💼 Internal Communications Introductions: Meet Laura McCafferty
Vice President, Global Employee Communications at Indeed
I enjoyed talking with Laura McCafferty to learn about her career path. This is her internal communications story.
Laura McCafferty is Vice President, Global Employee Communications at Indeed, the #1 job site in the world with more than 250 million unique visitors each month, She joined the company in November 2019 as Senior Director, Global Employee Communications.
Prior to Indeed, Laura led internal and external communications, digital and social media and social impact teams at companies including Capital One, Nestle Waters North America, General Electric and Unilever,
Laura holds an MA in English and Linguistics from New York University and a BA in Journalism from Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communications.
What sparked your professional path into Internal Communications?
I went to school to be a journalist because I wanted to work for a newspaper or a magazine. When I graduated, I realized most magazines hired for freelance roles or more established journalists. And unfortunately, newspapers didn’t pay much, which I discovered when I got my first job offer. It was barely enough for rent and food. Someone had mentioned to me that I should consider corporate communications. I hadn’t thought of that as a path. But, because I was a writer, I was hired to start a company newsletter.
I was a one person shop, so after I started the newsletter, I checked projects off the list and did more. I began to get feedback that said — it would be great if we heard from different leaders — so I started a speaker series and it grew from there. I was at that company for 10 years.
By the time I left, I was leading internal communications, PR, and community relations, and working closely with environmental affairs. This made sense because it was about telling the company story internally and externally, helping all stakeholders understand what made the company different.. Because I was the first person in, I was able to build it as I went along. It was such a terrific learning opportunity.
How do you describe your role to others?
The evolution of internal communications has been dramatic. When I first started it, it was about sharing information from the top down to people. It was an information distribution role — a corporate newsroom. Where I’ve seen internal communications have its biggest impact is when you step back and think about it as a business enabler.
I am 100% convinced that every problem that exists within a company has to do with a communication breakdown. If you look at an organization and have a very clear vision and strategy, then look at your sales team and find a certain product hasn’t been adopted as you had hoped, when you do the due diligence, you’ll realize there’s a communications problem — perhaps the value proposition isn’t clear or it’s not aligned with clients’ needs.
I’ve had a few roles at companies that were manufacturing based. Communication breakdowns are really common. When companies are open to doing the important diagnostics around why they aren’t hitting production goals or why this equipment is breaking down, there’s always a communications problem at the root. Then, doing that diagnosis to check how to fix it by helping shift supervisors understand their role or developing the training to help, it makes a big difference.
Now, in my current role, I'm running a global team. I wear a couple of hats. First, the content and information piece — we ensure people know what the strategy is, how well we are achieving it and what it means to work here. Then, I have members on my team who are aligned with each of the senior leaders. They are very close to leaders' strategic plans for how their teams can deliver the company’s goals. They make sure everyone has a line of sight into that function so they know how their role contributes to the company’s success. Everyone at Indeed can tell you our mission and how what they do helps people get jobs, even if their role doesn’t have a touch point with a job seeker. We ensure people have that understanding.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
The most timely was the decision that Indeed made early on to have employees work from home — all of the communications that happened were essential to make that transition. We are quickly approaching one year of making that shift — we sent employees home on March 3, 2020. The reason we got there before a lot of other employers did is that, throughout the month of February, we were watching and talking to our employees as news and understanding of the coronavirus became clear.
We were trying to triage by location, looking at potential exposure for employees that were often two steps removed from a potential case.. At that point, there wasn’t a lot of guidance so if we learned that an office might have had exposure, we closed it and tried to find the connections to other employees who may have visited. After a few weeks, we realized that we couldn’t chase potential exposure anymore. The only thing we could do to make us feel comfortable and confident that we were protecting our employee’s safety was to say: “don’t come to work.” So that’s what we did — we let everyone know that they can come back in to collect their laptops, but, starting the following Monday, the office was going to be closed.
It was just the beginning of what became a massive communication plan that is still part of our way of operating today. How do you take a company whose culture is so connected to our offices — there are a lot of events and activities and team building — and create that experience from home? We asked ourselves — how do we create easy ways for people to feel connected and raise concerns? And we began to do a number of things quickly. We do a live Q&A every week with our COO and CEO on Wednesdays. It’s an open hour for anyone to ask whatever they want. We’ve started to add guests because we see themes around questions so we’ll bring in internal speakers or bring in a business leader to share more.
We launched our podcast series to initially help people outside Indeed to understand what we were doing to help people get jobs during this pandemic. Quickly, using the company's technology and products, we helped organizations needing to hire quickly - supermarkets and hospitals, for example.
Then, we set up a number of resources for employees — Mental Health resources, “You” Days - an extra day off each month when the whole company closes so everyone can take a moment and focus on their needs - among others. We also gave employees a stipend to set up a more comfortable work from home environment. . All of this required very strong partnerships with senior leaders, HR and Communications. On our Intranet site, we created a question and answer forum so if you have questions, there’s always a way to get an answer.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Internal Communications?
We have a skills matrix of 17 skills for my team! The fundamentals begin with the importance of being a great writer and being able to write across platforms for different audiences. That is connected with understanding your audience and what their needs are when you communicate with them.
Strategic planning — I’m really fond of saying solve for the need and not the ask. Everyone comes and asks for a specific tactic - a newsletter, video or an email. But, being able to say, let’s table the tactic and talk about what you’re trying to achieve and have faith in the communications team to get you the result you need in the way that makes the most sense.
That leads to the skill of strategic influencing. You may not have the seniority, but you are counseling people who are more senior than you. So, you need to learn how to influence with other tools — understanding the style of leaders, data benchmarking or voice of employees to help ground the recommendations you are making.
What are the sources you read to learn about Internal Communications?
I believe in life long learning. I’m a big reader and I listen to a lot of podcasts, I’m a member of different groups on Internal Communications on LinkedIn. I always like to listen in when they are talking about data, studies and what CEOs say about communications challenges.
I love Adam Grant’s podcast, Work Life. He has had Ester Perel as a guest who always makes me think, which is what I’m after. I don’t want someone to confirm what I already know, I want someone to push me to think about something slightly differently.