internal communications

10 differences between an intranet and digital workplace homepage

As intranet managers, from time-to-time we all do it, despite bearing the scars from the last time. We decide to re-launch our intranet homepage. A triumph of optimism over experience. We know we’ll get hate mail from users the day it launches no matter how good it actually is … but we just can’t help ourselves. And so it is now in BT. We’re full speed ahead on developing a new intranet homepage site which will be launched before Christmas.

I won’t bore you with all the gruesome detail, but when the idea was first conceived, it made me think about what needs to be different this time around from what we’ve previously offered up to BT employees. How does the homepage need to be different to support the BT Digital Workplace rather than the BT Intranet?

Knowing that no one reads blog posts anymore unless they are lists of no more than 10 items and include a big image … I offer you my illustrated-10-differences-between-an-intranet-and-digital-workplace-homepage-listicle-blog-post.

Evolution of the DW homepage

  1. My digital workplace homepage needs to be ‘useful to me’ rather than ‘good for me’ – by which I mean I get to decide much of what goes on the page rather than the company feeding me the stuff it thinks is good for me.
  2. The content on my new page needs to be dynamic, driven by my needs.
  3. We all need a bit of corporate news to feed our souls but, more importantly, we need information from our networks to feed our brains.
  4. For this site to work,¬†the content can’t be dominated by one person – I need lots of information from lots of sources.
  5. I love reading, but I get paid to do stuff.
  6. The person charged with managing my new homepage should spend their time hunting out useful sources of information and offering them to me as feeds to which I can subscribe if I so choose.
  7. I choose … that is all!
  8. More people access the internet via smartphone than fixed line … the digital workplace will be no different.
  9. The digital workplace is an ever-changing and flexible ecosystem – my front door into it needs to be too.
  10. Sticking content in little boxes piled on top of one other so I can see them all at once creates a horrible mess and gives me a headache. Layer the content and let me choose the top content card at any given time.

Thanks for reading … now get back to work! ūüôā

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Changing role of internal communications (#internalcomms)

Not sure if I ever shared this video taken after my presentation at the IntraTeam Conference in Copenhagen in February …

 

From control to influence – the evolution of internal communciations (#internalcomms #IEC14)

John is a press officer in the media relations team at Blah Blah plc. Like John, most of his peers are ex-journalists. They all started their careers in local newspapers, writing about village fêtes, lawn mower thefts from back yards, court news and their local football team. One by one, they all got promoted and specialised in a particular field and covered a larger patch, before moving to regional media outlets and finally on to the nationals. John worked for ten years at a popular national tabloid newspaper.

The conversation around a piece of content which creates context and brings it to life becomes more important than the original content itselfJohn and his colleagues all progressed based on the quality of their end product Рarticles; broadcast media segments Рessentially, a presentation of some kind. The quality of their end product depends upon things like: how good their sources are; how skilled they are at writing and crafting narrative; their research skills; and also their instinct for sniffing out as good story.

Then one day, John saw a job advert for a press officer at Blah Blah plc. It offered a better salary and benefits, more secure employment and a far less claustrophobic/nepotistic culture. So he applied, got the job and made the switch from journalist to spokesperson.

John soon found out¬†that, while all his old journalistic skills are still very valuable in his new role, success is measured very differently. The output or end product of John’s labours shifted from being a presentation¬†for a mass audience to¬†his ability to¬†influence a much smaller set of identifiable individuals. So the¬†presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself to a means to an end. That end being¬†influence.

So, what’s all this got to do with internal comms? I believe the journey¬†that¬†John has undertaken above, is exactly the same journey that we as internal communicators must now make to remain effective in a social organisation – by¬†which I mean an organisation with internal systems which support commenting and conversation and which are used widely by employees.

In organisations which are strongly hierarchical and where on-line, social engagement functionality is not available, employee communications is highly managed, structured and controlled. What employee comms people produce in these types of organisations is well crafted presentational material Рbe it a news item or a communication from the CEO or senior manager. This is akin to journalism inside.

As an organisation introduces functionality which supports connection and conversation, employee comms people need to compete with other information providers to attract attention to their content through the noise. This will never be achieved by continuing to produce corporate presentational material Рhowever well crafted. The conversation around a piece of content, which creates context and brings it to life becomes, arguably, more important than the original content itself. Influence comes from being part of that conversation and change happens as a result of it. So the presentation subtly shifts from being an end in itself, to a means to an end. The end being influence

Being part of the conversation, explaining – sometimes defending –¬†the company’s position to employees and¬†trying to influence behaviours is much more akin to being a spokesperson for your organisation, inside your organisation. This means no more hiding behind a wall of content and being invisible to employees. It means stepping in to the limelight, being the most connected person in your organisation and discussing openly and honestly the messages you have been tasked with delivering and describing and exhibiting the behaviours you are trying to promote. It also means being accountable in a much more transparent way than we have ever had to be before.

Pretty scary? Certainly. Very exciting? Definitely!

The great news is that, as employee comms people, we already have a fantastic¬†set of skills¬†to help us flourish in this new environment. All we need to do shift our thinking.¬†There really has¬†never been a more exciting time to be in employee comms … and a social organisation is the perfect environment for us to flourish and grow.

Internal communications 101 #internalcomms

In the world of internal communications we seem to¬†spend our time tumbling or lurching from one activity (aka crisis!) to another. We don’t often spend time reflecting on what¬†we’re really contributing, or our purpose inside organisations.¬†This is a shame. It’s also very tiring as without a clear purpose we’re not always in a position to say: “NO”

So, I decided to spend a little time thinking about the purpose and value of internal communications inside organisations to reset and recalibrate my thinking. Below are some random meanderings on the subject.

What’s the point of internal comms?

I think internal comms is an invaluable organisational asset … and here’s why. Organisations are just groups of people. Both organisations as entities and people as individuals have needs. For example, an organisation needs to produce the stuff its customers want as efficiently and cheaply as possible …¬†and people want to feel valued, respected and heard. Internal communications blends the needs of the organisation with the needs of its people so that stuff gets produced and the people enjoy producing it. Internal communications holds the organisational space. And, when the organisational needs change to meet the demands of its customers or the markets, internal communications helps people through that change so that everyone‚Äôs needs are still being met at the end of it.

In good organisations with successful internal communications teams,¬†every employee believes they can make a difference … and, crucially, wants to make a difference.

What does internal comms do?

A very good question. Below is a rough sketch of what I think constitutes the internal communications core process:

IC core process

In my experience, we’re not very good at the first step in this process – agreeing objectives. These need to be crystal clear and they need to be outcomes rather than outputs. As a profession, we have a bad reputation for measuring our outputs and equating the scale of these outputs with success.

What does good look like?

I think a healthy internal communications ecosystem looks something like this:

Internal comms ecosystem diagram

It should be a healthy balance of: stuff (collectively described in this diagram as ‘content’) ->¬†getting to the right people in a timely fashion -> creating conversation -> which helps inform the next load of stuff … and so it goes on. Traditionally, we have been poor at the conversation bit of this which I think has limited the value we’ve delivered as a profession. However, with the advent of the so¬†called¬†social organisation, this is all changing. Once we’ve got this all ticking along nicely we can be assured that we all have a shared understanding of what is required, we feel engaged and change happens. If only it was that simple!

A bit more about value

Wow … this is really tricky! Effective internal comms is about doing some stuff (service delivery); forming relationships with stakeholders to help them solve their business problems (business partnering); and amazing the business with new and exciting thinking (leading change … aka innovating). Here’s a little diagram showing these activities which I’ve chosen to call the value triangle:

IC value triangle

A good internal comms practitioner will need to do all of these things at various times … the trick is getting the balance right.¬†I think the right¬†balance is illustrated by the triangular shape of the model.

Conclusion

I don’t really have one. As I said at the start, these are fairly random meanderings which have helped me think about what I should be doing and how to¬†balance the various activities/priorities demanded of me. One day, I plan to say “NO” to something. When I do, you’ll be the first to know! ūüôā

Dear Senior Manager – please play nicely in our social channels #internalcomms #intranet #socialmedia

If I had to give a senior manager a bit of advice about how to be successful in using social channels on our intranet, it would be something like this:

——————————————————–

The critical success factor for engaging in a social channel as a senior manager is getting the tone of your engagement right. You need to ensure that you maintain the right balance between being authoritative as a senior manager and being an individual engaging in a conversation with another individual. Influence in social channels is something you earn over time by engaging in the right way and not something automatically conferred upon you because of your role in the organisation.

 Influence comes from being part of the conversation, not part of the establishment.

¬†It is also important to accept that your people need to collaborate in social channels to be effective in their jobs ‚Äď they need to trust that you endorse this activity and that they are not being judged negatively for being active participants. Your early interactions, as a senior manager, will be critical to the health of social collaboration by your people going forward.¬†

The following points should help you find the right tone in your responses. When responding to an individual in a social channel, you should never: 

  • preach at them or talk down to them
  • hide behind quotes from company literature or use management speak as a surrogate for authentic engagement
  • use jargon, abbreviations and marketing/business language
  • throw your weight around and act in a heavy handed manner because of your position in the company.

You should always:

  • ¬†listen first
  • be honest, open and authentic in all your responses ‚Äď which includes owning up to mistakes as quickly as possible
  • deal with negative sentiment head on ‚Äď ignoring negative sentiment inevitably results in it spiralling out of control ‚Äď remember ‚Ķ negative sentiment almost always comes from an un-met need which you can probably meet
  • stick around and follow-up on comments you might make in a given conversation ‚Äď making a comment and then leaving is not engaging in a conversation.

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