The Gatehouse Blog

Behind the Curtain: Europol

JoIC vol. 16

Our “Behind the Curtain” series offers us a glimpse at the inner workings of an organisation. This time, we’re taking a sneak peek at the internal communications of Europol, one of the biggest policing agencies in the world, and how a small communications department managed to unite employees from all walks of life.

Europol, or the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, is the EU’s very own continent-wide policing organisation. They keep Europe safe by sharing intelligence between countries in order to stop terrorism, organised crime and much more.

The agency is also fairly young, founded in 1999, so it makes sense that when Fabiana Scarazzato joined in 2007, they didn’t have much of an internal communication plan – or at all, considering her role as Internal Communications and Events Manager didn’t exist yet.

Humble beginnings

“Ten years ago it was non-existent. There was nothing in place. There wasn’t even the function. We were not even talking about it,” says Fabiana about the state of internal communication at Europol around the onset of her employment.

When Fabiana began working for Europol, the agency was only nine years old.

“We grew from a smallish organisation with 500 people to 1500,” says Fabiana. “There was nothing really put in place originally to streamline and give strategic relevance to the communication. So we would simply get a picture from the director going somewhere with a line of text and people telling us publish it. Or colleagues from Facilities management saying the parking garage is closed. These kinds of things. The communication team was like a sort of post office for all kinds of announcements.”

Hopping hurdles to success

While the nature of Europol’s work requires collaboration across borders between people from all over, the different departments are often isolated and employees are project-focused.

“Sometimes people tend to work in silos. So they only see what their own team
is doing and they’re only aware of that. So what we are trying to do, on the long distance, is to make sure that everybody knows what everybody else is doing,” says Fabiana.

A key part of keeping people in the know was revamping the outdated intranet that hadn’t been changed since 2004. “We set up a new intranet in 2015. For many, many years we had a very outdated version. And it was a bit old and it wasn’t responding to the needs of the organisation because we couldn’t customise it, it was really difficult to edit and so on. So we set up a new one and one of the results of our audit was that 73% of our staff checks it daily.”

Fabiana also mentions that their internal audit revealed that 85% of employees found the intranet relevant to their work, which is a metric she is proud of: “It is very good, because if I have an intranet that’s full of fancy stuff that nobody uses, then it’s pointless and it’s a waste of my time really.”

The audit that Europol used to better streamline and enhance their internal communications had three phases, says Fabiana.Europol Headquarters

“The first one was basically checking what was available and what was already being used in all the different units and departments we have at Europol… Do people have team meetings? Do they publish a newsletter? These kinds of things.”

“The second part,” says Fabiana, “was to kind of evaluate those channels. So I created a survey and I sent it around to a random number of people who were randomly selected.”

“And now the third part, which I’m doing in cooperation with a student who is preparing a Master’s thesis on internal communication, is about organising focus groups to discuss the impact of the different channels, and how different working cultures perceive these kinds of channels and what has the most impact.”

This kind of proactive attitude toward internal communications has lifted Europol to a whole new level of cooperation. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the results from Fabiana’s survey: “In the previous survey we had only 47% participation. But that’s when we didn’t have an internal comms function. But this year, I was able to advise the projects team on how to communicate, how often and from whom the communication would come. We got 70% participation. Which I think is really good.

Looking back and looking forward

“I’m working with a lot of other colleagues from different areas for campaigns. What we want to achieve is a more informed workforce,” says Fabiana about Europol’s plans for the future of internal communications.

Europol laptop

“We do this by guest speakers doing team events, organising open days for specific departments and so on. So that’s what I can see in the long run, as an important thing, just to foster a sense of belonging for everybody. And also an idea of having a common mission. Sometimes that is lost when you’re just busy in your own team, I think.”

“While the nature of Europol’s work requires collaboration across borders between people from all over, the different departments are often isolated and employees are project-focused.”

In the next 12 months, Fabiana says she wants to focus on a few things in particular: increased visibility and contact between the executive director and the rest of the staff. But for now, Fabiana reflects on the great strides Europol has made since she started, over a decade ago.

“I’m very happy that, if I leave, when I leave, they will have to recruit someone to work in internal communications. So for me, establishing that role is a thing that I’m very proud of.”

Biography: Fabiana Scarazzato

Fabiana is a professional with more than 10 years
of experience in the field of communication. A comms specialist committed to employee engagement who believes in transparency and thinks every staff member deserves to have their voice heard.