Disclosure of internal audits 2004-2005

Audit of Internal Communications at TSB

Final Report
April 2004

Our report:

  • Examines the current state of internal communications at the TSB
  • Assesses the efficiency and effectiveness of TSB internal communications activities
  • Identifies TSB best practices
  • Examines practices in 3 other agencies
  • Identifies opportunities for improvement and makes recommendations

Methodology

  • To conduct this audit, we:
    • reviewed key TSB documents
    • interviewed 18 TSB employees, including executives, the Manager of Communications, and 8 front-line employees
    • discussed internal communications with the Public Service Employee Survey Follow-Up Committee
    • examined internal communications practices in 3 agencies:
      • Canadian Transportation Agency
      • Canadian Human Rights Commission
      • Competition Bureau

The current state of internal communications

Current state of internal communications

  • Internal communications is challenging at TSB:
    • modal "silos"
    • headquarters and regional offices
    • investigators and non-investigators
  • TSB recognizes this challenge:
    • Business Plan identified internal communications as priority
    • Public Service Emolyee Survey Follow-Up Committee is tracking progress
    • Major agenda item during Managers' Conference
    • Selected for study by Audit Committee
  • These initiatives have set expectations for improvements in internal communications
  • TSB 2003-2004 Business Plan identified these initiatives to improve internal communications:
    • Internal communications plan for Business Plan
    • Employee/manager orientation program
    • Revised employee exit feedback process
    • Revised performance discussion / evaluation process
  • TSB has implemented or is implementing these initiatives with some delays
  • Public Service Employee Survey Follow-Up Committee identified these remaining shortcomings in December 2003:
    • Intranet not used effectively
    • No strategic and integrated approach to internal communications
    • Senior Management Committee should identify a focal point to coordinate efforts
    • Information should be shared broadly rather than provided only to selected audiences
  • TSB has not yet acted to address these issues
  • TSB is communicating actively:
    • Business Plan communications initiatives
    • Managers' Conferences
    • Administrative Officers' Conference
    • Regional visits by executives
    • Executive Director meetings with new staff
    • Newsletters
    • Intranet
    • Conference calls
    • E-mails
    • Staff meetings at all levels
  • Relevant factors affecting internal communications:
    • A senior communicator is not at Senior Management Committee meetings
    • Communications Division is rebuilding, coping with higher priority operational demands
    • Resource constraints have prevented some proposed internal communications initiatives from proceeding
    • Governance initiative could alter decision-making processes and structures
    • New corporate planning position could present opportunities to strengthen internal communications related to corporate planning

Efficiency and effectiveness of TSB internal communications

Efficiency and effectiveness

  • Overall assessment of existing internal communications activities:
    • Use of a range of vehicles and methods is appropriate as people have different needs, preferences
    • Interviews suggest majority of front-line employees feel they are informed about issues affecting their work, and have a say in decisions and actions that impact their work
    • Managers say they are well informed and have a say; appear to take communications responsibilities seriously
    • Range of compliments/complaints/suggestions, but no consensus on whether major problems exist

TSB communications methods

  • Face-to-face
  • Intranet
  • E-mail
  • Newsletters

Face-to-face communication

  • TSB investments in internal communications appropriately emphasize this essential tool for two-way communications
    • Regional visits
    • Managers' and Administrative Officers' conferences
    • Executive Director meetings with new staff
    • Staff meetings
    • Public Service Employee Survey Follow-up Committee
  • Employees speak highly of these activities

Intranet

  • Some employees describe it as poorly structured, out of date, but many see it as a useful source of information, and some use it "all the time"
  • One manager set out contents for proposed online Manager's Handbook; recommended training on Intranet for managers, and an Administrative Officer's Handbook
  • A proposed project to enhance Intranet has not received funding

E-mails

  • Employees "bombarded" with e-mails, described as annoying, top down, or (from regional perspective) too often focused on Head Office interests
  • Concerns that too many send e-mails to "all staff", that important information is not sent to all who need to know, that distribution lists are inadequate
  • E-mail generally accepted as a necessary tool for communicating some types of information

Newsletters

  • Corporate Services, Air Investigations, Human Performance Division, Information Technology Division publish newsletters
  • Reaction largely positive, though concerns expressed about sustainability, value, need for several separate newsletters, reinforcement of silos
  • None displays Canada workmark, as required by Government Communications Policy
  • Mixed views on need for a corporate newsletter

Best practices

Best practices within TSB

  • Based on comments from TSB employees and Hallux knowledge of practices elsewhere, TSB best practices in internal communications include:
    • Emphasis on face-to-face and two-way communications
    • Ongoing management and employee involvement in response to public service employee survey results
    • Corporate support for managers (e.g. Business Plan presentations, Values and Ethics package)
    • Regional representation on most TSB committees
    • Addition of "What's New" section on Intranet
    • Posting of Senior Management Committee minutes on Intranet

Practices in other agencies

Canadian Transportation Agency

  • Communications Directorate is responsible for internal communications
  • An Information Services (IS-03) employee works full-time on internal communications, supports Corporate Services
  • Director of Communications sits on executive commitee
  • Monthly electronic newsletter
  • Electronic events calendar

Canadian Human Rights Commission

  • New Communications Branch (April 2004) responsible for internal communications
  • Director of Communications sits on executive commitee
  • Quarterly online newsletter; monthly message from Chief Commissioner
  • Workplace Advisory Committee (co-chaired by Director of Communications and employee representative) provides feedback on internal communications

Competition Bureau

  • Managers responsible for internal communications
  • Assistant Commissioner, Communications sits on executive commitee
  • One officer in Communications Branch spends one-third of time on internal communications, supports Corporate Services
  • Communications publishes new online webmagazine
  • Intranet (maintained by Communications) is a key tool

Observations

  • Communications attends executive committee, plays important role in internal communications
  • None of the 3 agencies has a current internal communications plan/strategy
    • Canadian Human Rights Commission has an Internal and External Communications Framework
  • None has an internal communications budget
  • All have corporate publications

Areas for improvement

Areas for improvement

  • TSB can strengthen internal communications by taking action in 3 areas:
    • Improve the integration of internal communications into the decision-making process
    • Make better use of communications skills and knowledge
    • Strengthen some TSB communications tools
  • Improve the integration of internal communications into the decision-making process:
    • Internal communications should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means of achieving business objectives
    • Internal communications should not be divorced from external communications, as both are often needed in concert to achieve business objectives
    • The key questions are "Who do we need to consult?" about a particular business issue and "Who needs to know?" about a particular business issue
  • Recommendations for integrating internal communications into the decision-making process:
    • Prepare an annual corporate communications strategy -- internal and external -- linked to the corporate planning process
      • Environmental assessment, audiences, key messages, activities
    • Prepare individual communications plans to set out how communications tools and techniques will be used to help achieve specific business objectives, with performance indicators such as level of awareness
    • Make managers accountable for internal communications, provide them with improved tools to communicate
  • Make better use of communications skills and knowledge:
    • Trained and experienced communications professionals bring a set of skills and knowledge to an organization
    • TSB can tap into the skills and knowledge of its communications people more effectively than it is at present
    • The key issues are whether senior management has ready access to communications advice, and whether manager of communications has ready access to the executive director
    • The reporting relationship of the manager of communications is of secondary importance
  • Recommendations for making better use of communications skills and knowledge:
    • Invite manager of communications to participate in all Senior Management Committee meetings, to advise on internal and external communications
    • Place a communications strategist on other key committees, to advise on internal and external communications
    • Strengthen relationship between Communications and Corporate Services, which is a key player in most internal communications activities
  • Strengthen some TSB communications tools:
    • Intranet
    • E-mail
    • Newsletters
  • Intranet:
    • Intranet is already an important source of information for managers and employees, but many called for improvement
    • In addition to reorganizing and cleaning up the site, consider:
      • Manager's Handbook, containing policies, human resources information, financial information, etc.
      • Events calendar, showing both external and internal events and where appropriate a contact person
  • E-mail:
    • There is no easy fix for complaints about e-mail volumes
    • Two measures could help make a small difference:
      • Guidelines for employees on the use of e-mails (these could likely be picked up from another department)
      • Creation of additional internal e-mail distribution lists, so employees are less likely to send to "all staff", or have to spend time creating their own lists
  • Newsletters:
    • Existing newsletters show TSB staff want to communicate, and discouraging them would send the wrong signal
    • A new corporate newsletter could help bridge "silos", prove useful for corporate messaging, but would require significant investment
    • An alternative would be to use the existing Corporate Services newsletter for broader corporate purposes
      • updates on Business Plan priorities
      • status of Public Service Employee Survey Committee work, etc.
    • TSB participation in interdepartmental Newsletter Editors Network could provide useful ideas

Some final observations

  • TSB's internal communications efforts, while not perfect, are largely sound for a small agency with the challenges of regions and modes
  • The emphasis on face-to-face communication is excellent and should be maintained
  • To meet expectations for improvements, inform staff of changes that result from this audit
  • Evaluate future internal communications efforts on the extent to which they help achieve corporate objectives