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How Communication Strengthens a Modern Work Culture

July 21, 2023

TRANSFORMING
WORK

WITH
SOPHIE WADE

How Communication Strengthens a Modern Work Culture

How Communication Strengthens a Modern Work Culture

Joanna Parsons is the Founder and Director of The Curious Route and one of the leading experts in internal communication across the UK and Ireland. Joanna’s experience spans non-profit, government (the police force), and corporate domains. She brings new thinking and approaches to key employee events and environments to stimulate curiosity, develop connections, and nurture shared understanding of culture across disparate and distributed employee groups. Joanna shares the benefits of “unlearning” especially to collaborate effectively as we establish new ways of working.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

[02:39] Joanna is very curious about people, culture, social norms, and human behavior.

[03:35] At 12 years old, Joanna starts reaching out through communications.

[04:23] Joanna starts in internal communications for an NGO in India but changes sector to satisfy her ambitious nature.

[05:42] Getting to know her audience, Joanna draws on storytelling to create compelling messages.

[06:55] Changing company cultures can be jarring, but Joanna acclimates easily in financial services.

[07:54] Communication challenges across sectors are similar—eg relating to jargon and leadership communications.

[08:34] A poor personal experience of corporate induction, Joanna boldly gamifies the process.

[10:49] A speed dating approach builds relationships between new recruits and employees and executives.

[13:52] Joanna shares how the new onboarding process energized long-time employees as well.

[15:00] Having real conversations matters for building ties with new employees.

[16:05] The Irish police force recruits Joanna into a recommended new Head of Internal Comms role.

[16:45] Joanna walks into a divided “us vs them” culture—she loves a good challenge!

[18:05] After a great time in the interview, Joanna thinks they will never pick her.

[19:26] Joanna spends the first three months visiting people, listening, and watching.

[20:15] Understanding an organization’s information flow takes time, patience, and observation.

[21:47] Building relationships in personal ways and showing respect are critical for developing trust.

[23:42] After demonstrating she listened and is offering relevant solutions, leaders invite her to help them.

[24:43] During an early lockdown, the Swiss police reach out to the Irish police with a dance challenge!

[26:33] Once posted, the video goes viral and other groups start sending in their own versions.

[27:53] The dance challenge and great empathy demonstrated by the police during the pandemic changed public perception and improved trust in the Irish police.

[30:40] Internal communications is centered on shared understanding across all employees emphasizing the organization’s vision, mission, and values.

[32:42] “Unlearning” previous habits can be a helpful approach for adapting to new ways of working.

[34:21] The Curious Route describes Joanna’s approach to work and her newsletter.

[36:16] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: First—when creating a communication, think about the audience, not yourself, and connect it to them. Second—when you are writing something, get to the point. Say what you want to say, say it quickly, and stop.

QUOTES

“It is really all about understanding the people before you start trying to create a message.”

“Even though you can switch industries—I was in the charity sector then financial services, then policing, and now in tech—all the communication challenges are actually more similar than different.”

“The first three months, it probably just looked like I was drinking coffee. This is where all my sociology training came in because I just listened and observed and ask questions.”

“The trick for anyone that is Head of Communications is to build really strong relationships across the organization.”

“The core of a really good internal communications function is to create a shared understanding across all the employees.”

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