In the current crisis, millions more of us are working from home. But how can businesses keep everyone connected when they’re no longer in the office? This is when enterprise social network platforms such as Workplace and Yammer will really come into their own, helping to maintain communication, collaboration and connectivity when everyone is working apart. If you haven’t already got one in your organisation or your intranet has no social functionality, now’s the time….
Facebook Workplace is my personal favourite and I had the pleasure of using it again when leading internal comms for Comic Relief last year. It gets great adoption because it’s based on Facebook so people instinctively know how to use it – it’s familiar. (There is a potential downside of the similarity to Facebook though – some people hate Facebook or see it is somewhere to go occasionally which can mean it’s a struggle to get them to engage with it)
Workplace is based on Groups – you can set up ‘official’ Groups such as ‘Company news’ for your company newsfeed and ‘People News’ to introduce new starters etc. And anyone can set up a group and invite people to join. You can also have a private group for your team to share all the important and not so important stuff, invaluable at times like these when teams are widely dispersed.
My personal favourite feature though is the live video, just like Facebook live which you may have used or seen. You can just point and shoot your tablet or phone to broadcast your ‘Town Hall’ or Q&A session with your CEO, inviting instant feedback, questions etc. (Just make sure the light is good and get a tripod to keep your device still!) It makes it easy to connect your people with your leadership team and each other.
- Workplace delivers all the benefits you’d want and expect e.g. employee voice, collaboration, connectivity with leadership, reduction in email traffic
- It’s USP is ‘no training required’ due to the familiarity of the platform, which leads to better adoption, particularly by millennials
- Workplace Chat (based on Messenger) provides instant messaging
- It’s Microsoft friendly – Facebook themselves use Office 365
- It’s built for mobile first and is secure on personal phones as well as work phones
- The ability to live broadcast at no additional cost and interact with the audience is brilliant
- The pricing is good value with a monthly cost per person of $4 for the core version and it’s free to charities and education. There’s also a free basic version which is great for small businesses
- It’s got great analytics so you can measure engagement
- It’s not an ‘intranet killer’ – you still need a place where people can go and obtain content / forms etc. that’s standing still and easy to find and download.
Finally, it’s really easy to get up and running quickly on the platform so if you’re looking to get something in place at speed with everyone suddenly working from home, it’s a great choice.
Slack has also been mentioned a lot on LinkedIn a lot in the current environment. Here is my recent blog on the platform with my view on it as an internal communicator: https://internalcommsteam.co.uk/communication/slack-an-internal-communicators-view/
What do you look for when recruiting internal communications talent?
As an interim internal communications leader for businesses across multiple sectors, I’ve often had to build or rebuild internal comms teams. Here are the skills I look for when recruiting an internal comms professional:
1. Commerciality and Business Acumen
CEOs and leadership teams want communicators who are on their wave length. That means people with strong business sense who can tap into the leadership team’s view of the organisation, its strategy and priorities. To earn a voice at the top table, today’s IC managers need to be able to link internal communications plans intrinsically with the business strategy – actively supporting delivery of business priorities.
2. Strong people skills – at all levels
Of course internal comms specialists need to be able to work confidently with leadership teams and be a trusted advisor…but they also need to be equally adept at connecting with the front line and staying in touch with their issues. A key part of our role in IC is to improve connectivity between leadership teams and front line employees so an ability to relate to all levels is essential.
3. Brilliant writing
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, drafting announcements, telling business stories and blogs, the ability to create accurate, compelling content is fundamental to the role. And the first ‘red flag’ is often a poorly written CV…….
4. Expert channels management
A great IC pro needs to be able to develop and manage an effective suite of channels. It’s no longer simply about face-to-face, email and intranet, but in the digital era we have a much broader spectrum that now includes platforms such as Yammer and Workplace. Making them work together is a key skill. And creativity is key – particularly with millennials who respond to creative, engaging comms.
5. Great planning and organisation
Internal comms managers need to be great at pulling together communication plans, in particular for change programmes. This means factoring in multiple and diverse audiences, cross-geographical teams, resource availability and timing around other business activity, giving the comms maximum chance of a successful landing.
If you’d like some support building or rebuilding your internal comms team, drop me a line at email@example.com.
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
The many emoji’s of being an IC professional
From praying hands to face palms, we talk emojis and internal comms on World emoji day
Let’s face it, we go through some emotions as IC people! People would never guess the blood, sweat and tears that go into most comms to get it to that perfectly formed, timely and informative little nugget!
Today is World Emoji day so to celebrate the fact Apple are launching a grey haired person (and sometimes IC can be to blame for our grey hairs!) we have selected just a few emojis that represent our working lives! And let’s be honest, who even remembers how we ever communicated despair without that squinty eyed, downy mouthed, yellow ball?
When you’ve been writing something for weeks and it’s finally signed off and in the template and you have that dreaded ‘send’ moment! You’ve triple checked the subject box and the links…and all you can do now is pray!
Celebratory cone with streamers coming out of the end
(How do I find out what these are actually called?)
When the senior team eventually see the tangible results between good comms and commercial business! You’ve measured it, it’s there in black and white and now they are fully invested in comms! Yessssss!
When you re-launch an intranet and the leadership team decides everyone can have access to the content management system. Soon you’re looking at a page peppered with off brand, Google-pinched images for a team of two based in Outer Mongolia! Slight exaggeration but you know what I mean.
There’s a new CEO and they want to change everything (just for the sake of it). They want to revamp the Values which were only launched a year ago, they don’t like the newly implemented digital workplace and social tool. So, you basically have to make a start on undoing all your good work. Only resulting in a crying face!
This is the classic! “I haven’t heard about that.” Well, if you’d have only read the communication we sent you about it three weeks ago, and posted on the intranet!
Toothy grin face
When you’ve worked your socks off on a big event and everything runs smoothly and you get glowing feedback. The blisters are worth it and you do the smug toothy grin!
If you want to always be pulling the toothy grin face, contact us to help with your internal comms. We can help with all sorts, from reviews to a bit of flexible interim resource.
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.
In our work here at the Internal Comms Team doing internal comms reviews or channel audits for clients, more often than not we find a clunky, out of date intranet with limited functionality suffering from lack of investment. These intranets were typically built in-house or bought years earlier and are no longer fit for purpose with poor structure and out of date content irritating employees on a daily basis.
Add to that a lack of functionality to host multi-media and news round-ups, never-mind socially engaging content, and you have some major frustrations for internal comms professionals. Often key stakeholders in the business e.g. HR have lost confidence in the intranet as a channel and have built their own portal e.g. on SharePoint, resulting in confusion for users about where to find everything and an inconsistent look and feel.
So in our review reports we’re often recommending the introduction of a new platform and supporting on implementation.
To build or not to build?
Of course, everyone would love to have an intranet that is bespoke to the unique needs of their organisation but this comes at a price, can take a long time, and it’s not always easy to justify and quantify the value to business leadership. Aside from the cost, IT resource is scarcely available to support existing platforms let alone build from scratch in line with our requirements as communicators.
Pros and cons of ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions
This is where ‘out-of-the-box’ or ‘pre-canned’ intranet solutions come into play. There are many pros to this approach, not least that years of intranet best practice and client feedback are built into the platforms.
These solutions come in two flavours – those built on vendor specific platforms – Interact is a popular platform and one what we like – and those built on top of third party platforms such as Office 365 and SharePoint, which often appeals to stakeholders looking to utilise existing Microsoft licences. Products are kept up to date with regular software updates as part of the license so in theory you should never have to worry about your intranet going out of date / being unsupported.
One of the market leaders is EasySharePoint and I’ve recently had experience of implementing this out-of-the-box Intranet – not once but twice in the last 18 months!
EasySharePoint – the basics
EasySharePoint provides a set of pre-built intranet capabilities that include content publishing, news feeds, colleague directories, integration with social tools such as Yammer for collaboration, corporate calendar, search functionality and document management – more than the basics of a good Intranet. It’s fully responsive so can be accessed from desktop, tablet or mobile – including personal mobiles (some intensive negotiation with your IT Security team required of course!)
The biggest plus is it takes literally less than half a day to deploy the site onto internal systems which means you can be up and running from anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months. I’ve experienced both timelines – the difference largely depends on your content audit, your resource availability and the breadth of stakeholder management you plan to do.
EasySharePoint comes equipped with a branding tool that allows you to put your company colours, logos and fonts onto the site with no development work needed. If you have a particularly demanding brand team, further customisation can be added to fully embrace the subtleties of your brand – at an additional cost.
In my opinion, these are a good thing to bring an element of consistency to the site. That said, the choice is small and where you can’t find the template your looking for, again further customisation and cost will be incurred. I personally think this side of things becomes easier after set-up, when you’re familiar with the templates and are not having to retro-fit content, instead designing it with the templates in mind.
CMS learning curve
Remember, it’s built in SharePoint and this brings both good and bad news. SharePoint takes a bit of getting used to and while EasySharePoint has built a nicer user interface on the content management system, the principles are the same so if you’re coming from a background of no SharePoint experience, expect some frustrations and a learning curve. This is where having implementation support from someone with experience of the platform can play huge dividends.
It’s worth it
While out of the box solutions like EasySharePoint and Interact are not without compromise compared to a build to order approach, what they do offer is a fast and straightforward route to your new social intranet, leaving you and your internal comms team to focus on the things that matter – effective governance, intranet strategy, design and structure, and developing strong and engaging content.
If you need help with reviewing / upgrading / creating your intranet or would just like to know more about my experience with EasySharePoint, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In many organisations Q4 and Q1 are the time of year for major face to face communication activity. Having returned to our core team after a maternity break, Sarah Sheasby shares her secrets for planning brilliant employee events, answering some FAQs:
I want to get the whole company together. Where do I start? Start by asking yourself: If this event was a great success, what will my employees know, feel and do differently as a result? Use this to set some specific and measurable objectives – whether a 10 point increase in engagement, or 90% understanding of your new strategy.
Every year 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.
Here’s five major employee feedback themes from our recent reviews. Has your strategy got these covered?
Over the last ten years we’ve helped lots of organisations understand how effectively they’re connecting with their people.
Through these internal communications reviews with clients from various sectors we’ve seen very consistent feedback themes from employees. We thought we’d share these findings and also ask your opinion on whether you think employees in your organisation feel the same.
Everyone who participates in our quick survey will receive a copy of the summarised overall report (no organisations or participants will be listed). See later in the blog on how you can take part.