Do Less and do it Better: best advice from smilelondon 2019

simply gift bag

This week saw the latest smilelondon flagship conference attract nearly 300 delegates, coming together to discover the latest happenings in the world of digital workplaces. Whether you are building a personalised intranet, struggling with a lackluster Yammer community or looking for ways to get the unwired engaged and on message, there is always plenty of food for thought and oodles of practical examples on offer to send you back to your workplace brimming with ideas.

This year we had seven live-on-stage case studies and five expert stage sessions supported by 16 more intimate table sessions exploring a wide range of gritty IC challenges. With no fewer than 17 sponsors and exhibitors there was plenty to get your teeth into during the breakouts too. Throw in a great venue, delicious food and some great prizes in the smile challenge and it was hard not to have a good time. As usual there was a high level of activity on Twitter #smilelondon where it trended throughout the morning. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there, here’s a quick run-down of the day’s highlights.

Less focus on the actual technology

Pete Johns of NRMA (the AA of Australia) used an experimental approach to get real business value out of their Yammer channel that had fallen into neglect and disrepute. His story of how they increased engagement by 8% with zero budget is a strong reminder that astonishing things can be achieved if you understand the real business reason for doing something. In NRMA’s case, they needed to nurture a culture of trust and frontline empowerment, where their people always put the customer first. In order to be more collaborative, they first needed to increase the connections between leaders and employees and encourage communication and sharing.

Pete Johns
Pete Johns, Digital Employee Experience Manager at NRMA

Key takeaways:

  • Getting involved is better than getting it right.
  • It’s not about directing or controlling the conversation, it’s about facilitating connection, opening up conversation and creating a safe space where people feel comfortable sharing information.

An intranet isn’t cool, apparently!

Den Carter of BA had a plane to catch, but he was on stage just long enough to share his plans for the next big thing at British airways: and that’s George! As far as Den is concerned, intranets aren’t cool – but giving employees the tools they need to make their lives easier is! Den has a reputation for getting things done at pace and certainly over the past year at BA, they have achieved a lot. Having had three legacy intranets and 425 apps as well as a print magazine, 2019 saw the creation of a new digital workplace called One (their not-intranet!) built on Unily, and a consolidation of the additional apps to 350. In January 2020 George joins BA. George is a virtual assistant created by a number of chat bots working together. By the end of next year Den anticipates that they will be using One, George and Teams for everything. Even more ambitious is that by 2024 anyone in BA will be able to ask George absolutely anything about their jobs with George firmly the centre of the digital workplace. We look forward to hearing from Den (and maybe George) again next year to check on progress…

Den Carter
Den Carter, Channels and Content lead at BA

Key takeaways:

  • Why do we keep banging on about digital transformation? All transformation these days relies on technology so it’s just transformation!
  • To reach remote workers, start by building a mobile app that can work on a desktop, not a desktop intranet that’s responsive on mobile.
  • George is named in honour of their first ever passenger in 1919!

Bringing traditional retail into the modern age

It seems pretty unusual these days to hear good news stories about retail but since Louise Walker, Learning & Development Manager at Morleys, launched an employee app built with Speakap, internal communications effectiveness has increased four-fold. Stores who would have previously never interacted are now sharing ideas, employees are asking questions, seeking out the answers, knowledge of product lines has improved, and employees are responding quicker to changes. It has completely revolutionised internal communications within the Group.

Louise Walker
Guy Chiswick from Speakap and Louise Walker

Key takeaways:

  • Have the right people on board from the start and focus on a shared objective.
  • Get the structure right on the app so that messages can be targeted to the relevant audiences.
  • Respond to feedback. This will drive engagement and adoption of the platform.

An intranet can be cool, after all!

Amundi Asset Management is the largest asset manager in Europe with Euros 1.5 trillion under management. From a comms point of view it’s pretty interesting with around half of its 4500 workers based in Paris and the rest spread across 36 other worldwide locations following a significant acquisition in 2017. Since then Graham Kenny, Global Head of Workplace Technology, has been leading their SMART programme (Social, Mobile, Agile, Rapid, Together) to create a fit for purpose digital workplace. Part of his key requirements were that they needed an on-premise SharePoint solution. Even with this restrictive requirement they have created a vibrant social, employee-driven collaboration platform using Beezy with a fair amount of customisation.

Graham Kenny
Graham Kenny, IT Country Manager from Amundi Asset Management

Key takeaways:

  • Clearbox Consulting’s report Intranets in a Box is invaluable in helping to select the right solution to go with.
  • There are still great on-premise solutions possible if security and compliance are battles you don’t have time to fight.

What about G-suite?

It’s not every day we come across a client looking for a G-suite friendly intranet solution, but Imerys, a French based mining company with 230 sites and 18,000 employees have just transformed their internal communications. Traditionally a very siloed set up, they have been on a massive digital transformation since 2017 wanting to build a single common portal and streamline tools across the entire company. Having switched from Lotus notes to Google it was decided to look for a solution that would work with G-suite. Lumapps’ employee communication platform offers a fully customisable interface and an easy to use content management system  – ideal for Imerys who have a big focus on local content. Launched in just 6 months, OneImerys (as it is called) has become THE one place for all internal communications with 108 active communities and around 80% of the possible users active. Where they used to have more than 50 intranets and 30 + individual newsletters, they now have just one newsletter and OneImerys. It’s a real success story and one which we will bring you in more detail in a later publication.

Philippa McLean from Imerys and Laurent Boncenne from Lumapps

Key takeaways:

  • Who knew big business is working with G-suite?
  • With the right partner, it’s possible to work at pace with an MVP agile approach.
  • Really understanding the communication needs of your employees is key to successful adoption.

Data-driven approach

We have covered this Nestle story before, but it was great to have  Meritxell Guinart Mola on stage talking about the daunting task of developing and launching their new Workplace platform globally to hundreds of thousands of colleagues. At the heart of the project Meri and her team identified four different personas and their associated pain points and requirements. This enabled them to consider different messages, different onboarding strategies and different go-to-market strategies in order to boost successful outcomes in the areas of engagement, innovation, efficiency and agility. With the help of SWOOP analytics Meri was able to gather meaningful data and find patterns and models that could be applied across large populations.

Meritxell Guinart Mola from Nestle
Meritxell Guinart Mola from Nestle

Key takeaways:

  • We should be applying the same methods internally as we apply to external/consumers.
  • Having good data and analytics from systems like Swoop is a real help

Make it fun

Many of us know what it feels like to be a big small company moving towards being a small big company. Although there’s the excitement of fast growth and a bright future, there’s also the challenge of holding on to a culture you’re proud of and perhaps a reluctance to let go of the face to face interaction, or at least, be less reliant upon it. And that’s the situation at Interxion, where Tara Overton, Director of Internal Communications, has been heading a project to introduce a social collaborative platform with the help of simplyconsulting. The legacy intranet had not been touched for several years and through the discovery phase it was clear that there was an appetite for change across the 1,000 strong workforce in 53 data centres in 11 countries. They selected Beezy – partly because their IT department were already too busy with other projects to get involved with this – and because it’s user centric and easy to use, energy was focused on governance, content and a launch plan. They devised a fun puzzle challenge with the aim of getting people to work together in creating structures, using the site to post their creations and polling to establish the winning entries. IT created a real buzz about the place.

Tara Overton
Tara Overton from Interxion

Key takeaways:

  • Get people involved in fun launch activities – it’s for them after all.
  • Content migration is often the biggest headache of the project – make sure you have a plan in place for it.
  • Invest in a thorough discovery phase and the build will be straightforward and swift.

Will AI take our jobs away?

Stephen Waddington, MD of Metia and a professor at Newcastle University and consultant Martyn Perks shared their thoughts on whether AI will be a force for good in internal comms. While Stephen admitted to AI “scaring him witless”, Martyn is excited for the possibilities it will bring – and is already bringing – taking on the routine tasks of our roles allowing us to get on with more complex, interesting work. According to research by CIPR, it is estimated that as much as 30-50% of our jobs could be done by robots in 5 years time – essentially the entry level work. AI is being used already in internal comms – for auto tagging, sentiment analysis, real-time reporting and the like, so perhaps the question to ask ourselves is, just because we can should we? The debate over bias in AI will no doubt rumble on and there is clear concern over ethics and governance too. This is definitely a topic that needs revisiting.

Martyn Perks and Stephen Waddington

Final words of wisdom

Our final takeaway words of wisdom came from the always entertaining Steve and Cindy Crescenzo who were also running another full day workshop for simply network members this week. With their insight into the funny side of our industry and what can happen when IC goes wrong they left us with three things to consider:

  • Speak truth to power: don’t be afraid to tell your senior leaders if their messages and delivery aren’t up to scratch. Our job is to make the important interesting, and make sure we don’t’ bore our audience or patronise them.
  • Don’t create content for the approver: Learn to say no! If it isn’t right for the end user, don’t allow it to see the light of day.
  • Make sure you have a measurement strategy. Distributing comms is not communicating.
Cindy Crescenzo
Cindy Crescenzo
Steve Crescenzo

In short – the best advice for internal communicators was to do less and do it better.

Hear hear!

Post By Alison Boothby