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

 

Yakkety Yak!

Picture1Yesterday The IC Crowd hosted The Big Yak in Richmond. Over 130 internal comms people came together on a Saturday for debate, discussion and idea generation on all things internal comms. As one of the founders of The IC Crowd it was a great experience to organise the day and something we are all very proud of! So while it is still fresh in my mind – here are a few thoughts from me….

 Thanks to expert facilitation from Benjamin Ellis the crowd were soon put at ease about what to expect from an unconference; It is about sharing ideas with like minded people, using your two feet to move between sessions that interest you and having a voice to set the agenda. After a few ice breakers to get people talking the post it notes were flying in and the board of topics complete.

The Big Yak Agenda

So what was on the agenda?

Session one

  • Social media KPIs
  • Intranets
  • Measurement – from hits to habits
  • Creating creative strategy

Session two

  • Sneakily social/social for leaders
  • Blurring the lines between internal and external communication
  • How do we evaluate and use feedback
  • Changing role of internal comms

Session three

  • How do you define employee engagement
  • How to communicate with hard to reach employees
  • Importance of editorial
  • Virtual collaboration

Session four

  • Hard to reach can do digital too
  • Traditional tactics using social approach
  • Engaging the senior team to be trusted advisors
  • Overcoming cultural differences

Session five

  • Video
  • Internal comms in redundancies/economic downturn
  • Improving morale quickly
  • How IC leaders can improve their comms

Session six

  • How to win more budget
  • Pension Auto-enrollment
  • Gamification
  • Internal social/digital/weight around our necks

As you can see not everyone can be in every session so it relies on everyone talking to each other and sharing news and updates through Twitter and other social platforms. You can see all the tweets here but having had a look through and attended a couple of sessions, here are my highlights:

Social media and intranets came up throughout the day with a lot of sessions ending on a digital note. The session on KPIs was great as people talked about really drilling into the need for social as the starting point. KPIs should include reduction in email and idea generation and content will be weighted differently – CEO blog Vs one about where to go on holiday. But with so much talk about the hard to reach audience you have to ask; does everyone need to be using the channel?

As a channel, social continues to get a debate going and one controversial comment of the day was that websites are for users and intranets are for organisations to tell employees stuff. I wasn’t in this session but apparently there was an audible gasp! How we structure our intranets or social platforms needs to reflect the way users think about the company, not the other way around.

The Big Yak

Designing and building a social platform for the business is great, if the culture is ready. Sometimes we forget that if the culture is wrong then trying to introduce technology internally is more likely to fail. Social media is not for everyone/business – if you’re going to use it make sure you’re not just making noise in an empty room and don’t force leaders onto the platform. In the age of transparency and honesty people will know it isn’t really them.

It wasn’t all about channels though. Lots of discussion about the role of internal comms in the organisation as well – does your comms answer the question: “why would I care about this?”

The internal comms role should be creating, nurturing and refreshing the conditions for employee engagement. Blurring the lines between internal and external is a huge theme for us at the moment and it’s no surprise with comments like: “Employees are our primary external communications channel” leading to the conclusion that internal comms enables external comms.

And where is our value? Someone said to me after the event “One of the main things I heard today is that people don’t feel valued in internal comms.” I really do believe that we have to fight to add value and it can be hard but if you want to make an impact you have to have a voice. You have to be able to talk the language of the business. Are IC pros commercially aware? Are we good enough at selling the commercial benefits of what we do? Can we articulate ROI?

Telling a story has never been more powerful. Our employees need to be at the heart of our stories. When it comes to measurement we have to be able to make the data tell a story – it’s not always about words; we have to know about numbers too.

It was great to see an agenda that had such variety – sessions on channels and on skills. We often get so caught up in the channel that we forget the message. Line manager communication was also a hot topic. At the IOIC conference earlier this year we talked about the art of communication. For me, this is something we need to train and educate our managers and leaders in and given the choice, I think money will be better spent on our people than on a shiny tool!

As always, a few tweets comments that just made me think:

  • From content creators to content curators
  • The fixed line between investor relations and internalcomms is the real barrier between converging internal and external comms
  • You have to say something 7 times for people to remember it. Now to think of 7 ways to say the same thing
  • Learnt something new – the concept of “Working out loud” = Narrating your work + Observable work
  • Speak clearly, speak plainly and remember to keep the messages simple
  • Cultural barriers aren’t always international

As the day came to a close I had a few minutes to wonder through the building and there was something lovely about seeing conversations happening everywhere. People in sessions, people having smaller chats round tables… the conversations continued anywhere and that was the whole point. It was a truly inspiring day that wouldn’t have been possible without our sponsors and everyone taking part. An unconference is what you make it and based on the feedback, it seems like everyone made it a great day!

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