Interview: Henny Braund

The Anthony Nolan chief executive tells Femke Colborne how improving communication among the charity's staff created a more motivated workforce

Henny Braund, chief executive, Anthony Nolan
Henny Braund, chief executive, Anthony Nolan

For Henny Braund, good management is all about communication. Since she was appointed as chief executive of Anthony Nolan, which matches cancer patients with stem cell donors, Braund has focused on improving the charity's communications, both internally and externally.

As well as launching a new brand and strategy, Braund has concentrated on making sure staff understand the charity's mission, are kept in touch with its successes and feel valued and motivated. When she first joined Anthony Nolan in January 2009, things were not working quite as she would have liked. "Things had become a bit stale and it had lost its way, despite the fantastic staff."

The first thing she did was introduce a new strategy: to double the number of donors on the charity's register. Then she focused on raising awareness of the strategy among the charity's 200 staff. A new internal communications officer role was created, and the message was spread through weekly email updates from the chief executive, a new intranet, posters, conferences and roadshows.

Staff were also encouraged to use Facebook and Twitter to spread the message externally. A coffee area was created with a space where people could pin up letters from donors, and new 'lunch and learn' sessions were introduced - a chance for staff to give talks about work.

"It was really important to start that process of internal communications," says Braund. "Giving people a purpose and a vision is really important. I think it's really crucial that people feel part of the organisation and understand what's going on."

Before Braund joined Anthony Nolan, she was resources director at the homelessness charity Shelter, having been promoted from HR manager. She has used this experience to make some significant changes to Anthony Nolan's management. "When I started there wasn't a management culture," she says. "There were 24 managers, but they were all tied to their own teams."

Braund introduced a new development programme, bringing in external trainers from March 2010. She also wrote to the chief executives of five organisations, both charities and companies, that were known for good practice in particular areas, and arranged for staff to spend time working at them. The approach has paid off - Anthony Nolan was named as One to Watch in the Best Companies Guide 2010.

But Braund still believes there is room for improvement. "We could do more when someone does something good - not in terms of money, but in terms of praise," she says. She also wants to focus more in future on improving communications with the charity's regional offices, and with its volunteers.

"At the end of the day, I'm passionate about people," she says. "If I can't get our people right, I can't get it right for the people whose lives we want to save. If the staff are motivated and happy, you get the best for everyone."

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