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.

Smile London – let’s stop feeling bad about our internal social media

Today I attended my second, albeit not consecutively, simply communicate SMiLE event in London. The format was much the same as before but my reasons for attending very different. Now four months into the new role I need to learn more about Office 365 so I was on the hunt to learn more.

There were some great sessions throughout the day that prompted some food for thought and some great research shared from both Lecko and People Lab about using Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) inside our businesses. Thank you to Wedge for the table session on news and the intranet – the most valuable part of my day.

The biggest thing I left with today was a sense of the need to stop. There are new tools entering this marketplace every year, if not every month. The current new tool is Facebook Workplace and while it was great to hear more about it – I’m already on my journey with Microsoft so for me, the session was interesting but not practical for application. And now I feel bad. Now I feel like I am letting my business down by not having the latest and greatest tool out there – and this isn’t the case.

With the constant new tools entering the space we are bombarded with messages about why one is better than the other and how you should have this or that technology because it is more in line with how we communicate today – but the truth is, it is a big investment. It is a big investment of time and money to launch and community manage an ESN. The companies that built them years ago – IBM, Microsoft – are constantly evolving them and if we have bought them, we need to nurture that relationship and learn together to adapt to how people change in the way they communicate.

Throwing out one tool for another won’t solve our problems. Yes we probably need to be quicker at adapting to change and integrating these platforms with others, and we also need to make sure our comms teams have the skills to evolve with the needs of the people and the functionality the tools can bring. But we can do all this if we work together.

I had some brilliant conversations today, learnt a vast amount about what I need to do for success in my organisation and got myself back into reality in knowing that I’m on the right track. But my ask for the future of any event about social media inside organisations is this:

  • Tell us how others have adapted and grown something they invested in years ago
  • Tell us how the strategy for collaboration has been a long-term wow – to quote intranetizen – and not a big bang launch
  • Understand where the audience is on the journey – some having nothing and others have had office 365 for the last few years and need to improve it
  • Tell us how to drive adoption, measure success and work with what we have to make it amazing

Everyone’s journey is different but we are all on one. I don’t want to feel like I’m behind the curve because I don’t have the latest and greatest – I want to feel proud of the tool I have, how it has grown, developed and adapted to the needs of my internal customers and I want my peers to celebrate (and when needed commiserate) with me. There was an audible laugh in the room when IBM Connections came up – I wonder how many people in the room have ever used it or know that it has been voted the number 1 platform for 5 years, ahead of SharePoint, for functionality. I know because I used it for years and while adoption remains a challenge – when people can see what it can do, they are blown away.

Let’s stop being trendy and get back to being functional – helping our colleagues collaborate and our businesses be more efficient – that is, after all, the goal (for me anyway).

Collaboration, data and how being vague is a great way to start!

Yesterday I had the honour of presenting at the IBM Smarter Workforce Summit (#swf2015) at the Kia Oval in London. Sadly I missed the morning but as I popped in to talk to them about the journey of collaboration I have been on for the past few years it was clear the day had been good.

A very engaged audience welcomed me to the event and so began a frank and open discussion about delivering collaboration channels and how engaging the workforce in them is tough.

What followed my session blew me away. Professor Brian Cox took to the stage to discuss the theory of the universe and everything we understand about our existence – not too heavy for 4pm on a Thursday!

His ability to translate seriously complex data into things we could understand is amazing. I have never felt more like Penny in Big Bang theory but I was starting to understand more than I ever thought I would.

While he covered a vast amount of theory there were two things I really took away that I could relate to the day job:

Data vs opinion
Everything he talked about was backed up by data; data to prove or disprove a theory. It made me realise just how much we accept opinion in the world of communication.

Employee engagement and the correlation to productivity is proven in data. Yet if the opinion of leadership is the opposite we just back down. How can we overcome this huddle when opinion is overruling what the facts are telling us? What do we need to do differently to get engagement on the agenda of the board?

Vague but interesting
This was the comment from Tim Berners-Lee’s manager on his first paper about information and the theory of the World Wide Web. I’m pretty sure this is how my manager thinks about some of the stuff I come up with, and no I’m not comparing my ideas to the introduction of the World Wide Web, but it makes you think about how we approach change.

The concept and theory about what you are trying to do can be vague. We then have to go and find out a way to prove we can do it or that it needs to be done. It doesn’t matter where it starts… Vague but interesting is a great foundation.

For me, attending events like this not only helps to contribute to your CPD but they also gives you that head space away from the day job which we all need.

I’m about to take three weeks off to get married and have my honeymoon and my brain has been horribly full of everything I need to do before I go. Now, with some space yesterday I’m clearer about what I need to get done before I go and I have some great ideas about how I want to influence our strategy going forwards.

I got all of that in 2 hours so I can’t even imagine what other delegates took away from being there all day!

Are internal communications functions influencing technology?

I haven’t blogged for a while and it’s for a few reasons…

  1. I have done a few on LinkedIn to test out that platform – I quite liked it but I think i prefer my own space. I have just published a blog from September here
  2. I have a new role and was struggling with having an opinion with this blog while my role is more external comms
  3. It’s been a while since something has inspired me to write… Until last week.

When it comes to internal social media we turn to technology experts to help us meet the needs of our business. But just last week, in a discussion with our technology partners, I realised that the people designing these tools don’t necessarily have the experience of working in internal comms for a big organisation and therefore don’t build it with all the functionality we need.

The example here was about files stored on the online platform. These files are owned by one person and can only ever be owned by one person. When they leave, they still own the file, their name is just greyed out with ‘inactive’ written next to it. Can this be changed? No. Why not? Because the legacy of that person should remain visible. Sure, that’s exactly what I need, a load of inactive people owning content all over the site. So when someone needs that document or has a query and they comment on it, that comment isn’t highlighted to anyone, and if someone else replaces that person they will never own that file, they can upload a new version but the owner will always be the inactive one. How demotivatong to see all these inactive people that inevitably you come across when a system has been in place for over 4 years.

Quite honestly I think this is a bit rubbish and it made me think that these people, designing these platforms don’t seem to consider the real businesses they are going into, nor do they think about the internal comms function.

This could just be an issue on the tool we have but as it is built by a huge global technology company I hope that others have the same issue so I know I’m not alone!

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

 

Social Intranet or Enterprise Social Network? Is there a difference?

It has always been in my head. Ever since the move from traditional push based intranet systems to the introduction of tools like Sharepoint.

I have worked in communications for 10 years and have been involved in four intranet projects in various companies. I have learnt a lot but I have also learnt that the language we use to talk about these tools seems to change and mean different things to different people so I wanted to get mine out of my head to see if I was alone in this thinking…

I don’t believe we should separate an intranet from an enterprise social network or a blog or anything else that we have internally. For me, there is just an online channel. It should be integrated with a clear content strategy and it should allow for two way conversations.

I do believe that there are different levels of social though.

I talk a lot about social intranets. For me, these are platforms that allow some people to publish news and information and for the users to comment and like that news. The information could also be personalised to the user.

For me, a social intranet is different to an enterprise social network (ESN). For me, an enterprise social network is an online tool that is designed for collaboration. That is about communities and file sharing and creating a space for anyone to add news and information. Content can be liked and commented on and people are able to add their own status updates and more personal details to a profile.

For me these are very different things. Creating a community online and having a social intranet serve different purposes and also foster different cultures. From experience, I like to use channels that add value to the business and the audience.

I have created social intranets and I have implemented enterprise social networks and for me, they need to meet the purpose and work together.

I have sat at conferences and listened to case studies about the use of yammer and other similar platforms to support conferences or to sit outside the other online channels and for me, I think we need to really understand what we want to achieve before we just go head first into adding digital into the mix. For some an ESN is perfect, for others a social intranet will do. It is not one size fits all and I would like us to be clear about what the challenge is and what the reality that we are looking for really is. While some companies will thrive with an ESN in place, others don’t need them and social intranets will work just fine to bring people together.

Would be great to hear what terms you use for the online channels in your business and how they work together!

We’re all in the same boat… well ark!

logoI attended my first SMiLE London event yesterday hosted by the lovely team at Simply Communicate. In the summer of 2012 we launched an online tool to allow collaboration, de-centralised comms and people directories. It wouldn’t be a lie to say we have struggled with adoption ever since. It is our only online platform and while it has many benefits, when it comes to cutting through the noise and being able to see what you need to see to do your job it is not so good. So here I was, keen to understand whether my challenges were different or whether we are all in the same boat….

State of the nation

It was no surprise to learn that those attending the event were mainly using Sharepoint and Yammer as social tools – this was mirrored by the presentations throughout the day – and it was encouraging to see that the thing we are all most worried about is engagement and adoption. One of the main reasons people cited as being their reason for implementing a social tool was to allow people to find other people to share skills.

I’m not alone in the challenge around people tagging and categorising their content as well as making sure that content is kept up to date when people leave. While all that is not shared is lost, having out of date content on a site that can’t be removed or updated is a huge risk for the business. One of the biggest benefits to the social tool is when you on board new people into the organisation. It makes it quicker and easier for them to understand the business and what they need to know to succeed.

Time to play a game

The use of gamification was high with Pearson working with Bunchball to deliver a programme that rewarded behaviour linked to content and how the community responded to what was being shared. I loved this concept as so often we put gamification in place to reward what people do which, for me, doesn’t drive adoption. There were some general assumptions made about ganification and the fact that people like a ‘digital trophy cabinet’ but for me, we have to remember that when it comes to gamifying our content, there are very different gamer profiles that should be considered.

Getting real

When it comes to the senior leaders and getting them engaged it was great to hear we are starting to accept that social isn’t for everyone. If the CEO isn’t keen on comms then they aren’t going to be blogging every week – and that’s ok. Social shouldn’t be a chore, it should be part of how you work or socialise.

I learnt about red, yellow and green dots as ways to categorise people – the greens are totally engaged and the reds are completely disengaged. Don’t spend time on the reds – not adopting the channel becomes part of who they are and it will take you too long and cost too much to try and change their minds. You will never get 100% adoption.

Current trends and where next

The use of mobile came up a few times. Interesting results from one speaker that showed Iphone as the most used handset with Blackberry nowhere to be seen. What was really clear was that people don’t’ contribute content from their mobile – it’s where they receive it. This is an interesting point given all the user generated content we are starting to filter through the comms space.

Middle managers got a real bashing about their involvement in the adoption of these channels – in fact some suggest that middle managers are the biggest blocker when it comes to communication in general. It was suggested that last year we worried about business risk and trust, this year it is the middle managers that we are looking at.

Build it and they will come only works for arks – to quote Dana Leeson. This is something to truly consider when driving adoption. We are all still using email and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future so there was talk of integrating the social tools with email – something I’m pleased is already on our radar.

Making sure the content is relevant was another trend in the day. For me this is the same for any channel. Visibility of that content was the real challenge with some social tools –cutting through that noise can be a real challenge.

Ideas for engagement and adoption

As the arc comment suggests – thinking they will just come on board doesn’t work for social tools. There were some great ideas to engage teams and get real adoption. The badges mentioned earlier was one and the ‘Collaboration in Action Awards’ cited by one presenter certainly generated a small murmur in the room.

Moving away from ‘no email day’ to ‘beyond email day’ that allows you to show off other tools available was another idea that got heads down and scribbling/tweeting. A lovely idea to get people learning about the options available – if they don’t know what it can do, how do they know it can make a difference.

Engaging the mobile worker

Mobile workers can, apparently, be categorised into four different types: information, task, wannabe, mavericks. We rely on them using their own devices to access the content and this links us to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – something I think we are all still unsure about. The reliance on middle managers and the traditional cascade is still very much here. We still have no way of knowing what our mobile workers have been told, and when they were told. Do social tools give us the ability to change that?

As always, some key phrases from the day that I enjoyed:

  • Communities and content should as open as possible and restricted as necessary
  • Are we trying to communicate to or engage with those no desk based?
  • This is not an ark – they won’t just come when we build it
  • Think about audience first and channel second
  • Whatever you provide to a mobile workforce will be appreciated. You are starting with nothing
  • Collaborative knowledge
  • The vision for sharing is to save time

Final thoughts

If you bring social tools into the business you have to consider what they deliver for the audience. I loved the idea of using Chatter or something similar to support a leadership event but when someone asked what this adds to those there it did make me wonder.

For adoption and engagement to truly work you need communications, training and the business owner to be completely aligned. I often feel that our training team are left out of things when they could add so much value!

I was surprised at what appeared to be a lack of consideration for content. There were lots of tools used but this often left the content all over the place – how does that help the user when , for me, they should have one place to go for everything.

Sorry for the long post – lots to cover from the day! Needless to say I’m already signing up as a subscriber to the SMiLE portfolio and will definitely be back for the next event!