When global facilities management company ISS embarked on its new OneISS strategy in 2021, the goal was to achieve consistency, alignment and leverage its scale across all 30 markets it operates in. ISS’s VP of Group Communication, Nicki Allitt, was given the responsibility of establishing the new Group Communication function from the ground up. Here she shares her experience in building functional excellence, her belief in adopting a data-driven approach and the key lessons she learned during the transformation process.
The shift from a decentralised structure to a more centralised approach was a significant undertaking that aimed to drive consistency, alignment, and strategic impact across all markets. It also required us to “fly the plane while building it” – meaning we had to make changes while still delivering our business-as-usual communication commitments.
Taking a data-driven approach
By using Kademy’s skills assessment, we began gathering specific data regarding the skills and competencies of our global communications team. With aggregated data at team and individual levels, we were able to create a baseline for both the team’s development plan and personalised development plans.
With skills and competencies defined at three levels (developing, knowledgeable and outstanding), it also provided a framework for the functional excellence we aimed to achieve. We recognised that if we were to become a strategic function capable of shaping business decisions, competency development would be crucial in enabling us to influence, negotiate and define value.
By leveraging Kademy’s learning resources, including live workshops and self-paced modules, our global communications team has access to the necessary training in areas such as measurement, business partnering, conducting powerful conversations with stakeholders, and change communications. This data-driven training has empowered our team members to enhance their skills and collaborate more effectively.
“The beauty of undertaking the skills and competency assessment early in the process was that all our discussions with the business were by led by data.”
Benefits of centralised communications
The transition to more centralised communications has brought numerous benefits to both the business and individuals. By ensuring consistency and alignment, we have strengthened our messaging across all markets, resulting in a unified brand voice that ensures greater market penetration.
Our global communications team has transformed from a tactical service provider to a strategic business partner, educating the organisation on the vital role that our function plays. Additionally, our communications have become aligned with ISS’s commercial principles: Lean, Simple, Fast.
Individually, the more centralised approach has provided a clear framework for our work, enabling team members to be more efficient and develop their skills collectively. Now every touchpoint across all our markets is similar but can be tailored and tweaked to accommodate local nuances and cultures.
All this has led to greater confidence by knowing that they are adding value, and greater engagement by knowing they are doing good work.
“Putting the entire global function through the skills assessment and training gave them the confidence that they’re adding real business value.”
Undertaking the shift towards more centralised communications was not without its challenges. Transitioning from a combined Marketing & Communications function to separate entities required our country teams to develop functional expertise in communications, alongside marketing.
In moving from generalist to specialist roles, there was also a universal need to be able to develop competency in measurement, stakeholder management, change facilitation and business acumen.
Although training sessions helped facilitate this transition, maintaining a balance between generalist skills and deep communication expertise remains an ongoing challenge. Moreover, the shift to remote work during the pandemic necessitated that we adapt and find effective ways to collaborate virtually.
Educating the broader organisation about the evolving role of communications was another challenge. We tackled that through conducting targeted workshops to equip leaders with effective communication and change management skills.
Our lessons learned
Two years into our transformation, there are some clear lessons learned from the approach we adopted. My role as a communication leader played a critical part in this journey by demonstrating passion for what we do, galvanising the team around a clear direction and focus, and enabling execution with the discipline to deliver results. Encouraging a growth mindset – founded on the belief that your fundamental qualities can be nurtured and developed through your own endeavours – starts with your own leadership. Demonstrating humility, curiosity, active listening, embracing feedback and persisting in the face of challenges are all intrinsic to a growth mindset.
- A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work: Communication leaders need to be agile and adapt how they support their team, being more hands-on when needed – from shadowing, coaching, and empowering to energising and ensuring feedback is provided along the way.
- Don’t assume that leaders inherently understand the value the communication team brings – you need to actively demonstrate this. Because all team members had been through a consistent learning process, we were able to effectively amplify the communication team’s value across the business.
- We tend to undertake training in areas or on topics that we like or are interested in, rather than focusing on areas that require improvement – make data-driven decisions rather than listening to our heart.
- Learning extends beyond formal courses or training. The most powerful learning experiences are ‘learning by doing a project’ – and ensuring that individuals have sufficient support mechanisms in place.
- Building functional excellence is about developing a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset to get the maximum benefit from every opportunity that you are exposed to.
- As a communication leader, you set the tone and direction, but what also helps to drive the greatest progress is to have a dedicated team member who has the responsibility for driving communication functional excellence to support the change.
The journey towards a more centralised communications approach has transformed ISS by enhancing consistency, alignment, and strategic impact. Adopting a data-driven approach has empowered our team members to develop their skills and foster effective collaboration. And the challenges faced along the way enabled us to emerge stronger and more resilient and adaptable.
Kademy partners with communication leaders to drive high-performance communication and to position your function as a strategic partner to the business.
Interested to learn more? Get in touch to find out how Kademy could help you.