Thursday 3 October 2019
Over the summer, Rhea Kamath worked as a Government Communications Service (GCS) Intern at the Health and Safety Executive, Britain’s national workplace regulator for health and safety, as part of their internal communications team.
We caught up with her to find out more about her experience, and how she found more than she was bargaining for.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Government Communication Service at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Liverpool, as a part of the closely knit Internal Communications team. I worked on a massive variety of projects, particularly on the all colleague events that we’re going on in September and October for our new Chief Executive and new strategies for the future.
Admittedly, I was extraordinarily lucky that I came at such a time of change, not only for HSE, but also in terms of Brexit and the level of uncertainty in UK politics. The fast-paced nature meant I could always get stuck into something, from writing briefing packs for all the locations (a surprisingly tasking thing to do) to filming vlogs with the senior leadership team – probably my favourite task. My days ranged too – Monday’s were surprisingly calm, usually dedicated to solving the issues from the week before, while Thursdays were a mad rush of meetings, trying to get the weekly bulletin out on time without missing an apostrophe (which I’m guilty of) and tracking attendance data for the week. The rest of the days were littered with team huddles and meetings I could be privy to, to actually understand what goes on in organising all colleague events.
It’s natural to expect someone who’s been writing for as long as I can remember to be a dab hand at communication, but working over the summer in government internal communications truly showed me how complex even communicating a single idea was, when your audience was not an office, but 66 million people in this country, each with a diverse range of needs, wants and opinions. This naturally translated into HSE as well, especially because our offices spread from Plymouth to Inverness, each area having their own demands. Reviewing feedback from office visits that had occurred before I joined really gave me an insight into what each area needed, and how as a comms department we could work with them (and not against them) in helping them achieve this.
One of the major experiences that I had was work shadowing in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) where I got to meet members of all the different communications teams, along with fellow interns who after looking at my confused face, took me across a tour of the grand FCO building. Meeting with all of the teams in a Whitehall department confirmed what I had learnt at HSE – government communications was basically a carefully choreographed dance of highly curated words and messages, where a small stumble or an incorrect phrase could result in the whole thing crumbling.
Talking to the Internal Communications team at the FCO also revealed that the issues of IC are universal – no one reads the weekly bulletin. Whether it was trying to get people to brief their teams at HSE, or trying to make department wide content accessible for those whose first language isn’t English, maintaining the right balance of the amount of internal messaging was essential in ensuring its effectiveness.
Internal communications was far from the world I had imagined it to be, and probably one of the best internships I could’ve done. Not only did it give me incredible exposure to the inside workings of the civil service, I also met some incredible people. As an intern, one of the first expectations you have is that you will probably be told to fetch endless cups of coffee, and to be perceived as the “lowly intern”. But from the very second I walked into HSE, that idea completely disappeared and I instantly felt like an equal, with real, substantive ideas and this was the experience of GCS interns across the country. Right now, I’m heading back to university to complete my degree in Geography, but mark my words HSE – I’ll be back.