Create an environment for employee retention using internal comms

In this episode of our popular Tips in Ten(ish) minutes video series, Kirsten Lecky, EVP insights and growth at WG Content, sits down with Andy Lyons, director of corporate communications and content strategy at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, to hear his tips for creating engaging internal communications.

Watch this 11-minute video and learn how to:

  • Add a human touch in internal comms
  • Partner with HR effectively
  • Reconcile your internal and external voice

This video was recorded on November 3, 2022, before WriterGirl became WG Content.

Watch the video

0:00:04.9 Kirsten Lecky: Well, hello, Andy. Thank you for joining us for our Tips in 10 Minutes.

0:00:08.7 Andy Lyons: Thank you.

0:00:10.8 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Andy is the Director of Corporate Communications and Content Strategy for Roper St. Francis. And many of us got to enjoy your presentation at Shush-men in September, and that’s really what inspired this conversation, ’cause I thought we gotta keep this conversation going ’cause it was so timely and so relevant. So thank you for joining us.

0:00:28.7 Andy Lyons: Thank you so much, Kirsten. This is so much fun. It’s good to see you.

0:00:32.9 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. For us right now, we’re recording this on a Friday, so it’s always good to kick off something like this on a Friday.

0:00:37.0 Andy Lyons: I can’t believe I’m wearing a jacket on a Friday.

0:00:41.0 Kirsten Lecky: Are you wearing a jacket for this? [laughter]

0:00:43.8 Andy Lyons: Well, I had to wear it for a press conference and I was like I’m putting the jacket on. It really looks official.

0:00:48.9 Kirsten Lecky: Well, you look great.

0:00:51.2 Andy Lyons: Thanks.

0:00:51.8 Kirsten Lecky: So I thought a good way to kick us off is if you can just give kind of the headline for those that maybe did not attend your session, just to ground us and remind us what that session was about.

0:01:02.9 Andy Lyons: It was zany and it was fun. It was about the internal coms, so there was all kinds of Beyonce references. We were giving out Beyonce key chains, we were making… We had Beyonce quizzes, and I wanted to have the flavor of the way that we treat internal communications. So every great external message, it’s gotta start internally first, and so I think when I left newspapers and I became the head of communications for a healthcare system, I realized that the only way that we’re gonna know what we’re talking about pitching stories to the media is to get this right when we tell our own employees.

0:01:44.1 Andy Lyons: And, man, that has become so relevant now, because we’re having such a hard time keeping our nurses, keeping our own employees with us. Engagement is just as important as recruitment, and so if we can keep people from leaving, if we can ensure that they know where our healthcare systems and our hospitals are going, what our strategy is, keep them employed, what the whole purpose of it is in really tangible, easy to understand terms. And if we can have a little bit of fun at it too, that’s a powerful force in keeping employees with us. And then you can even take it to the next level and be a place that has a reputation that’s the best place to work. And that’s really what we’re striving for at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, is to be a best place to work. We want the nation to see that, really, we want the community to see that, so that they wanna come, they wanna stay, they wanna work for us.

0:02:43.5 Kirsten Lecky: I think probably following that session, you probably had a few people that wanted to come work for you. [laughter]

0:02:48.2 Andy Lyons: We had so many people reach out.

[overlapping conversation]

0:02:51.0 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah, I bet.

0:02:52.0 Andy Lyons: Conversations afterwards and people have continued to reach out and send emails. And a lot of people are doing this their own way, they’re figuring out their own way.

0:03:05.4 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Yeah. No, I thought that was great. It was definitely our highlight of the conference.

0:03:10.1 Andy Lyons: Thank you.

0:03:10.9 Kirsten Lecky: And someone asked a question, so the first question I wanted to ask was one that I missed your answer to, but one I thought a lot about since your session and the question that came from the audience was, “Does your internal voice,” which you’ve already described as kind of zany and quirky, “match your external voice, and how do you reconcile those two?” ‘Cause clearly, healthcare, our external voice is excellence and quality and those things, and your internal voice is this quirky, fun thing, so how did you… Did that happen organically, did you plan for that? Did you have to get buy-in? Maybe talk a little bit about the process.

0:03:45.1 Andy Lyons: I think they’re both unique and they are different. I think our internal voice is, like you said, it’s kind of zany and it’s fun and it’s very warm and it’s very compassionate, and it shows a lot of graciousness. We are just so… The amount of gratitude, I think, that we wanna share to our teammates, we don’t call them employees, we call them teammates, is that of just like so much we appreciate you. And so we treat it like a family with rich camaraderie, and I think a family talks amongst themselves differently. There’s inside jokes, there’s different tones. There is just a way that we speak that probably the outside world wouldn’t understand or they would think it was odd. And so that’s how we kind of differentiated our internal voice versus our external voice.

0:04:37.2 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. I love that reference to your family, and that’s so true, ’cause I think that’s… Everyone can relate to that. So what tips would you give to other healthcare communicators or people in roles like yours to really develop that, and feel like they have the permission and the freedom to really have that fun and to really take it to the extent you guys have?

0:04:58.8 Andy Lyons: So you know, I think a lot about… We send a lot of emails and that’s such important content, and so I’ll talk about emails right now because I’m sure everybody’s thinking about how do… Our company newsletters or healthcare system newsletters, hospital newsletters. And take the time to have a little bit of fun. A little bit of fun and a little bit of time will equal some success. And I think it’s a way of engaging your employees, bring them in on the joke. We all consume our news in this kind of like a meal, right? So we eat vegetables and we eat protein and a salad, but everybody wants a little bit of dessert too, so when I talk about fun in the email, I can’t all be fun, because we can all eat dessert. But if you could take the time to do a meme to get your initiative out, or if you wanna film a TikTok dance, or if you wanna make a Seinfeld reference, these little things that bring pop culture and they just bring the outside world into this inside world, it makes work not seem so much like work. We’re all devoting so much time into these careers, into these callings. I think it’s… The onus is on us to lighten the mood a little bit.

0:06:18.8 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I think you’re doing just that and so being able to sustain that, it’s almost like now you guys keep raising the bar. So for those that are listening that don’t know this, you play the guitar, you write music, you’re very creative, so not only do you leverage this pop culture and TikTok and these things, but you’re creating content, like literally writing original songs. So when you think about the next generation of leaders that are gonna be filling your shoes and your team’s shoes, you’re not alone, you have all of these great people around you, how do you hire for that or train for that, or build that sustainability around what you guys are doing so that it continues beyond Andy Lyons, how do we keep this going?

0:07:03.0 Andy Lyons: Well, before we can run into fun and how can we have fun, I really think the most important aspect of the job is make this information tangible, approachable, easy to understand. And so I think this is why journalists, former journalists in a corp comm role or in an internal comms shop, are just really powerful forces because we know how to delineate and make really complicated topics easy to understand. So let’s do that first, let’s try to make things easy to understand and digestible. Lists are great, talking points are fantastic.

0:07:46.7 Andy Lyons: Another thing that I hope that we’d see as crucially important is be the MVP to your HR. So we know from our own internal comms shop and watching our numbers and our click rates, people really care about their benefits. They really care about COVID shots and booster shots, and all these important functions and benefits that come out of human resources, we’ve got to treat them as our number one customer. We’ve got to have these tight relationships and jump when they need something out there and really be thorough and really be careful in how we present this kind of information to our employees ’cause we know just from the numbers, I know I care about it, I know… I care when it’s open enrollment, I need to know that information, I need to know how to get into that system and click and do all that stuff.

0:08:38.8 Andy Lyons: And then the other thing I would say is be transparent, even when your senior leaders are hesitant, I always say transparency wins. It hurts that day, and I’m sure everybody’s doing this, but we really don’t want anybody reading anything in a newspaper or seeing something on TV before they heard about it from us first. So take that time in the crisis before you respond to whatever that story of the day is, to take a moment and say, “Hey do my employees, do our stakeholders know about this, have they heard about that?” Back to that family voice, as much as we have that quirky kind of inside joke, you’d also want the family to know about that too, and the good and the bad. So celebrate the good and share the bad with your family.

0:09:28.1 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. And that’s where respect and trust and all of that comes from. And I have to say, starting… You mentioned early, having clear, concise content, that’s our love language, where I can totally relate to that. So I think those are all really good tips, and I think the transparency too, especially, the good, the bad, and the ugly, it needs to be said and it needs to come from you. And then conversely, for HR to look at you as their critical partner as well. So as you’re their MVP for them to really look to you as their extension of their team, which I believe they do. That was our 10-minute morning right there.

0:10:05.5 Andy Lyons: Oh!

0:10:05.6 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah, I know. It goes fast, doesn’t it?

0:10:08.1 Andy Lyons: It goes fast.

0:10:09.1 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Before we go, I see this really cool painting behind you. Tell me what that is and what we’re looking at there.

0:10:16.6 Andy Lyons: Well, I was a former journalist, and my daughter is going into Art History at the Paul University in Chicago. She did this in high school for a class. It’s actually like, this… The newspaper is actually some paper mache and she painted that with watercolors, and that’s just me reading the newspaper. I actually read the newspaper on an iPad now, so man, times have changed ever since she’s… Since she painted that.

0:10:41.8 Kirsten Lecky: I love that, that is so cool. And you were sharing that you get to see her this weekend, so enjoy your weekend with her.

0:10:47.0 Andy Lyons: Thank you so much.

0:10:48.5 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. And we will be sharing your contact information, so if anyone has any further questions, wants to chit chat with you, I know you’ll be open to taking those emails or calls, so we’ll do that and make sure if anyone wants to reach out, they can. So thank you again for joining me for these 10 minutes, I loved it.

0:11:04.3 Andy Lyons: Thanks for this opportunity.

0:11:05.7 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Have a great weekend.

0:11:07.8 Andy Lyons: You too.