EAST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE COUNCIL

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1 Agenda EAST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE COUNCIL Item No: 14 Page Numbers: Report to: The Cabinet 14 April 2009 Wards: All wards Draft Internal Communications Strategy Report of the Director of Policy, Partnerships and Improvement A. Executive Summary The draft strategy sets out the Council s overall proposed approach to internal communications. The strategy, which provides a framework for internal communication, is built around existing best practice. The detail of how internal communications will work in practice will be incorporated into separate action plans B. Corporate Priorities A Well Managed Authority C. Portfolio Key Strategic Issues D. Recommendation and Reason for Recommendation That Cabinet consider the Internal Communications Strategy be approved. 1. Background 1.1 It is important that the Council engages effectively with its employees. 1.2 Communicating well with employees can help to create a can-do culture and build a committed and high performing workforce focused on achieving the Council s goals. It can also help boost morale and motivation, encourage employees to be ambassadors for the Council and provide better customer service.

2 1.3 Research shows a strong link between how well we communicate and resident satisfaction. Communications is one of the key ways in helping drive up resident satisfaction. The more people know about their local Council the more highly they rate it and the better they feel able to access its services. The less people know about their Council the less they are likely to rate it. Communication is key. 1.4 The formal adoption of an internal communications strategy will help to reinforce the Council s commitment to engaging with employees and allow the Council to build on existing best practice. 1.5 The draft strategy has been discussed and considered by the Developing Our Organisation Board, Senior Management Team and Corporate Management Team. 1.6 An action plan is being developed to implement the strategy and this will be regularly monitored and updated. Steve Button Director of Policy, Partnerships and Improvement Contact Officer: Andrew Milner Head of Community Engagement Telephone Number: E.mail: Background Papers

3 DRAFT INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY 2009

4 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION...1 Purpose of this document..1 Purpose of the communications function..1 The importance of effective internal communication 1 Where we are now Managing internal communication AUDIENCE 3 Range of audiences KEY PRIORITIES.4 CLEAR AIMS AND OBJECTIVES...5 Aims 5 Objectives..5 COMMUNICATION CHANNELS..5 Paper communications...6 Electronic communications...7 Face-to-face communications...8 EVALUATION...9 RESOURCES..9 FURTHER INFORMATION 9

5 DRAFT Internal Communications Strategy 2009 INTRODUCTION Purpose of this document This document sets out East Riding of Yorkshire Council s strategy for effective internal communication across the Authority. Purpose of the communications function The objectives of the corporate communications function, as set out in the corporate communications strategy (October 2008), are to: co-ordinate communications activities across the Council, so that directorates and services are working towards shared communication objectives provide support and advice to ensure that communication activities are of a high quality and effective. The main functions of communicating with employees are: delivering corporate messages key issues requiring action/messages from individuals, teams, services and directorates encouraging employees feedback and innovation suggestions, well-being issues, health and safety, informal information, employees engagement sharing news items other issues affecting teams, services, directorates, the Council and the public. The importance of effective internal communication East Riding of Yorkshire Council has a duty, as a local authority, to engage effectively with employees. Effective communications are essential to this, and is a managed process, with responsibility for communication being shared across the organisation, but with each communication process being owned by individuals and groups. At least 4% of the public are directly employed within local government. Councils want them to engage positively with local residents and promote their work externally. The IDeA commissioned MORI to research the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) and employees attitudes. They found a demonstrable relationship between the CPA score and the way employees feel about their organisation and how it is managed. The best performing councils were most likely to have employees who would speak up for them externally, whilst the worst performing were least likely to have employees who would talk them up externally. Communicating well with employees is one of the 12 core actions of the Local Government Association s (LGA s) reputation campaign. Communicating well internally will: help create a can-do culture and build a committed and high-performing workforce focused on achieving the Council s goals boost morale and motivation encourage employees to be ambassadors for the Council 1

6 help the organisation learn employees are a vital source of information, whether that is customer intelligence, early warnings, whistle-blowing or innovative ideas provide better customer service informed frontline and other employees will be up to speed on what is happening in the Council and why. Community engagement is a key theme for local authorities in improving services. Research has shown that high-performing organisations use employees engagement to help drive forward improvements. To do this, employees need to be consulted, listened to and involved. Research shows a strong link between how well we communicate and resident satisfaction. Communication is one of the key ways in helping drive up resident satisfaction. The more people know about their local Council the more highly they rate it and the better they feel able to access its services. The less people know about their Council the less they are likely to rate it. Local Government Yorkshire and the Humber commissioned a Communications Audit in 2007 (TAS Communications) to measure how well each local authority in the area communicates. They found that there are wide variations in the degrees of professionalism within communication operations and an absence of any comprehensive mechanisms to raise standards across the board. The research also found that communications is not always at the heart of council activities. These findings are in keeping with those acknowledged in the Phillis Review the Audit Commission s Review of Government Communications (2004) and It s our health (NCC 2006). These identified the need for strategic leadership for communications. The 2007 Communications Audit stated that 56% of residents felt well informed about the services and benefits the Council provides. This is higher than the average in Yorkshire and the Humber, which was 44.36% and higher than the national average of 45.8%. In terms of overall resident satisfaction, 55% of residents are satisfied with East Riding of Yorkshire Council. This is higher than the average of 50.36% for Yorkshire and the Humber and higher than the national average of 53.2%. Where we are now East Riding of Yorkshire Council is one of England s leading councils through sustained performance. It has one of the best track records in local government for the most effective use of resources. Council employees state that they are proud to work for a high performing authority. The Workforce Survey 2008 states that 68% of employees felt that they were kept well informed about what the Council is doing. This is a good increase on the 63% in 2007 and is above the median score of 64% of the local government benchmarking group. 82% of employees understood how their work contributes to the aims and objectives of their service. 87% of employees had a clear understanding of expected standards of performance. 73% of employees stated that they receive enough information to do their job well. This is an increase of 3% on In addition to the results of the survey being used to measure activity and employees opinion in relation to the Workforce Survey, there is growing evidence that employee opinion links to customer satisfaction. Research by ORC International shows that there are six significant associations between overall resident satisfaction and employee opinion. These are listed below with the relevant percentage positive responses from East Riding of Yorkshire Council: 2

7 I am aware of the Council s improvement strategy 79% I am clear about what I am expected to achieve in my job 87% I have confidence in the leadership skills of my manager 68% In my opinion the Council is committed to customer satisfaction 78% I am proud to work for the Council 66% I am treated with fairness and respect by the Council 68%. The premise is that a Council achieving high levels of customer satisfaction has a strong commitment to customer satisfaction, has capable managers who provide clear leadership and has employees who understand the Council s objectives and are clear about what they are expected to achieve in their job. These factors influence the National Indicator (NI 5) overall/general satisfaction with the area and as such it is important to note that all the above factors have increased from the previous year s opinion survey. It must also be remembered that as many employees are residents and have relatives living locally, their positive opinion to the above issues means that they can significantly influence citizen satisfaction in the local area. The Audit Commission rated East Riding of Yorkshire Council as a four star authority for 2008 with the direction of travel as improving strongly. Despite this success, the Council still strives to improve. Managing internal communications As stated earlier, communications is a managed process. Responsibility for communication should be shared across the organisation but each communication process should be owned by individuals and groups. Management responsibility for internal communications lies within the Policy, Partnerships and Improvement Directorate. The communications team primarily advise on the best mix of communication tools to use to get the right message across. AUDIENCE The Council recognises a variety of internal audiences for our communications activities. Although these are categorised as internal they are also a vital external communications resource. There are approximately 13,500 whole time equivalent employees at East Riding of Yorkshire Council in any one year and when this number is multiplied by four (the size of an average family), good communication internally would be reaching almost 38,000 people in the community. This is higher than the daily circulation of any of our local newspapers (source: NS the voice of local media, figures from January 2008 to June 2008). Range of audiences Employees the role of employees as one of the Council s most valuable assets cannot be underestimated. They often provide frontline service delivery and are the face of the Council its ambassadors. Employees often serve on community associations including town and parish councils, sports club committees and so on. Their efforts can make or break the reputation of the organisation they can make a difference between a well-regarded and a poorly-regarded organisation. The introduction, promotion and development of good employment practices which will value and support the contribution employees make and which enhance the Council s reputation as a good employer are therefore extremely important. Internal communication is essential to the development of good employment practice. The aim of our internal communication process is to develop and maintain an informed, motivated, focused and committed workforce. 3

8 Managers employees like to find out about issues that affect them from their line managers. Line managers are ideally placed to convey internal information. They have a broad understanding of wider issues and are able to interpret issues to colleagues whom they line manage thereby giving local context to the bigger picture. Individuals are often more comfortable asking their line managers questions rather than in a more formal setting. Members good communication will help to ease the pressure on members. Effective communications should lead to a better understanding and appreciation and hence improve the decision-making process. Quality communications will provide the opportunity for a good relationship between members and officers. CMT, SMT and other Council wide teams they have a key role to play in communicating with employees across the Council. Trades unions key information about the Council needs to be communicated to trades unions for them to make informed decisions. They are an important link in the communication chain with employees. Professionals for example, teachers, social workers and other specialised employees. Governing bodies for example, school governors. They have a key role in communicating with school based staff. Equalities and inclusiveness The Council will ensure that all communication activity takes into account the differing accessibility needs of all, regardless of colour, culture or ethnic origin, nationality, religion or belief, gender, disability, age, sexuality, geographical location or any other status. The Council s approach will be sensitive to the needs, values, language and cultural differences that exist and will make communication materials available in other formats where reasonable and appropriate. The Council will follow best practice guidance on clear print. KEY PRIORITIES Key communication priorities for East Riding of Yorkshire Council are to: ensure communication is regular, timely, relevant and targeted to all employees, with mechanisms in place to encourage and act upon feedback support managers in their work as key communicators to maintain visibility and present an appropriate image ensure that non-office based employees receive internal communications on equal terms with their office based colleagues ensure communication is face-to-face as much as possible explain the Council s vision, values and messages so that employees understand how their work and individual services or projects fit into the bigger picture make communications interesting and focused employees bombarded with s, for example, will switch off be honest tell the bad news as well as the good news involve managers employees like to find out about the issues that affect them from their line managers tie in internal with external communication employees feel valued if they know important Council news first and as soon as possible rather than reading about it in the local paper ensure all internal communications materials are written in plain English and are accessible and jargon free. 4

9 CLEAR AIMS AND OBJECTIVES Aims East Riding of Yorkshire Council aims to ensure all employees are: well-informed who have enough information to not only know what is expected of them and how to do their job well but also how their job and service contributes to the overall ambitions and aims of the Council engaged employees who want, and are able, to take opportunities to get involved in improving customer service, influence policies and the direction of their service and who feel part of one Council as well as part of their team proud - employees who feel proud to say for whom they work and what the aims and achievements are, who deliver excellent customer service and who take pride in their dayto-day tasks and job. All three aims are challenging and interlinked and need to be given equal priority to successfully drive forward effective employee communications. Objectives The objectives of this strategy are to: find the appropriate, flexible mix of communications that will maximise the opportunities for talking, and listening, to all Council employees make a commitment to minimum levels of internal communication that will allow the Council to listen to the opinions and suggestions of all employees, making use of the creativity of employees and ensure that employees have the information needed to do their jobs ascertain the shared values and attitudes of employees, establish comparative data to measure against and act in response to issues raised through Council-wide employees surveys reinforce a culture within the Council that looks to communicate information and create a dialogue as its first impulse, to allow the Council to better meet its objectives raise awareness that good communications are expected of all employees and that twoway communications are expected because they improve performance ensure that any communication activity is delivered within budget and offers value for money. The implementation of these objectives will be supported by the communications team who will advise on and support the planning and delivery of internal communication activity. With specific internal communication exercises, the communications team will help to: set objectives for the communication establish who is the audience decide the most appropriate methods for delivering the message or messages make sure the message or messages are delivered at the right time measure and evaluate how effective the communication was cost the proposed communication exercise. COMMUNICATION CHANNELS There are a number of communication channels available to deliver the right message at the right time. Using a flexible mix of these channels will help to maximise the opportunities for talking, and listening, to all Council employees. 5

10 It must be noted that a majority of employees do not have access to electronic communication. To ensure equality of access a balanced range of communication tools need to be used. Paper communications Newsletter/employees magazine Despite new technology available, the employees magazine is likely to remain the best method of communicating with the widest group of employees. Employee magazines/newsletters play a vital role in internal communications, especially at a time of change. As well as promoting key messages and information, they can help to celebrate employees and Council achievements, profile individual employees or teams and provide softer information, such as starters and leavers. The Grapevine, the Council s magazine, is produced fortnightly and distributed to all employees either electronically or as a hardcopy. It is used to inform employees and Councillors of issues that affect the Council. Employees are encouraged to contribute to The Grapevine in a variety of ways there is a dedicated address for story ideas and employees are encouraged to telephone the communications team with their ideas. The content of The Grapevine is edited by the Press Manager/Editor, who aims to ensure that information is delivered in a timely manner and is employees focused. The team takes direction from senior managers and various management groups including CMT and SMT. Research carried out in September 2008 indicated that The Grapevine was very well-received, with 81% of respondents always reading their copy and 78% of respondents finding it interesting. Favourite features included jobs (82%), followed by corporate information (57%) and employees achievements at work (49%). Nearly 80% of respondents liked the fact that The Grapevine is published twice a month. Directorate newsletters These exist in some directorates and represent an excellent way of dealing with the Council s directorate issues. One of the problems inherent in corporate newsletters is the sense of being distanced from the heart of an organisation, and even the best publication will struggle to keep a very diverse readership feeling involved in every story. Directorate newsletters can get around this problem by bringing the publication closer to the reader. Whilst directorate newsletters are particularly useful if going through a major change, they are less useful at reinforcing a one Council approach. This could be rectified by including a common page or pages for corporate messages in each directorate newsletter. Other newsletters There are a range of other newsletters used by Council directorates/working groups to communicate key work activity/share information. These include: director updates Member newsletters 6

11 Notice boards Notice boards can easily be overlooked as a channel of communication by those who are office based and who use computers every day. However, large sections of the Council s workforce are not office based and do not use computers in their daily work. Where notice boards are used, they should be clearly designed with key information which is kept up to date. Pay slips Pay slips advice are the only guaranteed piece of print which all employees receive and give attention to. There is a space which is often taken up with advertising or a short message. There is also the possibility of inserting small leaflets. Employees innovation scheme Employees innovation schemes can encourage ideas and the best ideas can be singled out for praise in the employees newsletter/magazine. Schemes need to be well publicised and managed for them to be effective, with evidence that employees contributions are valued and implemented. Incentives such as token cash prizes often help. Electronic communications Intranet If employees are going to use the intranet it must offer something to them that they cannot get elsewhere more easily. The Council s intranet is used to communicate fully with employees and Members. It currently contains a large amount of information including the Council s A to Z, telephone directory, policies, training, TeamTalk, minutes of meetings, frequently asked questions, scrollbars and ticker tapes and directorate structures. There is also a section on the front page of the intranet that highlights news items. A major redesign of the intranet is planned both content and design. TeamTalk TeamTalk is an electronic newsletter posted on the Intranet immediately following the weekly CMT meeting and contains key information and announcements. TeamTalk is used at all team meetings over the following week as a standard agenda item. s tend to provoke a mixed reaction from employees. Whilst s can lower the quality of communication by discouraging face-to-face contact, they can be particularly useful for disseminating information quickly, especially to more than one recipient, organising meetings, saving the need for printing many hard copies, and is of course quicker than internal post. However when overused they become a source of additional work, and many people will tend to ignore or delete s if they suffer from overload. Global messages are particularly useful at getting a key message out to employees very quickly. These may be used to let employees know about severe weather warnings, maintenance works on computer systems etc. A protocol exists for the use of global , which will be reviewed. 7

12 Video The development of video messages and information as part of the communications mix may help to reinforce corporate messages as well as in the written form for example, budget information, vision and values. Face-to-face communications Cascade team briefings/meetings Regular team briefings provide opportunities to relay and reinforce corporate messages as well as service related issues. Cascading information allows important messages about the Council s priorities and achievements to be quickly disseminated throughout the organisation in a way that employees prefer. Team briefings take place in all services and directorates across the Council. There are standing items for all team meetings including employees feedback. Employees feedback is also an item at each CMT meeting. Any relevant/unanswered feedback is raised at CMT and action minuted. Members of the communications team attend directorate team meetings (DMTs) for each directorate every other week to update them on any issues that have received media attention over that period and to let them know what articles may be appearing in publications including the internal magazine, The Grapevine. It is an opportunity for DMTs to discuss what has gone well and what has not gone so well. In addition DMTs are asked to highlight those matters which may be arising and which may have employee/media interest. Other meetings A range of other meetings also take place to make employees feel involved and informed. These include: corporate induction diagonal slice meetings profile of senior managers at meetings. Employees events Employees events can help communicate cultural change programmes or Council achievements or priorities. They can bring employees together who may not have had much contact normally and raise the visibility of senior managers. Approaches that work well include: road shows annual managers conferences employees briefings/diagonal slice from the chief executive and senior officers away days for frontline employees/networking sessions meet the chief executive sessions back to the floor programmes, where directors spend time on location, for example, at a day centre, out with the refuse collection service during Customer Service Week walk the floor sessions with the chief executive and Council leader Employees recognition events such as the Chairman s Awards. 8

13 Employees panels Employees panels comprise a representative pool of employees who have agreed to take part in a number of surveys on a regular basis. They might include questionnaires, workshops, interviews or focus groups. Employees panels can be used to identify employees views on service provision and priorities and on matters that concern the Council as an employee. The advantages of an employees panel include: demonstrating a long term commitment to consultation with employees higher response rates than one-off surveys a representative sample for consultation it helps to identify specific groups of employees for separate surveys and focus groups. Employees surveys The Council conducts an annual workforce survey to gauge views on employee involvement and recognition, equalities, communications, morale and motivation, leadership and training and development. Individual service areas also carry out employees surveys as a means of measuring the effectiveness and quality of their service as well as satisfaction. Protocols for using specific communication channels will be developed. This will cover issues including purpose, approach, approvals, prioritisation and managing communications. EVALUATION Evaluation should be built into any action plan at the start so that activity is regularly monitored and evaluated. The action plan will be evaluated on a quarterly basis by the Communications Team. Key stakeholders employees, managers and members for example, should be surveyed regularly to give feedback on the methods and impact of the internal communications methods. The annual Workforce Survey in particular can play a key role in measuring employees satisfaction and opinion on a range of issues. However, this should not be used as the main source of employees feedback other surveys should be in built in any action plan that so any communication activity is monitored. It is important that feedback is acted upon to improve employees confidence. RESOURCES All elements of the strategy will be funded from existing resources within the Council. FURTHER INFORMATION For further information contact the Communications Team on (01482) or 9

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