UTS Library

Turning Around Morale and Employee Engagement within a Dispersed Construction Business


Leighton Contractors

PR Company: 

Leighton Contractors

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2010 C7 - 1



Executive Summary: 

Before 2006, staff based in Leighton Contractors Western Region mainly relied on the media and the staff rumour mill for information about the company’s direction and performance.

With no existing internal communications strategy or public relations staff in place the problem grew during a period of negative publicity and business restructuring that significantly reduced the company’s revenue base.

In 2006 the newly appointed Communications Manager recognised that before rebuilding the company’s public profile, work was needed on its internal profile.

More than 50% of staff believed the company’s internal communication was poor. Disengaged and dissatisfied, the dispersed workforce had low morale and little company loyalty.

After researching staff needs, a robust internal communications strategy was developed and implemented. These methods were regularly evaluated through qualitative and quantitative research.

The program has exceeded its overarching goal with 72.3% of staff in 2009 reporting internal communications as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rankings.

Now Leighton Contractors Western Region has gone from having no focus on communication to quadrupled investment in a proven and effective workplace communications strategy over the last four years, (spanning 2006 to 2010).

The strategy showed that, by meeting the communication needs of employees, engagement rises and business performance improves.

Situation Analysis: 

In 2006, Leighton Contractors Western Region had to tackle serious staff morale and internal communications issues with no existing internal communications strategy or public relations staff in place.

External pressure compounded the issue with WA gearing up for an unprecedented economic boom. Staff retention was a business priority, making strategic internal communications vital to boost morale and improve workplace desirability.

The newly appointed Communications Manager first assessed Leighton Contractors Western Region’s employee’s opinions on the company and internal communication issues.

Research indicated only 34% of staff believed communications were satisfactory. 50% of staff said it was poor. Staff indicated a low understanding of the business direction, low morale an dissatisfaction with the company leadership.

Given the major changes within the company, this was unacceptable.

Tasked with improving the Western Region’s internal profile before tackling its public profile, the communications goal was to dramatically turn around employee satisfaction and engage staff with a new business direction, spanning new industry sectors. Only a well executed internal communications program aligned to related strategic objectives was going to deliver the goal.

The goal was ambitious, given the disenfranchised, diverse and dispersed workforce ranging from contract labourers to management professionals in autonomous projects across WA.


A significant investment in research commenced when the Communications Manager was appointed.

A mix of seven process, impact and outcome evaluation tools was used to gauge the strategy’s effectiveness:

Research table

Comprehensive evaluation assessed the internal communications strategy using process, impact and outcome measures

Research table 2

Target Policies: 

The Western Region’s workforce ranges from contract labourers to management professionals working across projects from the Northern Territory to WA’s South West.

All employees were targeted by this internal communication strategy. This broad, and diverse, group was categorised into the following sub-groups:


General Manager, Executive Management Team, Project Managers and their administrative staff were critical in championing internal communication.

Office based staff

A diverse mix of professional and administrative personnel as well as project teams bidding tenders before winning work and moving to site.

Site based staff

The benchmarking survey identified a major project with a significant communications issue. Improving internal communication on this project was an immediate priority.

Blue collar workforce

Tailored and innovative internal communications beyond emails and Intranet was needed to reach those without access to email.

Employees’ families

A secondary target audience with the potential to reinforce employee engagement.

Target publics

Tailored tactics and tools were used meet the unique needs of organisational groups.

Target publics diagram


Communication Strategy: 

Prior to 2006, Leighton Contractors Western Region did not have an internal communications strategy.

In developing the strategy significant consideration was given to overcoming the challenges of a diverse and segregated workforce in a demanding and talent-tight industry.

Communication Strategy diagram


The Communications Strategy for the Western Region is documented at the start of each financial year, adjusting to amendments in business direction.

1. The internal communication strategy stems from this and objectives are translated into tools and tactics, scheduled across the year, within a certain budget.

2. Key Performance Indicators are set and progress is monitored.

3. Evaluation data is analysed to identify what learning and strategy adjustments should be made.

Implementation table

Implementation table 2


The effectiveness of focused internal communications, which listens to staff needs, is evident in this strategy.

Detailed results are outlined in Appendix A and B. However topline results clearly demonstrate the strategy’s success.

Process evaluation – reach, appropriateness, quality and satisfaction

Process measures demonstrate tools and tactics are reaching the target demographics and they are high quality and appropriate.

Impact evaluation – Staff rating of internal communication:

Results table

Results table 2

 Results table 3


Several years after its humble beginnings, Leighton Contractors Western Region’s internal communication has become one of the company’s strengths.

Several years after its humble beginnings, Leighton Contractors Western Region’s internal communication has become one of the company’s strengths.

The program has been deemed a success based on:

- Results from the research undertaken as part of the program indicate that the goal was met and exceeded, with 72.3% of staff giving these ratings in the 2009 survey, lifting from 14% in the 2006 survey.

- Independent organisational surveys showing communications as the leader of improvement within the Western Region, and all other dimensions of this business improving in a statistically significant fashion.

- Informal and formal positive feedback from management and staff, shows the internal communications program to be an industry leader.

- Management’s commitment to the program through a doubling of funding and quadrupling of staffing (since 2006 program start) to continue to expand the company’s internal communications.

Evaluation table

Evaluation table 2