Should we view change as a specialist skill or is it the norm?

When I think about specialisms within our profession PR, media relations, Public Affairs, Internal Communications etc. come to mind – but not Change. This thought came to mind as I was looking at research which specified change management as a discipline and when I was looking at a job spec for a permanent role which was a change specialist.

The question that came to mind was around whether anyone permanent would consider change a separate skill and whether it is only interim consultants that cover the change programmes today.

I have worked in-house in communications for 13 years and I would never consider change a specific skill. However, I have managed communications around new CEO’s, COO’s and CFO’s, a company going through an IPO and another being acquired as well as large IT programmes like adoption of enterprise social networks or a new email provider – yet I don’t think about change as anything different to the day job.

So is there a disconnect between what employers are asking for and what communicators see as a distinction within the internal comms specialism? And does anyone in-house consider themselves a change specialist?

I took to LinkedIn to ask the question and was pleased to see that I wasn’t alone in my thinking that change is business as usual but also surprised to see change as a specific role within the communications function with many people commenting ‘I’m in-house and I specialise in change’.

Thank you to those that took the time to answer – here are some of those comments:

  • I would agree with you because ‘change’ is often viewed as a finite project. But transformation is becoming BAU for many organisations, so perhaps change comms roles might become a more permanent feature. (Philippa Melaniphy)
  • Change is BAU. Does anyone know any in-house practitioners not working on change? But when PMOs are set up to manage a change programme, IC functions are normally stretched to their limits and have no capacity/capability. So they go to the interim market. This is the product of underinvestment and downsizing. IC functions that are set up in a project-based structure are always more effective than those that follow the Ulrich model. That’s my experience anyway. Hope that helps. (Sean Trainor)
  • I handled change comms in house, along with a team, we handled all internal comms but it included big and small scale change as part of an ongoing transformation programme. (Jennifer Hayward)
  • I did this and it was highly effective. Though to what Sean Trainor said, all leaders must be skilled in managing change. What I found was often, leaders and managers believed change management was all communications. It is not. Communication is crucial, but Comms can’t be solely responsible for managing change within the organization. Leaders have to be willing to buy in, articulate the why and be willing to have the hard conversations around the decisions that have or are being made. (Kelli Holland, JD, MBA, CBP )
  • I think most comms people I talk to are involved in communicating change. It may not be the bulk of what they do, and every organisation/situation is different, but it’s there to some extent. That said, there’s a good market for experienced change comms interims because a) they can bring specific experience to the table and b) change comms is often linked to (and paid for by) the programme team, so it’s seen as a short term need, hence not perm. (Mark Muscroft)

Interestingly the 2017 Inside Insight report from VMA Group shows that 61% of interim contracts are linked to change programmes and change management is in the top 5 important skills for IC professionals in the future – so clearly not just an interim role in today’s communication function.

On Twitter @wetfootprints replied to the question to say that “The company environment has to be open enough to have a continuous improvement/change culture otherwise will always be seen as temp fix.” And I’m left wondering if company culture needs to shift into this mindset, using the skills of change management and change communication to continually evolve in today’s climate.

Is internal social media a danger to mental health?

Earlier this year I started following Matt Haig on Twitter. This was partly because I was taking part in the charity ride to Hull which was linked to men’s mental health and suicide prevention. A few weeks ago, Matt shared an article he had written about social media and the links it has to depression and overall mental health. For many this isn’t news. We know that the likes and comments on social media release dopamine in our systems – the same chemical we release when we drink, take drugs or gamble. The dangers are easy to see when you look at the science and when you see more and more people putting their highlight reel online for all to see and compare to.

I started a brief Twitter conversation on how this translates to social media inside the workplace and realised quickly that 140 characters wasn’t going to be enough to get my thinking across (even the new 280 won’t cut it).

What is the potential damage of social media inside organisations? No one thought social media could be linked to the likes of drink and drugs when it started but the parallels are frighteningly real.

I’m not comparing like for like here. Internal social media isn’t necessarily about sharing your photos from your holiday and projecting a perfect life. But, as a manager of a retail store, how do I feel when someone smashes their target and posts it online for all employees to like and share? Am I left feeling deflated and depressed that I haven’t done so well without knowing all the facts about how they achieved it?

Are we mature enough, cultural, for the manager without the great sales to comment with a question asking how did you do it? Any tips? Or are we still fostering competitive environments inside the workplace that go against every grain of collaboration you can imagine? I fear the latter.

Being ok with failure, being ok with saying I don’t know is not easy. We don’t live in a world where making a u-turn is ok. We are under huge pressure to know everything and to just get on with it. But not all of us can, and we shouldn’t have to.

The buzz around wellbeing has been on the corporate agenda for a number of years but what is this really? As we introduce these new channels to the workplace are we considering the mental health aspects? Are we considering the introverts, the late adopters, the people who want to come and do a great job and go home?

Can our wellbeing plans catch up with the pace of society and the reality that a charity bake sale and football match won’t cut it? Can the workplace start to explore its role in our now dopamine filled lives and help us get back to some of the basics of human behaviour? Can we have time in meetings to chat about our weekends, rules to put the phones away and regular breaks on the agenda to check in on things outside the room?

We are not too busy to take this seriously. We are not mindless enough to rush from meeting to meeting, task to task without considering the impact of it all. And social media inside organisations needs to come with a little warning – think about the impact on people and think about the culture you are trying to create. It’s not just a channel, for many it is the only way they know how to communicate.

Focussing on the reasons for your digital channels

On Thursday I attended the 2017 Intranet Now conference in London –  a day of talking digital with a room full of people responsible for intranet development. As always, the day was filled with 9 and 15-minute talks from a range of companies, experts and organisations.

So, what were the themes this year and what were my top takeaways from the day?

Task based content is king

It was amazing to see all the different intranets out there, and how some have been changed and adapted over the years. This is what I love about this conference – it’s the only place you can see behind the firewall and into the intranets of other organisations.

The example from Standard Life Aberdeen was the best example I have seen of changing to task based content – just six months after launch. You can see from the images below the change they made to the top level and the mega menu – it’s not a small change!

The need to focus on tasks when designing menus and the overall IA of the intranet is a definite shift from previous years and something to consider for anyone reviewing their intranet.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The six things we want from an intranet

The team at Barnados presented a great case study of the journey they have been on and shared the six things people identified in their discovery phase. Both Rachel Miller and I commented that based our experience – this could be any organisation. Those six reasons are:

  • Simpler processes
  • Easier connections
  • Saving time
  • Personalise
  • Single source of truth
  • Feel part of a bigger story

Finding the right solution to meet these six themes will vary for every organisation but taking them as the principles for the rationale for an intranet platform is a great starting point for anyone.

What was interesting about this example was the need to combine a social platform like Facebook Workplace with an intranet platform that allows for the single source of truth – I hope the team come back to share how the final solution came together and how the launch went!

Remember the reasons for the platform

The presentation from Sarah Moffat was a real highlight for me. Partly because it echoed some work I have done in the past to use digital solutions to engage managers, but mainly because it was ultimately using the technology to solve a particular challenge and integrating it into the wider channel mix. The line manager page with a supporting email cuts through the noise, provides everything in one place and saves time.

My definition of internal communication includes the need for efficiency and using digital platforms to do this should be part of any internal comms strategy today.

There were other presentations throughout the day that echoed the importance of the goals of the project. Don’t create something as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

There are always some big themes and some smaller takeaways from events – here are my smaller takeaways from the sessions:

  • Consider just how much governance you really need and don’t create rules and processes for the sake of it
  • Everyone learns at a different pace so make sure you have time in the plans to build people’s confidence in the platform. The stats around computer skills were a real eye opener!
  • Being the most senior person in the room doesn’t mean you’re the most powerful anymore
  • Accountability and the RACI model are important. I use RASCI – Responsible, Accountable, Support, Consult, Inform. Support is a useful addition
  • We have yet to really solve the challenge around search. It seems to be the thing people complain about most
  • We are creating an intranet that is a front door to the digital campus
  • The theory behind change projects hasn’t changed – we saw a model from 1987 which is still very relevant today

I was lucky enough to join the panel at the end of the day and there was a question on personalisation and collaboration that has stayed with me – further blog to follow on that theme!

So, if you’re working with intranets do check out @intranetnow and be sure to look out for the tickets next year. This event is a must-attend for those working in digital.

Five rooms of internal communication

This week I was invited to present at an event in London called The Five Rooms of Internal Communication – this was an afternoon event giving internal communicators the chance to discuss the different elements of a communications model created by Masgroves and hosted by Engage International.

As an introduction to the event I combined some of my thinking that has been bubbling away for a while thanks to Simon Sinek, VMA Group research and the first #ICBookClub…

We know that the CEO does not always think about internal comms when they think about their communications function. In fact, for many it only comes up when they are going through any sort of change. But what they do think about is corporate reputation and risk. This was my topic at the IOIC summer party when I got on my ‘soap box’ about internal communicators thinking like their counterparts in external comms when it comes to reputation.

The reputation of your organisation should be included in your internal comms strategy. If you’re still having trouble getting your voice heard at a senior level read the research and then leave a copy on your CEOs desk! if you don’t have a copy of the VMA Group report then let me know and I’ll get one in the post to you.

What I find fascinating is that in the world of social media, employees discussing the organisation online is not on the mind of the leadership. With websites like Glassdoor opening the internal world up to the outside world, the importance of the employee experience has never been more so.

And from social media I turn to the rise of the millennials. I blogged about seeing Simon Sinek earlier this year but one of the main themes in his discussion is how we use technology, how technology makes us feel and how dangerous it can be for society. I wonder what this means for the rise of social media as an internal communications platform (that’s another blog for another time).

And as social media use rises, our connection with technology becomes ever more present every hour and every minute. The phone buzzes with notification after notification and now watches mean you are physically attached to it all. This makes our lives increasingly noisy and ‘busy’. But what are we busy actually doing? I can waste a good hour or so scrolling social media feeds and enjoying a game of candy crush – but that’s not busy. We are consumed by data with companies fighting for our attention every hour, every day. Our brains simply cannot cope and when it comes to internal communication, it gives us a lot of noise to cut through.

How can you break through the noise to make sure employees know what they need to know, that they really hear you and you are making an impact? The brain remembers the obscure, the unusual, the thought provoking.

The event this week provided attendees with a model of communications but this wasn’t the core message. It was an experiential session where the delegates worked their way through the five rooms – Orange And Chocolate Waffle Meal. If you want to know more speak to the team at Masgroves but for me, my ‘five rooms’ were CEO, Corporate reputation, Social media, Millennials and Busy and I’ve only just started exploring them all as one.

Thanks again to the team for hosting such a different event and for Ellwood Atfield for hosting it all.

 

Our thoughts from SmileExpo17

On Tuesday I attended the Simply Communicate Smile Expo in London. It was a day of learning for me in some areas and a day that left me wondering how many more years it will take for us to move forward with the digital workplace agenda we have been talking about for years already…

50% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020

So what? As Jakkii Musgrave @slybeer pointed out on twitter – they are already in the workplace and already using emails. The argument that we all need to stop using emails because of millennials is bonkers. Yes email isn’t the right tool for everything and yes people use it wrongly, but it equally has a place. I constantly hear people using email as an excuse not to do anything “email doesn’t work for me, I need to see you or talk to you” well that’s all lovely but if we had to do that for everything, we would be living in meetings which many of us are already!

Having heard Simon Sinek discuss the world of millennials just the other week the topic remains top of mind, but after researching and writing about them for my CIPR Diploma a few years ago there is little to suggest we need to rapidly change the use of email inside organisations.

The intranet is a place for static content and the collaboration platforms should sit alongside it

I could not disagree more with this statement and I think it’s time to redefine an intranet. In a previous role, I was lucky enough to have a relationship with IT that meant we were able to work together to try and change how our business communicated. Working with IBM we launched channels that were integrated, talked to each other, with an end goal of having one platform that could launch you to anything seamlessly – no it isn’t finished and yes user adoption was incredibly challenging.

The thought that everyone is picking up shiny new collaboration tools to sit alongside other intranet platforms, getting users to go to lots of different places and then only measuring the click rates or the likes or the number of people with profile pictures is not where we should be – where is the conversation about the content and engagement?

How do you define a digital workplace?

The session on digital workplace – hype vs reality was run by the team at Simply Communicate and was probably the best session of the day for me. It was interactive, prompted discussion and debate and was the most honest about where we are now. You can see the 6 definitions we were exploring on the day below but for me, it has to be number 6 with a little edit so my definition of a digital workplace is:

The digital workplace is the experience of work delivered through the collective use of connected devices, software and interfaces to drive efficiencies and engagement through the organisation.

What was equally good about this session was the discussion about moving from a personalised intranet, to a social intranet to the digital workplace and I really do think we are still far away from all being comfortable with a social intranet let alone a digital workplace.

Is the answer something like Workplace by Facebook because the majority of users will know the functionality? Maybe. But the fundamental challenge of connecting people at work who serve customers, without mobile phones to hand and an expectation to use their own device in their own time is not something a new channel can fix overnight.

Chatbots and ducks

I cannot thank Sharon O’Dea enough for her session on chatbots. This is an area still quite unknown so I was grateful for the chance to hear more and understand how they could be applied internally and throughout the exercises it became clear we can naturally complicate scenarios that should be simple. As an internal communicator interested in driving efficiencies through digital communication, this sort of advancement is fascinating for our industry.

The power of the duck has been chatted about since Alive with Ideas hosted their Ask the Guru event with CIPR Inside earlier in May and it’s an interesting concept. What I loved about this session was that it was more about the broader internal comms arena than just social and gave us all ideas on how to creatively create an adoption campaign inside an organisation using some new techniques.

Getting the basics right and the importance of adoption

The final session was a reminder about the importance of project planning and I’m thankful again for my IT project manager for teaching me some of these skills already. Adrienne took us all through some good principles around project management and while it seems really heavy – taking the time to do this will make the project much easier.

As I left the event on Tuesday I felt motivated and a little saddened that our journey to create a digital workplace still seems far away. The investment from organisations to do this and do it well is still minimal and the adoption piece is always the bit that gets left behind. To be an internal communicator today your drive and tenacity must be excellent to drive through the business case, the budget requirements, the resource and the ongoing development. Do we really need it? Yes…go and spend a day working in an organisation where there is no collaboration platform in place and you will easily see how difficult it is to work efficiently across multiple sites and countries in today’s business world.

The pursuit of happiness

As I took myself off for a stroll last week I got to thinking about the pursuit of happiness, what employee engagement really is and whether companies are trying to be friends with everyone who works for them.

I don’t go to work to make friends. I might make friends along the way but I go to work because I enjoy what I do and I love making a difference in organisations in relation to their communication. I don’t need everyone there to like me and I shouldn’t need to like everyone there. But are we confusing liking people, friendship and engagement and jumbling it up into a big old mess?

We have four enablers of engagement to consider. Strategic narrative, engaging managers, employee voice and integrity.

So here is my thinking. If I take these four enablers and apply them to my friendships is there a correlation? Does a friendship need to know where it has come from and where it is going? Yes. Friendships are built on a variety of things but my close friends know why we are friends, what the foundations to that friendship are and see a future in it. Some friends I holiday with, spa with, get drunk with, all different relationships and all a ‘strong narrative’.

My friends are my coaches. When we are together we are focussed on each other, helping us all achieve what we want in life and also stretching each other to try new things that could be challenging. I include rock climbing, go karting and skiing as things I have only done because my friends have encouraged me.

We listen to each other and give everyone a voice. In a group of girlfriends if one is going through something we all listen, support and rally. And it was only a few weeks ago I was humbled by being part of a group of friends, with over 15 years of history, who rallied to support one going through an emotional time.

Integrity is our foundation. As friends we are built on the same values and morals. We have a ‘contract’ around the do-say gap and it is really, for me, what friendships are built on.

So with this match up to four enablers I realised that:

1. I’m not friends with everyone. I choose my friends based on all the above. So as a company, I don’t have to be ‘friends’ with everyone. I should choose the right people that fit the organisation and vice versa

2. If my friend upsets me. I tell them and we either work through it or we go our separate ways. This should be the same in the workplace but instead we end up doing the ‘silent veto’ being miserable and leaving a company wondering how it all went wrong

3. Not everyone has a friend for life – and that’s ok. It’s rare to stay with a company all your working career now – but moving every few years or staying a long time is. It’s not the same for everyone.

I guess what I’m thinking is that it isn’t one size fits all. As I read recently, employee engagement is not about happiness. And if you think of it like friendships, it’s clear that it is different for everyone and that you don’t have to be ‘friends’ with every organisation or indeed everyone in it.