We saw two related themes emerge in 2015 that point towards what might happen in 2016. First, a basic form of social business collaboration has now become the’ new normal’, at least in terms of the prevalence of basic collaboration platforms like IBM Connections and Jive or chat apps like Slack or Yammer. But many companies that have not tied these platforms into other core systems and processes are experiencing a plateau in adoption, which can only be addressed by integrating social business collaboration more closely with day-to-day working practices.
Second, the gradual niggling worry among business leaders that their organisational structures are holding them back grew last year into a full-scale realisation that bureaucratic ways of working are now a bigger threat to performance and competitiveness than external market changes, and that their internal orientation risks leaving them blind to new threats and opportunities, especially as they relate to emerging competition from startups.
Rewiring the business
So for me, the question in 2016 is this: how can we extend social collaboration beyond communications and towards becoming the backbone of a new organisational operating system to solve the structural problems that are currently keeping executives awake at night? What new possibilities does our new-found connectedness offer up in terms of transforming the way work gets done and the organisational structures within which we operate?
Plenty of new theories and organisational models have emerged in the past couple of years that can help create a picture of a future operating model, structure or way of working, but rather than pick a whole system (for example Holacracy or Kotter’s Dual Organisation) off the shelf, I expect smart firms to mix and match techniques from different approaches to suit their particular needs. This is why we opened up our own knowledgebase at Shiftbase.net late last year to highlight the specific management techniques that make up the new models.
But, arguably, the models are the easy part. The really difficulty lies in crafting a transition strategy that can gradually transform a traditionally organised business into something more agile, responsive and perhaps platform-based without impacting on performance. This is not your traditional change programme by any means, nor is it something the strategy houses can do for you. It needs to be internally owned and centred and it is best achieved through influence not diktat, starting with a strong internal network of change agents who are ready and willing to work smarter and try new approaches. But even then, companies will find that existing processes such as budgeting, planning and employee appraisal will need to be reformed or worked around if they are to succeed, and many will need to shift from a shared services model to an internal platform model, so that common functions such as IT, HR, legal, etc., can deliver their services via an internal platform rather than exercise control over how lines of business work and continue to enjoy the power to say ‘no’. That will not be easy.
Releasing the potential of individuals and teams
But rather than try to boil the ocean and transform the whole organisation at once, we expect to see firms provide platforms and toolkits so that individual teams can take the initiative and organise in a way that suits them, but is more agile and externally-oriented. There is probably no single target model or ideal state for a company to aim for, which is why a conventional predict and plan change programme is not enough; the key new capability that all organisations should aim for is agility and adaptability – the ability to constantly and gradually change in response to changing circumstances rather than wait for a crisis and then go on a crash diet mandated from the top.
With a connected workforce encouraged to tweak and improve their own ways of working within their teams and business units, we have the potential to create more sentient, self-aware organisations that can use the power of evolutionary improvement to keep organisational structures and practices aligned with the mission and goals of the firm as it charts a course through increasingly volatile waters. That, for me, promises a higher purpose for social collaboration, and a more strategic role for internal communications people.
Lee Bryant is the Founder of Post*Shift
A few years ago when an organization in the region provided each employee with an iPoD to celebrate a company milestone the internal communicator spotted an opportunity to convert these devices in employees’ hands into a communication vehicle. Another communicator conceptualized a simple app that connected leaders with spare time during lunch with employees who wanted to ‘catch-up’. In an another instance, a communicator reviewed the cost base in a product company and advised the leader to make the organization more efficient, even though it didn’t have a direct impact on internal communication. There will be increased expectations for the internal communicator to be agile, spot opportunities and deliver results in an evolving workplace.
I see more of the following take place in 2016 as internal communicators shape the future of the workplace with courage, creativity and commitment.
Internal communicators will enable employees to have a voice while managing the narrative. Letting go of control is the need of the hour.
The focus on employee branding will continue with increased engagement and involvement taking place to ‘sell’ the organization via employees’ networks.
More ground-up internal communication will take centre-stage increasing employee engagement.
Helping leaders better their internal ‘images’ and communication competences will gain ground. Also how to navigate ‘moments of truths’ and stay authentic in their actions.
Embedding stories will be as essential as creating powerful messages that stick. Therefore the importance of follow-through in internal communication
Aniisu is the author of – Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models (Sage Publications, 2012). He serves as the Corporate Communications Lead for Tesco Bengaluru, the technology and operations center of Tesco.
#1 100+ year old content format
Cision’s $841 million acquisition of PR Newswire at the end of 2015 confirmed that the press release is PR’s primary form of content. We need to shift to audio, images and video.
#2 Data and the demise of demographics
In 2016 watch for further back-end integration of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The dataset will rival Google’s planning and paid engagement capabilities.
#3 Stop posting nonsense on the internet
Public relations is proving its value as a means of lead generation thanks to inbound content-led techniques such as those pioneered by Hubspot. It’s a smarter form of marketing that starts with listening.
#4 Gender is a public relations issue
The headlines are well rehearsed. Women are paid less than men. Women aren’t adequately represented in senior positions, on conference panels or in industry activities.
#5 Who influences you?
We’ve shifted from journalists being the primary influencer to a variety of people – and not only celebs – across different forms of media from Instagram to YouTube.
#6 Equality isn’t solely a gender issue
Equal employment opportunity for all irrespective of disability, ethnicity, class and sexuality remains a work in progress.
#7 Creativity is a public relations discipline
Public relations has taken its place as a discipline that can deliver creativity and return on investment.
#8 Are you any good?
Time serviced is the traditional measure of competence in public relations. It’s bullshit in a business that is changing so fast. Take responsibility for developing your own skills.
#9 Dark web: Tor and hidden conversations
Communities using encrypted services such as Tor and messaging services beyond the reach of tools are challenging and relatively new for those in public relations.
#10 Tools and workflow
Much of the public relations business runs on Post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets. There are tools to optimise every area of workflow from listing and planning, to content and relationship management.
#11 Paying for it
Search and social media algorithms are throttled so that organisations have to pay to maximise the reach of content. Paid allows us to work smarter, amplify the outcome of campaigns and assure results.
#12 Show me the money
The revised Barcelona Principles reasserted the need to route measurement in objectives that are aligned to an organisation’s objectives. Watch out for practical templates that you can apply to campaigns in 2016.
#13 Vision and values
Smart organisations are confident and root their communication in their organisational purpose. They understand their publics because they listen and create content that resonates.
#14 Pigs, lipstick and authenticity
In 2016 any gap between what an organisation does and what it says will be called out. This is an issue that has been played out since social media went mainstream.
#15 Inside out
The best advocates for an organisation are almost certainly the people on the payroll. Yet most organisations gag their employees with policies and rules. Equal effort should be applied to external and internal publics.
#16 Community as media
My big lesson from the last 12 months is that private communities are the most influential form of media. People come together to form publics to discuss and tackle issues around a common purpose.
Stephen Waddington is Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum