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!

Using communication to change behaviour for better business

In September I asked the question, on LinkedIn, what is internal communication? I gave you my top three and you took up the challenge to let me know what your top three were and if I missed anything. What really pleased me about the comments was how we all agreed that internal communication should link to better business and changing behaviours.

I have taken the comments and listed the key points below so you can see what others had to say and if you want to find our the CIPR Inside conference tackled this issue back in October, visit the CIPR Inside website.

Here are the extra things that you all said should be added when talking about internal communication…

  • Help organisations ‘know what they know’ – ensuring knowledge and opinion is shared and used effectively
  • Guide and inspire others when it comes to the way people communicate – spark and sustain conversations
  • Be commercially aware and understand what is happening across the business to help develop the strategic narrative and key messages as well as challenge decisions and priorities.
  • It’s about asking what is it we need people to think, feel and believe in order for them to do whatever it is we need then to do: be nicer to customers, sell more, stay with the company, produce more, be safer etc
  • To create and maintain the right environment for knowledge sharing
  • Helping employees understand their role in delivering the promises made by the company’s advertising
  • Helping everyone learn to find their own voices
  • The IC team’s mission should be based on two main pillars: engagement and efficiency
  • Achieving synergies between disparate elements of an organisation
  • Developing a compelling employee comms strategy aligned to the business strategy, and the right structure and skills to deliver these
  • Equipping leaders and managers to shape employee behaviours and attitudes, and drive business results
  • Choosing channels and messages that educate and inspire each employee to deliver on organizational goals
  • Measuring the effectiveness of Internal Communication to demonstrate ROI, secure and sustain investment, and inform strategic planning
  • Acting as the conscience of the organisation, challenging constructively and pushing back
  • Act as reminder to other communications colleagues not to forget employees (in organisations where employees don’t always have a voice) so that all communications activity (both disciplines and channels) is joined up e.g internal + external
  • It’s about managers being well informed and involved in the business
  • We should be involving employees in improving the business
  • IC should be part of the fabric of an organisation
  • Get people to listen to each other, to empathise
  • Helping people behave like people – even when they are ‘in the workplace’
  • To build a culture that will drive success
  • Change communication should be a stand along area for IC

Why internal communicators need a voice with CIPR

Next week the CIPR opens the elections for Council. As Chair of CIPR Inside I currently sit on the Council but things are changing and this now needs to be a position that is voted in. So I need your help, if you’re a CIPR member then please get voting – to help, here is a little bit about why I think you should vote for me!

Who am I and why should you vote for me?

  • I’m an experienced internal communicator championing the role that internal communication plays in adding value to organisations
  • I believe internal communicators should have their voices heard
  • I want to continue to raise the standards of professional development across all disciplines. CPD must be relevant to members, employers and clients
  • I want to make information from CIPR Inside easier to find, trusted and valued
  • I want us to work together to define how we measure and link to business performance. CIPR has already delivered guidance through its work with AMEC and I want to see more work like this, aligned to the internal communications profession, which will support it becoming a reality
  • I want to inspire a generation into the profession

Who I am

I’m Chair of CIPR Inside and have been involved with the group for a number of years as a committee member and Treasurer. I work in London as Head of Internal Communication but have held both Internal Communication and PR roles, both in-house and agency with a mixture of public and private sector.

I’m passionate about internal communication and what it can help businesses achieve, which is why I co-founded The IC Crowd 18 months ago. I value professional development, recently completing the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma.
My link to the CIPR

CIPR Inside is the voice of internal communication within CIPR, a group that makes an impact on our industry and the professionals within it. With a voice on the Council, we can make sure internal communications is part of the conversation about professionalism, development and ethics. We will be there when decisions are made about the future of CIPR and how it adapts to meet our members’ needs.

I’ve been involved with CIPR Inside for a number of years, before becoming Chair in March. We’ve focussed the Committee on specialist subjects and events, and at our conference in October I’m planning to launch a three-year strategy.
What I can do for the industry

I believe there’s a fundamental difference between PR and internal communication, but that doesn’t mean that the two aren’t intrinsically linked. CIPR is the professional body to champion this link. Working together, we can make sure that internal communication stays at the top of the agenda for our senior teams and they understand the power of getting it right.

I want to inspire people to work in communications and engage members to help them navigate their careers. I want to make sure that organisations understand that value, and use CIPR as a mark to find a professional who can deliver what they need.

The voting process

Following a period of nomination, a list of candidates has been released, and between 1 September and 22 September, voting on these seats gets underway. Every member has two votes, a first and second vote.

Changing behaviour for better business

This year the CIPR inside conference is all about changing behaviours. When I took over the role of Chair back in March I knew that being in house gave a me a different view on things from my agency predecessors and I wanted to bring some of my challenges forward.

Over the years my role has changed, not just in the role I’m in now but ever since I started in the world of communications 10 years ago.

When I consider the challenges I face today they include:

– Leadership buy in

– Making sure the communication has an impact and does what the business needs it to do

– Managing culture change

But these challenges change as the business changes so while the second point is a big one for me at the moment I wasn’t sure if it would be for everyone. That’s where having a great committee comes in and as we thrashed out the skeleton of the conference I realised I wasn’t alone. It really dawned on me when I met with an agency who showed me a great campaign. Their measurement was the number of people who understood the message and felt engaged with it. I found myself asking so what? There must have been business drivers behind the campaign so let’s get that in as the measurement.

And so my thinking and my plan for CIPR inside started to evolve.

As a committee we decided to shake up the traditional format. We want to bring the case studies in but we also want to bring in elements of an unconference and give people a chance to share and talk about their stories.

This year our conference hinges around this. We have a keynote speaker to get our minds working and then four lightning talks from various people across the business. Talking about digital, measurement and more all aligned to how it changes behaviours. The plan is to use this content to spark discussion and give all delegates the chance to go and talk in groups about these topics before lunch.

After plenty of discussion, lunch networking with peers and our sponsors we then go into a few great case studies, some leading research and a panel discussion.

I want this day to be fun, informal and informative. We all face challenges that change from time to time but none that others haven’t faced before. Spending a day out of the office and with people who do the same as you is one of my favourite ways to learn and benchmark my activities.

So will you be joining us on 2 October?

The Big Yak – my favourite bits!

With so many sessions in one day I was never going to get to all of them. Thank you to everyone that tweeted throughout – these are some of my favourite tweets, learnings and ideas from #thebigyak

  • Having an empty chair in the room in meetings to represent the rest of the organisation allows you to consider employees when making decisions
  • Any media should always be about people. Technology is always just the conduit, it shouldn’t define what we say
  • Are line managers underused in internal comms? How do we use them more and what can we do to support them?
  • Don’t blog for someone who doesn’t even know what a blog is. Needs to be true to them
  • When you do change, make sure you communicate the why…not just the what and the how
  • Chrono-psychology – junior staff think of past, managers – now, leaders – future. Part of what you manage with change
  • You want my buy in? Tell me what the change means to me
  • Just because no one asks for the measurement report doesn’t mean you don’t need to be doing it
  • Don’t’ make the assumption that everyone wants to work about their work, online or offline
  • Trust is a journey, not an event
  • Leave breathing space in between traditional comms- take down posters, leave white space and people will notice a new one
  • You need to be disruptive to generate creativity
  • Storytelling plays a vital role in engaging the workforce
  • I’m not alone in my love of Simon Sinek!
  • Remember to serve the needs of yr audience, not yourself
  • Value of IC discussion. It doesn’t lie in number of hits on intranet article, it lies in behaviour change and the bottom line
  • When writing for leaders you can’t put jokes in if they don’t joke in real life
  • You can’t put lipstick on a pig, but you can turn it into bacon if you have enough time
  • Staff – your ambassadors – should be treated with the same respect as your customers
  • Digital shouldn’t replace face to face as its easier, establishments need both to maximise reach
  • Every business problem stems from a communications issue – try and find one that doesn’t

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!