It’s all about the people…

Last week I attended a Culture Summit with the new Institute of Management who hosted the event in collaboration with University of Bolton.  The event was completely free to attend and it was being held in the North – I had to double-check the Eventbrite link to make sure I wasn’t misreading. Those of you who are based north of Watford will understand that events, particularly free ones, are few and far between outside of London so this was a real coup (thanks to the lovely Gemma McCall for giving me the heads-up on this!).

I went along with slight trepidation as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It wasn’t with my usual ‘networking’ crowd and I’d only just arrived back from Marrakesh that morning so my mind was still in the souks as I was driving along the M61. After mis-reading the directions for the car park I arrived 10 minutes after the summit started and I entered the room with paper balls flying round the room. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but soon realised that they were kicking-off the conference with a laughter expert.  I unfortunately missed the majority of the talk but it seemed to have broken the ice and there were lots of smiles around the room.

Paperthrow

The first presentation of the day was with Avril Morton, former Change Communications Lead at BBC Scotland. Avril shared her insights and learnings on the Making It Happen project which was Greg Dyke’s major initiative programme to help unlock creativity and ideas within the BBC. Avril explained how tapping into staff pride really helped support the change programme. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Getting staff involved in change right from the beginning and working with them to implement change goes down much better than just telling them what’s happening.  There are obvious caveats to this and often Internal Comms peeps are brought into change programmes late so it can be challenging as we’re often on the back foot ourselves and are generally catching up. However, there are always various ways you can involve staff in some of the decision making and allow them to feel empowered – something that can often be overlooked in haste.

Following Avril was Alyson Fadil. Aly is the Chief People Officer for N Brown but has held senior roles at Misguided, Sofology and Selfridges over the years. I’ve ‘followed’ Aly for a while on Social Media so I was excited to hear her talk on all things culture. It was fascinating to hear the work she has done over the years at these retail giants, particularly around the people strategy and aligning it to the commercial aims of the business.  Aly started her presentation with the shocking fact that almost 85% of the UK employees don’t feel engaged with their organisation – I knew this number was high but didn’t realise it was in the mid-80s.  Aly quite rightly pointed out that people make organisations and it’s important to take these people on the journey with you.

AlyFadil

Aly went on to speak about her time at Sofology and ‘tearing up the rule book’ there by moving away from a commission led business and moving more into a more reward led business, therefore encouraging a different way of working. She also mentioned how important it is to ask staff what customers want as these are the guys who face into the customers everyday – the best feedback can often come from the people you least expect, in Sofology’s case their delivery drivers gave some invaluable lessons learnt.

As a conclusion to her fabulous presentation Aly went on to say that it is vital for staff to feel empowered and when they have the right tools to do this, it can help drive performance – but what about those leaders who refuse to take part, I hear you ask? Well according to Aly, that’s when they may need to look at their options and think whether or not the organisation is the right fit for them – I couldn’t agree more!

After lunch Glenn Grayson, Internal Communications and Engagement Partner at Misguided took to the stage to give his insights on some of the fantastic tactics that have worked really well at Misguided. Glenn’s energy and enthusiasm was catching, he definitely lifted the lunchtime slump by entertaining us with the wonderful ideas he’s implemented at Misguided based on feedback he’s received from the colleagues who work there. Such as:

  • Wheel of fortune
  • Ice cream Fridays
  • Gemma Collins Bingo
  • Pet dress up competition
  • Baby boxes for expectant mothers/fathers

Glenn Grayson

Of course, the average age at Misguided is approximately 27 and some of the ideas are probably a bit ‘out there’ for some more corporate organisations. However, Glenn explained that it’s important to see what works for you and your organisation and in order to do that you need to get out and speak to staff – it’s impossible to create ideas from behind on your desk on your own. Once you’ve spoken to colleagues, make sure you implement the ideas where possible and if you can’t do it explain why, don’t leave people hanging.

After Glenn, Imogen Osborne, co-author of The People Business presented her thoughts on what drives happiness in the workplace. I’ve read Imogen’s book and I highly recommend it as it shares stories of how leaders drive engagement through Internal Communications.  Imogen shared some very interesting facts on what drives happiness and when questioned what is the most important factor than enables you to be happy at work? 40% of the people who answered said feeling valued and supported.

This seemed to be the common theme in all these presentations – people feeling valued, empowered and supported is the driver to success. Without these then it’s likely you’ll have disengaged low performing workforce. Imogen ended her presentation with top five tips that we can embrace to help drive engagement and happiness in a workplace:

  • Embrace variety – be open, outgoing an honest
  • Network, be interested in people
  • Hone your listening skills (ninja listening)
  • Adopt a continuous improvement mindset
  • Know/understand your audience and stakeholders and their pressures

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the question and answer panel at the end as I was going to a Bryan Adams’ gig that evening (which was brilliant by the way!) but overall the day was absolutely fantastic. It was great to meet different people who I wouldn’t have normally crossed paths with and it was wonderful to hear from such inspirational speakers. Well done to Carol Brown and her team at IOM for putting on such a wonderful summit – I look forward to future events!

*Photos courtesy of IOM Twitter Feed

It’s good to talk…

It’s been Mental Health Awareness week and I’ve loved seeing so many people open up about their experiences with mental health as it helps break down the barriers that surround the subject. I wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to Mental Health as it’s something that’s quite important to me. I’ve just finished taking part in an online chat hosted by CIPR UK about Mental Health in the world PR and it was great to see so many people take part and share their thoughts (search for #CIPRChat to catch up on the convo).

Mental health impacts almost 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives [i] and according to the recent #StateofPR report 16% of PR pros live with a mental health condition, which was an increase of 10% on previous year’s research. As communicators our roles are getting very busy as each day passes on. Gone are the days where you could do your job within the traditional ‘9-5’ slot. Nowadays with the introduction of technology and Social Media we’re expected to be switched on 24/7 – it can be exhausting.

pink carnation flower and pink rose flower in clear glass vase beside mug of coffee
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

With this constant noise around us it’s important to take some time out for yourself and evaluate your mental health regularly. A few years ago I worked within IC at a Mental Health Trust and I learnt so many things whilst I was there but one key thing I took away is that NOBODY should ever be ashamed of their mental health. I know it’s not easy to talk about it and sometimes it’s hard to know where to start or who to talk to. If you feel you can’t talk to your friends/family/colleagues then there are lots of places you can seek out help: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

I’m by no means an expert in this area but here are some top tips that have worked for me in the past when I’ve not been feeling mentally well:

  • Switch off. I think it’s important on occasion to switch off your devices and do something different. Whether it’s reading an actual book, colouring in or treating yourself to a massage, even if it’s only for five minutes.
  • Get physical. As much as I dread the thought of exercising I have to admit going for a long walk or doing a quick workout really helps lift my mood.
  • Go for a coffee and a chat. It’s so important to talk to someone if you’re not feeling yourself. I know it’s hard to take that first step but once you do you’ll feel much better for it.
  • I know harder said then done when your mind is whirring but one thing that’s really helped me is the CALM app. It plays relaxing music, teaches you mediation but best of all there are some ‘sleep’ stories that you can listen to and within five minutes you’ll be knocked out – promise.
  • I scoffed when someone first told me about mindfulness, I thought it was just some new age stuff that people who were into yoga and mediation did. However, it really works. Being aware of your present moment helps you to experience things that you may have been taken for granted. The Mind charity explain it much better than me here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.Wv7tbYgvw2w

I really hope the above tips help some of you. Below I’ve also captured some of the sound advice that was shared by the participants on today’s #CIPRChat which I hope you find helpful. Remember you’re never alone, if you ever want to chat and you’re not sure who to talk to then please drop me a note – whatever you do don’t suffer in silence:

 

It’s so important to talk about it. I know there can be a long wait time for help but there are so many great helplines, apps and local organisations that can help e.g. Happier (app), SaneLine (helpline) etc. #CIPRChat #MHAW18 @ChantePlom

#CIPRchat Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage your mental health too – get good sleep, eat well, keep physically active @Emma_Mamo

It’s important to champion people who are passionate about #mentalhealth as they will help drive that message across the organisation. We’re lucky to have people like @ChantePlom for example who is leading our employee wellness efforts #CIPRchat @KetchumUK

A2: encourage open discussions, provide wellness packages, create a “safe space”, offer time off & flexible working, create a “buddy system”, have a white board with anonymous post-its where each employee can share their thoughts #CIPRChat @EllaMinty

Make it as usual and normal to ask about an employee’s mental health and wellbeing as it is to ask about their physical health. #CIPRchat @Judetipper

A2 There is a lot employers can do to help starting with workplace schemes designed to prioritise staff wellbeing. An open door policy helps especially where employees have no fear of repercussions #CIPRchat @Hallmeister

#CIPRChat Encourage a constructive, open environment, where employees feel comfortable enough to raise issues that matter to them; hold regular team meetings to ensure workloads are manageable and to give people the chance to speak up. @CIPR_UK @ToodlyPipski

 

 

[i] McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

“What do you want from this?” – The question we should all be asking!

How often have we all looked at some comms and thought ‘why on earth are we sharing this?’ Over the last few months my life has been consumed by the American drama Scandal. It’s a fabulous series created by the writer of Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes – I highly recommend you check it out.

The programme is centred around a character called Olivia Pope – she manages a problem-solving agency with a team she calls ‘the Gladiators’ – they fix problems and make them disappear – very similar to an Internal Comms department but we probably deal with fewer murders (hopefully!)

There is one question that Olivia askes her clients when they ask for her help ‘What do you want from this?’ and this got me thinking about our roles as communicators. If we asked this question to anyone who requested comms to be sent out or even to ourselves would it help us think more effectively about the outcome rather than just the output?

Knowing how many people clicked on a news story and read the information will certainly help your dashboard. It will also allow you, to an extent, understand the level of interest but would you really know what the overall outcome was? Would you able to demonstrate or measure where and what behaviours have changed due to the comms that was sent out?

You’d be able to do this if you knew what the aim was of the comms – is it to stop people calling in sick? Is it to improve safety performance? Is it to get people to log onto a programme more often? Once you know this, you can then find the relevant data set to help you but without this – it’s just another piece of comms that disappears into a black hole.

As Internal Communicators I don’t think we should know all the answers -though at times it may feel like it. We should be leaning on our leaders a bit more to find out exactly what they want to achieve from the messages they want to distribute and ask – “What do you from this?”

I’m not an advocate of sending out comms if it doesn’t align with the overall business objective or add any value to the strategic aims of the organisation. If it doesn’t contribute to any of these factors, then should we really be sharing it to the wider workforce?

I know it can be challenging for us at times, especially as we’re in busy roles that are non-stop and it can be a bit difficult with some senior leaders but what have you go to lose? The next time someone asks you to just send something out and you’re not sure of the value it will add, then step back and ask them “What do you want from this?” and see if it helps get the results you need.

Let me know what you think, you can catch me on twitter @advita_p or Linkedin.

FYI: Dr Kevin Ruck, from PR Academy wrote a great formula on measurement which is definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it before : https://www.prplace.com/blog/posts/2014/october/a-new-standard-for-internal-communication/

Five things to remember when communicating with remote workers…

 

I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my comms career working in organisations that have remote workers. I say lucky because I genuinely believe that some of my best times were when I was getting out and about with these teams and seeing what life was like for them on the ‘front-line’.

Over the years I’ve learnt some valuable lessons which might be useful to those of you who are struggling to make traction:

  • Get out and about. Spend some time work shadowing them, if you can – it’s genuinely the best way you can understand exactly what their day consists of. It’s easy sitting in HQ coming up with wonderful creative ideas but a complete waste of time if they are useless when they finally get out in the operation.
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Me loving life in the operation!
  • Curate over create. Some of the best stories and solutions have come from the guys who see the real action. Your staff magazine should be colleague led where possible – and as Internal Communicators we should be curating information rather than having to create our own. Get the guys involved on an editorial board, let them have voice and allow them to get their view across.
  • Find your advocates. If you work in a large organisation or a multi-site then it can be hard to understand how things have landed or what the general consensus is on a new strategy or even a new leader. This is where you need your advocates or comms ambassadors. On my walkabouts I always tried to spot the influencer, or someone who took a genuine interest. These guys are your extended team. I often gave them a quick call if I wasn’t certain about something, needed some intel or even just to bounce some ideas around – and they also loved that they had someone who listened. A project I was part of once created little pin badges to hand out to these ambassadors so people knew who to approach – people really embraced it.
  • Don’t assume it can make an ‘ass-out-of-u-and-me’ – Just because something has worked really well somewhere else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work where you are. Even if the two organisations are exactly the same in terms of what they do, you need to remember culture and behaviours are always different. Do your research before you bring anything new on board. Host focus groups, speak to leaders, managers, the operational staff etc
  • Find a healthy balance. This is the most important one and sometimes it can be over-looked by our enthusiasm but it’s imperative that you find a healthy balance with the amount of their time you take up. You need to remember that they are out in the operation, not generally sat behind a PC and they actually have a job to do. So, sending several emails a-day or ringing every few hours to get an opinion will just annoy people. Find out from the teams and individuals when it’s the best time, try not to take up their break times and be considerate to their needs. I hosted regular monthly meetings, so they were scheduled in and I generally went for a walkabout when it was a quiet period, so I knew I’d have a chance to chat. If I wasn’t sure I used to drop them a text or a quick email to see if it would be okay for me to call them. All of these little things make a huge difference in building your relationships.

There are lots of tools and tips on how to communicate with remote workers but ultimately you need to find a way that works for you and your organisation. If there are any more tips then let me know, you can catch me over on twitter @advita_p.