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Employee Comms

Transforming the Internal Communication Function at St. Louis Children’s Hospital


 — October 5th, 2016

Transforming the Internal Communication Function at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

You’re asked to meet with senior leadership because there’s a problem. Senior leaders are concerned,they say that staff don’t comprehend the organization’s goals and are suffering from “initiative overload.”

So what do you do next?

This problem represented an opportunity for John Twombly, now Internal Communication Manager at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The 280 bed teaching hospital has more than 3,000 employees.

Twombly identified three key developments that led to better communication:

  • Changing his role to a full-time focus on internal communication, thanks to leadership support
  • Developing an annual internal communication plan to address the ‘initiative overload’ challenge
  • Moving from an outdated intranet platform to Poppulo Internal Connect, which enabled access from any device

“We have a simple and compelling mission, ‘Doing what’s right for kids,’” Twombly says. “Our challenge is to bring the mission to life through employee stories with visual and emotional impact. We present the big picture, explain where we’re headed as an organization and share why we must continuously improve. We also listen to staff and treat their voice seriously.”

Twombly is the sole internal communicator on a communications and marketing team. He uses Poppulo for:

  • A weekly employee newsletter
  • Single-topic hospital-wide alerts
  • Information for managers to share with teams
  • To deliver leadership communications through embedded video messages

“Poppulo was the hammer we needed to nail the communication strategy,” Twombly recalls. “We use video and recorded interviews to increase the visibility of our senior leadership and make goals more meaningful. We enable staff feedback on every communication, without screening comments in advance. We use that feedback and Poppulo analytics to make sure communication is connecting.”

He also uses a Poppulo survey tool that allows him to segment results by department.

After just one year of using Poppulo, here’s what was achieved:

  • Employee comment postings increased 1,500 percent, from an average of 50 annually on the old intranet-based platform, to 800 on Poppulo.
  • The average click-through rate for all communication (35%), exceeds the healthcare sector (and overall) benchmarks. This has been achieved despite the fact only about a third of hospital staff sit at a desk in front of a computer.
  • Internal communication survey feedback from 750 staff showed Poppulo email as the top channel preference for both urgent and routine information.
  • The hospital earned local, state, regional and national communication honors.
  • Employee engagement increased five points compared to the last comparative survey in 2013. Many factors beyond employee communication go into the score, but better communication can only help.

Survey feedback after six months validated staff felt well informed of the hospital’s goals and strategic priorities. They also felt the hospital was headed in the right direction.

“When staff know what’s going on and their voice is treated seriously, they feel more connected to our hospital, our goals and our mission,” Twombly says. “Good employee communication enables better organizational performance.”

Keen to hear more about John’s story? He recently hosted an informative webinar with Poppulo's Emma Hanley. Watch the ondemand webinar here.

Note: This article does not reflect BJC or SLCH endorsement of a product or service.

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