Chuck Gose: What a lot of people don’t know who are reading this chat is that we both live in Indianapolis. And we tend to run into each other at random places. So my first question is simple. Are you stalking me?
Jennifer Andrick: Now why would I admit that?! The best answer is that we are both creative people who love our communities and enjoy the awesome culture that Indy has to offer.
CG: And it’s been everything from the Symphony, to a camp, to a church.
JA: The Symphony was the best! I totally geeked out that Lavar Burton was there.
CG: Not often do you get read to by the guy from Reading Rainbow.
JA: Or meet him on the sidewalk while on your way to the post-Symphony drinks.
CG: Well not EVERYONE gets that….
JA: True. It was my lucky night!
CG: In snooping on your LinkedIn profile, I saw that you majored in Journalism - News Editorial. I did, too. Did you dream of being the next Lois Lane?
JA: In a way, yes, although my childhood hero in journalism was actually Debby Knox, even though I didn’t go into broadcasting. I did enjoy being able to take something factual like a news event and tell its “story”. That’s what’s appealing to me about communications.
CG: That’s the perfect segue to my next question. Is that what led you to internal communications?
JA: Yes. I graduated during the recession and saw where the news industry was going and knew I needed to look for a different avenue. I loved writing and saw how writing was used in public relations, so I went down that path. Since then my career has found me in that sweet niche of internal communications and I love it!
CG: Can you point to the one thing you enjoy most about internal comms?
JA: It’s the foundational element of taking something complicated (like a new product launch or a change in the organization) and being able to tell it in a way that everyone across the company can understand. That’s the journalist in me coming through.
"[I enjoy]… taking something complicated and being able to tell it in a way that everyone across the company can understand."
CG: Do you have any tips or tricks for taking complicated or challenging topics and breaking them down for employees?
JA: Regardless of the channel or piece that you are working on, I always think with my reporter hat on, of the “who, what, where, when, how and why”. If I can get my internal customers (the ones who are leading the product launches or campaigns) to answer those questions, they can help simplify what they are doing, stripping it down to the important information that I need. It sort of gets them out of their box too because they get so wrapped up in the jargon and details of their project it forces them to zoom out.
CG: You keep them in a box?!
JA: Sometimes… :)
CG: I think that most communicators are pretty good at the who, what, where and when. Sometimes pretty good with the how. But often forget the why, which in my opinion, is what’s most important for employees.
JA: I ABSOLUTELY agree with you. My good friend and coworker is our Employee Engagement Specialist. Since the day I met her, she and I have collaborated so much on the importance of “why”. When employees understand the WHY behind a change they are more likely to get on board and you don’t have to put as much effort into forcing them to do something. It also helps them understand what’s in it for them. As communicators, we’re still customer service reps. It’s definitely more evident in employee communications, but our first priority are those groups we are communicating with.
"When employees understand the WHY behind a change they are more likely to get on board and you don’t have to put as much effort into forcing them to do something."
CG: You know some people might not like you referring to communicators as customer service reps.
JA: Hmm...that’s tough for me, because that’s how I see myself. I’m helping my peers who are launching products to communicate the changes and exciting features of their products, so that employees will start using them. I think the best way to get people on board is to provide the reasons why something will help them, and in doing so provide them a service - not just giving them another product that they have to manage. It’s all a balancing act, because I’m balancing the needs of the product launchers with the needs of the audience (the employees) to make sure most people are happy. If most people are happy, then typically the company is happy.
CG: I get it. But some in internal comms get upset even with words like “audience” for employees or using “marketing” internally. Earlier you mentioned channels. In your role at Medxcel, what are your primary internal comms channels?
JA: We have three primary channels. #1 is email. We have a weekly email that currently goes out to supervisors and above about upcoming changes, weekly events, news and features stories. #2 is a mobile app. I would say about 90% of our workforce doesn’t work in Indianapolis, so we took pieces of our third channel, our company intranet, and put it in the app so that our employees could reach it easily. Going back to meeting the needs of our audience - this was a key strategy for us. Since they are remote, they maybe touch a computer once a week. They all have company iPhones, so we had to meet them where they were and ta da - the app was created.
"I would say about 90% of our workforce doesn’t work in Indianapolis, so we took pieces of our... company intranet, and put it in the app so that our employees could reach it easily."
CG: 90% of of your workforce is remote. . . it might be helpful for readers to describe what Medxcel does.
JA: Medxcel is the largest provider of healthcare facilities management services in the US. Our associates work in hospitals and medical office buildings to keep them up and running, keep them safe, and energy efficient.
CG: And so the mobile app helps bridge the visual connection back to Medxcel, because I would imagine for those remote employees, they’re also closely tied to the company’s clients as well if that’s where they physically work.
JA: You got it.
CG: So how do you measure internal comms success? Or better yet, what does success look like to you?
JA: To me, and I would say to our senior leaders too, it’s in employee engagement. We do an annual survey, and the friend I mentioned earlier analyzes that data. She comes up with themes of strengths and opportunities for improvement. When we have a high engagement score, it means that internal communication is doing its job. However, this last round we also had some comments that the methods we used for communication weren't working out like we wanted, so we are going back to the drawing board to fix some of those channels and processes.
CG: Mind providing an example of one of these fixes?
JA: I mentioned earlier that our #1 channel for internal comms was email. I conducted a communication audit in 2015 that confirmed it was the best method for sending information. What also showed up in the audit was that associates also preferred to hear information from their manager - they paid attention to it more.
So, we developed a strategy to send out a Weekly Leader Update through email. It was the expectation that the leaders would take these emails to their daily or weekly team huddles. What was found this year through our engagement surveys and other associate feedback meetings, was that this was not the case. Managers weren’t cascading the information down, and ultimately it hurt our annual engagement score. So, we are opting to change the audience of the weekly emails from leaders to all employees. Leaders will still be expected to emphasize the important information and take action on some of the items, but now employees have access to the information they want and need.
CG: Ah yes. . . the good old cascade method. It sounds like such a good idea but then the data reveals otherwise. I think this is the problem with the group-think that employees want to hear information directly from managers. I’ve never fully believed this. I think they want to hear certain information from their managers but they can’t hear everything from them.
JA: Agreed. It broke my heart when my husband who’s an assistant principal told me that he didn’t read his company’s newsletter. “Why should I. Tony (his boss) tells me what I need to know.” STAB. It’s great that he is pointing out the key items, but there’s other information in there!
CG: So there’s roughly four months left in the year. Is there something still left on your IC to-do list that you want to accomplish?
JA: In our last town hall meeting, our CEO & President made a statement that we HAVE to start thinking mobile for everyone in “the field”. I really took that challenge to heart. I want to find more ways to bring content to our associates through our app so they will be able to digest it easily on their terms.
CG: And now we’ll wrap up the chat in the same way we always do. Describe your feelings toward internal communications via an emoji.
JA: 🏃 😁
CG: I’m going to need a deeper explanation for that one.
JA: It’s a fast changing industry with new technology always around the corner. I think we have to run to keep up with it, but I love the challenge!
CG: Well done. Thanks for playing and I’ll put the restraining order on hold.
JA: Whew! See you at the next Kids City event!