Before 2006, staff based in Leighton Contractors Western Region mainly relied on the media and the staff rumour mill for information about the company’s direction and performance. With no existing internal communications strategy or public relations staff in place the problem grew during a period of negative publicity and business restructuring that significantly reduced the company’s revenue base. In 2006 the newly appointed Communications Manager recognised that before rebuilding the company’s public profile, work was needed on its internal profile. After researching staff needs, a robust internal communications strategy was developed and implemented. The program has exceeded its overarching goal with 72.3% of staff in 2009 reporting internal communications as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rankings. Now Leighton Contractors Western Region has gone from having no focus on communication to quadrupled investment in a proven and effective workplace communications strategy over the last four years, (spanning 2006 to 2010).
The strategy showed that, by meeting the communication needs of employees, engagement rises and business performance improves. In 2006, Leighton Contractors Western Region had to tackle serious staff morale and internal communications issues with no existing internal communications strategy or public relations staff in place. External pressure compounded the issue with WA gearing up for an unprecedented economic boom.
The newly appointed Communications Manager first assessed Leighton Contractors Western Region’s employee’s opinions on the company and internal communication issues. Tasked with improving the Western Region’s internal profile before tackling its public profile, the communications goal was to dramatically turn around employee satisfaction and engage staff with a new business direction, spanning new industry sectors. The goal was ambitious, given the disenfranchised, diverse and dispersed workforce ranging from contract labourers to management professionals in autonomous projects across WA. A significant investment in research commenced when the Communications Manager was appointed. The Western Region’s workforce ranges from contract labourers to management professionals working across projects from the Northern Territory to WA’s South West. General Manager, Executive Management Team, Project Managers and their administrative staff were critical in championing internal communication.
A diverse mix of professional and administrative personnel as well as project teams bidding tenders before winning work and moving to site.
The benchmarking survey identified a major project with a significant communications issue. Prior to 2006, Leighton Contractors Western Region did not have an internal communications strategy. In developing the strategy significant consideration was given to overcoming the challenges of a diverse and segregated workforce in a demanding and talent-tight industry.


The Communications Strategy for the Western Region is documented at the start of each financial year, adjusting to amendments in business direction.
The effectiveness of focused internal communications, which listens to staff needs, is evident in this strategy. Process measures demonstrate tools and tactics are reaching the target demographics and they are high quality and appropriate. Several years after its humble beginnings, Leighton Contractors Western Region’s internal communication has become one of the company’s strengths. Communication and engagement failures inside the organization are analogous to those outside the organization. Beyond simply using social media as a mechanism to communicate among employees, leading organizations are using these tools to build better strategies, communicate them better and execute them.
In the past predictions were based largely on past data and assumptions about future events. This post wraps-up our strategy-paksm  series with the final key element- traditional communication of strategy. Based on our experience with historic approaches to communication of strategy, we focus heavily on these seven, basic characteristic areas to get it right from the beginning. In fact, many of these elements could be pulled directly from marketing and in particular marketing communications.  Also, social platforms are allowing acceleration and expanded support of communication activities to keep up with the faster clock-speed requiring more rapid frequency of strategy and tactics. When delivered-  What is the timing of each channel?  How does it sequence with other communications?
Now, let’s touch upon a couple of important tactical success factors related to strategy communications. There are significant benefits of diverse change teams charged with creating and executing the communications plan.  For example, Jan Klein, MIT, advocates for the productivity of hybrid resources, “Outsiders-Insiders”9, created by bringing both “types”, insiders and outsiders, onto teams. The Framework for Strategic Communication (see graphic) focuses on messages about the strategy to constituents (stakeholders) with formal and informal feedback designed into the process. While most companies attempt at least initial communication of strategy, we have observed formalized feedback embedded into processes and culture very rarely.  For an example of a formalized feedback process, see a mini-case example (vetting strategy) click here. Regularly left to others, the underlying communication process is often informal and yet provides the platform for meshing all of the internal gears.
MIT posits the level of audience involvement correlates closely with the level of author “control”.  Consideration of both axes must influence the management style of communication reflected in the communications plan. We feel this last point, engaging a broader swath of the organization, is easier today than ever because of the rapidly emerging social platforms allowing information to flow more freely from source to target and back again. 2 See highly referenced scholarly article by Kohut and Segars, “The president’s letter to stockholders,: An examination of corporate communications strategy”, Journal of Business Communication (1992) vol.


3 See Hamm, “The five messages leaders must manage”, Harvard Business Review, (May 2006) reprint R0605G.
7 See Argenti, et al, “The strategic communication imperative”, MITSloan Management Review(Spring 2005) Vol.
8 See highly referenced scholarly article by Stuart Klein, “A management communication strategy for change”, Journal of Organizational Change Management (1996), Vol. Disengaged and dissatisfied, the dispersed workforce had low morale and little company loyalty. Staff retention was a business priority, making strategic internal communications vital to boost morale and improve workplace desirability. Only a well executed internal communications program aligned to related strategic objectives was going to deliver the goal.
The internal communication strategy stems from this and objectives are translated into tools and tactics, scheduled across the year, within a certain budget. Evaluation data is analysed to identify what learning and strategy adjustments should be made. While there are a lot of attention given to social media in essence the attention is more about communications than this thing we call social media.
While markets have always leveraged communications the dynamics of social technology are changing how markets interact with all constituents. The worst symptoms include employees disregarding the strategy and management ignoring employees’ input about their strategic decisions. Since social media has been identified as a key tactic to help organizations better talk with, rather than talk at customers, why shouldn’t these organizations use social media similarly with their employees? Staff indicated a low understanding of the business direction, low morale an dissatisfaction with the company leadership. When markets dynamics change then all things must change otherwise you will not keep the markets attention. Communicating with all stakeholders and getting proper and effective feedback is relevant to developing an effective strategy.  Predicting outcomes of your strategy is paramount to designing and executing strategies effectively. If you can’t keep and expand the markets attention about your brand then someone else is likely to do so at your cost. Imagine knowing how the crowd feels about an event, a product, a service before such things have entered the market?




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