The Gatehouse Blog

Where do you rise to when you’re already at the top?

Where do you go next when you’ve reached a senior position in internal communication? Former Head of IC Nick Green talks about his career move to property services at Sky.

I joined Sky as Head of Internal Communication in 2009. I spent the first few years developing a robust internal communication function and a tone of voice that would match our company culture. Three years ago, our CEO offered me an opportunity to run our property services division, which involves operating 150 buildings for our 25,000 people across the UK and Ireland.

Obviously my first reaction was scepticism, as I knew nothing about facility management and couldn’t see how to apply my skills to such a different role. We had a conversation and I understood that a critical dimension of the job would be the focus on people and culture. Internal communications and culture are two ends of the same spectrum.

“Obviously my first reaction was scepticism, as I knew nothing about facility management and couldn’t see how to apply my skills to such a different role”

If you asked our CEO what property is all about, he’d say it’s about the culture and the brand. The buildings are just a means to an end. The property in itself is unimportant; what matters is what the buildings say about the company.

After a few years in the role, I can say that the skill sets between both roles – internal communication and property services – are, bizarrely, very similar.

Employee experience

I soon realised that the role was about making Sky a nice place to work. People liked working for Sky, but nobody really liked working “here”. Ultimately, property serves the same purpose as internal communications – talent acquisition and talent retention.

Property management is just one component of the overall employee experience, along with internal communications, HR or technology. People don’t care where the services they use when they are at work come from – their phone, their computer, the car park or the news on the intranet. What matters is their overall experience. What would I tell my family or friends about my day at Sky at the end of the day?

Advertising and Marketing Success

It’s about having a clear mission. I align my team behind something that is more than property – employee experience. Our mission is to make Sky a great place to work. I like to be personally involved in training my team because it is a critical component of it – telling the guys in the restaurants how they should serve you your coffee, or the personal trainers in the Health & Fitness Centres how they should run things.

“I align my team behind something that is more than property – employee experience. Our mission is to make Sky a great place to work.”

We try and do a lot of “internal marketing”. Whenever there is a new launch, we negotiate to have a portion of the marketing budget to do displays and communications across the estate. We’re constantly exploring ways to enhance employee experience in our buildings: we’re finalizing a deal to put a Waitrose store right in the middle of our main building. We’ve recently opened up a Halford’s bike shop and a hair & beauty salon.

Reflecting the DNA of the organisation

When I was in internal communication, I always used to say that you need to reflect the DNA of your organisation and make sure that you behave and communicate with the same DNA. The way people communicate within Sky is always fresh and well written.

I want my team to do the same. If the lift is broken, don’t go telling people: “We humbly apologize that this elevator is temporarily out of action, because…” Be a bit whimsical and use the same language as people would use in an informal conversation with colleagues.

Interconnecting circles

In order to deliver the best employee experience, we need to work with other teams, so it’s also about interconnecting circles of technology, property, communication, HR, and whatever else you need to throw into the mix to make things come together. In internal communication, you get exposure to all areas of the business so you develop a fantastic network.

Having led the internal communication function has been a huge asset in this role because I had exposure to all senior leaders in my previous role. I was able to leverage my network and talk to anyone, which is a huge opportunity to innovate and do things differently.

Things here move at such a fast pace, you’ve got to keep up with what’s going on. You’ve got to pull yourself into the centre and be taken seriously. I’m not so naïve to think that property will ever be at the centre of the organisation, but it’s moved closer to the middle rather than sitting on the edge.

“If you are a good communicator, you can be a great leader and lift this leadership skill out of internal communication to apply it anywhere else.”

My options were either to move to a internal communication director role in a different organisation, or to try to deploy my skills and knowledge of the business in a different area within Sky. If I’ve done it twice now. The first time was when I was Head of Internal Communication at Tesco in the 1990s and moved on to manage the Clubcard Loyalty programme. I didn’t have any knowledge about loyalty marketing but I knew about people and culture at Tesco. Again, I think I was able to do things differently and open doors, having had access to all areas at Tesco.

I think too many people in internal communication have this weird inferiority complex about their job. If you are a good communicator, you can be a great leader and lift this leadership skill out of internal communication to apply it anywhere else. Internal communication people should feel bold and realize that the exposure they have worked hard to earn within an organization puts them in a great position to do whatever they choose. As internal communicators, we’ve got an “access all areas” badge and we should use it to our advantage.

 

BIOGRAPHY – NICK GREEN

Nick Green began his career at Sainsbury’s before taking over the IC function at Tesco. He ran the Clubcard programme for a couple of years and gained experience in customer and employee engagement at Tesco. He went on to head up two agencies prior to moving to Sky as Director of Internal Communication. He was then asked to run Sky’s Property division and has been Property Director for the last three years.