While I have come across Slack in recent years when working for businesses, it has usually been the tool of choice for IT Development teams and not a platform I’d actually used.
That changed with my recent interim leadership assignment for Comic Relief where Slack is the tool used by everyone for instant messaging and project and team collaboration. (They also have Facebook Workplace my favourite enterprise social platform which is used as the internal comms hub.)
Having used Slack for 6 months I grew to really like it. It’s simple and intuitive to use. Here’s what’s great:
- Conversions and collaboration happen in channels which you can quickly set up for your project / team. They can be open to anyone to join / see content or closed where you have to request to join and be approved – useful for confidential projects
- Channels are particular good for speedy cross-team / cross-site collaboration on a project or initiative
- You can easily share files, video etc.
- The instant messaging is quicker and easier than email – I found I was using email a lot less than usual
- You can initiate a voice or video call from any channel or conversation
- And you can set up a shared channel to collaborate effectively with people in another organisations – brilliant for e.g. merger / integration projects
- It’s great on both desktop and mobile
- You can set your status so colleagues can see if you’re online, working from home, on holiday etc. It’s great for searching for and connecting with people quickly and easily.
Is it a viable option for an internal comms hub/social platform? Theoretically yes but in my view other platforms like Workplace / Yammer are more fit for purpose – unless you’re a small business with e.g. less than 100 people when it might be adequate for your needs. Slack themselves promote it as a place to get work done – and that’s really what it’s best at.
As we deliver internal communications reviews for clients across different sectors, we get to hear from hundreds of employees of businesses across the country about what is important to them when it comes to effective communications.
The top three feedback themes have been consistent for the last few years:
“We want to connect with the leadership team on a regular basis”
This remains right at the top of peoples’ lists. They want to hear about how the business is doing, future plans etc. and what means for them, but more they also want to give feedback, share their day to day experiences with customers, and put forward ideas – in other words they want their voice to be heard and they want the leadership team to do more listening! A good IC strategy needs a consistent programme of informal and formal face to face activities plus the ability to connect easily online.
“We want to discuss the issues that are important to us”
Organisations have got much better in recent years at talking to their people about their agenda i.e. business strategy, priorities, performance – but still aren’t focusing enough on what employees want to know about and are interested in – the employee agenda. I hear this consistently – they want to hear more about the stuff they care about – plans for the future, outlook for jobs, learning & development, reward and recognition.
“There’s lots of information available to me – but it’s difficult to make sense of it all”
With the growth in use of social intranets, ESNs like Yammer and Workplace and digital workspaces, the amount of information available to corporate employees to ‘pull’ is huge. But in my reviews they often tell us that it’s all too much – and as they have busy working days they want help in making sense of it all so they don’t miss the important stuff! I’m often recommending and implementing a regular push digital channel which pushes key business news into peoples’ inboxes in an easily digestible format, driving traffic to key online info as well as having standalone content.
When did you last ask your people what they think of your internal communications and whether they’re meeting their needs?
The Internal Comms Team can deliver a review for you in as little as 10 days, for as little as 10k plus travel expenses and VAT. Get in touch if you’d like to know more…
By Jos Harrison
Over the last 14 years I’ve provided interim leadership of internal comms for businesses as diverse as MotoNovo Finance, ITV, Principality Building Society, and Wonga, and for me the key focus areas have remained pretty much the same – albeit with new technology playing an increasing role.
By ICT associate Verity Cash
Workplace continues to make waves in UK companies, with businesses big and small signing up to the platform because of it’s cost effective pricing structure and ease of installation.
The beauty of Workplace is the speed at which you can get started; with minimal support required from Facebook, a collaborative team of Comms, HR and IT can launch Workplace easily in six weeks. The intuitive nature of the platform means that the majority of your colleagues will have some level of understanding of Facebook and therefore need little or no training to get started.
Workplace have a fantastic resource of materials to support a launch including comms plans and checklists, posters and handouts even those infamous Facebook emojis ready to print out and stick around the building.
So far, so good, but here’s some additional things to consider for a successful Workplace launch;
1. Sense check your company culture
You’re probably launching Workplace to help build a more open and collaborative culture. It’s worth doing your homework with team leaders around the organisation to see how they will operate Workplace.
Workers in call centres, distribution centres or factories may have less access to your social network during office hours, and it may even be frowned upon to be seen on the internet. How will you support team leaders to create an adult to adult culture which allows them to check in to the Workplace platform as and when they need to?
2. Consider colleague mental health needs
You may find that colleagues or team leaders volunteer the information that they or a colleague is anxious or nervous about social media coming into the workplace. Or you may need to open up conversation on this topic to ensure colleagues with concerns can voice them, before the launch.
Can you incorporate social media thoughts into your mental health at work programme? Do you need to give mental health advisors specialist training?
3. Are there any ethical or moral objections from employees?
It’s likely you could come across a minority of employees who voice ethical or moral concerns to a Facebook product. As in life, some people actively choose not to sign up to Facebook personally to express a moralistic point of view.
This has the potential to be a highly sensitive issue and it’s advisable to tackle this early on with your leadership team to decide your company approach. Is it mandatory for employees to use Workplace? If not, where else will those employees be able to receive information and take part in conversation?
4. Train and guide your leadership team (no matter what they say)
Workplace is the ideal place to help up your leadership team’s visibility. Think of it as a virtual ‘floor walk’. Have an idea of what role you’d like your CEO to play on Workplace. How will your Finance Director communicate those milestone corporate moments? How can you unlock the passion of the Customer Services team via your Customer Services Director?
Be prescriptive for launch. Ensure your leaders’ profiles are complete, they have some content uploaded and they are assigned to their respective teams/departments. Keep checked in with them for the first month of launch to ensure they are able to see the benefits to their teams and for them to flag any concerns to you.
5. But, don’t be too prescriptive for everyone else
Set up everyone’s profiles before launch day, consider holding a photo day to enable people to get a profile photo they’re happy with, set up teams and social groups (perhaps you have some lunchtime clubs) and assign owners to get content up and running. And then stop.
As a communications professional, there’s a temptation to create endless content. Workplace works really well when everyone is involved, sets up their own groups and initiates their own chats. Try to sit back and watch to see which teams/individuals have embraced the channel and who needs a little more help. Then get ready to jump in with support – and maybe some content ideas too.
See our view on Workplace as a platform here
Following our recent popular blog, ‘Top tips for hiring a good Internal Comms interim’, we’ve been asked for our views on the top skills for Internal Comms Managers more generally. Since starting the agency back in 2004, I’ve had the privilege of recruiting many skilled Internal Comms specialists both into our core team of internal comms specialists and our wider associate team. I also recruit for clients when a team build or rebuild has been part of my remit as interim leader of internal comms. Here’s what I look for:
Commerciality and Business Acumen
CEOs want Business Partners who are on their wave length. That means having people with strong business sense who can tap into the leadership team’s view of the organisation, its challenges and opportunities. To earn a voice at the leadership table, today’s IC Managers need to be able to link internal communications plans intrinsically with the business strategy – ultimately supporting the CEO to deliver the business priorities.
Strong people skills at all levels
Of course Internal Comms specialists need to be able to move confidently among the senior team to provide strategic counsel…but they also need to understand the audience. All too often in client reviews, we uncover a disconnect between the leadership and frontline employees who are the lifeblood of an organisation. A successful communications strategy depends on being able to relate to the different audiences and dissolve perceived boundaries and barriers with interactive, two-way channels that connect leaders and employees.
Brilliant writing skills
It should go without saying that an Internal Comms Manager must be able to write well. So I’m frequently amazed by the number of people in the industry who lack this basic skill. From key message development, to drafting announcements, video scripts and blogs, the ability to create accurate, compelling content is fundamental to the role. For me, the first ‘red flag’ is a poorly written CV…it doesn’t make it past our recycling bin.
A creative approach to channels management
The ideal IC Manager will have solid experience of managing the full communications mix. It’s no longer simply about print, face-to-face, email and intranet, but a much broader spectrum that now encompasses Enterprise Social Networks, webinars, Vlogs, infographics… and so on. Companies are increasingly looking for internal comms people who can respond to business challenges in creative and innovative ways that hit the spot – particularly with millennials who are an ever-increasing presence in the workplace.
Great planning and organisation
As an agency we’re often asked for people who are great at pulling together complex plans which reflect increasingly complex work environments. This means factoring in multiple and diverse audiences, cross-geographical teams, international preferences and demanding stakeholders! And there’s a need to control the ‘air traffic’, too. Your Comms Manager needs to be adept at looking several months ahead, planning key launches around to fit with the ‘Business as Usual’ activity, rallying the right people and predicting resource hot spots.
For internal communications advice, support or resources, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The definition of the word Values (in this context) is ‘Principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.’ So why does Values campaigns often fall flat and fail to engage? It should be easy to define what’s important when it comes to ‘how we do things round here’ but here at the ICT we find it’s still a real sticking point; from launching or relaunching to embedding them. Here are our five tips for success:
Involve your employees in creating them
The best examples of Values working well, in my experience, are where employees help to decide what they are and what they mean. Doing things from the bottom up can often do the embedding for you.
Make the Values exciting and different
Without devaluing Values (see what I did there) in our experience, they are often relatively generic/bland, so to save them being uninspiring ‘motherhood and apple pie’, try and be different and make them more exciting, simple and relevant. If you’re going to have a value like ‘Customer First’, use examples to bring it to life for people and give them absolute clarity over what that means in reality and how to live it in their daily work and decision-making. And don’t have too many, four to five is about right.
Get ready for the launch!
Today: Get ready for the launch! It’s surprising how many businesses introduce Values but don’t
invest time and effort in an effective launch, or launch them in some parts of the business and not others. We recommend launching them to everyone at the same time using a multi-channel approach with face to face at its heart, so that your people have a consistent experience and message. Also, don’t forget to add them to the section of your website that will be viewed by potential employees – a meaningful set of values will help you in attracting people who are aligned with them and ready to live them once on board.
Ensure leadership live and breathe them
If the Exec team can’t be bothered to live and breathe the Values, why should anyone else? You need them to be leading by example if you want the Values to be embedded in your organisation. If the CEO does a regular blog, get them to talk about the Values and how decisions have been made with them in mind. Make sure they praise people who are living the Values. Holding Town Hall events? Find a way to weave the Values into the presentation. Values need to be leadership led.
Refer to them in communications
Refer to the Values in everything! If you have a recognition scheme based on the Values, recognise people at face to face events and tell stories about the people who’ve been recognised in your channels. Make them prominent on your intranet and if you have an ESN, encourage people to post on the Values. Weave them into your people stories: “Tracey from Accounts showed Integrity when she took on this project”. You could even segregate parts of your eZine into sections that relate to the values and. If your performance management process has incorporated the Values, highlight it when you’re campaigning to engage people in the process.
Get in touch if you need support with communicating your Values, reviewing your internal comms, or even just some interim resource.
ICT team member Sophie is a double-award winning internal communications professional with almost ten years’ experience, previously named in the top 30 under 30 by the Institute of Internal Communication. Sophie is currently available for client assignments.
We have done some interesting internal communications reviews recently for clients like Financial Ombudsman Service, Kronos Inc. EMEA region and Innovation Group. We thought it’d be useful to share the top themes with you.
The dreaded intranet
While this is not ‘new’ it is still top of the charts for ‘improvement needed’. It feels like all businesses went out and got an intranet 10-15 years ago and they haven’t nurtured it, so it’s often now a jumbled list of poorly presented words and documents on an outdated platform which no-one can navigate! Would you leave your website unchanged for 10 years? Exactly! There’s no excuse for this: there are some fantastic options for social intranets around, including Interact, Unily and EasySharepoint. Don’t forget to resource it properly, though, otherwise the same thing could happen again…
Push / pull balance
Interestingly, we’ve gone from everyone wanting to ‘pull’ all their news and information, to employees feeling so confused about where to go to stay up to date that they now want it sent to them. I guess because everything is at our fingertips in our personal lives, people want that personalised experience at work and want news digested for them and easy to access. Don’t get me wrong, people still want to pull from an intranet but the need for a regular, snappy email digest of important news is a common theme in our reviews.
In our reviews we’re finding that people want constant conversations and connection with both the leadership team and their colleagues across the business – both face to face and online. Twice yearly ‘set piece’ employee events just don’t cut it anymore! We regularly talk to clients about ‘rhythm and drumbeat of communications’ and the importance of maintaining a dialogue across face to face and supporting channels.
What’s the story?
Employees want and need to feel part of something, understand the story and direction of the business and its identity, and for various reasons organisations don’t seem to be getting this right lately. I personally think this isn’t far enough up Exec teams’ priorities. Once discussed and agreed, the story should be told and reflected throughout your communications, making it relevant and engaging.
Managers as a channel
It’s still all too common for managers to be on the back foot when it comes to comms; from finding out news at the same time as teams, to not being part of a cascade process. It’s so important to engage your managers and equip them with segmented channels to engage their teams. They are the link from the senior team messages to the people and vice versa. And the vice versa bit is critical – communication is two-way of course….
When you think how important this is to get right, it’s amazing to us how many organisations struggle to get this right – whether it’s setting out a change journey for people or communicating some structural changes with people impact. Key to getting it right is having experienced, dedicated resources planning the communications. No point in spending millions on your transformation if you don’t communicate it well and the change then lands badly – or not at all! We think this is one of the key areas where internal comms teams can demonstrate their value to their organisation.
Do these themes sound familiar to you? Why not see how we can help you with an internal comms review. Find out more.
If you’ve rarely worked with Internal Communications interims you may be wondering what to look for in the ideal candidate. In our recent social media campaign we shared our views based on what our clients say they value most. Here’s what we said…
They’re one of the team from the start
In most permanent jobs you can expect a settling-in period of a few weeks: with interim resource this is fast-tracked. It’s common for contractors to be called upon to fill unforeseen gaps at times when the pressure’s on…so our clients tell us they need Internal Comms managers who can get up to speed and build their internal networks quickly. They should be assessing the culture and working style from the outset, bringing their wide experience of working in different organisations to bear. Before you know it, they’ll seem like an invaluable member of your team.
They deliver brilliantly, even in challenging environments
Every organisation has its politics and no-one knows this more than an experienced interim Internal Comms Manager. They’ve seen it all…from companies in the throes of mergers and acquisitions, to changes of leadership team, performance issues and resource shortages. Crucially, they don’t let this distract them from the task in hand and will always deliver to a high standard, on time. Resilience is their middle name.
They add value above and beyond
When recruiting an interim Internal Comms Manager, aim for someone who not just delivers brilliantly to your brief but also looks for opportunities to implement continuous improvements while in your team. You might be bringing them in to manage communications for your systems implementation, but they could also be tidying up intranet pages to remove out of date content or improving your e-zine.
They are great at managing stakeholders – even challenging ones
Your ideal interim should be able to deftly manoeuvre around senior leaders with differing views and dynamics without it compromising delivery. The chances are they’ll have encountered similar situations on numerous occasions. A good internal communicator will identify whether they can play a role in reconciling opposing positions or whether it’s best negotiated with care. More generally, you should be able to trust your Internal Comms Manager to keep the right people in the loop with the right level of information at the right time.
They leave you in a good place at the end of their contract
There’s nothing worse than being left high and dry at the end of a contract, with enquiries pouring into your team and no-one to manage them. A conscientious interim will plan in plenty of handover time at the end of the assignment to transition the work into ‘Business As Usual’, ensuring your existing team are well prepped. This includes filing documents, notifying stakeholders and having an ongoing plan for managing the work.
If you need interim support, we can help. We have an in-house team of talented, experienced Internal Comms Managers. Email email@example.com if you’d like to know more.
We’ve all heard horror stories of poorly managed change communications – our LinkedIn campaign reflects just some of the real-life examples that have been shared with us. The typical score for agreeing with the statement ‘Changes are communicated effectively’ in our internal communications review surveys is around 30%.
Change is a fact of life for most organisations and effective change communication is one of the skills our clients often approach us for. Whether it’s an office move, relocation, redundancies or business acquisition, major change is often difficult. We take pride in supporting clients to communicate change effectively and with integrity and believe there are a few things you can do to improve the experience for your employees and your organisation. Here are our top 5…..
1. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes
Showing respect doesn’t need to be onerous and is vital to your reputation as a good employer. It’s not just about those leaving or moving, but those left behind. At every step of the project, take a moment to reflect: how will it feel to employees? Good principles include briefing people face to face and at a reasonable time of day. And don’t forget part-time colleagues and those on maternity leave, long term sick or secondment.
Now is a great time to brush up on the Change Curve, which recognises quite simply that employees will go through a range of emotions and need different types of communication at different times. If in doubt, keep it human, honest and adult to adult.
2. Agree your approach
There are a few ways to communicate change, but here at the Internal Comms Team we often recommend a cascade approach i.e. starting with senior leaders, then line managers and then employees. This enables your managers to play a key role as communicators and equips them to support their teams through the change. They can also help you to gauge emerging themes and colleague sentiment. If your line managers are also impacted, you may need to give them extra support in this role. Last but not least, communicate to the wider organisation – in our internal communications reviews employees often tell us that ‘secondary’ audiences are forgotten.
3. Develop good stakeholder relationships
You’ll need to work hand-in-hand with HR to understand how people are being impacted, what the process is and what support materials they will need. You may well also be relying on business leads for subject expertise so it pays to have great working relationships. While we’re on the topic, invest a little time in connecting with EAs and PAs too…they have the senior team’s ear and you may well be calling in favours closer to delivery date!
4. Prep leaders to own the message
If one leader explains there are cost cuts while another points to changing skills requirements, the message will very quickly unravel. Whatever your organisation’s reasons for change, be clear, be consistent and ensure the leadership team are fully aligned behind the message. Finally, while it might feel like a great time to cancel all senior diary commitments and run for the hills, this is exactly the time to maintain good visibility and dialogue.
5. Plan, plan…and plan some more
At the outset, check your planned dates for communicating don’t clash with other activity. There’s nothing worse than announcing redundancies hot on the heels of a Values campaign. For the announcements themselves, you’ll need designated owners for every element of the plan, from setting up room bookings to monitoring comments on your intranet/enterprise social network. Have backup plans, too. What if there’s a leak in the press? What happens if that super important HR system crashes with all of your key materials? What if the briefing invitations don’t reach the intended people? How smoothly things run on the day will depend on the time you put in…the devil really is in the detail.
For change communications resource and advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us on on 0117 971 4423 / email our MD firstname.lastname@example.org
Here at the Internal Comms Team we spend a lot of our time delivering internal communications reviews or audits for clients, recommending a new strategy and plan and supporting them with implementation.
A key theme of our reviews is that with the shift to online ‘pull’ channels such as intranets and enterprise social networks (ESNs) in recent years, people find the weight of information a bit overwhelming. They have busy working days with lots of demands on their time and they want help in making sense of it all – something that filters things for them and directs them to relevant online content.
With print channels becoming increasingly rare as preferences have changed, we are often recommending the introduction of a regular ‘push’ digital channel – and there are some great tools available.
While we are strictly independent, our favourite is Poppulo which we’ve implemented with a number of clients. It’s been built specifically for internal comms – and here’s why it’s great.
Great look and feel
The platform has a clean modern feel that reflects current best practice in digital design. Poppulo take your brief and design you a branded template that is right for your organisation and the specific channel you want to create – anything from an end of week news roundup to a monthly people stories e-zine, to a regular leaders channel. Once you’ve approved the design it’s available in your Poppulo account for you to drop in your content for each issue and send, which leads me to the next point….
Easy to use for your IC team
You don’t need specialist design skills – Poppulo do the hard work for you, leaving you to focus on pulling together great content. Uploading words and images for an edition of a typical channel in our experience takes 2-3 hours once you’ve got used to the system. If you get stuck there’s a help system and a support team available online and on the phone. At the end of it, with a few clicks you can deliver to the inboxes of your audience. When they open the email they see a feature rich front page. Clicking on any of the stories takes them through to the microsite which hosts the ‘inside’ pages. They can quickly move to other stories on the microsite through a left hand contents menu, or go back to the front page.
This is the killer feature for Poppulo. Measurement is a constant challenge for internal communicators. A daily sync with your organisation’s active directory ensures that your email database is always up to date. The Poppulo dashboard enables you to see who’s opened the email (and who hasn’t – you can resend to them with a couple of clicks!), who’s clicked through to the microsite hosting the inside pages, what were the likes and comments on each article, and so on. You can run just about any detailed report you want. This is invaluable in helping you plan future content. A great example for us recently was when employees at one of our clients gave strong feedback to our review that the communication of people changes – joiners, movers and leavers – was really poor. So we made this a regular feature in their new e-zine delivered with Poppulo and hey presto, it’s the most popular feature – love it!
A good way to introduce social functionality
If you don’t yet have an ESN like Yammer or Facebook Workplace, or social functionality on your intranet, Poppulo’s social tools are a good way to introduce online social activity into the organisation. Your audience can like articles and comment on them too. If you’re worried about people commenting inappropriately, you can even switch on moderation so that all comments have to be approved before going live.
Finally – it’s affordable. Year one costs can be as little as 8k if you go for the ‘lite’ version for organisations with less than a thousand employees. So if you’re looking to introduce this kind of channel, in our opinion Poppulo is definitely worth a look.
We have extensive experience of implementing Poppulo as part of our channels work. Talk to us if you’d like some support.
This blog was also published by Poppulo here: https://goo.gl/mnYAic