The Big Yak 2018 – what internal communicators are talking about

Last week I hosted The Big Yak with my fellow IC Crowd co-founders Rachel Miller and Dana Leeson.

It was our fourth event and our biggest one yet with 160 internal communication professionals gathered together on a Saturday to set the agenda for the day ahead. These were the topics they chose to discuss and you can see that remote workers, leadership coaching and developing our own skills were all high on the agenda.

I managed to sit in a few of the conversations so here are my thoughts from the event:

We are forgetting we are human beings
Every conversation I have at the moment seems to be about this. About our need to feel connected to each other or the organisation we work for. The rise of digital channels means our investment has been in the technology not the people and there is growing recognition that this needs to change. We know that the investment in internal communication is often minimal but there was strong agreement in the discussions about remote workers (either physically remote or completely remote without access to technology etc.) and the need to invest in face-to-face.

Remote workers remain a huge challenge
With two sessions talking about remote workers it was no wonder that the conversations were lively and encouraging. Lessons were shared about launching apps, creating culture and purpose and also the role of the line managers. There was no one in the room who had totally ‘solved’ this challenge but the need to learn from each other here is huge. It’s the reason I’m doing research into this space this year and it’s clear to see why the hard to reach employee is on the top five barriers list from the Gatehouse research earlier this year.

Content is not just about the operation
We seem to have forgotten that content doesn’t always have to be about the work that needs to be done. There was a general consensus that fun was missing. The need for content that supports the culture, the social aspect of work and the relationships we try and cultivate was clear and it made me think about how many of us have a content strategy that sits alongside our channel strategy.

Neuroscience, psychology and digital
This is a big theme and it was apparent in several sessions I attended. Work is not somewhere we go, it’s something we do and our fulfilment of the work has never been higher on our personal agendas. Digital tools are unfulfilling, they don’t support the messages being communicated and they aren’t fit for purpose. We are all being asked to do more with less – what can that look like if the solution isn’t more digital channels?

Being a co-founder of the IC Crowd is so rewarding. We set it up to help internal communication professionals connect and The Big Yak was born out of the Crowd asking to get together. It is a day full of energy, discussion and insight and it would be nothing without passionate individuals willing to give up their Saturday to talk about how they can make work a better place. It is something I’m so incredibly proud of and it’s given me the chance to work with two fantastic ladies for over 10 years!  You can find out more about The Big Yak and read other write ups from the event here.

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