The connectors get connected: Five key take-aways from Big Yak 2014


Who needed Glasto this weekend when the internal comms industry had its very own festival…..a festival of conversation at The Big Yak 2014.

And what a conversation it was, with more than 150 new people to meet, exchange ideas with and problem-solve our challenges.

Here’s five of the biggest take-aways from my Big Yak day:

1) Digital literacy was the biggest theme of the day for me.

“Every single role I see coming through, has some element of digital in it now” ~ Michelle Morgan, VMA Group

I facilitated one of the first sessions of the day, ‘The future role and skills of IC’. During that discussion, it was quickly clear that every single person in the room has had their role impacted by digital and social. We spoke about needing to build relationships with our IT departments, understanding in detail the various ESN tools available and the race to learn the language of digital. This theme continued throughout the day, with barely a moment that passed without some reference to digital or social. It got to the point that in the last session of the day we tried so hard to talk about something other than social media!

2) The role of IC continues to grow

Our role and skill-set is expanding rapidly. When we describe what we do, we’re now ‘building relationships across our organisations’, ‘listening’, ‘managing stakeholders’ and ‘coaching our leaders’. We’re ‘acting as change ambassadors’ and ‘facilitators’. We’re ‘measuring value’, ‘increasing our analytical skills’.

Wow! The scope of our role in IC is ever increasing. But one thing we all agreed upon – it’s a really, really exciting time to be a part of this industry!

3) We all work with challenging leaders
“So, are we all just waiting for our leaders to die?!”
Leaders came up an awful lot throughout the day too. We spoke about trying to get buy-in for our ESNs with those who don’t see the point; trying to increase authenticity in leadership visibility; and trying to get our leaders to get out into the workforce and listen. We also shared the frustrations of leaders who fail to act on the feedback that we’re representing from our employees.
By way of problem-solving, there was a lot of talk about working with leaders who enjoy communicating and using them as catalysts for others to follow. We also said that we’re sure to see more and more leaders recruited into position for their communication skills, not just their technical skills.
4) Organisational culture is the context that makes each of our roles unique
I was fascinated by the range of organisations represented at the Big Yak. We shared so many ideas about success stories and challenges. But, if we all worked within the same organisational culture it would be dead easy simply to lift and replicate these ideas in our own workplace. That’s what makes the role of IC so complex – that we each work in unique organisational cultures which means we can never exactly do as others have. We’ll always have to tweak and mould to our own culture. Again, that’s what makes IC so rewarding when we do get it right!
5) Everyone has a battle scar(s) to talk about
“It’s like group therapy”
It was okay to share the battles that we’ve won (and lost). And I was reassured to find so many people had their own battle scars from the world of IC. It was like group therapy in a way – because we are all in this crazy world that we call IC together. And we’re creating the industry as we go. It is an industry that is developing, and developing fast and none of us can really know exactly where it’s headed.
There were many, many more takeaways from The Big Yak (search #thebigyak on twitter to see just how many!) and I’m sure I’ll be mulling over the ideas that I heard for the days and weeks to come.
On a personal note, hello to everyone I was able to meet on Saturday, it really was fantastic to meet so many talented and dedicated people working in internal communications. We spend our working days connecting the employees in our organisations to each other, so it was great to get the chance to get connected ourselves.
And thank you, thank you, thank you to Jenni, Dana and Rachel of The IC Crowd and their band of volunteers and sponsors for such a fabulous day.

How important is technology to employee engagement?

Can the latest technologies increase employee engagement?
Can the latest technologies increase employee engagement?

I’m lucky enough to have a workplace-provided iPhone, iPad and latest model laptop. I can BYO my own iPhone or iPad to the office if I choose. I can work flexibly on wi-fi around the building and my manager supports me to work from home if I need to. Collaboration through technology is easy – via video conference or on our award-winning social intranet.

Does this all add up to making me more engaged as an employee?

Well, a new(ish) report suggests that it might.

Google recently commissioned Deloitte to prepare a report on the workplace impacts of digital technologies.

Issued late last year in Australia, the report – entitled ‘The Connected Workplace’ – suggests that increasing the availability of digital technologies in the workplace could help to improve employee satisfaction.

It states:

“This report is founded on the hypothesis that greater access to digital technologies would increase productivity and build employee engagement and improve satisfaction. In turn, this should reduce employee turnover and help businesses retain the best talent at a time when human resources managers need more ammunition to win the war for talent in the digital economy.”

The sorts of things the survey found important to employees were:

  • Fast internet speed
  • Flexible policies (social media, BYOD, telework)
  • Comparative home and workplace technology
  • Adequate help from the IT department
  • Access to online collaborative tools

What strikes me is that these aren’t the sorts of findings that are likely to be discovered in the typical staff satisfaction survey. When do we ever ask if people like using the laptop they’ve been allocated by IT? Or check if they are satisfied with the speed of the internet? More importantly – do we ask how the technology we offer in the workplace makes them feel about the company they work for?

No. Instead, our staff satisfaction surveys tend to focus on traditional workplace culture and management. So how can we discover these findings for ourselves and act on them?

The Deloitte report is well worth reading and also worth considering some of the findings for your own business. Look around – is there open access to facebook? Can employees work from home? Is the internet fast? If you answered yes to all three, then great, there may not be a problem. But if it’s a no, you might find that underpar technology and technology policies are damaging your employee engagement. Does your business have a digital strategy to improve this?

Maybe it’s time to revamp your staff survey this year to find out how technology is impacting engagement and productivity.

A final word from the report:

“Handing out tablets to employees will not necessarily increase their engagement and productivity at work. However, a clearly planned and strategic approach to rolling out digital technologies is likely to make employees feel more involved, inspired and ultimately more engaged with the business.”

 Read the full report here.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!