“Engaging with a Digital Workforce” - an interview with Justine Stevenson

Cathy Taylor 25.07.2018

Justine Stevenson is head of Group Internal Communications at London Stock Exchange Group, leading a team communicating with colleagues globally.

The importance of internal communications

Engaging with a Digital Workforce - Justine StevensonJustine 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.

How has technology affected the way that you carry out your day job?

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.

We have seen a huge increase in the demand for Internal and Employee Communications talent, specifically in the last 18 months, across the Banking and Financial Services industry, why do you think that this is becoming more of a focus for Financial Services organisations?

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.

Why is diversifying the way we communicate with our workforce important, particularly through digital channels?

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.

How do you anticipate internal communications will look in five years time? Will artificial intelligence and automation play a role?

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.

As and when you are recruiting, what do you specifically look for in terms of skills when hiring new individuals?

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.

Finally, I understand that you sit on the board for the Institute of Internal Communications, what does the Institute stand for? And what is the Institute actively trying to promote / encourage across the industry?

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.

We are the only independent professional body solely dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of internal communication and helping our members be the best they can - today, and in the future. Our focus is to provide credibility for the profession and raise professional standards; help people build relationships through our events and networks; support the development of skills and knowledge through professional development and celebrate and showcase the work of the sector through our awards and content.

If you would like to learn more about Justine and her experience, you can visit her LinkedIn profile here.

For more information on this blog and the internal communications market, please contact me or another member of the Marketing team.

Cathy Taylor's picture
Senior Consultant | Marketing & Communications Recruitment
cathytaylor@morganmckinley.co.uk