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Video Interview | Bhavana Kuka | Enhancing Employer Branding with Internal Communications

Pleased to share the 31st edition of Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series featuring Bhavana Kuka of Falabella. Watch the complete video interview on You Tube or read the transcript below.

She discusses the role of employees as brand ambassadors and shares an exciting campaign that evoked interest and generated engagement. Bhavana believes strongly in the role of internal communications in driving change and curating organizational culture. She advocates for employee communications teams to empower and enable engagement in the workforce.

Bhavana is an integrated communication professional with 17+ years of experience in workforce engagement, executive communication, community affairs, crisis and event management. She believes that the audience is key to any communication and messaging has to be customized accordingly. In this digital world, it’s all about new ways of working and new ways of communicating.

Interview

1. What does internal communication mean to you?

Internal Communications is like the North Star according to me. It is the anchor of the organization, with a determined direction that helps guide and lead towards a purposeful destination – the vision of the company. Just like the North Star, internal communication is multi-layered and many-hued. With different types of story-telling and channels as per the audiences you are reaching out to. It’s an integral, inherent and indispensable function of any organization which helps ensure that all employees are working collaboratively towards a common goal. It helps develop a cohesive and vibrant culture and empowers employees make the right decisions.

2. How is it practiced in your organization?

Our focus is on employer branding. With talent at the core of this, our communication strategy is based on three pillars of Delivery Excellence, Talent and Culture with all our engagement activities aligning to one of the pillars. We believe that an engaged employee makes for a strong brand ambassador. We have quarterly Townhalls, and team wise All Hands Calls. We have our ACT Program (CSR) with volunteering opportunities (now virtual), we have monthly fun activities planned (Quiz, Bingo and Before Covid – A minute to win it, Fun Friday’s, etc.). We also conduct Spanish classes (without any cost) in office (now virtually) to help our employees work better with their teams in South America.

3. Please share an example/campaign that you are personally proud of working on and that made a significant impact to an organization in the recent past

We are pretty young in India as a company; just about 2 years old. Late last year we had an employee referral campaign for two months to a) increase awareness of our employee referral policy and b) to encourage our employees to refer. This stands out for me because it was the first time I was running a campaign in ‘Spanglish’ – and the campaign had come out really well and it really elicited a lot of response from the team. We saw a double digit increase in participation and we had nearly 800 referrals from the campaign.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face while going about managing internal communication?

One of the biggest challenges is probably over-communicating. Also, lack of platforms – have only an e-mail or a video or a podcast or develop an app and put it out. But a lot of this feels like spam to employees. They feel like the communications or the HR teams are sending out way too many mails. How does one compartmentalize the messages and help employees absorb them – to take time out to accept the communications.

5. What according to you is the biggest opportunity that internal communicators have?

A better understanding of different types of audiences and customizing messaging accordingly. Focus on user-generated content and peer to peer influencing as levers for communication.

6. How can internal communicators add more value to the business?

Ensuring employees are aligned with the company’s vision and values so that they can add value to the overall business.

7. What skills must they have or develop?

This is subjective. Apart from the skills that they need to do their jobs better, other skills that everyone should probably acquire is agile, design thinking, importance of data, AI, Digital (for non-tech) as these are currently relevant skills, soft skills (presentation, people management, leadership etc.)

8. What is your advice for people who are keen to join internal communication and make a career?

An ability to establish, build a rapport with people, understanding your key stakeholders – and being able to weave a story that will impact different audiences while keeping outcomes in mind. You have to know the impact you want to create, the outcomes you want to drive and then plan. It’s ok to change mid-way if you see something is not working – so agility is important.

9. What is your advice for women who want to make a mark in this domain and what must they do differently?

To manage your career, be it a woman or man, you need to know what level you want to get to. Therefore, what are the skill-sets I need and don’t have right now and need to get to the next level. It is also important to find mentors – internal or external, who help you achieve what you set out to achieve. There are two types of mentors – those who help you professionally and those who help develop ‘soft’ skills, leadership competencies or work-life integration needs. Shadow people whose roles you want to grow into – to whichever role you want to aspire to and know if that role is something I can do well or not. There are simpler steps to take – identify people who can work with you on these aspects.

10. With COVID-19 and other crises, how must internal communications engage? What has changed or will change? Examples of how your organization has helped reassure employees and navigate the crisis as it unfolds.

Transparency, timely and relevant communication. Nothing which incites futher panic but one that is succinct, factually accurate, empathatic. At Falabella what worked is that from early on we kept in touch with our teams, making sure they had the tools and resources to work from home smoothly. We introduced additional benefits including 1to1 helpline to ensure emotional and mental wellbeing. From an engagement perspective, we have a calendar of fun activities (Bingo, Quiz, etc.) to keep our teams morale up.

11. If there is one aspect of internal communications you would like to change, what would that be?

I would mention more robust measurement systems.

Keen to contribute and participate in the ongoing series on Intraskope where we put the spotlight on thought leadership, great ideas, and practical solutions? Look up the previous stories from organizations featured on the Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series  here –  Brillio, UAE ExchangeApeland, M.H. Alshaya CoProctor & Gamble, InfosysSOBHA Ltd.ICICI SecuritiesFirst AdvantageCK Birla GroupTVS MotorsGE,  SuzlonTata SonsPerceptKnight FrankTCS EuropeVedantaOxfamDanske BankDiageoPandoraSymantecISS Global ServicesTeliaThomson ReutersIBMGeneral Motors, Intelligence India Software Solutions 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 1000 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-CommunicateIC Kollectif and International Association of Business Communicators. It is hosted by Aniisu K Verghese, author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices & Models (Sage, 2012).

Look up resources you can use:

• Internal Communications Series: https://forms.gle/KcqmPzLwq7NQi5Km6
• Chat with Aniisu – Internal Communications: https://www.instamojo.com/intraskope/connect-with-aniisu-60-minute-personalized-d/?ref=store
• Internal Communications workshops: https://bit.ly/2zdBRl1

If you are an internal communication leader working in a firm or a not-for-profit anywhere in the world and have an internal communication case study, campaign, research insight or a guest blog post to share please contact me on [email protected]

You can also visit my website www.intraskope.com and You Tube channel to know more about my work.

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