Best in-house team: internal communications
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
Internal communications has been at the heart of the pandemic response at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust since the outset. Its focus was on regular and honest communications with around 22,700 colleagues, keeping them fully informed, promoting health and wellbeing and thanking them for their efforts.
Internal communications also developed and delivered an impactful social distancing campaign, that was subsequently adopted by neighbouring trusts; drove a successful staff vaccination programme; used new technology and platforms to improve the reach of its messages and the visibility of senior leaders.
Its approach kept evolving to match the needs at that point in time, but the team also regularly conducted regular evaluations to ensure that its objective of keeping colleagues informed was met.
In the early days of the pandemic, the four-man team changed its working practices to ensure that information was frequent and accessible. It sent out daily chief executive updates, moved its all-staff briefings online and created an intranet coronavirus hub, with other channels to enable those working remotely access, that has since been visited more than 600,000 times.
In the unlikely event, that the team didn’t have an answer to a specific question, they said so.
In July 2020, an internal survey completed by 3,150 colleagues found that 88 per cent said it was easy to access up-to-date information from the Trust during the pandemic, while 95 per cent viewed the communications as useful. Four in five also agreed that the level of communications was just right.
The vast majority also said that, critically, the communications had made them feel safe, supported, appreciated, motivated, reassured, informed and part of a team. Just two per cent of staff had missed the ubiquitous Stay safe, keep apart campaign, while 71 per cent said it had encouraged them to follow social distancing guidelines.
The findings of the survey were used to make improvements to the way that the internal comms team worked. A network of directorate communications leads was established that improved the reach of key messages, but also offered real-time insights into what was working and what needed to improve. During the second wave of the pandemic, the team launched shorter, more regular virtual briefings from the executive team. Attendance numbers grew, peaking at more than 3,200 for one of the sessions.
A second internal survey conducted in July 2021, and completed by more than 3,300 colleagues, found that appreciation for the work of the internal comms team was undiminished, despite the impact of message fatigue and frustration with continued lockdowns.
The survey also revealed that the Trust’s work to encourage vaccine uptake, which included targeted campaigns to address low uptake among ethnic minority colleagues, had not gone unnoticed. More than eight in ten (82.6 per cent) knew a lot about its vaccination programme, while 88 per cent found the information to be useful in making their decision. Just 0.6 per cent were oblivious to this work.
One respondent said: ‘Clear, concise and well-balanced communication made all the difference in making staff feel appreciated, overviewing what was going on at the Trust and helping to navigate through these incredibly difficult, confusing and sometimes harrowing times.’