Digging Deep For Employee Comms Gold14 years, 10 months ago
Lerato Malimabe and Jessica Van Onselen explain how face to face ‘sandwich sessions’ sit alongside digital communications channels in AngloGold Ashanti’s internal comms strategy.
Anyone involved in internal communications is familiar with complaints from employees that there never seems to be enough communication. Here at AngloGold Ashanti head office our primary strategic objective in internal communications is to keep employees informed about both external affairs and internal affairs that affect the company and its employees.
We like to think of ourselves as a learning organization, and we are steadily getting a better sense of what to do and what not to do, and so heading into 2007, we have identified four major ongoing challenges in creating an internal communication model that is flexible, effective and exciting.
Challenge One: Face To Face Communication
One of the paradoxes of the digital age is that all forms of communication have not necessarily improved – face to face communication is often passed over in favour of email, the internet and mobile phone text messages. People would rather send an email than pick up the phone, or walk across to visit a colleague but the simple truth is, nothing beats face to face interaction. Personal communication builds trust, deepens understanding and facilitates learning. It also has the power to shape behaviour, influence processes and build relationships.
Acknowledging the importance of this kind of internal communication, then, AngloGold Ashanti has implemented several initiatives to increase employees’ opportunities for direct communication. In order to do this, we realised the importance of supplementing the traditional top to bottom flow of information with more interactive methods.
The Sandwich Sessions: Food For Thought
The Sandwich Sessions were initiated to bridge a perceived gap between senior management and the rest of the workforce. Using free sandwiches and refreshments as an incentive, we began hosting informal lecture sessions in one of our auditoriums, where company ‘experts’ gave digestible presentations on the more technical aspects of the business and the industry in general.
Our very first session (entitled ‘What the hell is hedging?’) went a long way in demystifying this often misunderstood concept to most employees. Two years on, the programme has proved very successful and we even include external people on our list of speakers from time to time. We superimpose a sandwich onto our speakers for a bit of humour, as can be seen in the image to the left.
Open Office – Open Communication
When a decision was made a year ago to relocate the company’s head office to a new building, Steve Lenahan the Head of Corporate Affairs, as the executive officer overseeing the project emphasised that one of the main objectives of the move was to introduce a design that would enhance open communication across departments and disciplines.
Challenge Two: The Challenge Of A Global Company
AngloGold Ashanti has 21 operations in ten countries on four continents. From Guinea to Ghana, and from Australia to America, we are a diverse company with many different languages and cultures – even time zone differences! The challenge of sharing knowledge and experiences across international borders can seem daunting at times, and in response the company has developed several tools to try to address these particular issues.
The Intranet is without doubt our most practical platform for connecting our global workforce. Through our Intranet-based newsletter Aura, for example, we can keep staff in the loop about the goings-on at our mine in Tanzania regardless of whether they are sitting at a desk in Perth, Australia or Nova Lima, Brazil.
We constantly work on keeping it clean, logical and intuitively laid-out to enable users to find things quicker and easier, and collaborate more freely.
One of our success stories to this end is a brand new communication initiative, Just ASK! This service was launched recently and makes it possible for all computer users on our network to seek, exchange and provide assistance to each other on business related issues online. Employees need only type a question and submit it to avail themselves to the latent knowledge inside the company.
Challenge Three: Motivating Employees To Keep Using The Communication Tools
Consistency in communication is a lot harder than it might initially seem. Both communications staff and ‘ordinary’ staff might be well aware of the communication tools at their disposal, but it can be difficult to keep up interest. It is perhaps best understood in terms of ‘pull’ tools and ‘push’ tools. ‘Pull’ tools rely on employees’ own drive to go out and seek information, such as the intranet or internet. At AngloGold Ashanti this would most certainly be our intranet. ‘Push’ tools are communication prompts designed to point employees in certain directions and towards certain sets of information.
One strategy that has worked for us in internal communications is the use of humour and levity with cleverly branded templates. Punchy lines in the mailbox and on posters in the elevators keep staff informed and slightly entertained, but more importantly points them to a detailed account of the subject, be it the ‘Company Information’ portal on the Intranet or their Head of Department.
Challenge Four: Providing Information In Time
AngloGold Ashanti is a company with a very real presence in the media in almost all the countries in which it operates. This is partly as a result of the nature of mining and the extractive industries, which do attract more attention than companies uninvolved in natural resources. One of the challenges we face as a company, therefore, is making sure that we get to tell our people what the facts are before the story hits the papers.
We hold mass meetings when the need arises hosted by our senior leaders. This way, major announcements get to employees on the same day they happen. Likewise, our financial results are presented in-house every quarter on the same day that they are released to analysts and the media.
We believe that communication in the workplace is not an end in itself, but rather a means to constantly work at creating a shared understanding of our company’s way of doing business – our values and principles, which in turn inform our strategy.
Lerato Malimabe is Internal Communications Officer, AngloGold Ashanti.mail the author
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Jessica van Onselen is Corporate Affairs Officer, AngloGold Ashanti.mail the author
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