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years ago and they haven’t nurtured it, so it’s often now a jumbled list of poorly presented words and documents on an outdated platform which no-one can navigate!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.
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
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: email@example.com
With digital channels becoming an ever-increasing feature in our work as an agency, late last year I attended a Workplace by Facebook seminar organised by Facebook and the IOIC.
In my experience, when asked to invest in an ESN, the three main concerns from businesses are;
- Will people adopt and use it?
- Is it secure?
- And when the content is constantly moving how does anyone find anything?
Workplace has some great stats on the number of active users and groups in organisations using Workplace and I think that’s down to the fact that most people have or have had Facebook so they know how to use it – it’s familiar. And they have industry-leading security controls so there’s no need to worry about your data. There’s a search function for when you need to find something and it also integrates with repositories you might already be using or have a licence for like; Box, OneDrive, Google Docs etc.
You can set up Groups such as ‘Company news’ for your company newsfeed and you can also have one just for your team to share all the important and not so important stuff and they will get notifications on their phone. They don’t have to have a work phone either – it’s even secure on their personal one which your IT Security team will love!
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 a message from your CEO and invite instant feedback, questions etc. It makes it easy to connect your people with your leadership team and each other. It’s instant, giving your people real-time content and information at their fingertips, which is the way the world works nowadays and it shouldn’t stop when you get to work.
I’m starting to sound like a paid partner for Workplace but here at the ICT we’re 100% independent and we also like Yammer. In our internal comms reviews we make recommendations on digital channels that are right for the organisation we’re working with.
- Workplace delivers all the benefits you’d expect from an ESN e.g. employee voice, collaboration, connectivity with leadership
- It’s USP is ‘no training required’ due to the familiarity of the platform, which leads to better adoption, particularly by millennials who are ever increasing in the workforce
- Microsoft friendly – Facebook themselves use Office 365
- It’s built for mobile first
- The ability to live broadcast at no cost and interact with the audience is brilliant
- The pricing is good value at £2.16 per user per month (dropping to £1.44 after the first 1000 users)
- 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
Major brands like Virgin Atlantic, Booking.com, Spotify, Dominos and Starbucks have adopted the platform. Ah yes I know what you’re thinking – they’re all cool / digital brands, would it be right for a more traditional corporate? Well RBS were one of the presenters at the seminar and they love it. And we do too – we’ve adopted it here at the Internal Comms Team as our in-house social network.
By our new Associate Verity Cash
I recently had the pleasure of launching a social intranet into a traditional food manufacturing business of more than 2000 employees, 500 of whom were based in the UK head office and the rest scattered across various sites as drivers, in our factories and our warehouses. It was a career highlight and certainly tested all of my powers of influence, communication and staying power! Along the way I learnt some great lessons about the do’s and the don’ts of launching an intranet. Read more
Communicating consistently to a workforce spread across locations and countries is an increasingly common challenge for today’s businesses. And our workforces are evermore flexible in terms of being able to work from home or elsewhere. We share our top tips for communicating at a distance.
Acquisitions and integration programmes are a common occurrence in today’s business world and as the ultimate change programme presents a number of challenges for internal communications professionals. It’s often a moment of truth for an internal comms team in terms of the value they bring to the business.
Here at The Internal Comms Team we have provided communications support for successful integrations during our ten years, for clients including RSA, Lloyds and most recently the Deb Group. Here are our top tips for starting out on the right track…