Innovating internal comms at Brink: testing and learning towards positive change

Innovating internal comms at Brink: testing and learning towards positive change

As we moved into our fifth year as a business in 2023, we started on a journey to build our internal communications world. We gathered feedback from the team and reviewed the overall ‘Brinkster experience’ to make an internal communications strategy that works for all of us at Brink. 

This is the second part in a series of blogs about our internal communications journey - read the first if you missed it.

In the first part of this series, I shared the journey we started last year to innovate our internal comms. After spotting the challenges we faced and working out what we wanted to accomplish, we brought on board leadership coach and communications expert Sam Lizars to help us build a strategy. Her report, built directly from listening sessions with the team, then acted as the ground from which we expanded or built our strategy from. Our core goal was to ‘Ensure Brinksters feel connected to each other, and our work’.

None of the things we needed to do felt scary, icky or too big for us. What we discovered from our listening sessions was that the systems and structures we had in place were working, but were overloaded. Rather than overhauling things, it was a case of evolving what we had. 

🚦 Putting things into action

Some of the changes we needed to make were small and pretty simple to implement, while others needed more exploration to get right. As an organisation, we’re used to testing new ideas in our work, so we were keen to bring that approach of quickly rolling out changes, and constant cycles of feedback and testing to this project. To that end we used a simple ‘Goal, Problem, Idea, Test’ framework to help plan our next steps:

 💡 All systems go

For each of the smaller goals we’d set, we defined the problem that was stopping us from getting there, the idea we thought could fix that problem, and how we could test that idea. Here’s how that looked:

The goal: Stability through change.

The problem: Some of our basics weren’t in order, and systems (Notion, Google Drive) weren’t working as they should be. This was leading to a slight lack of alignment between our values (why we’re doing what we’re doing), and the processes.

The idea: Overhaul our Notion ecosystem, to ensure there is ‘one source of truth’ for information. Bring this more clearly in line with our Brink Strategy, and update our Wellbeing and Demographic Surveys to help inform future policies, planning and decision making.

The test: We had a raft of newbies join at the end of last year, and used that opportunity to refresh our systems. We tested these systems with new starters, exploring their response and understanding of it all. We gained some excellent insights into things that worked well, and still needed developing, and this led to another stage of work we’re currently undertaking around codifying our work. 

The goal: An efficient and effective information flow. 

The problem: We’d developed an ‘information lake’. People were constantly contributing information, updates and important nuggets across our ecosystem, but they ended up in a big lake of information. When someone needed or wanted to find something, they had to ‘wade in deep’ to find it, which meant more often than not, the information was not received. 

The idea: Turn the information lake into an information river aka flow. To ensure everyone at Brink was receiving the information they wanted and needed, at the right time and to the right place, we reevaluated our company touchpoints to create a thread of consistent communication across each week:

  • Our all-hands Monday meeting (Village Gathering) had a structure update to allow for a more steady drip-feed of information from across our Ops team, our work on programmes, and Brinksters. This new format combined the ‘togetherness’ of our previous all-hands and catch ups, and combined it with a new template to deliver updates in steady, bite-sized chunks.
  • We renamed our #announcements channel to #updates, allowing it to become less of a ‘Big News Only’ space, and more of a place to visit for regular, accessible updates that create a sense of consistency and expectancy. 
  • We started a Friday morning #updates weekly recap, summarising key things that had happened across the team that week: news from our work, big learnings or celebrations, recaps of things people may have missed, and a preview of topics we’d cover in our upcoming Monday meeting.
  • We took feedback on board about our bi-annual ‘Memo Days’ (our full-team, deep dive days), revising the format to allow for a bit more breathing room, and rethinking the purpose of the time together.

The test: This required a lot of 1:1 feedback, often asked informally over Slack, or encouraged at various points throughout the week. We’d see if the team had less questions about ‘what was going on’, observe engagement around updates and ask if Brinksters knew what to expect from updates. 

The goal(s): 

  • Authenticity across our communications. 
  • Tangible positive experiences between Brink and Brinksters
  • Recognition and celebration.

The problem(s): There was a feeling that failure was not normalised at Brink, but also that celebration was being brushed over. This is a curious mix, and opposite to one another, but stemmed from wanting to remain humble in our culture, while also not wanting to dwell on the not-so-good things. 

We were told this could look like:

  • Not spending time decompressing after a difficult or challenging period of work 
  • Quickly getting on with a new project and not celebrating wins enough
  • Positivity bias, and wanting to move onto the next thing when something didn’t go right

The idea: Build a space that acknowledges both the highs and lows. Alongside our #joy Slack channel, we’d introduce a #hard-things channel. This would become a space for sharing challenges, difficult experiences, or a light hearted rant. We also actively encouraged more reflection time during key points within projects to share successes and challenges. 

The test: We gave #hard-things 3 months to breathe and see if it was needed and would be used. This space opened up dialogue about sharing more of the challenges or hurdles we’ve faced, and has already acted as a valuable support space for Brinksters. 

The goal: A system for internal campaigns.

The problem: We were pleased that we didn’t hear much in the way of feedback about this area. Thanks to a buzzing Engine Team, and a superstar Ops Lead (Hi Louise!), the team were used to receiving regular #opsy_updates, keeping them up to date with new policies, ways of working changes and much more. We’ve recently expanded the team to include our new People Manager (Hi Clare!) who is helping to upgrade the Engine even further!

The idea: Between Louise, Clare and Matthew (Hi me!), we’ll work closer together to create an Engine and Comms team that keeps things humming along smoothly, and exploring ways to improve our efficiency, impact and wider culture at Brink.

We’re really grateful to everyone at Brink for being so open with their feedback and thoughts during this process. Their valuable insights have already allowed us to iterate our initial ideas and strengthen these changes, including adapting our Monday all-team meeting to make it more impactful, adjusting our Notion hub to work better for everyone and begin sharing Slack updates summarising key meetings for people who may have missed it.

It’s been just over 6 months since we began this process, and we’re confident that changes we’re making are having a positive impact in helping Brinksters feel more connected to Brink and our work. We know there will always be work to do - as is normal in a growing and remote organisation - but by grounding what we do in line with our values, we hope that we’ll be able to navigate these well. 

In the next blog in this series, we’ll share more about how we’re building our wider culture around value-driven touchpoints, and what that looks like in terms of employee experience.  

Some of the challenges and experiences we have are unique to Brink, but we know there’s also a lot of shared challenges here with other organisations. Are you a scaling small business or remote-only? We’d love to learn from you if you have a similar structure to Brink. How are your internal comms processes? What have you tried that’s worked, or what challenges have you faced? We’d love to chat [email protected]

Interested in this topic, want to know more, or have some thoughts? Drop us a line at [email protected] and let's chat!