The Big Yak 2014
Last Saturday, this year’s The Big Yak took place in eBay’s offices in Richmond, London. If you haven’t heard of The Big Yak, it is a yearly unconference (meaning the attendees not the organisers set the agenda) that is run by the lovely ladies of The IC Crowd. With a great turnout of around 200 communicators the day-long event is a brilliant way to meet other IC professionals, and discuss and learn about important internal communication trends.
With Sequel Group sponsoring the event, we hope attendees liked our corporate bingo boards; we certainly had fun creating them. There is still time to win a copy of Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time by Bill McGowan in our buzzword competition – just tweet your corporate buzzwords to @Sequel_Group by close of play tomorrow.
Yak Yak Yakkety Yak
Topics up for discussion included:
- Moving from broadcasting to conversation
- IC qualifications – are they worth it?
- How to engage global workforces
- Breaking down divisional silos
- Joining IC and EC comms
- How to make HR sound cool
- Communicating with our own teams
- Changing role of IC – what new skills do we need to be learning
- Use of video in IC
- Creating a credible leader who values communication
- Change management
- ESNs – planning, implementing and follow up.
- Reward and recognition
- What role do good designs and creativity have?
What internal communications skills do people need?
The role of internal comms is still changing and an often repeated point of the day was they way IC professionals are becoming facilitators of others peoples’ conversations.
Our key takeaways were that:
- Communicators are often expected to do and know ‘everything’, in other words comms roles are very broad. Professionals are expected to have everything from technical skills to IT knowledge to writing skills and an understanding of different strategies and methods of implementation.
- Communicators need to have the ability to be on the front line, building frameworks and operations and asking employees ‘what do you want?’
- The skill of being an authentic communicator is key along with the ability to approach employees on their level.
- There is a worry that we are rushing around working on things that don’t always matter, so how can we make sure that our time is being spent productively.
Breaking down silos
Silos take on many different forms, whether it is from different brands making up one company, different office locations, different teams or the result of acquisitions. The discussion appeared divided however as not all communicators saw silos negatively.
Our key takeaways were:
- We have to consider whether forcing a conversation with employees is the right approach or worth it at all.
- Video was identified as a great tool for breaking down silos – one way it can be used could be to film conversations between different senior leaders’ to share with all employees, in order to showcase that there is collaboration at a senior level.
- To break down silos we need to create community, this is where ESNs and intranets can be particularly useful but we can’t forget the importance of face-to-face conversations.
- A good starting point is to investigate and find what it is people really want to talk about across the entire business – what is the connecting issue.
However, to go in a different direction:
- Sometimes silos can help, and even be essential to, a business when the company has a sales environment.
- Silos help to drive competition pushing people to work harder and earn more money for the business. Employees will not want to share and collaborate with each other if it can strengthen the competition.
- In companies like this gamification and rewards can work very well.
So ultimately, maybe the question is not ‘how can we break down silos’ but ‘how can silos be used as a strength for our company’?
Connecting to offline staff
Communicating with, let alone engaging, some members of staff can be very tricky and with our growing reliance on digital channels it was refreshing to take a look at those who aren’t online.
Our key takeaways were:
- Line managers are key for linking to offline staff – one attendee put it well that in these situations managers are your ‘channel’.
- There is no shame in using traditional techniques – posters on the back of toilet doors, staff room spaces and so on.
- Someone mentioned a great idea of creating a company news radio show and giving it to remote staff on a CD so they can listen to it as they drive.
- Sometimes we just need to make the effort to go where the employees are. However, one person cited an instance where Directors travelled to team meetings across the UK and this proved to be intimidating for employees and discouraged interaction.
- Going mobile is, of course, a great way to connect to staff.
- Rewards, incentives and discounts for staff are a great way to engage offline employees and encourage them to be more involved with the business.
Encouraging staff to share stories
Storytelling is a key part of internal communications and in this session we discussed how we can get employees to share their own stories.
Our key takeaways were:
- We need to consider what messages are we trying to create with employee stories and the purpose behind promoting them.
- Employees could have their own spaces on intranets and other platforms to write their own blogs which others can comment on.
- Interviews are a great way to share stories, for example asking one member of staff to interview a senior leader.
- We can be smart with content – re-purposing features and articles for different platforms
As mentioned previously discussions again turned to whether IC pros are making themselves redundant by sharing staff stories. Instead of supplying the stories ourselves we are becoming the facilitators, providing ways for others to share their stories.
Design and creativity – what is the point?
For the last session of the day we looked at the point of being creative, is it really necessary for communication? On this the entire room seemed to agree – yes it is needed.
Our key takeaways were:
- With creativity and having the ‘wow factor’ being the norm nowadays – especially externally – employees will expect it internally and it will look bad if we can’t deliver.
- Staff should be treated like customers – we wouldn’t expect customers to accept poor designs and a lack of creativity and employees shouldn’t have to either.
- There are many cost-effective ways to be creative including podcasts, using Prezi for presentations, audio and even video.
- Design is important when English isn’t an employee’s first language – great designs can help to bridge language gaps and make elements like navigation, for digital magazines for example, intuitive.
- Through great designs we can encourage employees to become more interested and start talking to one another.
If you look back on Twitter using #TheBigYak it is clear that an informative, fun and interesting day was had by attendees. A big congratulations to The IC Crowd for a brilliant event. If you have anything to add to our blog please comment below or send us an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.