Ask the expert: Isabel Salas & the importance of placing the employee at the center of internal communication

In our "Ask the Expert" series, we talk to internal communication professionals to understand the growing relevance and impact of this topic in organizations.

January 26, 2023
Adriana Guillén
Business Development Spain

This time we talk to Isabel Salas, Head of Human Resources and Communication at Laboratorios Gebro Pharma, about the different dimensions of internal communication in companies and the importance of multidirectional communication. Isabel shares with us how internal communication is lived within Gebro with some very interesting and functional examples.

"Internal communication is being, working, dialoguing and leading."

1. Who are you and what can you share with us about yourself?

I am a trainee of more than 50 years. Mother of two humans and two cats. I have a degree in Political Science and Sociology, an MBA and a degree in Philosophy. Passionate about art and human beings. For the last seven years I have been Head of Human Resources and Communication at Laboratorios Gebro Pharma, a company dedicated to the commercialization of prescription drugs whose purpose is health and life.

2. What is internal communication and how important is it?

Communication is a way of being and working in organizations. It is more than just a function. Any human interaction is de facto a communicative process. I understand internal communication as part of a culture that allows to generate dialogue and everything that comes from it: innovation, exchange, knowledge, democracy, collective intelligence, etc. And I also see it as the fundamental tool of a humanistic leadership that aims to develop engagement and foster spaces of emotional well-being in companies.

3. How does Gebro handle the different types of communication (management communication and employee communication)?

We deploy various communication channels and spaces depending on the objectives of our communication: sharing, bonding, aligning, informing, participating, congratulating, recognizing, etc.

For the less interactive communication we use email and streaming (text and video for extremely important information), news on an intranet (for what's going on and how we are doing), a Telegram channel (for instant messages), and MicrosoftTeams.

For the most interactive, we combine the digital with the face-to-face and hybrid. In digital, we have a collaborative innovation platform that combines a social wall (exchange of best practices and information on what is happening "on the street") with forums on ideas (both challenges launched by Gebro and proposals sent by employees), Forms for voting, a suggestion box, a survey to take our pulse, Telegram chats and Whatsapp groups.

In face-to-face, in addition to team meetings, we hold an annual employee meeting in December, two cycle meetings and an informative meeting before the start of the summer that goes along with a teambuilding activity. In addition, we have activities that seek a more personal connection between us, such as the typical "Breakfast with managers", although here each manager customizes the format of the meeting. The "Vermouth among employees" is an action where a host employee invites ten people to a vermouth to get to know each other while enjoying some olives. We also have the "Extraordinary Employees", an initiative where an employee gives a talk or workshop on a topic that he or she is passionate about. Beyond our borders, we also integrate other interlocutors.This is the case of "Singular People", an activity in which someone from outside the company brings us up to date on a current topic through a conference or similar.

4. How do digital and face-to-face communication complement each other?

Both are complementary and feed back into each other. For example, in Telegram we announce the news that appear on the intranet, in the news we publish summaries of what was discussed in face-to-face meetings. In the speeches of our CEO, Sergi Aulinas, we show video-questions sent by employees. I don't like the distinction that is sometimes made that digital communication is colder and face-to-face communication is more skin-deep. We try to ensure that both ways convey emotion and warmth through a fresh, friendly, visual communication style that is highly adapted to the generational and socio-cultural codes of all Gebro people. We put human touch on digital and tech touch on face-to-face.

5. What are the key factors for internal communication to be positive and efficient?

For me, the most important thing is to start from this premise: communication is dialogue and dialogue is listening and talking. Positive communication involves making the real architects of the stories -the employees- visible, involving them in the company's decision-making processes and integrating them in the design of communication policies. For example: the climate survey questions were drafted by a group of collaborators, the corporate values were proposed and voted by all employees, the faces of the protagonists of the content always appear in the posts, birthday greetings are personalized, and even the creativities of some internal communication campaigns have been designed by in-house volunteers. There is no better internal communication agency than the employees themselves.

6. How useful is an intranet for creating quality internal communication?

Intranets are spaces to create communities in a broad sense. Communities of exchange that generate both knowledge for the business and emotional and affective bonds among its members. In line with the above, intranets must also be led by their own users from the moment of their conceptualization to their implementation. I believe that their quality will also be determined firstly by their ability to connect the brains and hearts of their members, and secondly by the technological simplicity they provide in all B2E and E2B processes.

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