Chief of Staff
When recruiting, I like asking candidates what are the 3 things they need to have in order to perform best in the role. It gives me insight into their level of self-awareness and it helps me assess, to a certain extent, team & company fit. In summary, I must say I was at first really surprised to hear an overwhelming amount of candidates, regardless of geography or seniority level, commonly say: information. Most candidates even mention a case or two from their career in which information was keeping them from doing their best job.
As a Chief of Staff, part of my job is to manage and improve internal communication flows and their efficacy. We want internal communication to motivate and empower employees. We want information to make them understand they do belong to our Sistema.bio team. Now, to be honest, when I started with internal communications, I didn’t expect it to be such a crucial topic of employee engagement and performance.
Here are two aspects of what I see on internal communications: the actual information flows and the perception of employees.
1: Information flows shared with employees
The first step was to understand what information is required to empower people to do their job so it was effective. I asked our teams what they needed to know and the results crystallized around these 3 topics:
- Context: Employees want to understand the bigger picture and what is happening, both at the company level and at their team level.
- Purpose and direction: Employees need to understand the objective of their department and role to get purpose out of what they do.
- Connection: Employees do want to know what’s going on in other departments, countries and with people in the company. It makes them feel like they belong to the team.
Personally, I found the connection aspect of this to be the most interesting because I think it’s an example of what most managers don’t get! You don’t have to share news only when they’re big, you don’t have to share news only when things have happened. It is mostly about telling people what we are doing, what is happening in their area, what we are testing and thinking about. This allows them to understand things better and helps them feel like they are part of their team and overall the organization. I have found that information makes people feel part of and motivated because they feel important enough to be told.
The second flaw and opposite to this is that many managers share details without giving the big picture, which does not work either. We work with considerable amounts of information to process. Your job as a manager is to provide context and the big picture so details come in naturally.
2: Employees’ perception
A key part of any information flow is effective communication and how much employees remember what you have shared. I must say, one thing that puzzles me is that no matter how much you share, employees at times feel like they don’t know enough. Looking into this in detail and experimenting it myself at times, I think it is because of the sheer amount of information we need to process every day. It has become so overwhelming that it is hard to read and process it all.
To counter this at Sistema.bio, we choose to repeat top things to know a few times, in different channels, with different media support – and most importantly then be patient when someone does not remember 100% of what is coming at them!
As we worked on an internal communication strategy, we discovered the best policy was trial and error. We have tried different things, some of which we’ve had to get rid of. But some things have worked really well – here are some examples:
- Global Live call – A global call with all employees from all country teams twice a year. It is a 1-2h call in which we all get to meet. Our CEO Alex shares the bigger news, paints a picture of what is the current direction and answers some questions. It is also a moment where we all come together and see each other’s faces, celebrate top performers and Sistema.bio key successes. Sometimes we even take time to dance!
- We have an internal Instagram account for our employees – It is an account for employees to send pictures of their work life and share with colleagues. We recognize it is not used by all employees since some do not have smartphones. But it’s a way to share people’s faces and activities to be able to connect together.
- Global email twice a month – This email is sent to all employees from the Chief of staff and is composed of the 2-3 top news of each country. It started in 2020 as a way to connect and understand other countries’ realities under the pandemic and is now a way to exchange business and team news (from sales to weddings!). In summary, it is an overview of what is going on at Sistema.bio.
- Monthly country newsletters – Our countries Comms & People teams are in charge of drafting monthly newsletters to share all country news. It is a great way for each country team to see big picture news and results!
- Quarterly newsletters – targeted to both internal and external stakeholders and investors. It might seem repetitive for the ones who open the chief of staff email and attend all meetings, but we find that it is a good way for people to get the information the second time around if they missed it the first time.
Amongst everything that we have tried and to wrap up, the most effective thing you can do for employees to feel informed is to support all managers of your organization in understanding what information is really and why it’s important, and show them that sharing information with their teams is crucial.