Best leadership communications
New Division. New Leader
How we engaged colleagues with authentic leadership through a period of change
Legal & General
In January 2022, two business areas within Legal & General – retirement and insurance – merged to become the retail division, under the leadership of Bernie Hickman. The new division has adopted a fresh approach to internal communications, which is more audience-driven, bolder and creative, to mirror Hickman’s strategy – which is to operate more like a tech company.
With half of the division’s employees contact centre-based and of millennium age, Legal & General’s internal comms team was keen to do something different to mark the arrival of Hickman, to help him communicate his strategy in a fun and effective way.
A communications audit had also revealed that colleagues wanted leadership comms to be more visual, with more pictures; to use more videos; and, for important messages, to work with senior managers to cascade messages down.
Hickman’s first appearance comprised a Zoom call, from his home, where he was interviewed by two colleagues – not internal comms specialists, including his former mentee, who has autism and ADHD. This was followed by a variety of formats, as the internal comms team adopted a ‘test and learn’ style, asking for feedback to refine their approach.
An elevator pitch from Hickman, in which he outlined the four strands of his new business focus in the time it took for the lift to descend from the eighth floor to the ground of Legal & General Group’s Coleman Street headquarters, had more than 1,000 unique views, while a further 1,700 watched it on Teams Live at a Town Hall.
Such was its success that other business divisions are looking to replicate the idea. Hickman followed that up with a carpool video, in which he drove the head of HR and a customer services colleague to work in his Tesla, answering questions along the way, including one from group chief executive Nigel Wilson, who ‘phoned in’ en route. Colleagues found it ‘surreal’, but said it felt engaging and had more impact than a traditional interview format. ‘What a good sport,’ was a common view, particularly after a blooper reel was also produced.
When feedback revealed that colleagues found it difficult to understand Legal & General’s financial results, the team used video to help convey the key messages in a new and engaging way. An X Factor-style introduction highlighted some top line figures, then a Q&A session with the chief financial officer added extra details. An infographic, featuring five numbers that everybody needed to know, such as the number of successful claims, was produced, while a results hub page was created, providing detailed analysis and a comparison of each division.
The internal comms team also hosted hybrid town halls for the retail division, embracing multi-media and multi-sensory (video and in-person speakers), and a new ‘just a minute’ feature for the executive team, where they are given 60 seconds – monitored by a timer – to highlight the opportunities that excite them the most.
The team created education sessions with the leadership team following feedback that there was an information gap internally about different business areas. The sessions included discussions about how different areas worked, but also considered other topics, such as diversity and inclusion. To date, nine sessions have been held which have been attended by 630 colleagues.
The final parts of the puzzle involve a newsletter that replaces previous local newsletters, which ensures all colleagues receive the same information every month, although local colour is also added. Each newsletter features a ‘Meet the Exec’ section, where an executive leader answers questions about their career, offers the most useful piece of feedback they ever received and shares some personal information. Hickman has also launched a Bernie Blog, sharing business updates and offering reassurances after an unsettled time for colleagues.
The judges were impressed by the creativity, adding that it showed ‘leadership in an authentic and natural way (communications rather than self-promotion’. They also highlighted the continuous engaging with colleagues to monitor progress and survey opinion, to ensure their needs were being met.