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It's the key date on every internal communicator's calendar: IoIC Live is back for 2019 with a bang. This year, we're examining, among other things, what matters to people at work and IC's role in creating better business, a better society and a better economy...

14:58

Delegates are entering the main conference hall...



15:02
IoIC chief executive Jennifer Sproul kicks off proceedings by talking about IoIC's 70th anniversary. "This was a good opportunity for us to look at how we communicate at work and how this has the power to transform working lives, helping people feel engaged and purposeful. This is why in our 70th year, we are launching a new campaign, #WeMatterAtWork, which seeks to examine employees' sense of purpose and how we communicate with them."


15:07
IBM's Silvia Cambie takes to the stage to talk about why internal comms should lead digital transformation.


15:13
We have four pieces of technology coming to the forefront: artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud and quantum computing, though Silvia is going to focus on AI and the Watson Ecosystem today.


15:16
IBM's team taught Watson to debate humans – to state its point of view and develop an argument. "This is difficult for a machine," says Silvia, "as it has to develop by learning hundreds to millions of articles, white papers and websites; it has to listen to humans, how we talk and develop arguments; and it has to understand and model human dilemma. Humans, when they develop a point of view, are not always 100 per cent certain of things they like. We might be doubtful, which, for machines, is difficult. Machines have to be trained in these nuances."


15:20
The Watson system analyses a piece of text, and does sentiment analysis, matching wording to core emotions in humans: fear, anger and joy. This enables it to process text messages faster and reply to customers.


15:24
Silvia talks about how AI can enable businesses to support employees with their professional development. IBM’s Your Learning is based on preferences, roles and interests and can recommends resources and courses for empoyees. “It’s like Netflix or Spotify – a personalised experience, just for you. I don’t have to look for courses. The system is on my side and helps me with professional development.”

Myca – My Career – helps with roles, but also “allows employees to ask questions they don’t feel comfortable asking a manager, for example – ‘I have been in this role for five years, am I a sucker?’ or ‘What’s the average time people spend in this role?’ It’s about personalising the experience.”


15:30


When it comes to AI, Silvia highlights three key comms tasks: explainability, value alignment and fairness. On value alignment, Silvia tells delegates: "It's very important to make clear to machines what values they have to use when they make recommendations. Inject your company values into the AI engine. The app is always in listening mode. It has to listen to a key word or words to come to life, like “help me” or “I can’t figure this out”, before the bot can engage. But reassure employees that the sound of the employee's voice will be deleted after five seconds, so they know we are not listening to their conversations – we're just listening for key words. That’s vaue alignement – it’s privacy."


15:32

15:36

Q. Are there any trends around AI usage on intranets?

A, Silvia: “Part of IBM’s intranet has information on our performance review tool, which has many dimensions. So we have a bot: Checkpoint Bob. I can ask Bob questions I wouldn’t dream of asking my manager. It has two particular uses. One, it can support you where people keep asking the same questions, which means they are not getting the right answer.

“Second is around intimacy and privacy. There are questions around subjects like onboarding or performance review that people might not be comfortable asking in a forum or in a  chat with other people and they prefer a bot. It really works. I have developed a nice relationship with this bot actually…”


15:43
Our audience members are already testing IBM Watson. Pretty accurate, it seems...

 

15:50
Next on stage, Drew McMillan from British Airways talks about BA's 100th birthday. He admits he's "a HR person", but his heart is in internal comms.


15:53
BA made its first flight in 1919, to Paris, carrying grouse, leather and clotted cream – “very “Downton Abbey,” says Drew. “I don’t know what the leather was about…”


15:56
Drew McMillan: “We are an aviation success story – we had record profits last year, and that’s not a bad place to be in Brexit Britain, when the public have chosen not to travel. It’s been a tough time to achieve this. 9/11 nearly crippled us. In achieving stellar success, we left our people behind – and my job is to get people back together with us. They have lost their emotional connection with British Airways, and that’s troubling. We have 48,000 passionate people – and to hear they’ve fallen out of love with us because we’ve left them out of our journey over the past ten years is disappointing. It’s a long hard slog to get back to where we want to be.

“An unfortunate stat is 41% of people, as of March, would recommend us as a great place to work. That ‘we recommend’ important – it’s employee NPS."


15:58
Drew McMillan, British Airways, on bringing pride back into the workplace: “We have had a massive centenary delebation campaign. Eveything we do has to be on a big scale, because of who we are – we are taking people away, developing a new uniform, upping the ante on recognition… This is an ecosystem of things to be joined up and integrated. It's not a bunch of stuff cobbled together to look like something impressive.”
 

Pic @synergycreative


16:01
Tell the story, says Drew McMillan: “A lot of us have had to articulate a strategic narrative. A compelling story can turn into a long, wordy piece of fluff that no one can remember.

“I said we need six chapters – each is only 150 words. It’s written in a style that anyone can understand. And any manager can hang their own departmental narrative to personalise it and make it relevant.”
 

Acknowledge “that things have been super hard”, advises Drew. “Don’t gloss over it. That which is inauthentic won’t land and people won’t believe in it. We had a concise story that we had to fight to be successful.”


16:12


16:16

Q. What are you doing about BYO devices and how it works?

Drew, A: “We have a dispersed workforce. A lot of people on paper have a line manager but might not meet them – there are no team huddles if you’re a pilot, apart from a safety briefing before you take off. Technology has been an enabler. 

“We decided against BYOD, and felt a company device policy was the way to go. And we found if we gave them a premium device, they would take more care of it. The tools at our disposal are tools that, increasingly, people coming into our organisation expect. You need to think about your demongraphic. We have a huge retirement bulge in 2021. We had 3,000 colleagues join us last year – mostly young people – and if you don’t provide these solutions and tools, they’re not going to hang around.”


16:22

 

16:24

Next up, Sarah Meurer from internal communciations at Nestle asks, how do you create confidence for your people when the world around you is chaotic? 

“In 2008 after the financial crisis, society pressed the reset button on what it expects from business. People want authenticity and truth, not just for businesses to be marketing led. We’re having to have greater responsibility for our environment. Consumers tell us it’s values for money, not value for money. And our employees are asking, are we making too much money? How are we operating as a business?”


16:30
Brexit has been, for Nestle, very disruptive, says Sarah Meurer: “We nearly hit the button to spend millions of pounds relabelling products that would have been illegal in the EU, but 24 hours later the legislation was pulled. We spent many hours talking about paying the fee for employees registering for settlement status. Again, within 24 hours of us issuing that statement, the legislation was scrapped. Change is making life in comms very interesting – and exciting.”

16:32
There are four ways in which people want information these days:

  • Personalisation – people want info tailored to them 
  • Immediacy – people want info live, in the moment
  • Expressive – we process photos and videos 60,000 times faster than words
  • Immersive – how do we change behaviour through experiential comms?


16:33


16:36
Sarah Meurer: “In your comms, to be confident, encourage people to be brave, honest, transparent – and to take risks and put themselves out there and answer the difficult questions. We’re using external voice to generate that – to educate our people and make it authentic. What is their perspective from the outside in? What more could we be doing? How can they challenge us?”



17:06
*Ross Gellar voice* We are on a break! And something is being planned...
 

 

17:10


After a quick break – mainly involving coffee, some very good doughnuts and some fun and games in our #WeMatterAtWork room, we are back in the room.


17:15
Sarah Meurer of Nestle returns to the stage to talk about the importance of storytelling in change comms: "Immersion is a powerful way to change behaviours of senior leaders. Bring them into a room and listen to those stories. Tell the story of what we did to people, how we made them feel and what we have done about it."


17:20
Hopefully, everyone has got to know their IC peers on their tables as we're now into an interactive session to discuss the key challenges facing organisations; the results will be written down and turned into a playbook.


17:38
Feeding back after the discussion session, one delegate speaks about her table’s common challenges, as all are from NGOs or public-sector organisations. Brexit and changes to government or legislation are things that internal comms “are reacting to, rather than planning for”.

“Leaders deliver information to staff by sending out an email. They don’t engage with IC or ask how to deliver information. We’re not invited to the top table.

“There is no end of change – it’s a continuous rollercoaster, which is exhausting for comms and exhausting for staff to hear about.

Working with IT, there is a constant roll-out of “brilliant tools”, but the true benefits are not obvious. “No one is asking staff how they feel, and IC gets no notice that the tools are launching – we can’t take people on a journey.”

“I feel I’ve constantly got two fire extinguishers on my back and I’m constantly dousing flames. Firefighting is a big part of my work.”


17:43
Another delegate feeds back from her table’s discussion about the effectiveness of face-to-face comms when it comes to big changes, like job security. “It’s an emotional topic. While digital tools are useful and have their place, face-to-face is important for seeing how messages land, so you can evolve them.

“Also, be part of the project team, rather than a postbox function. If IC is engaged earlier, we can structure messages in a different way, integrate it, make it land in a more impactful way. So get in the meeting rooms – and don’t be a yes person, be strategic. Have confidence as comms consultants.

“We went back to the basics of why we’re doing something and the impact of our people. There has been a behaviour shift when we’ve acknowledged what we can’t say and why we can’t say it, but that we will share information when we can.”


17:55
In the next discussion session, we're considering challenges around going paperless, plus opportunities and the communication approach we would take and why.


18:04
Challenges might include upskilling people, eg in factories, who may not be familiar with digital tools. Opportunities include saving the planet, cost savings and engaging people with more visual channels, rather than printed matter than can be thrown in the bin.

Sarah says in organisations where colleagues are expected to use their own phones to download work apps, consider enabling free wifi in those work environments.


18:14
Tables are feeding back on the challenges, opportunities and comms approach around the scenario of a global NGO targeting your business with negative claims on social media and threatening to target your office.

Challenges?

  • Potential safety of employees and the welfare of their families
  • The emotional distress it can cause, especially those not tech-savvy
  • Morale – could it affect attrition rates?
  • Will employees question the values, such as transparency.
  • How do you align the external and internal messages?

 

Opportunities?

  • Educate audiences internally and externally on the particular topic
  • Opportunity to improve processes and discuss these with employees
  • Listen to employee voice to understand how your people feel on these topics
  • Look at agile working. How can people work from home so they don’t have disruption at the office?

 

Comms approach?

  • Get out core messages
  • Getting C suite engaged with the NGO about the challenges
  • Get experts on the topic area in to give an independent voice
  • Set up a call centre for people to discuss the issue


18:28
And so... the sessions for the day have concluded. We've got half an hour to freshen up before networking and dinner. This seems like a nice way to end the day...

19:15

As promised... the selfie has landed.

 

And if you think day one was great, wait until you read about day two of IoIC Live.

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