Justine Stevenson is head of Group Internal Communications at London Stock Exchange Group, leading a team communicating with colleagues globally.
Justine is responsible for delivering day-to-day communications to approximately 4,500 employees and devising communication strategies for specific projects and programmes.
A former journalist, Justine has worked in internal communications for almost 20 years across a range of sectors, including UK Government, FMCG and Financial Services. She is a specialist in communicating change, having delivered communication for I.T., Process and Culture change programmes. She is also a Director of the Institute of Internal Communication, involved in a range of activities designed to further professionalise Internal Communications.
Technology has made us much more connected globally; the world feels much smaller and closer together than when I started my career in communications. This is great as it enables us to communicate in a timely and efficient manner, involving more colleagues in an interactive and engaging way.
However, it has also increased expectations exponentially in terms of the expected speed of response and volume of communication. It has raised expectations in what people expect they should be able to know and how quickly they should know it. In the days of Google and Twitter, people are impatient for news. This can be difficult, particularly in regulated industries where it is not always possible to share everything and as quickly as people might like.
Financial Services is increasingly recognising that communications and engagement is an important element in helping to improve business efficiency and results. In a highly competitive market, where companies fight for the best talent, Internal Comms can be a differentiator that makes employee experience more positive. With employees perhaps more willing to change organisation frequently throughout their career, the FS sector recognises that it needs to think about engagement to keep their top talent.
Digital channels are how we all communicate in our day-to-day life, so why would we expect people not to use those channels because they are at work? Digital channels in particular tend to be more engaging and more capable of enabling a two-way conversation, which is what we should always be aspiring to.
Five years seems such a long time in the future – with the speed at which change occurs, especially technology – so this is a difficult one to answer. One thing I do know is that, although AI will most likely replace some of the more repetitive tasks of the Internal Communication, one of our greatest assets is our empathy and knowledge of people and I don’t see AI replacing that any time soon.
I do think we will see a rise in chatbots and similar to answer some of the regular questions we receive – e.g. ‘where do I find…?’, ‘can I register for this [event]’, ‘who should I talk to about…?’. Copywriting and article creation might well see more input due to Natural Language Programming and speech recognition technology and surely we’ll find better ways to update intranets?!
I don’t think the size of teams will change markedly, but I do think more organisations will see the value of good IC and engagement. And I hope we will still be focused on ensuring that we support our business results and development through communicating with our colleagues and seeking to engage them in their work and the organisation.
It’s really important to me to have a team of diverse talent with skills that complement each other. So it depends a bit on the gaps that I perceive in the team at that particular time. There are a couple of core things that I look for – the ability to write well and tell a story in words; and the right sort of personality. Good comms people don’t all need to be raving extroverts – but they do need to be curious about people, able to interact with others and be tenacious in finding out relevant information. They need to always be asking ‘why’.
I don’t think it is imperative that people have sector experience. There are some things about all industries that become useful to know, but that can be learned and a good communicator will ask the right questions to find out what they need to know! Coming from a different sector can also bring other perspectives which can prove useful.
I am very proud of being a Director of the IOIC. I have been a member for many years and have benefitted immensely from the knowledge I have gained from the training, conferences and events that the Institute runs. I have also built a wide network of contacts that support me in my professional life.
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