Published: 06/01/2005, Volume II5, No. 5937 Page 27

Claire Austin is a former communications director at University Hosptal Birmingham foundation trust and is now a freelance consultant.

claireaustin1@hotmail. com

Improving internal communication is not difficult - it just takes dedication and commitment from everyone in an organisation, and a willingness to do things differently.

The communications professionals may work miracles, but unless their work is reinforced by an open culture throughout the organisation they will be beating their heads against brick walls.

What can you do to improve things? First think about how you communicate with your colleagues, your team and those members of staff you meet in the course of your work. Are meetings held in your environment or do you make a point of varying their location? Do you always expect your team members to come to your office or do you see them in their own place of work?

Do you have a set routine, come in at the same time, park in the same spot and talk to the same people? If so, change it. Vary your route into work. Park in a different spot every day, enter your building by a different entrance and make a point of saying hello to at least five people on your way to the office. In a month you will have potentially spoken to 100 new people.

Remember to wear your name badge so people know who you are.

Just having your picture in the staff magazine does not guarantee recognition. And think about how you communicate - do you resort to e-mail or memo? Pick up the phone or better still go and see people faceto-face.

When you visit areas around your organisation, do you seek to praise or criticise? There is no point going on a walkabout to help improve staff morale if on every ward you point out faults. Instead, make a point of giving praise where It is due, encourage comments and listen to what people have to say to you.

Most importantly, smile. You will be surprised how many people smile back.