The 26th edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series features Kaushi Biddappa of General Motors Technical Centre, Bengaluru (India). She shares a creative campaign to make road safety a core part of employees’ lives at work and beyond. Also, her views on the evolving internal communication domain.
Kaushi Biddappa leads Communications and PR for General Motors’s Technical Centre at Bengaluru.Her work encompasses leadership messaging, employee engagement, facilitating media interactions which makes up for role that she calls as the bread and butter of a communicator. Building alliances with internal stakeholders, leadership positioning that adds to Employer Branding is her ‘thrive’ zone. Whether it’s working on a video production, putting together a presentation, addressing an audience or going over ideas with her team she is always working towards infusing positivity and looking at newer ways to package information. When not glued to the computer she loves watching her son building and creating from Lego. She also enjoys her occasional sprinting on weekends with her son and husband. She has a degree in Business Management and a specialization in Social Media & Digital Marketing from Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru (India).
Case Study: Man in the Mirror
Watching young kids converse is a delight. So, the conversation goes…
You must wear your seat belt.
If you don’t wear a seat belt, and if there is an accident the airbags won’t really be of much help.
Ok, but what is an airbag?
Airbags are like cushions.
It was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I wondered if I would have explained what an airbag does/is with so much ease. It was then I realized my 6-year-old had completely picked up from the crash video I had shown him – what happens during a crash, when you are not buckled up.
Well, it was a motherly moment where I felt proud, the message I took by the thought is that irrespective of age, if you can provide the context the “WHY” behind any action, there is a greater chance of acceptance.
Likewise, extending this scene to my workplace. If you’re visiting General Motors Technical Centre for the first time, you can’t enter the premises without watching a safety video. Well, are we being adamant at enforcing safety or are we working at spreading awareness?
I would say it’s the latter, as the messaging has begun to resonate with employees.
It has become an engagement where employees have proactively started to think about safety. It is beyond buckling up. For instance, no talking or texting and walking while speaking on the phone. It’s proven that distracted walking is more dangerous than distracted driving.
In fact, if you notice employees that have only one side of their ear phones plugged in, you should know that person is from GM. There is a heightened sense of awareness which centers on the faith that “SAFETY is personal, Own it”.
They say you can’t change the world, however, you can start with one person at a time and you can change a village. Our Vice President, Brian McMurray has been persistent about spreading awareness even inside the Tech Park. There is good chance you will see GM-sponsored hoardings endorsing road safety messages.
Across the GM sites around the globe we celebrate GM Safety Week, an annual event. This gesture is to reiterate the need, recognize the importance of “Live values that return people home safely. Every Person, Every Site. Every Day”.
It’s said that values are formed at a nascent stage and they play a part later in our lives. With that intent, the GM Technical Centre in Bangalore conducts Road Safety Awareness sessions under the CSR umbrella to educate children from 1st to 5th grade.
Children do not normally renege on pledges, so it’s natural that they will not only adopt the SAFETY culture, but also influence the adults in their families. So, if you feel inspired and start with the man in the mirror, you are on a good stead.
Our CSR Champions with the “Responsible Business Company of the Year award” in the automotive sector. In addition to Safety, we also work in the space of education and environment.
What does internal communication mean to you?
For the longest time the motto that I had on my CV as an Internal Communications professional was “Give People a Voice” and with LinkedIn in place there is very little room for the CV but the motto hasn’t changed. Cause people like being heard, being valued and that is at the core of what we do with our employees and our leaders. When you “communicate for meaning” it all falls in place.
How is it practiced in your organization?
As Communicators how can we do things differently lead me to reading “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek and a lot of what we do is driven by this doctrine. It might appear like off the grid recommendation but why statement is a sentence that clearly expresses how we can contribute and create an impact. It’s helped me challenge “status quo”.
Please share an example/campaign that you are personally proud of working on and that made a significant impact to your organization. Kindly elaborate with proof points
What is the biggest challenge you face while you go about managing internal communication and what according to you is the biggest opportunity?
One often gets boxed as someone who does “newsletters” and “email communication” breaking that mould was most interesting cause I started to play in the space of “Leadership Positioning. There is statistics that show that leaders attribute 30% towards cultural transformation of which they spend 75% of their time in meetings where they have to influence and inspire. I saw this as a great opportunity we as internal communicators enjoy. There is a backstory to this, I remember sitting in a meeting where one of the senior leaders from NA spent an hour on the topic “Vulnerability” and how this is a strength. He could have used that time to talk about the product /India market instead he put this on our trajectory. These seeded thoughts in mind. From an internal communication perspective, a strong approach to leadership profiling does two things easily: it can humanize senior management and it can surface and showcase emerging leaders and initiatives. A communications perspective on project management allows for the ‘plan’ to become a ‘story’, and stories connect better. This is where I tapped on my potential to be seen as adding value.
How can internal communicators add more value to the business?
As internal communicators you need to build a connection with your employees. The best way to connect is by stories and by this, I mean be genuinely interested in the other person. Build relationships, have a few touchpoints who are influencers at work. This gives us a pulse of what is happening on the floor, we can then adapt our communication style with the receiver.
Become the “go to” person, see yourself as “enabling the network” People value those who help them do their jobs better. Get in the mindset of the person/team you’re working for or alongside and really figure out, ‘What are they trying to achieve?’” How can you help them bridge that gap? Then you are functioning as a “delivery mechanism” but rather someone who heightens experience, engagement, adds to the brand.
What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career?
As communicators it’s important to have a beginner’s mind, for instance social media is changing the rules of engagement, it helps to leverage these forums. But that doesn’t drive away the fundamental importance of internal communications instead it teaches us to stay relevant. I did talk about having a beginner’s mind, sometime at the start of this year, I opted for a course on Design Thinking and Beyond at ISB, Hyderabad. I learned when you’re designing for meaning good things happen, look up for the TED talk on Transforming healthcare for children and their families by Doug Dietz, you will be able to establish this thought for yourself.
When you go for sessions personalize your learnings, that’s very important.
Stay connected with your network and build connections outside of the communicators network, because you learn a lot when you interact and engage with a diverse background. This May, I also got my certification from Dale Carnegie to facilitate sessions as Trainer, the point I am trying to make here is don’t limit yourself. Stay fluidic. This is not just limited to internal communicators but for all those who want to make their presence felt.
I did like to close with a condensed version of Oprah’s quote which is “run your own race”.
Missed previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series? Look them up here – M.H. Alshaya Co, Proctor & Gamble, Infosys, SOBHA Ltd., ICICI Securities, First Advantage, CK Birla Group, TVS Motors, GE, Suzlon, Tata Sons, Percept, Knight Frank, TCS Europe, Vedanta, Oxfam, Danske Bank, Diageo, Pandora, Symantec, ISS Global Services, Telia, Thomson Reuters, IBM and Philips.
Intraskope (www.aniisu.com) is the first blog on internal communications in India and among the earliest around the globe. Begun in 2006, the blog has over 550 posts on topics such as employee engagement, leadership communication and employee branding and receives thousands of visits from across the world. The blog, receives over 50,000 visits every month from over 50 countries globally, offers learning resources for practitioners, academicians, and students including industry workshops, research reports, and checklists. Intraskope has been featured on leading global internal communication forums like Simply-Communicate, IC Kollectif and International Association of Business Communicators. It is hosted by Aniisu K Verghese, author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices & Models (Sage, 2012).
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