Why a great workplace won’t stop your employees leaving (and that’s ok)


Facebook and Google are both rated in the top 10 best places to work in 2018, according to a new Glassdoor list.

Counterintuitively, earlier this year, a Business Insider report found that employees stay just 2.02 years on average at Facebook and 1.90 years at Google.

So why are all these employees leaving so quickly? Shouldn’t a great place to work encourage people to stay? Does that ‘great place to work’ accolade really mean anything at all?

Determining a ‘great place to work’

First, let’s look at some of the factors which contribute to a ‘great place to work’. According to Glassdoor, the winning companies have four things in common:

A mission to believe in:

  • Employees have a sense of purpose and understanding of how they make an impact
  • A motivating mission that inspires quality work

Strong culture:

  • Clearly defined and shared set of values that fosters community
  • Engaged leaders that view positive culture as part of a good business strategy

People focus:

  • Employees are engaged and empowered to do their best work
  • Emphasis on employee growth and development


  • Open and clear communication, from the top down
  • Honest feedback is valued and encouraged

Sounds great right? So, why would anyone want to leave somewhere like this.

Your employees are in demand

What if your employees leave because you provide a great place to work?

What if your mission, culture, focus on people and transparency create the conditions needed for your employees to thrive?

Take a look at the list again. You enable your people to excel, deliver quality work, develop and grow.

Chances are, by doing that you help them become more in demand from other companies just like you.

And that’s also ok, because now that you’re such a great place to work, you’ll continue to attract the best and the brightest. They will in turn help your company to progress and succeed even moreso, with their new ideas and expertise.

Great places to work help create great employees

I think we need to change our attitude towards job tenure and retention. The best employees may not stay for long, but that’s ok.

Instead, we need to help people to reach their greatest potential, during their time that they are with us, in order for them to make the greatest contribution.

A focus on mission, culture, people and transparency isn’t just the right thing to do by your people – it makes business sense too. And that’s a great place to work in anyone’s book.



Are the robots coming for us too?


It was William Gibson who said: ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.’

So, consider this about the future of jobs and the automation of the workforce:

What does this all mean? More than likely, it means that the World Economic Forum prediction that more than five million jobs could be lost to automation by 2020 will become a fast reality. And that is surely just the beginning.

As an internal communicator, predictions on the future of work fascinate me because they provide a glimpse into our how industry will need to evolve and adapt too.

We’ll need to consider:

  • The increasing demand for a change management skillset as part of the internal communicators role
  • How we engage a workforce that is rapidly moving to automation
  • How we support the ‘survivors’ of such change as they move into the new world of work
  • Whether our own roles might disappear, as teams are wholesale replaced by automation and there are minimal employees left to engage. (I think the answer to this is quite likely to be ‘yes’ for some industries)
  • And finally, is it even thinkable that the role of internal communicator could be automated? Is there an algorithm for that?!

Automation is just one of the key themes emerging from the World Economic Forum report on the future of work, released in January this year. It’s definitely worth a scan through in full if you’ve not seen it yet. Check out the full WEF report – the future of jobs.



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.

Life as a Brit working in Comms in Australia

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!


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.


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?

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!

What new skills did you learn as a comms pro in 2013?

As December rolls into place on my iPhone calendar, I started to reflect on my year at work.

I’ve worked in various roles in internal and external communications, PR and journalism since 2000, but never before has my skillset needed to widen, deepen and adapt moreso than in the last 12 months.

Here’s just a few of the skills I’ve needed this year to do my job, represented in a word cloud. Many are new skills, some build on existing skills I had previously….

(wordcloud created using www.tagul.com)
(wordcloud created using http://www.tagul.com)

I think it’s a great showcase of what’s so exciting about the role of a communications professional. The increase in digital skills is a key theme and while writing is still a core strength for the role, so much more is required in today’s workplace. I can’t wait to see how our industry continues to evolve in 2014…..

What do you think? What skills did you learn in 2013?