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 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?

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.


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.

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?

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!