The Gatehouse Blog

A lesson in giving power to the people

Amy Devlin and her newly created IC Manager role at Total Gas & Power represent living, breathing examples of good communications in action.

Total Gas & Power is a UK subsidiary of the Total Group, a French company. In the UK, the business is focused on selling gas and electricity to businesses. They’ve got around 400 employees, most of whom are based in Redhill, Surrey. But they also have offices in Leeds and Newcastle, and a number of field workers dotted around the country in order to be closer to their customers.

After a period of organisational change, staff survey results revealed issues around trust. This feedback brought it home to the company that communication was a problem. They didn’t have anyone dedicated to internal communications at the time.

Create a core

So, hey presto, a communications manager role was created at the start of last year to focus on internal communications. And that’s when Amy was brought in. All credit to Total Gas & Power for listening, hearing a need and very clearly responding.

Amy describes her initial mandate: “Rebuilding trust was paramount. I had to work with our senior management team to help ensure their visibility. And also help people understand the journey that we’re taking: the reason for it and our purpose as an organisation.”

Just a few months in to this new role, the company initiated a business transformation programme, covering every aspect of the business. Amy really had to hit the ground running. Thankfully, this programme ensured a focus on people. “The company wanted to better understand employee experience and engagement so linking this to how we communicate was another core function in my role,” explains Amy.

Design the parts

With the benefit – and challenge – of coming at things with a clean sheet, Amy spent the first few weeks in her new role on getting to know the business, building a network of people to work with and creating a strategy. She took time to build relationships with the senior team, gaining an understanding of business and people priorities, plus why they wanted the new internal communications role.

Next stop, getting to know the employees. Finding out who would be likely ambassadors – informally at first – to help ensure an employee ‘voice’ in the company. And picking up responsibility for a formal editorial team of staff volunteers to help develop a regular newsletter.

Add some fuel

Since joining almost a year ago, Amy has achieved a colossal amount. Not only shaping a new role and a strategy but quickly implementing a range of initiatives, from monthly breakfast clubs with the senior management team, ‘ask me anything’ videos, launching Workplace by Facebook to recognition awards and an annual staff event.

The SMT breakfast clubs were put in place first, “to open up the lines of communication between SMT and members of staff who might not often come into contact with them,” says Amy. These open forums, involving breakfast and informal chat with different directors, are open to anyone in the company. The ‘ask me anything’ videos have a similar purpose, and give staff an opportunity to put their questions to senior managers, using Slido so that they can ask anonymously if they choose. All questions are then responded to on video and posted on Workplace.

Amy reports that, despite having to encourage people to attend the breakfast clubs, the experience once there is really positive. The first ‘ask me anything’ videos went down well too, getting over 300 views and positive feedback. The newsletter has also gone from strength to strength, averaging an 85% open rate.

With a different identity to the Total Group in that it’s a newer, customer-facing organisation, Total Gas & Power is permitted some autonomy. This gave Amy the opportunity to launch Workplace by Facebook to the UK staff in a way that met with one of her key goals, namely allowing the senior team more direct contact with staff.

The UK launch involved a tailor-made campaign, with a photo competition and a network of collaboration groups, such as an ‘Awesome You’ recognition group, a regulation group, and a group to share TED talks, along with other initiatives to encourage people to start using Workplace.

“We’ve got some work to do on it,” admits Amy. “We tend to see the same people engage with it. Some departments have taken to it much better than others.

“This year, I’d like to encourage more people to have the confidence to not just look at what’s on there but also comment and post. It’s interesting that some of the newer managers have found this really easy. They’ve kind of championed Workplace, along with our other initiatives to encourage more face-to-face contact with people.

“For others, it’s been a bit trickier. But that’s also why I’ve tried to put in place a range of different communication channels – it’s about recognising that we all have our different communication styles.”

Light the spark

The main event last year was a series of engagement days, designed to bring people together to understand the journey the business was undertaking. The event involved a World Café, with a range of stalls manned by directors. Each stall had a transformation theme. This represented another opportunity to get people in front of the senior team, to help everyone understand the whys and wherefores of the transformation.

She also worked with a creative company to develop a “rich picture”: basically, a pictorial way of communicating the history of the company, its values, where it’s heading and why it’s doing what it’s doing. This was accompanied by the live recording of the engagement days in visual minutes – a great way of providing a simple reminder to people of what they achieved on the day.

“We turned the rich picture into an animation as well and we launched it at the staff event,” says Amy. “Now we use this and the visual minutes in everything to help people understand our strategy in a very clear way.”

For the first time last year, we ended these engagement days with an all- employee staff get-together, with a very relaxed, social element to it. “It had kind of a festival vibe,” adds Amy. “Lots of fun, lots of music, a live band, a photo booth, glitter! It was very different from anything that had come before. But it created such a nice feeling. It really did a lot I think: for the brand and for people to feel connected to the company again.”

Add to this the roll-out of recognition awards last year to help acknowledge those who go the extra mile as well as embed the company values, and it’s safe to say that Amy probably couldn’t have packed more into her first year.

Keeping moving

And the result of all that hard work? Over an 18-month period, the company’s engagement score has shifted from 73% to 77%. “It’s going in the right direction,” comments Amy.

After the staff event, 70% of staff reported that they were clear on the objectives of the transformation, in comparison to only 40% who understood it at the start of the programme.

So, what’s next? This year will see Amy firming up the ambassador network with a view to increasing opportunities for employee voice. “Last year my priority was to work with the senior team on the strategy and demonstrate the benefits to them. But I definitely think that having more input from employees will really shape where we go this year.”


Biography: Amy Devlin

Amy Devlin is Communications Manager at Total Gas & Power. She has worked across numerous sectors from tech to not for profits, and loves using her communications knowledge to enable people to achieve their best at work. Amy is mum to an energetic toddler and two fluffy black cats.

Follow Amy on Twitter: @Banny_21