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?

Diary of a Diploma: Day one

On Saturday I attended the first day of my CIPR Inside Internal Communications Diploma. I was really looking forward to the day and it didn’t disappoint. We started with a fun ice breaker to get to know each other which was a great way to start the next 6 months. There were about 12 of us in the class and a real mix of experience and industry which should lead to some great discussions.

Getting the books for the course was a real bonus for me as these have been on my list to buy for some time. I have already started reading one of them as I have to read about 10 chapters before our next lesson on 23 February.

Our first session was looking at the evolution of internal communication. This was a great discussion and took themes from the CIPR Inside video issued earlier this year. One of the main things that came up was whether we had really moved on since the 1980s – any thoughts? We were joined by Paul Roberts from Ibis Communication who talked about measurement. It was great to see some insights into how measurement should be undertaken and has made me realise that this needs to be a focus in 2013/14.

There were 5 rules Paul shared with us:

  1. Only measure what you can influence
  2. Build quantitative and qualitative research into your measurement programme
  3. Measure at intervals that allow you enough time to change course
  4. With quantitative data, focus on top and bottom box scores when analysing results
  5. Approach your programme from the perspective of your audience

I don’t plan to share too much from the course as that wouldn’t be fair, but as the day went on and we each reviewed our own internal comms function measurement came out as the weakest part of our role.

We reviewed several different communications models, some I remember from my degree which was refreshing! It got my mind thinking about how we can apply some of these more traditional models to the role social media now plays on how we communicate.

Organisational behaviours and leadership also came into focus as we reviewed the role leaders play in culture and engagement. Kevin shared a great video that asked the question, who needs leaders?


Leaders have a huge role to play to make communication successful and we reviewed how informed employees felt much more engaged in the business. I did challenge some of the research as being informed doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Are you informed about news that is relevant to you? And how do you know how much has been shared to warrant feeling informed?

The reading has already got my brain buzzing and it was great to take some time to sit back and think theoretically about the work we do and how it is so intrinsically linked to culture and the organisation. Although it has only been one day it has given me a fresh perspective on my work and provided some great ideas to shape my strategy for the next year – roll on 23 February!

Mapping our careers is no easy task

Last week I co-hosted an event for CIPR Inside with Angela Gostling to discuss the career pathway model for internal communicators. There was representation from IOIC, Melcrum, in-house practitioners and recruitment agencies all interested in discussing how we can understand more about the skills needed to be an internal comms professional.

Our objectives were to:

  • Stimulate professionalism amongst practitioners
  • Help internal communications practitioners plot a career path to their ultimate career goal
  • Closer alignment to other professions – such as law, engineering, HR, marketing
  • Link to a CIPR-wide professional development project to create an online career planning model.

This set the scene for some conversations around competencies and skills, exploring what we do and how we do it. We explored how qualifications fit into the industry and had some debate around whether you can map the career model for internal comms in isolation.

What is interesting is that many people came into the profession through various roles. Some worked in journalism, others in the industry or the business and ‘fell’ into internal comms and some of us have been in comms since leaving university/college. But where does a qualification come into the career? And where is our industry? Is it even a profession yet?

I noted some key points made during the 90 minute conversation:

There are different levels of IC everywhere

Every company and industry is different. I heard once that for every 1,000 people in the organisation there should be 1 person in the internal comms team; by that logic I should have a team of 10! My biggest challenge in the industry is that it seems anyone can be given the task of internal comms. It can be someone who is experienced, with qualifications and internal comms knowledge or it can be an add-on role for a PA or HR professional. How can you map a career pathway when there is no fixed understanding of where and what internal comms really is. There are so many varying degrees of what the function does; some produce magazines or company wide emails and others are strategic partners to the business – the scales is huge.

We did agree that the business needs to take ownership of internal comms and at the same time we need to do what is expected, but also surprise our CEOs and stakeholders. We shouldn’t be asking what do you need, we should be finding out what their challenges are and then we can find the solution. I have said this before and will continue to say it; we need to be the experts in our field and own the communications.

Being the glue

We need to understand the business and how people are connected across it. We need to be able to speak in the language of our business, knowing what is important to different people and different departments. I was told just last week; “I need you to be the glue” and this is something we also discussed. It is our role to bring people together and make connections across the business. This became quite a passionate debate and something some felt should be a key focus for the career model of internal comms.

GP Vs Consultant

We referenced the T model during the presentation and had a great medical analogy from one of the delegates. He described the internal communicator as a GP and that sometimes the problem needs to be referred to a consultant or an expert. I loved this. The GP role seemed very close to reality and certainly in my role there is always a need to bring in the experts for projects that involve video or design work. So what would make up the skills of the consultants? And should every ‘GP’ have some understanding of these?

What we do and how we do it

We showed the chart below to the delegates and after some debate around what those skills and competencies are we also agreed that this list explains quite nicely what internal comms is all about:

What and how we do it

As always, a few statement takeaways

  • You cannot take IC expertise and apply it across all industries and business – it is not text book
  • Hybrid roles are needed more in current climate
  • Specialist roles are needed to manage change and transformation programmes at the moment
  • Leaders are not always where they are because they are good communicators
  • Balance between learning and application – you don’t always get the chance to manage a crisis even though you learn the text book approach

The debate and discussion continues so please take part!