Tag Archives: esn

How to source stories in your organisation

Stories are incredibly powerful tools. They influence, inspire and move people. They can change behaviour and get people thinking.

But, in an organisation, sourcing stories is sometimes easier said than done – especially when the sources you’re relying on don’t really know what makes a story.

There are a few steps you can take to help you track down the best stories in your organisation.

Build solid relationships
As an internal communicator, you need to build strong relationships at every level of your organisation. From the cleaner or the graduate, to the senior manager or the CEO, you need to make it your business to get to know the business – and the people within it. By making friends in every department, you’ll always have a steady stream of information and tip-offs about what’s going on.

Network
If there are any events going on in your business – from a huge conference to a tiny bake sale – an internal communicator should pop along. By having everyday conversations with as many people as possible, stories worth sharing are bound to crop up.

Engage line managers
When it comes to sharing stories of brilliant colleagues, it’s unlikely that anyone will get in touch with the IC department to share a story about something great they’ve done. Their line manager is far more likely to contact an internal communicator to lavish some praise – so make sure you get them on board.

Leadership stories
CEOs and senior leaders often have a lot to say – but their messages can be dry, business-focused and top-down. Consider another way: humanise your leadership team and present them as individuals. Encourage them to be open and share information about the person behind the suit, such as the time they climbed a mountain, how they are embracing the company values in everyday life, or the story of how they got to where they are.

Be nosy – scout social channels and notice boards
ESNs can be a great way of sourcing stories. You might feel a bit nosy scouting through online conversations, but it can be a source of gold when it comes to finding interesting tales worth sharing. The same goes for noticeboards; keep your eyes peeled and you could find a gem.

Identify champions
Setting up a network of champions can be a productive way of sourcing stories. Identify story champions at each site or in each department and ask them to keep their ear to the ground and to let you know if they hear of anything interesting going on in their area.

Bring dry content to life
You’ll lose count of the number of times you’re given reams of facts and piles of reports that need sharing with the workforce. Instead of churning out another corporate message, consider turning the information into a story. Look for a colleague who can tell the story from the bottom up and who can offer a fresh, real perspective that makes it worth reading. Alternatively, turn the facts into an infographic that colleagues will want to share on your ESN.

Keep an eye on the news
National news stories about your industry or company can be a good source of inspiration for internal communicators. You might just like to share a story that colleagues might find interesting, or you could gather a series of views on a hot topic and share the vox pops around the business. Just remember – with this kind of story, timing is everything, so act quickly before it’s old news.

Microsoft Teams review

Rumour has it that Microsoft seriously considered buying out Slack – the most notable operator in the chat-based workplace market which has a staggering three million daily users.

It was only Bill Gates’ intervention and current CEO, Satya Nadella’s scepticism that curtailed a potential eye-watering $8 billion takeover bid.

Instead, Microsoft decided that it would take Slack head on, building a competitor from the ground up.

The result is Microsoft Teams.

Why Teams?

According to Microsoft, Teams is built around four key components.

The largest, and most important, component is threaded chat. Hailed as the solution to everyone’s overstuffed inboxes, chats allow team members to communicate as a team, chronologically and visible for all members.

The second core component is Teams’ ability to act as a hub for teamwork. On top of persistent and threaded conversations, Office 365 integration means that almost all work documents play nicely with the platform.

The third aspect is how customisable Teams is. Each team can have multiple channels to help make sure chats are appropriately assigned to ongoing projects or sub-teams, etc.

There is one glaring emission though… Teams doesn’t allow guest users to register.
That means that if your company regularly uses freelancers to help out with projects, you will have to purchase a 365 Enterprise subscription for them if you want them to be involved in the team’s chat – a mind-boggling decision.

The fourth, and final, core component of Teams is the level of security that Microsoft has baked into the service. All data sent to the cloud is encrypted and separated from customer data – something that will put safety-conscious companies at ease.

Microsoft Teams

Teams is also available on almost every platform: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone and a web-based client – everyone in the business should be able to access Teams, regardless of what device they use for work.

But none of this is new. Competitors offer this exact same service, for free. So why would you chose to go with Microsoft Teams?

It’s all about Office 365

The most interesting selling point for Teams is its deep integration with Office 365. If your business already uses Office (which, let’s face it, it probably does) all meetings, files, notes, video calls – everything will work in Teams. That means Word, PowerPoint, Outlook calendar, Skype, OneNote – all the heavy hitters are baked right into Teams.

Have a meeting scheduled with a few team members? With Teams, all documents can be shared with attendees before the meeting, and with Skype they can automatically video or audio call them. It really is simple, and in reality it works extremely well.

Even better, if your business is an Office 365 Enterprise user, Teams is included for free.

So, what’s it like in practice?

If you’ve ever used Slack, you’ll find Teams remarkably similar. In fact, it’s strikingly similar and it’s not hard to imagine where Microsoft pulled most of its ‘inspiration’ from. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

On the whole, it’s easy to find your way around and jump between conversations.

The ‘Notifications’ tab does a really great job of helping you keep track of all your conversations. But I can imagine it getting a bit out of control if you’re a member of a few different teams and conversations.

Where Microsoft Teams truly excels is as a less formal comms channel for colleagues. A library of emojis, GIFs, stickers – even memes, are only a click away.

This might sound like it’s frivolous and distracting (which it definitely can be), but providing colleagues with a virtual ‘water cooler’ where they can communicate instinctively like they aren’t in work has myriad benefits.

Helping colleagues express personality does absolute wonders for team spirit.

If you work as part of a team that is spread across different locations (even countries), Teams is amazing at enabling collaboration to happen in real time, involving every team member. Another great feature is the ability to message specific members of the team one-on-one.

The deep-rooted Office integration is really where Teams becomes less of communication platform and more of a genuine work platform. Being able to quickly upload and share documents for everyone to view and comment on is incredibly helpful.

It does away with the endless string of edited documents, all saved with slightly different names that you usually have to contend with when multiple people are working from one document.

Mobile apps

One of the greatest things about the new wave of workplace chat apps is how they play nice with mobile devices. And Microsoft Teams is no different, its mobile apps are light, intelligently laid out and supremely easy to use.

The experience neatly mirrors its full-size desktop brother, putting chats first and foremost in the layout:

Microsoft Teams screenshot

That means remote workers really will feel like they are intimately involved with any team conversations, even if they have to be out and about for most of their working day.

But where the app falls short is its concerning lack of features that are present in the fully fledged desktop apps, things like video calling, scheduling meetings and uploading files from OneDrive.

I think you can be pretty confident that Microsoft will introduce these features later down the line through app updates, but their omission at the moment is more than a little confusing.

How does it compare to its competitors?

Honestly? It depends how invested your company is in Microsoft’s ecosystem. If you’re already an Office 365 Enterprise subscriber, then Teams makes a lot of sense. After all, it won’t cost you anything to implement and will play nicely with all of Office 365’s tools.

But at the moment, Teams isn’t bringing anything ground breaking or revolutionary to the table. In fact, it’s faithfully copied much of what Slack innovated in the first place – except Slack’s freemium model means that anyone can download it and start using it straight away.

So, is it worth it? Microsoft Teams is a pretty neat solution and if your company hasn’t implemented a chat-based system for working, it’s got plenty to like.

And if you already subscribe to Office as a business then it’s a no-brainer to at least try out. But Teams doesn’t offer much that Slack doesn’t already do – very well.

Overall score: 3/5.

Guest blog: how to be a real IC pro

Sean Williams, owner of Communication AMMO and managing consultant for True Digital Communications, blogs about why measurement is the key to better IC for your business.

We shouldn’t need to say it. As internal communicators, we’re one of the few in an organisation who can take the pulse of the firm. Even in our editorial roles, we talk to people all the time.

We (hopefully) know the business, its goals, challenges, strengths. We understand leadership’s priorities and how communication can help move them forward.

We’re the experts. You might say that in some ways, we need to change how we approach our work. We have to change as professionals.

We need to make decisions based on facts and data, not conjecture and conventional wisdom. That takes research.

I’m not saying it all has to be quantitative, academically bullet-proof (though that doesn’t hurt), but we’re the only ones who can bring employee intelligence forward to the leadership.

We need to find the balance between just executing and doing proper outreach, judging the effectiveness of our messaging, channels, tools and techniques.

Imagine a conversation with your boss like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got 400 hits on our strategy story last week!

Boss – So?

You – Uhhhhhh.

Been there? It should be more like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got a lot of comments on the strategy story. Most were OK, but a couple of them make me think we need to test some other ways of explaining the strategy to make it more relevant to more people. I followed up with a couple of calls to some people, and I have some ideas about what to do differently.

B – Tell me more!

Sean Williams
Sean Williams

That’s a different dynamic. We need more research up front, more evaluation during our communication activities, and more measurement afterwards to connect with business objectives.

I know internal commsters are totally slammed, but this is about being a serious business person. No other department gets away with ignoring this vital discipline.

The fact is that the ‘traditional’ IC person – the ex-journalist who primarily is a writer/editor, who has little experience within the operations of the business, and/or whose educational background is outside the business world – may be considered an endangered species.

In the US, IC is usually part of HR, PR, or occasionally the legal department. There is little professional education focused on the strategic assets of IC, except for the Corporate Executive Board (which now offers the IC Black Belt programme begun by Melcrum).

There still is too much emphasis on the ‘tools’ of IC – enterprise social networks, intranets, SharePoint and the like – and not enough on the research, measurement and evaluation that tests connections between employee communication effectiveness and business results.

Here are three things that I believe all IC people should focus on right away:

1. Brush up your research skills. We need not become statisticians, but we should gain familiarity with the common measures at the output level – and test the connections to both communication outcomes and to business impact. These can be quantitative and/or qualitative. Take a class, for heaven’s sake. Then do some interviews, convene some focus groups, send out a SurveyMonkey – and use the data to change and improve your plans.

2. Do a time study. Take a hard look at what you and your team are doing day to day. Which activities contribute most significantly to organisational objectives? Which don’t? Stop doing things that don’t add value. Of course, this is a difficult road to drive – but you can refocus on higher value-added activities. The proof will be in the pudding.

3. Ask more questions. We need to understand what is changing, or needs to change, in our organisation. We need to know what we’re trying to accomplish, the objectives and goals of those changes. Ask ‘why?’ What are the reasons behind the decisions we’re making? And, not least, what is the effect on our people? The easy acronym is CORE – it’s what our people want to know about virtually everything.

If we dedicate ourselves to these three tasks, we’ll be well on the way to becoming the IC pros of the future.

Case study: Engaging the workforce at the North Pole

Elf engagement at the North Pole has been overhauled, resulting in its highest ever engagement score. We asked the Chief Elf Officer (CEO) how they’ve done it.

What’s the history behind employee engagement at the North Pole?

Being an elf’s a vocation so, although it will never make them ‘welfy’, we’re lucky that our workforce is a dedicated one. Making wishes come true on Christmas Day is an amazing project to be part of.

However, just because our elves are passionate, it doesn’t mean we have it easy. Until you’ve seen the operation we run, it’s hard to imagine the level of preparation required to ensure that Christmas Eve runs without a hitch and that the right presents are delivered, on time, to 1.9 billion children.

What are your biggest challenges?

Elves enter the profession as youngsters, and employee turnover is extremely low. Our oldest elf is 3,548 years old! Keeping them engaged for so many years and introducing new ways of working to those who are set in their ways is tricky. Then there’s the post-Christmas lull to contend with. Plus, we employ 550,000 elves, so uniting them is another challenge.

What is your strategy for keeping them engaged?

Since Christmas 2015, it’s been to empower, involve and appreciate them, every day.

It’s not groundbreaking, but it works. We want the elves to understand that they are all important parts of a giant jigsaw, grasp the bigger picture of where they fit in, and know that they can make a huge difference. And lastly, we have made Santa far more visible, following feedback that the elves thought he was always off eating mince pies, yet still got most of the glory at Christmas.

So what have you done differently this year?

We’ve made lots of changes in conjunction with our IC agency. Our biggest success has been introducing an elf app called Appy Christmas. It’s taken a while, but 90 per cent of the workforce has now downloaded it as their schedules and pay slips can be accessed on it.

In December 2015, we began trialling Facebook’s ESN, Workplace, which has turned out to be a wonderful tool for collaborating, networking and generating ideas. Through Workplace Live Santa now broadcasts live video message updates to all elves, wherever they are. It’s broken down barriers between Santa and the elves as he’s so active on it and they can see what he’s really doing – and that he’s a busy guy. Everyone’s on a level playing field on Workplace.

We’ve also relaunched our employee magazine, The Grotto, so it now focuses on in-depth features that you wouldn’t want to read on a screen.

The Tinsels – quarterly awards through which Santa recognises and rewards high-performing elves – have been introduced. They’ve been great for elf-esteem and for ensuring the elves know they’re appreciated.

Lastly, we’ve introduced fortnightly lunch and learn sessions with the reindeer. It’s addressing a disconnect between them and the elves, and now that the elves can remember all of their names, things are really improving.

What does The Grotto app involve?

It’s a great for instantly sharing news and announcements – and it encourages two-way conversation. We use it for polls and pulse checks, which empowers the elves and allows them to have their say. There’s also an Elfstagram section where the elves share Elfies, and Santa occasionally comments on them, which is driving engagement.

What have the results of all this been?

Our elf engagement survey has shown that we have 89 per cent engagement, which is extremely high. More than ever, everyone knows their own roles in conjunction with everyone else’s, which means less error and duplication, and more success.

On most days, you’ll find whistling, cheering and smiling across the workshop, mail house, wrapping and loading departments – everywhere. Safe to say, smiling’s our favourite!