By Julie Ford on August 31, 2023



Listen to this episode to learn:  

  • Critical role of IC in the healthcare industry and other industries with deskless workforces 
  • How IC impacts employee well-being and organizational success 
  • Challenges and opportunities of reaching deskless workforces 
  • Importance of user experience and behavior change support 
  • Significance of feedback and engagement for measuring effectiveness 
  • Why it’s important to elevate the IC profession for strategic alignment 
  • And much more! 

Hosted by Julie Ford.


About the Speakers

Jesse Cressman-Dickinson




Jesse Cressman-Dickinson
Director of Communication and Community Engagement, 

“Given the size of the sector, and the number of people we're trying to communicate to on a daily basis, within the healthcare field, who are not sitting at a computer, it's hard to get this group with a quick email. So, there's so much opportunity to think about how we could serve these teams in a better way. Why are we still tolerating things like intranets? Why would we think that people who are doing a job away from a desk, would be using this platform as the primary way to get their updates?”

Julie Ford
Head of Content at Sparrow Connected

Julie Ford engages in an insightful conversation with Jesse Cressman-Dickinson, Director of Communication and Community Engagement at Bruyère, on the critical importance of internal communication in the healthcare industry, where lives literally depend on it. Together, they explore the future of intranets, reaching the entire deskless workforce in every industry beyond Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, and what happens when internal communication is turned off.



Julie Ford 0:01 

Welcome to the IC Connected or ICON podcast. This podcast will challenge conventional thinking about internal communications. It will force you to think differently, consider bold ideas, and step outside your comfort zone through real unscripted insights from some of the best internal comms pros and subject matter experts in the world. But most importantly, this podcast will help you elevate your career, and together will elevate the internal comms profession to the C suite.  


Hey, everyone, today I'm joined by Jesse Cressman-Dickinson. She's the Director of Communication and Community Engagement at Bruyère, a multi-site academic healthcare organization in Canada, that is maximizing quality of life and helping people stay and return home. Thanks for joining me today, Jesse.  


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 0:46 

Thanks for having me.  

Julie Ford 0:47 

We have a really interesting topic today. We're going to talk about what happens when you turn internal communications off. So, jumping into my first question, you work in the healthcare industry, which we know is an industry with a large percentage of deskless workers and communication is absolutely critical - lives literally depend on it. Would you say that there's a need for the healthcare industry as a whole to improve internal communications? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 1:10 

I'd say both - there's a need and there's such an opportunity, you know, given the size of the sector, and the number of people that we're trying to communicate to on a daily basis, within the healthcare field, who as you pointed out, they're not sitting at a computer. It's hard to get this group with a quick email. So, there's so much opportunity to think about how we could serve these teams in a better way. You know, why are we still tolerating things like intranets? Why would we think that people who are doing a job away from a desk, very active, would be using this platform as the primary way to get their updates?  


And, so you know, I mentioned just the size of the sector, it is kind of shocking to me, that given the number of organizations that could benefit from a more comprehensive and more modern internal communications solution, that there aren't more people knocking on our doors to say, hey, we've got an idea for you.  


Julie Ford 2:14 

Yeah, that's a really good point. But there must have been times where you've seen a greater emphasis or need for internal communications. Can you share your experience with that? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 2:23 

Yeah, there are absolutely times where it gets greater emphasis and greater attention. You know, crisis, that's definitely a time when people really see the value of it, they see the importance. We've just come through and are coming through a pandemic. And this has been, I think, a real sense, or a real example to so many people throughout organizations of the importance of this. The flip side is that when internal communications is going well, it goes unnoticed, it's this silent thing that just happens. You had the information you needed to do your job, so you take it for granted, and you start taking it for granted.  


And I think that it also speaks to internal communications being more than the job of the communication department. Internal communication is the job of every single person within the organization. And the stronger they are communicating that, the better everybody is doing within the organization and things just move smoothly. It's when things start to breakdown in communication that you start to see the problem. And then you get noticed. You get a lot of feedback when it's going wrong. 

Julie Ford 3:37 

Yeah, for sure. You mentioned that people take it for granted. And I can totally understand why that is what it is. And you know, you mentioned the pandemic, how did the pandemic specifically impact you and your internal communications team at Bruyère? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 3:53 

When the pandemic hit, we were a very small team. And we were able to really show the value and the importance, and we grew our team from it, from a core comms team of two people to seven people. And so, Bruyère is a really large organization that includes specialized hospitals, long term care homes, family health teams. We were really able to show, and we had the support of our senior leadership team who really understood the value of this. We were also able to look at new tools. Coming through this, we're looking at a new partnership to be able to get staff by text message and be able to target staff, certain groups of our staff by text message. But even before we get there, we're able to reach out to our staff and say, “Hi, how do you want to be communicated to what works for you?” Is it phone, is it email, is it text, and then we can send messages out based on that preference. 


Julie Ford 4:55 

Yeah, I think as a whole, regardless of industry, people have their preference. It says how they want to be communicated with. And it sounds like the path forward for internal comms is delivering the messages to the audience on the platforms and the tools that they want to use and that they're already using. You mentioned intranets earlier, like, nobody's going to go to an intranet if they're in an emergency department treating patients, right. So, things won’t go well.  


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 5:24 

People on our team call that “the Go Fish” communication, right. And we do still use the intranets, it is something we use, it is something that's required. But it's Go Fish. We tell people to go somewhere and fish for something, search a given term, and they get a whole bunch of information that results in - it's not necessarily what they're looking for. And tools exist to help us be able to do all the things you mentioned, to be able to reach people where they want to be reached. And that just increases the chance of our message being seen. 

Julie Ford 5:59 

Yeah, exactly. So, diving more into the conversation around text messaging stuff, if we think even beyond healthcare to other industries that also have largely deskless workforces. What do you see as the benefits of being able to reach staff via text message specifically, 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 6:15 

Again, I think the benefit is that we're reaching our teams in a way that we know they're used to communicating. To a certain extent, you know, if we take the example of text messaging, our staff, our front line, and just like you said, it's similar to other front lines that are doing a job where they're not in front of a desk and a computer all day, they're not used to, maybe checking into these different platforms after their workday, or on their way to work or on their lunch break, or on their break, or at some defined period in their workday. It's just not the way they're used to it, they're getting messages from managers.  


So, when we're making these shifts to adapt these tools, we have to make sure we're also supporting the behavior change behind it. And we're building that into the workday and the work expectations. So, you know, if you've gotten all your information from your organization, historically, from your manager, and all of a sudden you've introduced this text tool, it's not going to be useful unless you've done the groundwork with your teams to inform them about this new tool - what types of information will be coming that way, and what is the expectation to actually review it. So, we need to build in the change management and behavior change support when we're rolling out these tools. 


Julie Ford 7:38 

Absolutely. You know, you don't just one day start text messaging your stuff, right? Because they might think it's spam. First of all, they're not used to it. So, if you're going to do it, what you're trying to say is, you need to actually put some thought into developing a strategy to roll it out so that everybody's in the know about what is happening, why they're getting these texts. And, you know, maybe there's an option for them to say, no, I'd rather not get texted, can you send this to me by another form or another channel, and really help make it a smooth transition. 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 8:10 

And the more we can do to understand what those channels are, working with our teams, right - to identify what their barriers might be. Because each workforce and each team are different. The more we have the ability to identify what the preferences are, and to provide the information through those different channels, the better we'll do. 


Julie Ford 8:34 

Are there any channels that you found particularly effective for reaching your deskless workforce? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 8:38 

Yeah, I mean, word of mouth is still a tried-and-true method. We use messages through managers that daily huddles and rely on directors to send messages to managers who send messages to the front line. I joke that we're still using the eight and a half by 11 piece of paper. This is still a tried-and-true method. When I first started working in healthcare, I couldn't believe that this was still being used, but it functions and it's what a lot of teams are used to. Challenges with this is that they tend to walk away.  

We had one campaign we did during the early days of our COVID response, where it was a masked person, and someone went around drawing smiles on all of the masks and loved it because it was just such a perfect example of you know, at least they're reading the poster or they're paying attention to the poster and they've added this beautiful smile so they're able to engage with it. So, paper works. We have so many opportunities now with things like digital screens that we could explore. That would give us more opportunity, but paper is a tried-and true-way.  


Text messages as we mentioned, looking to improve intranets, what's the future of the Internet, what are intranets that allow us to be able to tailor what people see based on their work needs? And really, also leveraging notifications, right? And does that red dot affect the need for people to clear and see their notifications? 

Julie Ford 10:18 

Awesome. Well, it sounds like an omni channel approach to internal communications is well suited to getting information to your deskless workforce. Have you looked at any platforms that deliver this functionality? And if so, what do you look for in these types of solutions? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 10:33 

Yeah, so you know, that's how I found Sparrow. It was in my dream search at the side of my desk for what is the platform for our future. And, you know, we're still looking with our team for what that is going to be for us. But we do know the things we're looking for. And we are prioritizing the user experience, we want it to be seamless. Everybody's jobs are hard enough, we don't want reading messages and communicating with the organization to be something that's challenging. Everyone needs to find it easy to use, it needs to be multi-channel. We need to be able to post in one place because we are small, right? Our communication teams are small. And we need to be able to post in one place and get our content to multiple locations, we need to have it as part of an existing solution that the organization is already using.  


Julie Ford 11:26  

Again, this goes back to the user experience.  


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 11:28  

But we don't want to create another place where people have to go where they aren't already playing. Need to be able to target we can do this, we need to target information so that only people who need to see it, get it and assign and be able to assign the action item right to indicate that it has been read. I have consumed this; I can confirm I have consumed this information. We need to be able to track who has reviewed and interacted with the content, or I guess we want to.  


And bilingualism you know, we can expect a lot more. For a bilingual solution where you're able to receive information in the language you want it in, we shouldn't have to sift through multiple different languages that makes it challenging for the user to consume, or toggle back and forth. We can do this; we know the technology exists to make that easy. And reach - we need to make sure we can reach everybody, no exceptions. 


Julie Ford 12:32 

And that includes people who may not have access to Microsoft Teams or SharePoint, right? Because I understand in the world of deskless workers, not everybody is necessarily on the Microsoft Teams, they might not have access to corporate channels. So for sure, being able to reach someone using a personal email address or a personal phone number or their social channels, or their social logins, I think that's so important if you're actually going to reach the entire workforce. 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 13:02 

Absolutely. And you know, you mentioned it, with teams, everybody plugs-in in different ways, depending on their role and their team. And it is a relatively new tool for us within our organization. So there isn't one universal way of using it at this point in time. 

Julie Ford 13:21 

So, at the end of the day, what really matters in internal communications is the outcomes. What types of outcomes do you see from the internal communications that you're delivering to your workforce? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 13:30 

I mentioned that we want analytics, we want to know that our contents are being reviewed and acted upon. And at the end of the day, it's so much more than the number of people who read or clicked on any piece of content. It's people, having the information they need to do their jobs. It goes back to points I was making earlier about when internal communication is going well, nobody notices. And I think that this is so true here.  


Like if we didn't have analytics, we wouldn’t know our internal communication was working, if people had the information, they needed to do their jobs, if work, culture and organizational culture was chugging along, moving forward. We would have an inkling that oh, hey, wait, our internal comms is working. And so beyond just having the information to do what they need to do the daily tasks. It sets the tone and the culture within the organization, and you just can't build this without a solid internal comms structure. 


Julie Ford 14:50 

Absolutely. So is there any way that you would be able to know that what you're delivering in terms of communications is not working? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 15:00 

Yeah, I often joke with my team that we thrive on engagement and feedback, you know, the good, the bad and the ugly, we want it all. Because to me when there's no feedback, it probably means no one has read it, or your community is unengaged. 

Julie Ford 15:18 

Yeah, that's a good point. So you're happy to get any feedback. Good feedback. So this leads me to my final big question. What do you think would happen if you turned internal communications off completely? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 15:32 

This is such a hilarious concept to me. But I do think there may be people who believe it's possible that they would probably fall into the camp of seeing internal communication as something that a communication team exclusively does, rather than something that's part of everyone's job. Everyone plays a role in ensuring their teams and colleagues are informed. It's how we get things done. It's how we ensure everyone's aligned on what we collectively need to do and why or strategy, it's how we get everybody behind it. And on the same page, leaders know and understand the value of a pitch that gets your team motivated. It's the root of internal comms - getting your teams the information they need, to be inspired to do their jobs. It's something that everybody in the organization is responsible for. And it's a really important part of everyone's job and instilling this culture where everyone understands this, is equally as important as the platforms and the tools and the message themselves.  


Julie Ford 16:30 

It sounds to me like you absolutely cannot turn internal communications off, because internal communications is sort of the root of the organization and communications are going to continue, whether you have a formal internal communications team or not, you absolutely should have that team there to facilitate the communications, and empower the workforce to communicate with the organization with each other, and really build that thriving culture.  

And, you know, have everybody be inspired and informed and able to do their jobs to the best of their ability. I can only imagine that, especially in healthcare, if there were no internal communications, the consequences could be quite dire. You know, if there's some kind of regulatory update, that is very critical, if there is some kind of security breach or cyber attack, how would that get communicated accurately, effectively to the workforce on time, without internal communications? So, at the end of the day, I agree with you. I think it is a funny question. And I don't think that you could turn it off, nor should you. Instead, you should just help facilitate it across the organization. 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 17:45 

You mentioned the role of facilitation. And I think it's so important, the role of helping to craft the message, ensuring that all the relevant stakeholders are aware and able to input because healthcare organizations are big, diverse bodies with many different people doing many different roles. So, there's absolutely an essential role for the internal communication team to play. But to your point, if the internal communications got turned off, that team went away, the messages would continue to flow, they wouldn't necessarily be accurate, they wouldn't necessarily be coordinated, but you can't stop it. 


Julie Ford 18:26 

Yeah. And that's not something that we want to experience. No, no, it's absolutely not, no, especially when lives are on the line, when people are there to receive care and require the providers, need the right information in order to deliver that care. So absolutely critical. And I don't think healthcare is the only place where that's absolutely critical, either. 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 18:49 

And we've seen this recently with going through the pandemic, but also a recent time where we didn't have internet access. You know, how do we get messages to our teams in a world with no internet? Fortunately, healthcare is great for this and that we have several offline channels that we are currently using, and we were able to activate them, but it's having the infrastructure that we had in place, was essential for responding to that and getting our teams the information, they needed to do their jobs. And to your point, Julie, it’s that they are saving lives, like that is their job. So, we have to help make sure that they have the information they need to do that. 

Julie Ford 19:35 

It just speaks to how critical internal comms is, not just in healthcare, but you know, in all industries, and you know, we need to, rather than think about turning it off, we need to think about how we invest more in internal communications and really help the profession get to the next level and get more of a voicing, become more strategic across the organizations 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 20:00 

Yeah, how do we turn it up and really help communicators be able to see the impact that they can have in the field? I did a round of interviews recently and I was explaining, it was for internal communication coordinator. And I had a teammate say to me, before starting here, I thought that internal communications was where you went and your communication career. And it was just, oh, it was a knife to my heart because it's just so essential for the health of the organization, that for a young communicator to feel that way. You know, we clearly hadn't like they hadn't been exposed to the potential impact that they could have. 


Julie Ford 20:40 

Thank you so much for joining me today. Jesse. It's been such a pleasure speaking with you. Where can our listeners go to connect with you after the show? 


Jesse Cressman-Dickinson 20:46 

Thank you, Julie. I really enjoyed it. I'm really happy to connect and I can be reached at LinkedIn. My name is Jesse Cressman-Dickinson. 


Julie Ford 20:54 

Thank you.  


Thanks for listening to the ICON podcast. This podcast has been brought to you by Sparrow Connected. Head over to sparrowconnected.com to learn more about the internal comms platform that is elevating the internal comms profession. And be sure to follow we lead comms on LinkedIn. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast channels and tune in for the next episode. 

PODCAST TAGS: internal communciations podcasts IC connected icon

More Podcasts

← Back to All Episodes

Be a Podcast Guest

Are you an internal communications leader who:

  • Challenges conventional thinking about internal communications?
  • Has unique experiences and insights that will benefit internal comms community?
  • Wants to help educate and inspire internal comms pros around the world?
  • Is committed to elevating the internal comms profession?

If yes, you could be a fit for the ICON podcast.

Fill out the form and a member of the Sparrow Connected team will be in touch.