Saturday, 30 March 2013

Send me an Angel

Today's post is inspired by 'International Communications Strategy. Developments in cross-cultural communications, PR and social media', by Silvia Cambié and Yang-May Ooi.

Among the varying and fascinating topics that the book presents, there are also suggestions given to internal communicators on how to help and provide strategic advice to leadership in order for them to engage more effectively with a global workforce.

In particular, there is a story, a case study, that captured my attention as soon as I read it and these marginalia will focus on it. The story is drawn from the 4th chapter 'The dawn of leadership communication'.

'Send me an angel' is the sub-chapter that starts by reporting that communications begins with understanding others and successful leaders realise that. “They realise the importance of finding the balance between the global dimension and the need to appeal to employees through their local points of reference.”

The book reports that Ramon Ollé, former chairman of Epson Europe is one of those leaders who believes that the culture of the country where a multinational is headquartered should not be promoted as the culture of the entire organisation. 

Corporate culture should integrate the history of the company with that of all the nationalities and demographics that contribute to the stability and growth of its business...In a complex multicultural organisation this is a challenging process since integrating all these differences require respect for all these cultural traits

To explain Epson's values to his employees Ramon Ollé came up with the idea of using angels, a figure common to several traditions worldwide: different angels would embody different Epson's values. In fact, angels would help Epson's values be more tangible, enable employee to better identify with those values, align employees' mindset with the Epson's goal and they all would contribute to create a sense of community.

After the project was agreed with the internal communications department, Ramon Ollé himself started writing a series of chapters, one for each angel. He used metaphors and examples from his own professional life and engaged with employees throughout asking them some relevant questions.

For example, the books reports that to explain the 'angel of team spirit' he started with asking employees:

  • What kind of team would we like to be?
  • How can we combine forces in this team?
  • How can I use my abilities to make a positive contribution to the team?
  • How can I motivate the other members of the team?
  • How do I behave with the other team members?
  • How can we guarantee maxim use of the team's resources and a well-functioning team?

Further angels were used to embody the corporate values, such as 'tolerance', 'trust', 'creativity', 'promotion of talents' and 'motivation'.

As the book reports what is intriguing about this story is that it went beyond the use of traditional corporate speak and that the leader himself was willing and ready to adopt a more down-to-earth language.

This proved to be beneficial since it created a strong link between the corporate values and the more personal values of its employees within this intercultural environment.

The foundation of this kind of approach relies on viewing the cultural differences between members of an organisation as an advantage and taking into consideration the needs and communications styles of the different audiences since “It's the characteristics of all these people that make the team's performance possible”.

As mentioned above I found this story very fascinating and I would like to finish these marginalia by reporting a couple of sentences extrapolated from this book's chapter:

“The Globalisation 3.0. era is one of sensational complexity and speed. Simplicity is a way to remain grounded and attentive to reality. We should not forget common sense, just because the environment around us is speeding up and heading for unprecedented transformation.”

Indeed, if you were interested in the topics of internal communications, employee engagement and internal social media with an international focus I would strongly recommend reading this book. Also, I would suggest exploring the site of Silvia Cambié who is expert author and speaker on these important topics.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

'simply' a wonderful week

This week has been 'simply' a wonderful one at simply-communicate, being surrounded by everything internal communications and employee engagement.

All the resources from the recent SMILE 2013 conference (held on 11th March and focusing on the varying uses of social media inside the organisation in order to facilitate employee communications and engagement) have been released. 

I had written a previous post on SMILE 2013 conference reporting the interesting case study of SAS Institute's use of The Hub, the SocialCast internal social media platform which helped the company to foster global collaboration.
By accessing all the resources you would find much more material about the conference.

Also, during this week the full results from the simply Upwardly Mobile survey have been given. According to the survey's results an important proportion of professionals involved in the industry (69%) do believe mobiles would make their organisations more agile. Certainly, I am interested to see how mobiles will be used in future to foster internal collaboration and communications. 

In fact, 40% of professionals although are not currently using mobiles inside their organisations, are thinking about adopting them. Indeed, mobile channels could really change the way we communicate internally, especially with our more remote colleagues. 

At present, professionals would consider the use of mobile channels especially for news (78.6%), people directory (69%) and social media conversations (64.7%). However, there are many more other considerations for using mobiles (including all the intranet, maps of the company site and even training). 

There seems to be some challenges in adopting these tools, especially in terms of budget (68.9% of respondents do not currently possess a dedicated budget) and security concerns (66.8%). 

However, many benefits  in using mobile channels to communicate internally with staff have been highlighted by respondents (e.g. timely connections and communications with dispersed employees and/or with particular colleagues who do not have an easy access to PCs; new forms of recognition by sending personal text messages etc.). 

This may indicate a future increase in the adoption of these tools, in creative and productive ways (e.g. by allowing colleagues to get access to corporate videos and other media, get relevant content aimed to foster a sense of belonging to their particular organisation despite the colleague's site of work, etc.).

It is for me very fascinating to see how our organisations are constantly evolving and with this requiring to change the way they communicate internally with their staff. There seems to be a much more understanding of the importance of creating meaningful dialogue and relevant conversations as well as building an internal community in order to facilitate collaboration and engagement.

In that respect, internal social media seem to play more and more a huge role and with this the leaders' role and commitment seems to be once again invaluable. Relating to this aspect is an interesting article on Philips all-digital Leadership summit run in Netherlands last month. The event saw the involvement of Philips' 750 executives and -  conducted with an element of 'gamification' as well as the support of 'digital buddies' - it aimed to develop more communication skills for leaders. Ultimately, it proved to be beneficial to employee engagement as well.

Writing on social media, this week saw Twitter seventh birthday and on that occasion many people recalled their best tweets' memories. On that day I was tweeting news and content on internal communications and employee engagement with the aim to help develop further knowledge on the subject and add value to the community of interest

My understanding is that social media can be powerful and productive tools for our organisations if used in a collaborative way, with a collaborative mindset and clarity on results we are trying to achieve: making the connections, exchanging meaningful information and content could help to add and build value to the network.

Indeed, this does not mean forgetting or undervaluing the importance of face-to-face time and interactions. In that respect, this week an article by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, reported on Yahoo telecommuting ban (action which created quite a lot of conversations among those interested in internal communications and employee engagement). In Tony Hsieh's view, Yahoo decision of banning telecommuting was a way to encourage more offline staff collaboration.

I believe that in the current times the two, face-to-face and digital communications, can combine and work powerfully together if both organised in an accountable and productive way. 

Indeed, depending on any particular company with its specific history, geography, culture, size, goals and circumstances there will be varying degrees and nuances in the ways organisations would deal  internally with both face-to-face and digital communications. For example and from my 'simply' personal experience, during this week it was wonderful and productive to work closely to my colleagues in the London office and see them everyday. At the same time it was as productive and important to collaborate throughout internal social media with colleagues based outside the country.

Not one size fits all, is a way of saying often heard but still worth remembering. 

My understanding and belief is that the final and common aim in the adoption of these internal communications should be the one of fostering meaningful and relevant dialogue, conversations, understanding, collaboration, recognition and productivity for the benefits of both the whole organisation and each individual.

In respect to these themes and more other topics relating to this fascinating subject, during this 'simply' wonderful week I have started working and writing on some new articles. More news about this 'simply' fascinating journey will come with future marginalia.

At present I wish you a 'simply' wonderful weekend!

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough”
(Albert Einstein. Quote reported on the computer screen of the 'simply' wonderful simply-communicate Publisher, Marc Wright)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Internal Social Media, Collaboration and Engagement: Simply SMILE 2013

Don't take the social out of the social networking...be present”
(Beacky Graebe, SAS Institute)

On Monday 11th March I was very happily attending the Simply SMILE 2013 – Social Media Inside the Large Enterprise – conference organised by Simply-communicate.

It was a great opportunity to know the latest on this fascinating discipline. In fact, there were many experts from a range of companies and fields who gave brilliant insight on the different uses of social media inside the organisation in order to improve internal communications and facilitate employee engagement

Added to this I had the chance to meet and have meaningful conversations with other passionate participants. Indeed, I came back home that night with a strong sense of accomplishment and fulfillment (a SMILE!).

The event started off with the 'Welcome to SMILE 2013', the introduction to the conference given by co-chairs Marc Wright and Silvia Cambie. Then the very many speakers were progressively interviewed during the day.

Among the varying topics covered during the event there were:
  • the uses of different social platforms to foster colleagues' collaboration in companies such as Philips, SAS Institute, Diageo and LexisNexis;
  • the adaptation of emails for the social age at Cable&Wireless Worldwide;
  • the uses of mobile phones inside the organisations. In particular, the results from a recent survey run by Simply-communicate were revealed and interesting findings commented;
  • the latest on the best uses of intranets and Sharepoint as well as a talk about the required skills of professionals involved in this industry were given.

At the very end of the conference we had also the chance to participate in group discussions, which I found very interesting and meaningful as well. I personally took part in three of them, namely:
  • Old and New Technologies
  • How do you measure success?
  • How to drive adoption?

Indeed, it was a very interesting conference to attend and I am very thankful to Simply-communicate for organising such a relevant event as well as to all the speakers and participants to be there with all their valuable contributions.

Below I would like to share with you a few marginalia on one of the case studies presented during the day:

Becky Graebe Corporate Communications Manager from SAS Institute talking on “The Hub” -  the social media platform which was launched two years ago and helped the company be listed on the Top 25 World's Best Multinational Workplaces from the Great Place to Work list.

Dubbed 'the Hub', Socialcast is a central forum for communication and collaboration where the SAS culture of openness can thrive”.

With more than thirteen thousands employees around the world SAS needed an enterprise social network (ESN) which could enable the company to pull together and expose the collective knowledge and conversations into one place for everyone's benefit.

In particular, SAS was looking for an ESN to be able to fit:
  • the company's budget parameters;
  • security risks (SAS required that all communication in the community remained protected behind the firewall);
  • the integration with other internal communications systems (e.g. Sharepoint, Microsoft) so that so to prevent employees from perceiving this as “just another inbox”.

Socialcast was decided to be the best option for SAS's requirements.

The Hub was launched for the first time on February 14th 2011. After ten days, the community had already 1000 of registered SAS's employees while today's users are 9500 and the number is still growing ( up to 20 new members join The Hub daily).

In line with SAS's organisational culture of openness and collaboration one of the major benefits released by The Hub was - and still is – the true collaboration sensed by employees across all office worldwide

If employees need a quick answer (e.g. on a question about a customer deployment) or a specific document, they post these requests to the Hub and answers come back almost immediately from another location”. “The Hub saves time and effort, increases customers and employees' satisfaction” (Kareen Lee, Sr. Director of Internal Communication at SAS)

Also the online community helped SAS's executives to increase company-wide transparency and open communication with employees.

After one year since launching the Hub, on 14th February 2012 (Valentine's Day) SAS organised a celebration, named “Love the Hub Day”, made of internal and online events. This was designed to celebrate the online community's achievements as well as to continue increasing engagement and collaboration on the Hub.


In the final part of the conference I had the opportunity to be in one of the group discussions (How to drive adoption?) with Becky Graebe. I was happily fascinated by her sense of real commitment and dedication to what she had previously talked about on stage. In fact, that moment of sharing ideas and thoughts all together in group was for me another meaningful part of the whole invaluable experience I gained from the conference.

Certainly, my passion for this fascinating discipline has been nurtured once again, thanks to a 'Simply' SMILE 2013!

This form of participation...is a learning curve...let people experience it”
(Becky Graebe, SAS Institute)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

More Value from Internal Communication

Last week saw the 'World Book Day' celebration (specifically on Thursday 7th March). What a wonderful celebration the one of reading! Don't you agree?

Did you perhaps find a new inspiring book to read on that occasion or talk with a colleague about something very interesting you had recently read which could help improve your workplace?

Concerning myself, I was very happily writing about the book 'Making the Connections. Using Internal Communication to Turn Strategy into Action' by Bill Quirke.

My thoughts on that book have just been published on the 'Diary of an Internal Communicator' by Rachel Miller.

The piece of article, 'How to get more value from internal communication', focuses specifically on 'More Value from Internal Communication', one of the chapter included in Quirke's book. I do hope that you can find the article useful and beneficial to you and your organisation.

If you had read past marginalia you might have already seen that I had previously written for the 'Diary of an Internal Communicator' at the end of January 2013 with a book review on 'The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer' by John Smythe.

Indeed, I am very proud and glad to be writing another time for the 'Diary of an Internal Communicator'  and I would like to encourage you to explore the whole site. In fact, it is a very rich source of contents on the topic of internal communications and employee engagement!

Let's continue remembering and celebrating the important art of reading, finding resources that let us learn something new and spreading knowledge to help improve our organisational lives, internal communications and achieve better results.

Have a wonderful reading!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Organisational Culture

Culture is shared and pervasive, it influences every aspect of organisational life”
(Ian Brooks)

Some of you have shown appreciation for academic theories in previous posts. Therefore, today I thought about recalling some concepts reported in 'Organisational Behaviour. Individuals, groups and organisations' by Ian Brooks (2009). This book investigates different subjects - such as organisational theory, motivation at work, groups and teams, management and leadership - from an academic angle (it accompanied part of my university studies in management – people in organisations).

The particular topic which these marginalia focus on is 'Organisational Culture'. It is a topic that really fascinates me and I believe that it is important for all of us who are interested in internal communications and employee engagement to explore it – other academically or in practice (better both!).

In that respect, below are some notes extrapolated from Ian Brooks's book. As always I like encouraging you to enjoy the original source more in depth, while hoping at the same time that you might find these marginalia useful in some ways.

CULTURE is a shared phenomenon and in the case of organisational culture the sharing happens at organisational level. Different organisations have different values and interpretations of things around them.

It is possible that a culture comprises more SUB-CULTURES. In this case each sub-group has its own beliefs, assumptions, norms, ceremonies, stories to tell about the organisational life and its own interpretative systems which influence its understanding of the organisational symbols.

The cultural knowledge of individuals is not identical. Individuals in a culture differ and this is in part due to personality differences. This individuals' difference leads to INTRA-CULTURAL VARIATION and as a consequence, within any culture, differences exist.

Culture is DYNAMIC, constantly EVOLVES and at the organisational level it can be learned by recruits through the process of socialisation, including training and managerial interventions.

VALUES, BELIEFS, ASSUMPTIONS, NORMS and the WAYS OF INTERPRETING MEANING can be shared on numerous levels:
SUBCULTURES
CORPORATE CULTURE
BUSINESS-SECTOR RECIPES
REGIONAL, NATIONAL and SUPRANATIONAL CULTURES.

The nature of organisational culture has consequences in many areas of the organisational life including the STRATEGY, STRUCTURE, EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNICATIONS and the INTERPRETATION OF THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT.

There are many definitions of organisational culture which can be incompatible with one another along a number of dimensions. In particular:

If culture is viewed as an ORGANISATIONAL VARIABLE (Structural view), then there is an understanding that culture can and should be managed. This view suggests that a particular type of culture results from a particular set of structural criteria and implies that structural change will lead to cultural change. The management of culture is possible.

If culture is viewed AS INTERPRETATIVE (Interpretative-Symbolic view) - intangible and indistinguishable from the organisation itself - then the management and intentional change of culture is seen as a more doubtful experience. This view embraces the complexity and subjectivity of culture and rejects the idea of a causal relationships between culture and organisational structure.

However, it might be too simplistic to view culture from either of the two perspectives mentioned above, as both STRUCTURAL ad INTERPRETATIVE aspects work together in organisations.

Johnson and Scholes (1994) suggested the CULTURAL WEB paradigm, a 'way of seeing' which comprises 'hard' (STRUCTURAL) characteristics of organisational life together with 'soft' (SYMBOLIC ) ones. All aspects of organisation and behaviors of members have SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE. Similarly the SYSTEMS, TANGIBLE ARTEFACTS and the ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE convey important information regarding the organisation.

All these SYMBOLS are interpreted by the members of the organisation and LANGUAGE has a particular symbolic significance since it helps people to understand (e.g. understand what is required and expected, what the norms and values of the organisations are, how to comply with them).

These symbols and their interpretations therefore, are at the heart of the concept of culture and may indicate a possible avenue for those organisations that would like or need to change their culture.

One rule for cultural change programmes would appear to be: 'know your culture', then change it if necessary, with having a VISION of the desired future state appearing essential in order to facilitate the purposeful change. In that respect, Brooks and Bate (1994) suggested that a successful cultural change would require among other things:
  • being aware of the present culture
  • being aware of the desired future culture
  • management of the politics of acceptance

Cultural change requires legitimisation since culture is collectively 'owned'. Therefore, attention should be paid by the organisation to the collective acceptance of the need for change. What becomes important here is the cognitive and interpretative processes by which individuals make sense of the change and as a consequence, either support it, facilitate it or seek to resist it.”

Certainly, the topic of organisational culture is vast being its theories very many. If you would like to further familiarise with the subject from an academic point of view, as mentioned above, I would suggest reading Ian Brooks's book from which this post has been inspired. The author presents a diverse range of academic studies and you might find a particular theory that better resonates with your needs and might be useful to you in practice.

Knowledge and awareness of culture improves our ability to analyse organisational behaviour in order to manage and lead”.
(Ian Brooks)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Maintaining the Momentum of Engagement Activities

Taking action is an emotional thing...”
(ORCInternational)

These marginalia are about an interactive seminar organised by ORCInternational, “Keep your employee engagement resolutions”, which I attended last week on 27th February. During the event several discussions on the ways for embedding employee engagement inside our organisations were led.

Within this post I would like to write particularly about one of the topics which were covered during the seminar, “Maintaining the momentum of engagement activities”. In fact, I took part in the final group discussion around this specific subject during which I had the chance to write down notes as well as develop better thinking thanks to the contributions of all participants in the room.

Below are my marginalia, write-up, relating to that part of the seminar. During the first part, participants were given a presentation of the latest research on the topic:

Taking the right actions after an employee engagement survey has been undertaken is not easy, the 'right actions' is the hard bit”.

The SMART action planSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-boud – is perhaps a basic principle, yet it should be remembered since it helps make sure that actions are specific enough and have clear measures for success.

The presentation highlighted some key questions we should ask ourselves before planning any actions, such as:

Do I understand the issue?
Is it within my control?
Which are the actions that really make a difference for our business?
How does this make employees feel? (Making the emotional connection throughout the process...)

I found of particular interest the fact that the presentation proceeded by linking this topic to the four enablers of employee engagement as studied by Engage for Success: Strategic Narrative, Engaging Managers, Employee Voice and Integrity:


Link to the Strategic Narrative: Effort vs. Impact
When considering the areas for action we should remember the 'effort versus impact rule' asking ourselves:
Impact on who?
Effort from who? (Who should put the efforts for those specific actions to be in place?)
How what we are doing is improving the engagement level of our organisation?


Link to Engaging Managers and Employee Voice: Involve your team and be an engaging manager
Teams need to be clear on the actions to be taken and feel enabled to take those actions.
Engaging managers encourage their team to help them:
  1. understand what is driving their engagement
  2. prioritise action areas and come up with solutions
Managers themselves need to be supported in order to do that.


Link to Integrity: we can maintain the momentum making it more than just a survey by “doing what we say we will”.
Surveys are not an isolated event but an opportunity to start a conversation about how colleagues feel about working for this organisation, and make changes for the better.
The data from the survey is not just about an action plan but an opportunity to inform business decisions from the insights.


CONNECTIONS WITH CORPORATE ACTIONS
People need to feel connected and not to think that the actions are taken on them. Some way for doing this presented during the seminar were:
Saying how actions make a difference (sharing successes, linking to other activities, widening existing activities)
Saying what it is (meeting with senior team, recruitment strategies, workshops)
Showing the difference that employees have seen (communicating case studies, showing improvement in engagement)
Celebrating the business benefits (celebrating achievements - e.g. awards, reduction in grievances, reduced turnover)


CONNECTIONS WITH LOCAL ACTIONS
People need to be reminded of the difference they make, they should be involved in defining what difference they will be made.

Three examples of local actions suggested during the presentation were:
Encouraging Innovation
Communication of feedback and recognition (even a 'Thank you' from seniors can make a huge impact)
Team working


During the second part of the seminar we took part in group discussions where various ideas on how we could incorporate the fours enablers were shared among participants. Some of these were:

Strategic Narrative:
  • Positioning the surveys;
  • Staff workshops putting results into context and ask for ideas to feedback to leaders;
  • Sharing case studies of best practices and biggest improvements

Engaging Managers:
  • Making information and data from survey transparent (e.g. access throughout on-line tools);
  • Involve managers throughout the whole process (two-way communication);
  • Empowering managers to take ownership of the results;
  • Running workshops and supporting activities which enable managers to be effective in engaging with their team members;
  • Empowering the rest of the team too

Employee Voice:
  • On-line communities, internal social media tools, discussions forums ( to enable people to express their opinions, to have a voice, suggest improvements)
  • Providing quality diversity groups

Integrity:
  • This enable should be embedded throughout the whole process when dealing with all the other three enablers


I found the way the seminar was conducted of real use since it allowed us to think on what we had been just presented. That way the learning experience has been enjoyable and productive, at least for me.

As always I hope you can benefit from these marginalia. Perhaps there is something written above which you, your colleagues and organisation may find of interest.

Finally, for further information about these topics, I would also encourage to visit both the Engage for Success and ORCInternational websites.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Four Rules: 92, 99, 102, 103

Today's marginalia are about the latest book that I read, “The Rules of Life. A personal code for living a better, happier, more successful kind of life” by Richard Templar.

The book presents more than one hundred rules spanning from the self to social rules.

Within this post I would like to report some of the author's points given on 'Be generous with your time and information' (Rule 92), 'Be good at your Job' (Rule 99), 'Be part of the solution, not the problem' (Rule 102) and 'Check what history would say about you' (Rule 103).

I enjoyed reading the whole book but personally found the concepts included in these four Rules particularly meaningful to the internal communications and employee engagement's topics. Therefore, I would like to share these with you:


BE GENEROUS WITH YOUR TIME AND INFORMATION (Rule 92)
“If you have a special talent or skill, pass it on. You never know what you might inspire in others, what flame you might fan, what encouragement you might give.

It is very easy to fall into the mindset that if you know stuff that nobody else does, then you have the upper hand. To believe that knowledge is power and should hang on to every little bit of it.

If you are not passing on your talents and skills, what are you doing with them? What great secrets have you got that demand to be withheld from the world?

There is an incredible experience to be had in passing stuff on. And it is genuinely useful.”


BE GOOD AT YOUR JOB (Rule 99):
“Treat your job as important and do it to the very best of your ability. Don't stand still but learn all the time; stay ahead of your industry and new developments.

Always be on the look-out for ways to improve the lot of everyone rather than just yourself. Think in terms of 'we' rather than 'I'. You are part of a team and should fit in and be part effectively and efficiently.

Try to spread a little happiness as you go. Don't badmouth people. Compliment people and be genuine about it.

Be kind to colleagues, they are as lost as you once were. Give them a chance. Encourage them by example. Be a role model for junior members of the staff. Try to understand your boss's point of view and to see things from the company perspective.

Don't be frightened to put yourself forward or to volunteer (just so long as you know what you are volunteering for). Be proud of being effective and efficient.

Know your boundaries. Know how to say 'no', and mean it. Don't let anyone to take advantage of your good nature. Be assertive without being aggressive.

Enjoy what you do. Have a passion for what you do.”


BE PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT THE PROBLEM (Rule 102)
“We all have to start being a part of the solution and stop adding to the problem. And we start to be part of the solution when we stand up and get counted. We stop the problem when we stop saying, “I was just doing my duty”, or “It was part of my job”.

So the Rule is to start looking for ways we can personally contribute to the solution. We have to take part, get involved, find solutions, take action and contribute.”


CHECK WHAT HISTORY WOULD SAY ABOUT YOU (Rule 103)
“What do you think history will say about you? What would you like history to say?
Is there a gap between these two? What do you have to do to make that gap connect?

We have to consciously make the effort to improve this world. Individually we can make a difference. Individually history must hold us accountable.”


While hoping that these marginalia can be useful to you, your people and your organisation, as always I encourage you to enjoy the original source. You might find others Rules presented in the book of interest and help.