'Who's who in IC' - it's Dementia Action Week so perfect timing for me to chat to Helen Schick from Alzheimer's Society.
Head of Internal Communication & Engagement
Time with company
Connect with Helen
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A vet. And I can't think of anything worse now...all that blood and mess. Eek !
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"If not us, then who? If not now, then when?" Don't think someone else is going to do it - everyone of us can make a difference every day.
If you have be a fictional character, who or what would it be?
Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, because he has that brilliant machine that gets him dressed in the morning and he gets to eat a lot of cheese and crackers !
What’s the one thing not many people know about you?
I used to be an air hostess for about a year - it wasn't for me. (But it did teach me to smile without wavering through any adversity!)
If you could choose a mentor who would it be?
I've been lucky enough to have some mentors who have genuinely changed my life.
If I could pick someone now, probably Jacinda Ardern (the New Zealand PM), her leadership through the recent difficult times has been truly inspirational.
Tell us a bit about your role:
It is a complete privilege to do my role for such an inspiring organisation. Internal comms and engagement sits at the heart of the charity, helping our people (employees and volunteers) connect with our purpose; involving them in shaping our outcomes and direction; and celebrating their successes and results. I'm lucky to have a very supportive and forward thinking CEO and Strategic Leadership Team, so our engagement practices are far more about listening, co-creating and involving - rather than telling.
I also have a very talented team who can run the business-as-usual communications channels easily and are increasingly innovative in developing new ways to engage our people.
I spend most of my time looking at what the Society needs this year, next year, in five years - and using our engagement framework to plan how we engage our people to deliver great results, with mutual benefits.
What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?
This year our primary focus is on enabling our management layer to go from 'good to great' in their engagement practices. It's not new to say cascades are patchy at best. So this year we are listening to managers and asking what tools, guidance, learning, support we can put in place to help them engage and inspire those around them.
Our second focus is on volunteer engagement. Our volunteers are truly exceptional and valued highly by us. Again we are listening to what communications they want, and how they want to receive it, to help them connect well with the Society.
Our final focus for this year is on culture and leadership and leadership visibility. We're already in a good place with this, but that makes us want to do even more!
What has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?
We changed the structure of our team to have some roles focussed on delivery and some on development. As a well respected IC team, it's easy to find yourself in great demand and, as a result, you just 'deliver' communications.
Dedicating roles to development meant we were able to look at data, trends, listen to our people, improve our employee forum, understand the needs of volunteers, and crucial in understanding 'why' we were communicating (what the organisation wanted to achieve - short and long term), before concluding the 'how' - and going out to deliver it.
Our engagement results have remained high and climbing. And we're seeing some great green shoots around great involvement from people, people asking more questions, and contributing outside of their role.
What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?
My best day is when I see my team deliver a really clever engagement result. Doesn't need to big or shiny. Anytime I can see what they have done has really understood the wider context of what we want to achieve with and for our people...and they've done it in a clever way. To be honest this happens all the time - so I'm lucky that I have lots of 'best days'.
A small example is: we were the chosen charity of the London Marathon this year, and we wanted to ask our people to volunteer on the day to take part in 'cheer points' along the route. We had lots of people put themselves forward, but needed more. My team got 20 people together, got to work early, and cheered, and clapped, and whooped, as every person entered the building to start work. It was hilarious to see the look on their face - and the sign-ups to volunteer increased as a result.
How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?
Do it. I think people sometimes stray into internal communications because they enjoy communicating or writing. This is an important skill to have, but I'd say an interest in people is the essential. If you're fascinated by what motivates people, listening to different points of view, and if you're excited by the power of people pulling together to achieve a shared goal - then this is the career for you. The communication is just a means to an end.
What do you think the top three trends in internal communication will be in the next year?