In episode 59 of The Internal Comms Podcast, we delve into Canada Life UK’s recipe for a successful relationship between strategy and internal comms. Nick Harding, Chief People Officer, and Alana Harding, Head of Communications, join AB’s Katie Macaulay to explore how internal comms can be integral to the implementation of strategic transformation.
This episode has been almost two years in the making. And what’s more, it took place in person, something we’ve sorely missed through the pandemic. As comms professionals, we’ve heard a lot about the importance of internal comms professionals forging a relationship with their organisation’s strategic priorities. After all, colleagues live and breathe the organisation’s strategy, so it’s integral that they get the right messages at the right time.
Nick and Alana are two highly experienced professionals – stalwarts in their fields – at the top of their game. They’re implementing Canada Life UK’s most extensive transformation programme yet. And they get candid with Katie about the ways they influence each other, how their differences drive them forward, and what the future could hold for the comms and strategy relationship. It’s truly not a conversation to be missed.
Here are 5 key takeaways from this fascinating conversation:
#1 If you remain constantly curious, you can reach great heights in any career.
Nick is clear on there being no “secret sauce” to his career progression. Over two decades, he has been in a variety of roles with Canada Life UK, joining in customer services, and moving into sales and marketing, before joining the leadership team via a variety of strategy roles. Now in his position as Chief People Officer, Nick credits his ability to remain curious as his driving force. “Whatever role I did – and it wasn’t necessarily in financial services – when I entered in, I needed to make a difference,” Nick shared. “There’s always an opportunity to be curious, to make changes in an organisation, to ultimately do a better job for the customer and the shareholder. And that’s really driven me.”
#2 The desire to make a difference can provide great common ground for strategists and internal comms professionals.
The common thread running through both Nick and Alana’s relationship to their careers is the desire to make lasting, impactful change. Discussing what gets her up in the morning and keeps her love of comms alive, Alana explained: “I love helping make a difference. Helping stakeholders connect with the organisation in the right way, and helping build the right reputation as well – whether that’s internal or external.” From a strategy standpoint, making change is at the core of the function – aligning on the best ways to make transformation work for the business and its people is what makes the strategy and comms relationship sing.
#3 As IC professionals, it might not always make sense to us where we report into the business, but there’s always a good reason.
“I and the teams that I’ve worked in have probably reported in everywhere now,” explains Alana. “And I don’t know that it really does matter. I think it’s guided by what it is the organisation needs to achieve, and where that’s best achieved from.” Internal comms teams can often feel shoehorned into the business, reporting into functions that don’t make sense, but there’s always a reason to be found. “It’s not just about where I would like to be reporting in as an IC person,” Katie echoes, “but what’s right for the organisation and what it’s trying to achieve.”
#4 Comms teams keep the finger on the pulse of the organisation, which is essential to executing strategic change.
As with all relationships, a variety of perspectives and skills are needed to get the most well-rounded view of what’s working, where changes are needed, and how to move forward. “The beauty of the relationship is I can, at times, sit in a strategic bubble, and Alana will bring me back to the reality of how we should be thinking and executing,” Nick tells Katie. “There is a strategic ambition that is fundamental. And there is also what we have said to the organisation, how the organisation is feeling.”
#5 Authenticity is the key attribute of any internal communications professional.
When tasked with relaying the attributes of the more successful IC folk Alana has encountered over her illustrious career, she explains that “bringing the human and authentic touch through is really important.” She continues: “Not being scared to have a bit of fun along the way. And also, there’s something about planning and delivering, because we can all talk a good game in communications, but we’ve got to be able to plan and deliver as well, and then respond.”
Catch the full conversation over on The Internal Comms Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe!