Management / A broad council

A broad council

WITH 10,000 staff busy promoting the English language and British culture in more than 100 countries, you could certainly say The British Council has its work cut out when it comes to internal communications.

Director of strategy and engagement Hilary Cross says that one solution has been to use behavioral science techniques within its internal communications strategy.

The British Council is a public body and charity formed in 1934. In recent years, it has discovered that by reacting to staff behaviour it can create management, HR and reward systems that encourage people to perform better and work smarter.

“It triggers thinking and makes you consider your internal messaging,” says Cross. “Our employees are one of our main audiences, so we analyse their behaviour to segment them.”

In fact, human behaviour at work increasingly lies at the heart of today’s HR.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says behavioural science is not just about “nudging” employees in the right direction. It is, rather, about building an understanding of how people psychologically react and behaviorally respond to interventions, the work environment and attempts to motivate and incentivise them.

Cross says that because the British Council’s workforce is global her internal communications strategy cannot be overly bureaucratic. It must, however, explain that there are clear ways in which all staff should be behaving to create a consistent brand in different locations, from Brazil and China to India and Australia.

“We have learned that people are more effective and happier if the environment allows them to be creative, so we have introduced quiet spaces, for example,” she says. “We have also brought in expert external speakers to engage local staff and help us to convey our messages to an internal audience.” She adds that certain behaviours are often linked to different cultures and must be managed sensitively.

Someone’s actions at work can also change if they can see clearly how their job helps the wider organisation to meet its objectives. For example, there is a poster on the wall in the British Council office in India which explains how important the work delivered by local staff is in helping the charity meet its global goals.

The British Council also broadcasts live chats with its CEO to employees working in different time zones. “We did a chat recently around inclusivity and diversity to encourage more multicultural working,” says Cross. “If everyone feels they are part of our organisation they will behave in a way we want and need them to.”


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