Posts Tagged ‘change’

The big day

posted by Scott McKenzie

So after months of anticipation today is the big day.

Sitting here in my front room in the centre of London there is a real sense of excitement. Messages of support are coming in from all over the world. A brief scan of my twitter and facebook accounts make it clear that there is a feelgood factor beginning to build.

Yes there is no doubt that the world is watching with baited breath. Will my daughter finally crack this potty-training lark?

What you thought I was talking about something else?

Okay, okay I admit it. I am a curmudgeon. I see the Royal Family as an anachronistic institution. And while I wish the young couple the very best on their wedding day I am genuinely ambivalent about their big event. The constant hyperbolic media attention is leaving me cold. Surely this should not be a story that displaces war, revolution and natural disasters from the news headlines?

But it has. So what to do when you appear to be in a minority of one?

Grudgingly try to get into the spirit of things I guess. We are currently listening to the playlist from our own wedding last year. Sarah will switch the telly on at 10.50am to see that dress. And we will wander along to Rosemary Gardens for the specially arranged community fete later today…

Honestly? I will probably be wearing a pained expression for much of the day.

P.S. – Talking of big events you should really get along to the Engage Inside Expo on 5th May. It is an absolute bargain and you will have the opportunity to hear from some outstanding speakers including David MacLeod – who is leading the Government’s Employee Engagement Taskforce

Exit through the gift shop

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve got a guilty secret. I’ve been a member of the National Trust for well over 5 years – and I’m under 40. Say it once, say it loud – I enjoy looking round sites of architectural and historical significance! I could make the excuse that it’s a great day out for the family, but I was a member before I was a Mum. Basically I’m a sucker for weathered stone walls, multiple portraits of disturbingly similar family members, and a well-stocked gift shop.

The best one yet was Barrington Court in Somerset. If you’re ever in the area, I urge you to drop in – not just for the amazing Gertrude Jekyll-influenced gardens, but because the house is a fascinating and unique place.  Instead of the usual tapestries, four-posters and chairs with dried teazles on them, there’s nothing. Well, almost nothing.

As you stand in the echoing, empty rooms, you can appreciate their scale and design in a way you couldn’t if they were filled with furniture. And there’s something else – in the old kitchens you can hear the faint sizzle and pop of pig being roasted slowly over an open fire. In the attics there’s the murmur and scratch of generations of owls and owlets (yes, that is what they’re called). And the old schoolroom is filled with ghostly reminiscences of an evacuee, now an elderly man, sharing his memories of the sounds, sights and smells of rural wartime.

What has this got to do with internal communication? A couple of things have been resonating with me since the trip to Barrington Court. Firstly, that sometimes it pays to do the unexpected thing. The National Trust were, for various reasons, left with an empty house, and rather than try and fill it with stuff borrowed from other properties around the country, they decided to find a creative way to work with what they had. Secondly, I learnt that sometimes what you leave out is more important than what you leave in. Leave space for the imagination, and people will fill it themselves, becoming truly engaged in the process.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications team.

How to do a communications audit

posted by Scott McKenzie

My colleague Naomi Goodman and I have noticed a lot of conversation on LinkedIn and the other forums recently discussing internal communication audits, ways to conduct them and how you can gauge effectiveness.

 We’ve done a good few audits for our clients here at H&K, so we thought we should share some thoughts on our methodology; as well as why getting it right is beneficial for an organisation.

 Our five step methodology

 1.       Planning – the inital planning phase is critical in confirming scope and objectives, review existing data and assessing audiences, channels and messages. From this you’ll be able to understand the context, ask the right questions and ultimately, run a successful audit.

2.       Interviews – To get a deeper understanding of the key issues we would recommend conducting some stakeholder interviews. This helps you understand the business priorities and further refine the objectives for the audit. We would suggest keeping the interviews quite structured (with the ability to go off-piste as required). This would involve creating an interview guide to ensure consistent facilitation of the interviews.

3.    Survey – Once you have analysed the results of steps 1 and 2 you should design and conduct a survey, test it and then launch it. Your analysis should help you to get a snapshot of collective views and have statistically robust data. It should also act as a baseline set of results for future surveys.

4.       Focus groups – The quantitatve data from the survey will usually identify a few key trends or issues which warrant further research. We would usually suggest holding some focus groups to understand these key issues a bit more, and/or to test some possible solutions to those issues. We certainly regard Focus groups as a great opportunity to test new ideas.

5.       Recommendations – The final audit report includes the findings from the insight work in steps 2-4 as well as some detailed recommendations for further action. The report would usually include a high-level internal communications strategy with a range of recommended actions and tactics.

 So, conducting a successful audit isn’t a quick task. But is it worth it?

 In one word. Yes.

 If your organisation is going to be successful, employees need to understand what is expected of them and the role they play in achieving the company’s goals.  They need to feel they are playing a meaningful role in your organisation and its future.

 Internal communications can genuinely help you engage your people. But only if the tools and conversations you use to communicate are effective.

An audit is therefore a critical process for listening to what employees need from you, and then just as crucially giving you the evidence you need to respond to their needs.

If you would like to hear more about our experience of communications audits please email me at scott.mckenzie@hillandknowlton.com

What we can learn from Robert Owen

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve been reflecting a bit more about how “wellbeing” connects to Employee Engagement.

I recently watched a fantastic BBC documentary on the co-operative movement. One of the founders Robert Owen has become a bit of hero to me .

Owen was literally a hundred years ahead of his time. He sought to build working environments which were safe, sustainable and sustaining for those involved. He was aiming to build communities which were genuinely collaborative, where colleagues worked for the greater good.

Profits were ploughed back into the business. Investments made in the working environment, living conditions and education.

Indeed, there was a real focus on taking children out of poverty and putting them in purpose-built schools – at a time when there was no state education system and children commonly worked in factories and mills in truly appalling conditions. I have no doubt that all of these initiatives were key factors in genuinely engaging employees.

Owen was a visionary and a philanthropist. A leader in every sense. His ideas shaped the co-operative movement which has given us great companies like  the John Lewis Partnership.

As our Prime Minister puts his weight behind employee engagement, and struggles to bring his vision of a Big Society to life he would do well to reflect on Robert Owen’s work.

Indeed you could say the same for our business leaders as they bring their organisations through this economic crisis, and prepare them for growth.

These leaders are demanding more innovation, more productivity and more discretionary effort from their employee. They would do well to think back to Robert Owen and ask themselves what they are offering in return?

Are we in the armbands business?

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’m not the first to say that change is a continual process. But we often fall into the trap of thinking that we can ‘do’ change, when the truth is  we are all of us being carried along by an invisible and unacknowledged  ocean swell, made up  of hundreds of decisions, actions, circumstances beyond our control .

There we are, happily doggy-paddling, or grimly front-crawling away, our own destination in mind, when we stop and tread water for a moment, only to discover that we are suddenly a lot further out than we thought, and being swept even further out with every passing moment.

As communicators, our role is often simply to draw people’s attention to a change that is already happening. The risks are self-evident; we can’t let people drown, we don’t want them to panic, we need them to keep swimming. We need to find a way to support employees through the change in direction – give them some armbands, if you like.

So it’s a case of letting them know I’m swimming beside them, so they don’t feel alone. I match my stroke to theirs and keep reminding them where we’re headed. That way they can work with, not against, the wave.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications practice here at Hill & Knowlton

Employee Engagement and the Big Society

posted by Scott McKenzie

The Prime Minister launched his Employee Engagement Taskforce yesterday.

He even managed to make a fairly explicit link with his “Big Society” agenda – “This initiative fits well with our agenda of devolved power and authority”…

This should be exciting. After all having a senior sponsor like Dave will surely help raise the importance of engaging employees in workplaces across the UK. Right?

So why am I a feeling a bit underwhelmed? Maybe it’s because we have been here before. Indeed with the very same authors.

I like David MacLeod - he is a passionate advocate of employee engagement and has done more than most to put it on the agenda of Chief Executives. Much of what was in his original report should be regarded as best practice. But has it really had the impact it originally promised?

I am also concerned that the rhetoric being used here is… well a wee bit fluffy… For example, I don’t think our agenda here is really about “coming up with new approaches to help people improve [employees] wellbeing”.

It is actually much more hard-headed than that. It’s about connecting employees with the purpose of the organisation in a meaningful way. In other words if I believe in what I’m doing, and see how it fits into the organisation’s objectives, then I’m far more likely to be productive.

So it’s far more about the bottom line than making people feel happy.

P.S. – I see a lot of HR Directors in the list of taskforce participants… it would be disappointing if once again Communications had been over-looked as a critical stakeholder…

How Gypsies can embrace change…

posted by Scott McKenzie

One of the great things about working at H&K as every now and again I get a request that completely bemuses me.

So when my colleague Lou Watson asked me for my views on what the Gypsy community should be doing to “embrace change” I was initially dumbfounded. She later explained it was for an article in Corp Comms magazine  (you can read the full article here).

I will confess I know relatively little about the Gypsy community. And am not one of the many millions of viewers of the scarily popular My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

But even allowing for that it did make me think that the big principles of change should still apply – whether it’s for a community or an organisation. Right?

So here’s what I suggested as a five step approach:

1. Set out the case for change: Leaders in the Gypsy community need to explain their vision for the future of their community. Including the societal and economic imperatives driving the need for change.

 2. Leaders need to act as role-models:  leaders in the community need to step up and be voices for that change.

 3. Engage the Gypsy community (ies): Leaders need to bring their community with them, actively consulting, listening to concerns and demonstrating how they’re responding to feedback.

 4. Reach beyond your borders: Leaders need to identify and consult with advocates for the Gypsy community in broader society seeing politicians, police and community groups as allies not adversaries to explain a new vision and gain buy-in and support along the way.

 5. Celebrate successes: Visibly demonstrate where examples of the new type of community are working in practice and keep praising your heroes to help people see that the new vision for the community is becoming a reality.

I hope that constitutes good advice… I would value your views!

What is it we do again…?

posted by Scott McKenzie

I was flying home from New York last week and unusually for me – my wife says I can be a bit unfriendly to strangers - I struck up a conversation with a lovely older lady sitting next to me.

We talked a bit about her job importing antiques into the US, about the parts of the UK and Europe she liked visiting and about US politics. And then she asked me the killer question - “what do you do”?

I find this question difficult to answer. It’s so obvious and yet intangible at the same time. Perhaps the simplest definition is this “We help organisations communicate about change”.

This is simple enough. But it doesn’t really sell the “value” of what we do (a topic which has been much debated recently). I found myself talking passionately about the role we play in helping leaders and employees understand each other better.

And it’s true. I genuinely believe that when we are at our best  we influence leaders to see the wider picture. To see beyond the bottom line.

We can (and often do) remind our leaders that organisations have a broader obligation to their employees and other stakeholders.

In that context the contribution we make is significant. Our role moves beyond news gatherers, or channel managers. We become problem-solvers. In David Maister’s words we become trusted advisors.

H&K’s new leader – Jack Martin - talks about this being the “fifth chair”. So just like the lawyer, or accountant, or investment banker, or management consultant, we professional communicators have a role at the top table advising the Chief Executive.

Jack sees no reason that we should not be seen as senior counsel – after all we are responsible for engaging employees, consumers and other key stakeholders. We help build and protect the brand and reputation of the organisation. We manage in Jack’s word the “public” risk.

There is clearly value in all of that. So, why should we not play a senior, strategic role?

Communications Counsel? I like the sound of that.

Redesign backlash: Website vs. Intranet

posted by Scott McKenzie

What do Gawker Media and Digg have in common? Loyal customers turned furious users. 

An article in The Independent today discussed the ‘battle between users and developers’ when redesigning websites.

 It showed the customer backlash following Digg’s redesign, 2,500 predominantly furious comments on an employee blog post; and Gawker Media’s redesign was similarly disastrous. It saw a 50% slump in visits to its flagship blog. That’s a significant loss of support.

 This prompted me to think about intranets.

 Redesigning a website is not too dissimilar a process to redesigning an intranet. However, if change is to be successful inside an organisation, employees need to be engaged from the beginning.

 So how can we get employees on board?

  • Understand the desire for change – run a survey; find out what, if any, changes employees want 
  • Involve employees in the design – communicate what changes you plan to make, use employee polls to find out the favourite design concepts, run a competition to choose the intranet name, invite employees to test the new site pre-launch
  • Keep in touch post launch – make it easy for employees to get in touch, keep them updated on future improvements

 One thing to remember is that every user experience is different.

 We are never going to please everyone when launching a new intranet – or website as Digg and Gawker Media have shown. However, by engaging employees from the start we should be able to please the majority and satisfy the rest. 

 I’d be interested to know whether Digg or Gawker Media spoke to their customers first.

This was a guest blog by Naomi Goodman, who is a consultant in H&K’s Change & Internal Communications practice.

Killing engagement. Post script.

posted by Scott McKenzie

I think Employee Engagement is still breathing this morning.

Last night’s debate at the offices of Baker Tilly helped highlight the fundamental issues at stake.

1. Should we be approaching engagement from a starting point of great HR  systems and processes , or is more about how we build more meaningful, emotional “connections”,

2. Can employee engagement be explicity linked to business results, and even if it can, should it be?

3. Do leaders genuinely want to engage their people? And if they do – do employees really want to be engaged by their Chief Executive as opposed to their line manager?

The panel wrestled with these questions and many more. It seems to me that these are serious questions that deserve more discussion, more insight, more analysis.

My tuppence worth is this: there is a risk that this debate gets stuck on the fringes. We must avoid taking a deeply entrenched position.

For example, are we genuinely saying that we should not have good performance management systems in place? Or that building an emotional connection with employees has no bearing on business results?

We need to be careful that in the midst of heated debate and passionate rhetoric we make some false choices.  It seems to me that there was a lot of expert insight on the panel last night, but not a lot of listening and learning from each other’s viewpoint.

In my view that’s one of the most important elements of engagement. Let’s make sure we do more of it.

Finally, a big thank you to Matt and the team for making the debate happen.