THE BUSINESS VALUE OF STRATEGIC INTERNAL COMMUNICATION
THE REALITY ON THE GROUND
What does strategic internal communication look like inside organizations? This is one of the aspects examined in the global report The Next Level: The Business Value of Good Internal Communication. We interviewed 33 in-house communication professionals from 25 countries and representing 20 industries, and asked them 5 questions. The original version of the following interview was published in The Next Level.
Interview with Tali Dulin | Teva
Tali Dulin is the Head of Corporate Internal Communications at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Teva). Based in Israel, she is responsible for corporate internal communications, global internal communications initiatives and campaigns, CEO communications, and the Icomm Center of Excellence. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Teva) has approximately 45,000 employees and operations in approximately 60 countries.
What are the main challenges and opportunities facing your team at your company?
Teva is a leading global pharmaceutical company and the world’s largest generic medicines producer. We deliver high-quality, patient-centric healthcare solutions used by millions of people every day. 2017 was a very challenging year for our company, but we kicked off 2018 with our new CEO in place, a simpler organizational structure and a new executive management team. We are now going through a comprehensive restructuring plan, so this is a time of significant change and impacts all employees worldwide.
A key focus area was to address the complexity of our company, which is made up of numerous businesses and acquisitions over a 117-year history. By unifying and simplifying our organization we plan to create greater synergy across the units and regions and instill new ways of working to achieve greater business success. Creating an environment for cultural change and a new unified mindset is a major challenge, but also an opportunity.
Like the rest of the company, the internal communications team was impacted by the restructuring and is now a far leaner group. Nevertheless, we needed to quickly and effectively communicate the decisions, and then help employees navigate the change, understand the rationale, and start to rebuild trust, motivation, and engagement.
It was clear we needed to actively engage employees in the process of change. We launched a new open dialogue channel – small sessions, face-to-face with leaders. This enables employees to express their concerns, vent their frustrations and talk through new ways of working. It’s a process and it takes time. So far, the two-way communication has facilitated leaders understanding their team perspectives and helped employees feel included in forging the company’s future.
How does your organization ensures internal and external communications are aligned together?
Internal and external communications are both part of the Corporate Communications and Brand unit at Teva. As such, we have always worked closely alongside each other but were focused on different audiences. We are now writing a new chapter in Teva’s story together. This is an opportunity to talk about what we stand for, what we do, and the value we bring for internal and external stakeholders.
It is critical that we all tell the same clear, strong narrative and use our professional teams and resources as effectively as possible. We hold regular alignment meetings, have a global editorial calendar and plan how content can be leveraged for multiple audiences together. Providing our local communication teams with the content pre-packaged for different audiences and channels enables them to distribute global content faster, simply adding their own local flavor to ensure relevance.
A great example of this cross-pollination of content is our external website 'lifeeffects.teva', which contains blog posts, articles, podcasts and videos by patients about how they experience day-to-day life, living with asthma, migraines, ADHD, and depression. Our patients are the primary audience for this website, but the real-life examples also provide a bridge of understanding and empathy between our employees and the people they serve.
Even as the lines blur, the internal audience remains my personal passion. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to create an informed, effective and collaborative environment where people can get their best work done. An exciting part of this is providing the channels for people across the world with similar goals and interests to connect and communicate quickly and easily. That is when internal communication really takes off.
What are some of the key mindsets, behaviours, and practices helping your organization to be effective at internal communication?
We believe in creating a communication style that is fast, open and honest. Creating a culture of straight- talking is always essential, but particularly during a period of restructuring when trust is on the line. There are a lot of changes that are hard for people to process, but having a clear up-front rationale means that even if the news is unpopular, it is listened to.
With the arrival of our new CEO, people really wanted to hear from him directly. We knew he wouldn’t be able to meet personally with everyone immediately, so we created a new video channel where he answered key questions and explained the steps he was taking to strengthen the company. Being able to see and hear him explain his plans helped people better understand his approach and leadership style.
A key to being timely and effective in our communications is having a focused and methodical way of working. Pharma is a highly-regulated environment and our content requires a strict approval process. We need to translate into at least 12 major languages to ensure effective reach. It starts with strategic planning and then the creative process followed by carefully coordinated and disciplined execution, and finally goes through analytical measurement and review.
Which proven strategies do you and your team use to help business leaders understand the value of internal communication?
Building a strong relationship as a trusted business partner is essential. Our leaders and other key internal partners understand the value that we bring, and we are included throughout the process. We bring insights about where the audience is and how to create the change desired to affect business outcomes.
We are huge believers in measurement. Just as the company and unit goals are clearly measured and presented on a monthly and quarterly basis, we prepare our own reports for internal communications. Having a dashboard helps us sense when our target audience is pulling back, enabling us to go in and investigate the root cause. It could be they are incredibly busy with a project and the messages simply are not getting through, or there could be a problem in their understanding of the message. By having our finger on the pulse of the organization we can course-correct in real time. Having solid data helps leaders understand what you are saying is not a “hunch or gut feeling”, but something real that needs to be addressed.
Understanding the new trends and technologies helps leaders see that we bring a strong, professional understanding of what we do. There is a large amount of experimentation involved and what works one quarter may not work the next. Audience habits keep changing. Where before they wanted to get short, clear, fast communications, now they may need reassurance and detailed explanations. We advise on the best method and sometimes this includes reminding them of the tried and tested ‘old way’, simply sit down and talk to each other.
How do you demonstrate the impact of internal communication on organizational goals to business leaders?
It’s critical to demonstrate the direct link between a behavioral change or business outcome and the communication strategy and execution we put in place to create that change. Giving communications the same KPI’s as the business means that we judge our communication effectiveness by the final result, not the amount of communications, channels, and methodology it took. These factors are governed internally to prevent overload and ineffective communications. While we examine opening and click rates, attendance and feedback, our bottom line is the business KPI. This also helps leaders to understand that we are full partners in their goals.