Life as a Brit working in Comms in Australia

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The stunning Sydney city skyline

This week I was very excited to begin a new role as a Communications Manager at Transport for London. It’s a new challenge in more ways than one because it’s my first role back in London after nearly four years living and working in Sydney, Australia.

As I adjust back to life in London, it feels like a good time to reflect on the experiences I had in Sydney and share them so that they might be useful to anyone else considering a period of time working overseas.

Back then, as a Brit arriving ‘Down Under’, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workplace, my colleagues and what opportunities I might find along the way.

Finding a job 

I was lucky enough to secure my first contract role within a few weeks of arriving in Sydney. I was advised to seek short contract roles to begin with to quickly build my reputation and networks in the city.

  • In Australia, there’s really just one place to look online for a job in Communications. The website Seek.com.au is a great resource and one-stop-shop for opportunities, although you’ll also find more and more roles being advertised on LinkedIn too.
  • Breaking into the industry can be tough if you’re new to Australia, especially if you want to work in external communications. You’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of the media landscape from the off. As I mentioned, taking on short contract roles (perhaps at a lower level than the role you really want), is a great way to build your credibility.
  • Recruitment consultants won’t tend to engage with you until you’re in the country – it’s worth a try, but it’s best just to give them all a call as soon as you arrive to arrange meetings.
  • The industry is very small and people know each other – which is why your reputation is so important. Once you’ve proven yourself in one role, you’ll find it much easier to secure subsequent roles.

The way of working

  • Australians might speak English, but sometimes it can seem like a completely different language! I wrote about some of the differences I discovered on an earlier post ‘Why Aussies and Brits don’t speak the same language’.
  • Working patterns are different to the UK: since summer falls across  Christmas and New Year, long school holidays stretch from early December to the end of January. You might find businesses begin to wind down a few weeks before Christmas and Australia Day in late January is widely acknowledged as the date things really start to return to normal for the business year ahead.
  • Face-to-face communication can be difficult to maximise as a comms channel: Australia is a beast of a country – it’s a five hour flight from Sydney to Perth for example and 12 hours’ drive even between Sydney and Melbourne. National businesses across multi-sites do build face-to-face into communications, but it’s used sparingly and of course this can be a major challenge in engaging remote employees.
  • Major business hubs (in approximate order of prominence) are: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth. The capital Canberra is really a centre for Government.
  • Life in Australia is so varied and diverse, it’s really like nowhere else on earth. Remote townships in the Outback lie hours and hours drive from major cities. While Sydney and Melbourne aim to compete on a global scale in terms of business, culture and leisure. Not only does this make for a very varied workforce, but also a varied population in general. One of the most valuable trips I made was to the Outback town of Broken Hill, population 22,000, to understand what life was like for one of the franchisees of the business I was working for as Communications Manager. My advice is to travel as much as you can before you settle on where to live, so that you can to try and understand the culture of this place and what makes it tick. Real Australia is not Sydney!

And finally….

Australia is a friendly and positive place to live and I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent over there. Australians were fortunate enough to have not felt the impact of the GFC as much as the UK and it really shows. There’s a real sense of optimism, creativity and innovation which is infectious. There are so many opportunities in Australia to take advantage of – good luck!

 

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Australian Edelman Trust Barometer results revealed….how does Oz stack up?

Employees – not leaders – are now the most trusted source of information about business in Australia across four key areas: customer service, innovation, business practices and leadership information.

These are the findings of the Australian Edelman Trust Barometer 2014.

The research also shows trust in ‘regular employees’ has risen from 33 per cent in 2009 through to 53 per cent in 2014. I think the large increase should send a clear message to businesses of the importance of treating employees as the most powerful brand advocates and the value of internal communications in driving this for organisations.

Australian Edelman Trust Barometer findings

You can read the full slide deck of the Australian Edelman Trust Barometer. Some of the key takeaways I took note of for Australia include:

  • Trust in Australia has increased across the board – in NGOs, business, Government (up 13 per cent!) and in media. Trust in every institution is now at its highest point since 2009
  • Trust is six points higher than the UK and nine points higher than the US. Trust in Australia now stands at 58 points on the Trust barometer.
  • Australians are calling for more regulation from Government to protect individuals from business.
  • There is low trust in China – despite China being Australia’s main trading partner.

What are the takeaways for internal communications pros?

I covered the findings of the global Barometer results on a recent blog post here, exploring what internal comms pros could do about the findings.

So what about specifically for Australia?

I return again to the findings that focus on the high level of trust in ‘regular employees’. Slide 20 from the pack demonstrates just how staggering these figures are:

edelman trust barometer

Internal comms pros need to work hand-in-hand with external comms and marketing teams to build-up employees as the greatest asset for the company. The slide pack also lists some of the other ways business can build trust, including: treating employees well, acts responsibly in a crisis, is transparent and open.

Trust in CEOs has also increased since 2009 from 19 per cent to 39 percent. There is still more to do! Slide 23 in the pack highlights the ways leaders can take action. These are all areas internal comms can and should be supporting:

edelman trust barometer australia

 Want to find out more?

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Building the trust in business – what can internal communicators do about it?

The findings of the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer explore for the 14th year running the importance of trust in business:

“We believe that trust is an asset that enterprises must understand and properly manage in order to be successful in today’s complex operating environment. Unlike reputation, which is based on an aggregate of past experiences with a company or brand, trust is a forward facing metric of stakeholder expectation.”

As well as the result of the research, the report reveals 16 key attributes to building trust.

I decided to take a closer look at this section and identify specifically what role internal communicators can play in 2014 to contribute to the building of trust in the organisation in which they work.

I’ve done this because, while the report looks mainly at external perceptions of organisations, I believe that you can only build trust with customers and the general public if first you build a culture of trust with your employees.

I’ve highlighted on the Edelman Slideshare slide 32 (below ) what I think are the key areas we can influence in our roles and listed some important questions (in orange) to ask yourself in relation to these.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO VIEW FULL SIZE:

edelman slide 32 annotated

*For tips on how to internal comms can build an innovative culture, visit this useful post by Zyncro here.

My view

While internal communicators have a role to play in influencing all of the 16 key attributes outlined above, I think those highlighted are most closely tied to our purpose.

What’s interesting is that leadership /CEO is listed one of the key four factors which influence trust in a business in this report. This means, it’s more important than ever to get the support for our leaders right and help them to communicate effectively. It’s time to have conversations with leaders about these findings. Encourage authenticity from leaders and openness, transparency and honesty in all communications.

Finally, internal communications needs to work in partnership with external communications on each of these attributes. There can be no disconnect between what is communicated externally and what is communicated internally. But I believe internal communications plays the crucial first role in building trust. Because we have to get the internal culture right first;  building trust with customers and the general public is only possible if first you build a culture of trust with your employees.

What do you think? What role can internal communications play in building trust in business?

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Five myths about producing ‘expensive’ and ‘time-consuming’ corporate videos

Spielberg filming

Budding Spielberg? Go right ahead…

The last few years have seen an explosion in the numbers of internal comms pros using video as a primary tool for employee communication.

But often, video is seen as expensive and requiring too much time to produce. Especially for those who haven’t attempted even one corporate video.

So, how can you include video in your comms mix on little to no budget when you have only a few hours to spare?

Here’s a few of the myths surrounding video production and how you can quickly and easily produce effective videos on a shoestring budget:

Myth 1: Who will make our video? Video agencies are really expensive

Fact: yes, you can hire an agency if you have the budget, but it’s often quicker to teach yourself the basics and make the video yourself! By investing the time upfront to teach yourself how to script, film and edit, you’ll save hours of time in the future each time you need to make a new video.

You’ll also save time briefing the agency and going backwards and forwards on edits to produce the final cut. You know your business better than any agency so it’ll be easier for you to know how you want the final video to look.

These days, a video doesn’t have to be super-polished to be effective, something produced in-house on basic equipment can be just as effective as something produced professionally by an agency. It’s about getting your story right and the message targeted to your audience.

Myth 2: I work in comms, I can’t make videos!

Fact: our roles are changing! Video production is becoming an essential skill and it’s not that hard to learn. There are lots of online tutorials for video production so there’s no excuse not to upskill.

Start slowly, film a piece to camera by an executive and have a go at top and tailing (trimming the start and finish of the video) and adding some simple titles.

Myth 3: We need lots of expensive professional filming equipment

Fact: Not true. You can use your iphone or ipad to make a video. If you have slightly more budget you can of course use a video camera to film. You can also hire equipment for a day or however long you need it, since you may not make enough videos to justify purchasing equipment upfront.

Otherwise if budget – invest in a basic camera and tripod, some lights if you can stretch to it. A hard drive to store your footage so it doesn’t clog up your PC is very useful, as are some spare memory cards.

As mentioned in myth 1, your video doesn’t need to be polished to be effective. Look what reporters from the Daily Telegraph are doing with just an iphone and some add-on equipment.

 Myth 4: We need editing software, that’s going to cost a lot and it’s really hard to use

Fact:  Start off with one of the most simple editing softwares the imovie app (c. $5 in the app store) to edit your movie on your ipad or iphone.

Alternatively, sign up for a free adobe premiere pro one-month trial (monthly subscription applies in subsequent months). There’s lots of free tutorials online: start with this one.

Myth 5: It’s going to take a long time

Fact: Okay, so making your first video will take a long time, but as you progress you’ll get quicker and quicker at using the equipment and the software. Keep the video short (it’s much more effective) and be realistic about what you’ll be able to achieve with your time and budget.

Conclusion

More importantly, thoughtful, timely, videos are worth the investment in time because certain messages simply do not have the same effect in an intranet news story or email. Video is becoming content consumption of choice for employees and done well, you will reap the rewards of your efforts.

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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!

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Do our internal comms need a diet?

two%20people%20eating%20burgerJust a few years ago an internal comms strategy was akin to the ‘three square meals a day’ approach.

It was designed to be hearty and filling, with enough nutritious energy to sustain employees throughout the working week. Sure, there were gaps between meals, but when a meal came along, you knew that you’d find something satisfying. A chunky monthly CEO message, a filling employee magazine for dinner. What’s more, employees could sit at the table in anticipation, build an appetite and know when and what they were getting.

Okay, so not everything was that great. For one thing, we used to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table and run back to the kitchen. Everyone ate alone and we never asked anyone what they wanted to eat.

But slowly, we adapted. We sat down with our employees and ate at the table too – great! We started conversation over dinner – excellent! And we even got employees cooking meals too and serving them up themselves – even better!

But then, somehow, we lost our way.breakfast lunch dinner

Nowadays, employees never know when the next big feed will be because as well as the three square meals, we’ve allowed an array of snacks and junk food to be available on demand. Everything has become too messy, available without much thought into why it’s being served, and lacking nutrition.

So when did we comms teams become feeders? When did we allow our employees to binge on our comms?

For one, we allowed everyone to start cooking. We gave some training, and we opened up lots of places for the dishes to be served. We were so happy to see our people cooking, that somewhere along the way we forget that the kitchen still needs a head chef, a menu and a weekly meal plan.

Maybe we were just reflecting the (digital) world we live in? We were so keen to replicate the 24/7 drive-thru that is social media, that we unintentionally overfed our employees. We’ve lost track of what we’ve put on the table and we need to remember to give people the time to digest the important stuff.

And, sometimes I think we’ve lost sight of what’s important – those three square meals a day serve a real purpose. They help our people become stronger, with more energy and an appreciation of what they’re eating and why. In contrast, the junk lacks nutritional content, and worse, it means noone is hungry for the next meal. They lose an appetite for the good stuff and noone knows where they are because everyone’s just constantly eating.

diet picAs comms teams we need to take back control of the meal planning, bring back some routine and ensure our people get enough of the good stuff as well as the snacks. It’s a new year, and as most of us try to shed those unwanted xmas pounds, maybe it’s time to put our comms on a detox too?

Let’s ditch the junk and keep snacking to a minimum. Help our employees to understand the nutritional value of our comms by keeping our strategies focused on those three square meals a day.

What do you think? Do our internal comms need a diet?

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Look who’s talking: how social media brought our meeting room etiquette reminders to life

1look who's talking

It’s a typical day in the office. A colleague visits your desk. People are continually running overtime in meetings, he says, and it’s impacting meetings that follow. He says he’d like to make people aware that they need to keep to set meeting times.

On auto-pilot, you suggest an email to the PA network, a reminder message on the intranet  and perhaps some notices on meeting room doors. Job done.

But how about trying something different? How often do we look at a common comms situation – something as seemingly mundane as meeting room etiquette – and think of ways to actively engage our audiences, involve them in the issue and encourage positive action?

Here’s an example of how I took the challenge above and tried something new……

Case study: ineffective meetings campaign

  • The objective of this campaign was to change behaviour, so the approach needed to involve employees and prompt action. With a colleague I created the idea of a designated day when we would encourage employees to ‘take the pledge’ to finish their meetings on time.
  • Rather than launching the campaign through a news article or email, we looked first to social media.
  • We used the collaboration area of the intranet (ours is combined, yours might be yammer, chatter etc) to start a conversation, creating a hashtag #itakethepledge to ensure the conversation was searchable and collected in one place. The post went something like this: “Fed up of meetings not finishing on time? Why not do something about it this Friday by taking a pledge to finish all your meetings on time? Show your support by commenting on this post and include #itakethepledge.”
  • We emailed a network of supporters asking them to comment on the post, ensuring it got off to a good start. (This was VITAL to the success of the campaign).
  • Momentum then took over – before long dozens of people were posting #itakethepledge to show their support and ‘liking’ the post. The more people who commented, the longer the post stayed as the top post on the activity feed – meaning more people were likely to see it.
  • By now, we’d got ourselves something newsworthy. Now it was time for the news story. I created an intranet news article about all the employees who had signed up for the day of action. I linked back to the activity post, encouraging even more people to take the pledge.
  • Finally, we took the campaign offline, displaying some posters around the office too.
  • On the day of action – ‘pledge day’ – we continued the conversation on the intranet, reminding all participants of the pledge and asking them to spread the word about the campaign.

It’s worth mentioning that the entirety of the above campaign comprised no more than a few hours work. Yet it generated more conversation, more interest and more genuine engagement than any standalone news article could have ever hoped to do. While it started off as an experiment, with little planning, it’s given us so many ideas for future comms challenges. We plan to repeat the campaign in the new year.

Top tips for how you can use an enterprise social network campaign in your business:

  • make it an issue people care about (late running meetings frustrate everyone).
  • make use of your networks: you need a network of people to help join the conversation to get the momentum going. So pre-existing relationships across the business are a must.
  • monitor what’s happening: keep a close eye on the conversation, if you start to see signs it’s fizzling out, then spice it up with a new angle or ask a few co-workers to write a post.
  • use the traditional channels too: once the conversation went crazy, we knew we were onto something exciting and followed it up with a news story on the intranet and slides on the plasma screens in the common areas of the building.

Have you tried anything like this campaign? Please let me know in the comments field!

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