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Keeping staff in the swim

A clear internal communications policy will help bond and motivate your firm’s teams

There is apparently a secret to engaging staff, providing a united front to clients and implementing business strategy across the board – and it is something which can contribute to the bottom line at the same time. Communication.

The lines of communication from head office and between teams may not always run smoothly when you’ve got someone managing the M&E for a building in Plymouth and another person project managing some work near Aberdeen.

By its nature construction is fragmented and getting the fragments to speak to each other might not be easy.

But Kelly Hudson, marketing director at construction consultancy 8build, says that communicating well is vital.

“Your staff are your biggest advocates. In construction, everything is built on relationships so it’s very important for staff to be informed.

“If we are making promises to our clients externally, assuring them that we are a company of honesty and integrity, it can’t just be a phrase made up in the boardroom that looks good on marketing material.

“Your business processes need to reflect it, so does your recruitment strategy, and equally so do your internal communications,” she says.

The firm was founded in September 2005 and Ms Hudson says communication has been instrumental in its success.

“Internal communications should be seen as an ethos, it is how a business conducts itself and structures itself in order to portray the right attitudes to its employees,” she says.

Anna Hutton-North, senior manager of internal communications at KPMG, says that it is important to get different teams talking to each other.

“Communication should be used vertically – and horizontally across different teams. It’s about sharing best practice and making sure communication is consistent,” she says. She is also convinced that better communication means better profits.

Taylor Woodrow’s marketing manager, Melissa Chambers agrees. “If you get internal communications right, you can affect the bottom line,” she says. “Satisfied employees and a committed team are more productive, it’s as simple as that.

“Once staff understand the direction of the business they can focus on delivering the organisation’s promises. Happy employees are more motivated to give a better service, resulting in happier customers and a better bottom line.”

Good communication is vital throughout the lifecycle of a client, says Ms Hutton-North.

“If you have clear communications of what the client is pursuing, everyone knows what the focus is.

“When you interact with the client, consider what their needs are, whether there is any previous relationship and what worked.

“When you deliver a project, good communications will ensure everyone knows if there are issues to resolve,” she says.

Sending the right signals

Large organisations can risk being seen by staff as being cold or corporate because of lack of communication from senior people.

“It’s very much about not becoming a faceless organisation, it’s important for the chief executive to speak to people, rather than only being seen at an annual awards do. The senior management team must give the right message,” says Ms Hudson.

And there are good ways of getting people engaged. “Bigger institutions might rely too much on one medium and it should come from different people, not just marketing or human resources.

In emails avoid jargon and keep the writing quality up, she adds. “People read papers or blogs for the good writing and your communications should mirror that,” she says.

And don’t be afraid to talk about good news. Ms Chambers says that employees must feel appreciated. “Celebrating success is key. Find out what is important to employees, commit to these factors and make sure you deliver on these promises.

“Morale will increase if employees feel that their voices are heard and their views are taken seriously,” she says.

All very well when things are going smoothly, but what about bad news?

The difficulties of Taylor Woodrow’s parent company Taylor Wimpey have been in the news recently. If staff changes are likely to be made, explain the reasons carefully, says Ms Chambers.

“Early, open and honest communication is essential to head off rumours and speculation.

As long as people understand why change is happening, they can then empathise with decisions.”

She also encourages frequent updates so that everyone has an understanding of what may happen.

KPMG’s Ms Hutton-North agrees. “To keep morale up in bad times – you have to be honest. You can’t paint a rosy picture if there isn’t one. They should still feel a pride in working for an organisation. But sometimes bad times can unify and you can focus on that.”

Ms Hudson adds: “Think about your company’s situation and how it affects people and what you can do to combat it.”

Getting the message across

Anna Hutton-North at KPMG gives her tips for communication success.

• Make sure that everyone knows what the objectives of the firm are and the kind of values it has – wins and losses, services, new joiners. You would probably have one major piece setting the scene and then regular updates – from a written update from the chief executive, to a team update on how the people are performing against objectives. Supplement that with walking the floor and with everyday discussions.

• Communication of health and safety is paramount. You have to make sure that it pervades every part of working life. In inductions, updates and team meetings. Always flag up legislation.

• One team – if everyone feels as though they belong to the company people also feel valued and recognised – and you won’t lose knowledge about clients or jobs because people won’t leave.

• How you share best practice depends on the company culture. Use case studies, lunchtime sessions or newsletters.

The Construction Marketing Awards, organised by Construction News, take place on 27 November. Enter by 15 September at www.constructionmarketingawards.com