employees identified with the company.
The values work just as well outside this building. And that’s how we try to approach it. (…) We are not different at work and elsewhere.
The company did not enforce its concept to employees – the values were chosen by ING Group employees from all over the world. This also works as an advantage. Anna says: “It streamlines communication, also across boundaries. It’s not something artificial, it came naturally (…) and works to the company’s values advantage.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this bank aims to meet its employees needs and has well-developed thinking about its primary customer.
Of course, it wouldn’t be possible without the support of leaders for the communication team and without the freedom to act, and that’s what Anna mentions first when I ask her about what she likes her company for; other things are: openness to new things, possibility to learn constantly, to observe and take part in diverse projects. With a smile she tells me about the latest method of working at her team, which allows to get feedback quickly about how ideas are seen by employees. The starting point to know them is always conversation.
“We look at our employees,” Anna says. “We are now getting prepared to interviewing employees, we divided our recipients into groups and we are setting of to talk all over Poland.”
This is just one of “Your First Customer” interviews. Interested? Watch other interviews. You can also read the book “Your First Customer. How to Turn Employees into Company Ambassadors”.