JN Bentley - getting ground level buy-in

Before developing a CR strategy, Kate Crawford, Social Responsibility and Communications manager at JN Bentley, spent time listening and developing trust by openly discussing examples of her experience gained from previous employers, including examples of ideas that hadn’t worked.

Organisational Context

Ask them to feed back on a face to face level and … take a few bacon sandwiches with you!

- Kate Crawford,
Social Responsibility and Communications Manager, JN Bentley
JN Bentley is a civil engineering construction company that prides itself on working with clients to find innovative solutions to traditional construction problems and applying the latest information technology to help drive efficiencies and reduce waste in processes without compromising on quality. JN Bentley is also working hard to implement its CR motto; “Be A Good Business”.

Desired Business Outcomes

Kate Crawford was appointed in late 2007 to develop the company’s communications and CR programme from scratch.  The idea was to provide a recognisable and communicable vision for CR, which employees and clients would value.

Challenges

The main challenge for raising employee awareness is a typical communications issue facing  companies within their industry. A large proportion of their employees are site based construction workers with no access to computers for company emails or intranet and regularly change their workplace location.

Other key challenges included:

  • Kate's unfamiliarity with the construction sector on appointment, giving her a steep learning curve to understand the nature of the marketplace and internal audience

  • Communicating the new strategy to a sometimes sceptical and always diverse audience

  • Overcoming some fairly wide-spread perceptions that CR is a “fluffy nice-to-have” that is not an essential part of the business

  • Getting senior and middle managers to see how CR could benefit the business and help them achieve their objectives

Overcoming the challenges

Before developing a CR strategy, Kate spent time individually with each senior manager to learn how the business works within the sector.  She began to develop trust by openly discussing examples of her experience gained from previous employers, including examples of ideas that hadn’t worked as well as those that had.

Kate also visited sites, making an effort to build a good rapport with those at the 'coal face’, frankly debating the merits and value of CR activities with them, while looking at options for developing effective internal communication channels.  Alongside this, she worked with her board-level line manager and Business in the Community to develop a new reporting framework based on the BITC Model, for recording activity and communicating the company’s approach.  This incorporated all of the good work the company was already doing, but hadn’t previously thought of as CR, as well as some new programmes introduced by Kate following a gap analysis.

Whenever Kate visits sites, she always tries to spend time discussing her work through informal conversation with members of the site team.  She believes discussing CR using everyday language as part of a conversation, rather than formally presenting it using business jargon and management theories helps raise awareness of CR subconsciously.  This awareness can then be been reinforced through more formal company messaging through internal and external communications channels. 

She has been delighted by the high internal awareness levels being evidenced in feedback from surveys, including the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For list, as well as positive feedback from clients, other construction companies and other BITC members.

Kate is the first to acknowledge that there is still work to be done to embed CR fully within the core business strategy, but this stage of the process is well underway with a cross-company project team that benefits from board level input.

One of the biggest lessons Kate has learned since being with the company is that an amazing amount of ground-level buy-in can be achieved through a down to earth conversation over a mug of tea and a bacon sandwich!

Behaviours demonstrated:

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