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.

Horsing around

It’s week six in the new job and last week I spent the day taking part in an Equine Assisted Development day with my new colleagues to establish how we will work as a team. After years of attending workshops, development days and leadership coaching I would trade them all in for just one day like this – I had no expectations yet I left the day feeling slightly revolutionised.

Working with the horses as a tool to help us identify where we fit in the team, how we manage people, influence others and support each other is simply genius. But why should you do it?

You will learn more about your colleagues than you expect
How we behave with the horses and in front of each other in a situation like this is very telling. People I had interpreted as very confident showed signs of fear and anxiety and for others who are often quiet and shy their true determination to overcome obstacles shone through. Watching each other, understanding body language and how it affects the horses is a great way to draw parallels for your work life.
I found out where I fit
Being an ESTJ I know most people see me as the life and soul of a team and I have often thought of myself as someone who is very happy to lead people. What I learnt from the session was that I actually prefer being at the back of pack, keeping everyone together and supporting the leader who is out front. Understanding the herd mentality and linking that to the team – working with the horses as that team, in the physical place that you fit, demonstrated the importance of working together, communicating and for me, knowing that it didn’t matter who was in what role – what is important is that all the roles are taking an active part.
Understanding the important of your behaviours
It’s very easy to think about your own world when going through change. Change effects everyone differently but when you’re leading a team of people or in a position of leadership you need to consider how your behaviour impacts them. Working with the horses as a team and then changing formation you’re incredibly aware how sudden changes make an impact and how you need to work together as a team to make that change smooth.
The importance of personality
Working with two horses who had very different personalities meant we were able to really understand how you have to adapt your behaviour to get the right results. This isn’t anything new but actually seeing it, watching your colleagues influencing through body language alone, gives you more depth to what is often a very throw away comment. Understanding personality delved into trust, pace and confidence more than I could have imagined.
The physicality of seeing the impact of body language and learning from your colleagues while unearthing some real insight into how we individually work is invaluable. Some people might be sceptical about the parallels you can draw from such an experience but take the leap, go out of your comfort zone to find out more about yourself, but also to benefit those around you.
If you want to find out more just get in touch or you can speak to Charlotte Dennis

Return of the Yak

 

Another year, another yak. Yesterday we, The IC Crowd, hosted The Big Yak for a second year. About 130 internal comms pros descended on Richmond, London for day of discussion, debate and networking.

Following our unconference format from 2013 and with the support of our facilitator Benjamin Ellis, the delegates made their way through the rain, grabbed coffee and croissants and started debating the things on their agenda at the moment.

Last year the topics were very broad with a lot of people attending their first ever unconference, where as this year we got into the detail and people took to the post it notes immediately!

The topics covered included:

  • Are internal comms pros the worst communicators in their own teams?
  • How do we make HR communications cool?
  • The changing roles and skills for IC
  • Video storytelling
  • Brand and engaging teams in it
  • Leadership – sometimes leaders get to the top without being great communicators, how do we support/work with them
  • Moving from cascade to conversation
  • Are IC qualifications worth it?
  • How to engage with a mobile workforce
  • Global communications
  • Breaking down divisional silos
  • Joining up internal and external comms
  • How important is authenticity for internal communicators
  • Making content relevant
  • What comes next after ESNs?
  • Channel effectiveness
  • How to plan and implement ESN
  • What fund stuff can you do in briefings and at work to engage people more
  • Connecting to an offline audience

This year I managed to attend a lot more sessions which was great because I got to meet so many new people, confirm I’m not alone in the challenges I face everyday and it gave me some great ideas for CIPR Inside as well.

So what did I take away from yesterday? Here are my main highlights….

ESNs, social media and digital tools
In a year we have shifted from talking about it to doing it. And from doing it, to learning how not do it. It seemed most people had some sort of social platform in place but the difference was how it was implemented and how it works with a traditional push based news intranet. Majority of people seem to link their collaboration platform with a push based news platform but there were equally some startling ideas about driving adoption.

  • What is our role with collaboration platforms? Are we now facilitators and curators?
  • Speed of responses to queries and comments on social platforms is key to success
  • People have to go through training on the system. If they don’t then they don’t get paid
  • Most organisations need a collaboration platform and a news platform combined
  • Remember to create a tool for the users, not for the comms team

Engaging with a mobile or remote workforce
This still remains on our agenda and I don’t think it will ever go away. Categorising mobile and remote workers in one pool is not easy. We must remember that there are very different levels of remote and mobile. Working in a mine is very different to working in a care home and the channels and messages will be very different. Understanding this means that a blanket approach to this group of workers is not going to work. This is still a challenge for me and some of the ideas in the room were great to take away and others continue to make me question the use of social:

  • A monthly news bulletin called “Top of the ops” that is sent out for people to print and put on the noticeboard – love the name!
  • Everyone is connected on their mobiles so we don’t truly have remote workers any more – maybe, but do they want work messages on their mobiles and tablets away from work?
  • Going back to basics with print media isn’t a bad thing when it comes to engaging with remote workers

Internal comms qualifications – do they really add value?
There were a few people in the room that wanted to explore the role qualifications plays in personal development. I recently completed the CIPR Inside Internal Communications Post Graduate Diploma – it was hard work but was worth every penny. I blogged about day one, day two and day three and I would recommend to anyone.

Kate Jones was also in the room and facilitated this session to find out more about what IOIC can do as she sits on the Board for them.

It was a great discussion and it gave me more focus to develop how we support our members at CIPR Inside with development. We need to be clearer about CPD (Continuing Professional Development) – what it is and why people should be doing it. We also need to make sure we have a good mix of learning available for people and that it is easy for our members to find out what is on offer.

Make events more interesting
I missed this session but thanks to Twitter there were some great ideas about how to move away from the dull and the norm:

  • Have different directors speaking about other departments will likely speak in plain English/shows cross dept working
  • Illustrate stats by cutting up cakes
  • Directors serving lunch at a staff conference to highlight service culture
  • Let’s be more creative with venues

So what’s on my agenda after yesterday?

  • Getting the conference agenda for the CIPR Inside conference on 2 October outlined and I will use a lot of the content from today to help steer that conversation.
  • Reviewing our ESN and how we can make it easier and better for people
  • Deliver our Portal project internally that will be an online tool for offline teams and think about how we can learn from the experiences I heard yesterday
  • Review the training and CPD offer from CIPR Inside to make it easier and work with IOIC to help all internal comms people get the most out of their careers

There so many tweets and photos from the day yesterday that can all be found together thanks to Buzz Tale.

With so many sessions, it’s a good job everyone tweeted all day! Here is my collection of favourite tweets, ideas and comments from the day.

Thank you again to all our sponsors and to everyone that came along – it was another great day. See you on Twitter @theiccrowd

 

The game of gamification

JoystickLast week I supported and attended my first IOIC Conference in Bristol. The three days were brilliant and one of my highlights was the session on gamification. Hosted by Tim Hall from Cognify the room listened intently to his overview of how gamification can be used in business, properly. Then we played a little game ourselves and I asked Tim to pull together his findings to share with you here.

Over to you Tim:

The game of gamification

I had the pleasure of presenting some of the theory behind gamification at 2013 IOIC conference last week and was very fortunate to have a room full of friendly and professional communicators (especially for my first public speaking gig!). Also included for first time was an exercise that I created to demonstrate the effects that game mechanics have on audiences. So, a newly created gamification workshop and a hundred strangers, what could go wrong?

Well nothing….In fact, the exercise gave some startling results and insight into how people behave using even the simplest of game mechanics.

The exercise was in two parts – the first was an individual achievement activity that used a simple objective and a sprinkling of completive spirit to obtain an initial benchmark result.

The second part is where it got very interesting. In the second part, I introduced team achievement using the same activity, but this time thickly laid on the competitive spirit. In this half, each of teams could influence the outcome of the game through a team colour scoring mechanism.

My first observation was how eerily quiet the room was during the second activity; it seemed that the opportunity of influencing the whole game gave everyone so much focus and determination they had little room for conversation.

I then noticed the team on the table directly in front of me collectively agreeing to hide their results so they wouldn’t draw attention from other teams, and in turn protect their score. According to Bartle gamer psychology, these individuals displayed the classic ‘killer’ gamer trait, individuals who thrive on competing with others and bending the rules of play to ensure their success – it couldn’t have been anymore enlightening.

While I find my observations interesting, they are nowhere near as compelling as the cold hard numbers. The total room results showed a marked increase of over 61% in the second part of the exercise. Even taking a little poetic licence from self-scoring into the equation, it’s still a huge uplift in productivity. Time for gamification workshop mark II, I think!

Time to future-proof your internal comms

This year I have been working with the IOIC to pull together the content for their annual conference in May. There are so many conferences out there these days that claim to look at the future of internal comms but I am really proud of the work we have done to get this agenda together. Led by Suzanne Peck, the team have been working with industry and agencies across the UK to find the best case studies and the best people to talk about the future of internal comms. I am passionate about the fact that this should not be communicators talking, but business leaders and function heads who we all work with every day.

More details of the programme are here but a bulleted overview is also below – anything take your fancy?!

Wednesday 22 May (evening)

  • Masterclasses: three ‘speed’ sessions to bring you up to date with the future outlook
  • Panel debate: how do we futureproof IC? Hear from Directors for Change and Transformation, and HR directors and colleagues from Marketing and Brand about the skills they expect from their IC partners in the future and how they see our, and their, roles being mutually beneficial.

Thursday 23 May

  • Brooke Kinsella, MBE, talking about engaging an audience in the dangers of knife crime. How she targeted this audience on a subject that is both personal and on the agenda of the Government
  • How the FT is adapting internal communications for a digital age. I cannot wait to hear about this as I have already some information about what they did and I already want to do it in my organisation
  • Engaging the London 2012 Games makers with Linda Moir. Hear about engaging a volunteer workforce with probably more messages than we could dream of!
  • Digital a la carte. Hear from three people who implemented different digital solutions into their organisations; Jive in Deutsche Bank, Yammer for UK Trade and Invesment, Sharepoint at Coca-Cola
  • Framing the future with Deborah Hume who will be exploring the strategic role internal communications needs to play in business
  • The psychology of gamification. As a key trend for 2013 we all need to find out a bit more about this ‘buzz word’ and what it can really mean for our businesses
  • Cisco engaging with Gen Y – as a millenial I am always fascinated by what we are ‘branded’ and how we will lead our organisations in the future
  • A bit of learning: how to use the voice to influence. We are all very good at commenting on other people’s communication style so any opportunity to learn and develop ourselves is something I will be grabbing with both hands

Friday 24 May

  • Ethics and Severn Trent Water. Andrew Gardner, Head of Employee Engagement, will be joined by Isabel Collins from Radley
    Yeldar to talk about how Severn Trent faced up to the contravention and the steps they took to make things better
  • How AstraZeneca developed and empowered its people managers to thrive in a world of unprecedented change
  • Engaging through low-cost digital solutions. With budgets always being squeezed and costs of digital solutions sounding high facing the challenge of new tools with no money is always tough
  • Leading a disparate workforce – NHS Employers. As an internal communicator with an audience of offline teams this is an area of industry we always seem to forget at conferences
  • Information sharing in a connected world with Euan Semple – having heard him speak a #thefuturestory yesterday I am already looking forward to hearing from him again

The conference closes at 1330 on the Friday and is being held in Bristol. If this is enough to make you sign up, find out more here

Diary of a diploma: Day three

Despite snow, wind and rain everyone made it to class on Saturday 23 March for discussions around planning, branding, employee voice, persuasion and internal social media.

We were joined by Juliet Earp who talked us through her case study with HSBC and Tom Crawford from The Brain Miner who discussed engaging with brands and also the importance of our own personal brands in business.

I have really struggled to keep up with the reading this time. I think as work gets busier you use any downtime you get to just relax and and get some head space, using that time to read and learn just hasn’t been feasible. Still, this is why I chose the face to face course. After 4 hours in class the bug is back and I’m really starting to get excited about my paper now.

Planning

We started the day looking at planning and discussed the CIPR Inside Measurement Matrix and the RADAR model designed by Kevin Ruck: Research, Assess, Decide, Act, Review. A simple but effective model that demonstrates what we should be doing as we work through our comms challenges. Measurement is high on my agenda for next year so this is really relevant for me at the moment. As I start to explore what to measure and how to map this to stakeholders the tools we are talking about throughout the diploma are really helping.

Employee Voice

Employee Voice is a real buzzword at the moment. For me, it should be part of the conversation and dialogue that internal comms facilitates so it was great to hear how HSBC are integrating it into the business.  Once a quarter they have asked managers to swap a normal team meeting for an ‘exchange’. This is where the manager or team leader says nothing, there is no agenda and the people are allowed to talk about issues, challenges or give feedback on everything. I love this idea and will be looking at how we can use a similar method in our business.

Branding

From channel champs to brand builders was the topic before and after lunch. Tom used to work at EON so he took us through his challenge and how he overcame it. It was great to hear from someone talking about communicating with people who are are offline and hard to reach – there were some great ideas:

  • Using audio and video for team briefs and senior leader profiling
  • Sending magic tree car air fresheners to the guys in the vans with the phone number to listen to the audio cascades
  • Using a more intelligent conference call system where everyone can dial in and ask the CEO or the board a question. Managed through a moderator and with people being able to speak managed throughout the call this seemed so simple yet so effective
  • Use of storytelling to engage people with the strategy
  • A strong team of one internal comms person per thousand employees – something I think every department struggles with
  • Changing meeting rooms to be customer spaces. For EON this was different rooms in a house, with products in use throughout the room

As the role of the internal communicator changes our personal brand in the business needs to be considered. I’m often guilty of letting frustrations air in public and being impatient with the speed at which we can affect change.

“A brand is what people say about you after you’ve left the room” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

So it is time to think about my own brand and what I stand for. Not just what my career says about me but what is important in my life – something we probably don’t share enough. Tom also gave an example of where the internal comms team should have their own ambition/mission to give them a sense of branding:

“Through sustaining pride and belief in this organisation we will ensure colleagues feel inspired to do their best work and advocate for our brand, right when we need it most.”

As we start to look at what our personal brand says, and the brand of the department we also need to consider the roles that we play in our businesses:

  • The court jester – telling the truth and being a bit different to the norm
  • The Gok Wan – offering advice on what clothes, appearance etc. are appropriate and when a suit just isn’t ok
  • The Mystic Meg – looking outside the business and determining the effect that will have on our business and our people
  • The spin doctor – the role that will never go away but is not our main focus
  • The psychologist – understanding people

Internal social media and persuasion

We ended the day with a quick look at internal social media, persuasion and ethics. We looked at the four types of digital culture: Closet communicators, co-creators, controlled communicators and constrained communicators. Great to start looking at some theory around such a hot topic.

So as persuasion and ethics ended the day it became clear that being a credible communicator is the way forward. Showing expertise, trustworthiness and goodwill are all traits we should be demonstrating, everyday.

So as day three closed, the plans for the project start to take shape even more and it’s time to seriously hit the books and write this literature review!

Diary of a Diploma: Day two

We are now well underway with the Diploma and after day one on 2 February, we all had to read nine chapters from two different books. I am not sure how I would fit this in if I had to drive to work – the 40 minutes each way on the train is now my study time and allows we to get through a lot!

I’m really enjoying the reading as I’m starting to plan my strategy for 2014 and some of the themes we are reading about are very relevant to my organisation.

On day two, 23 February, we moved on to explore change communication, problem solving and our projects. We were joined by management consultant and author John Smythe, who took time out of his Saturday to talk to us about his theories and ideas on the role of communications and how things are changing.

One of the great things about the course is the face-to-face element. We are all in different places in our careers and all from different industries so it is great to spend time working things through together. We discuss, in depth, some of the models used for internal communication and on Saturday this was no exception. We spent time looking at Kotter’s model for change and explored how this differs to Wheatley’s and Herrero’s views, all underpinned by the fact that how we communicate is changing and the top-down model is no longer valid.

There were some great stats and thought provoking statements made during the day that really provided some food for thought:

  • 60% of management problems are due to faulty comms and 75% of change projects fail
  • Communication and engagement can be different roles in organisations. Engagement is not a role, it is a way of leading and managing
  • When looking at change we need to consider how we communicate it – not just the models that explore the steps to manage it but let’s explore the channels and message management
  • Authoritarian regimes, whether in countries or in organisations, are coming to an end
  • God Vs Guide. Our leaders should be on the dance floor with everyone else
  • Our communications strategy should support the what and the why coming from the top, but the how coming from the bottom

An afternoon of creative problem identification and problem solving was amazing. I have never done anything like this and it was a great technique I’ll be taking back to the office. In small groups we each stated our problem. One was chosen to explore. Through exploring the problem the group ask the problem owner a serious of questions about it and the responses can only be factual. After 5-10 minutes the group then re-write the problem based on their findings – it makes you understand what the problem really is before you start looking at solutions. I will definitely be using this when people come to me and ask for a poster or a leaflet to understand more about what they are looking for.

The day flew by and I now have about four ideas for my project! As this is the first time I have done anything like this I genuinely think I have caught the bug as I’m already thinking about what is next for my own development. Before I started this I would have budgeted to attend various conferences throughout the year and some of them are over £1,000 to attend for just two days. Next year I think I’ll spend this money on my own development. I am learning more from doing this over six months than attending any conference – something to think about when you come to setting your budgets next year?