Winners 2023

Best in-house team: internal communications

Three UK

There may be ten colleagues in the communications team at mobile network provider Three, but they place a great importance in working as one.
Their common goal from an internal comms perspective is to ensure that more than 4,800 colleagues across two sites and 297 stores are kept informed, inspired and involved in all that the business does.

In normal times this is a difficult task, but when Three UK is in the midst of merging with rival network Vodafone UK, it has become a lot more complicated.

Three’s team has a clear hierarchy: there is a director, heads of internal communications, external communications and CSR and five specialists who work across all three disciplines, supported by a coordinator.

Despite this structure, the team does not operate a top down approach. Each specialist is given an area of responsibility and ownership of specific projects. This allows the team to spread throughout the business and be seen as subject matter experts, trusted to engage with colleagues on everything from network updates to people policies.

The specialists also move around the business, working on different initiatives. Not only is this good for resilience, but it also ensures each specialist has a good knowledge of each area. Such broad experience comes in particularly handy when there is a major project.

While one team member might have ultimate responsibility to deliver, the whole team can collaborate, drawing on their various knowledge and experience, to shape the ultimate outcome.

These strengths came to the fore when the team communicated the merger announcement in June 2023. Director Juliet Callaghan together with the heads of internal and external comms and two specialists worked to ensure that Three’s people heard the news first, and understood what it meant for them and the business. As the deal was being signed in Hong Kong, there was a strong possibility that the announcement would take place at 5am local time. With Hong Kong nine hours ahead of London, that would be 9pm (the day before).

Everybody took a different area of responsibility, such as working with Three’s customer department to text employees should the announcement break in Hong Kong; liaising with the retail team to ensure briefing packs were ready; working with senior leaders to ensure they were fully briefed and could answer questions; and organising a company-wide broadcast with chief executive Robert Finnegan.

During the announcement week, all team members worked from the same room. The interchangeable nature of their working routine allowed another person to pick up the slack if a colleague was overloaded.

It is not unusual following a merger announcement to see engagement levels drop as people worry about what the future might hold. But at Three, overall engagement levels have risen from 68 per cent to 77 per cent between July 2022 and July 2023, while 75 per cent of colleagues (up 14 percentage points) now claim they have a good understanding of where the business is headed.

A similar amount (76 per cent) believe the company’s priorities are clear (up a whopping 17 percentage points from 59 per cent) while 79 per cent are proud to working at Three, up from 66 per cent.

These numbers provide clear evidence that, despite a period of uncertainty, the team has been able to provide clarity to its colleagues. The judges described them as ‘fantastic results at a very demanding and potentially destabilising time for the company,’ adding: ‘The warmth of this team shines through.’