#ChangingTheConvo 2019

This time last week I was sat on the train, heading to Birmingham to meet up with the CIPR inside committee for the #ChangingTheConvo conference and what an event!

Not only did I have the chance to get stuck in backstage, but I got to absorb all the takeaways from the amazing speakers.

So, for any #ICnewbies reading this blog post, here are some headline notes I took away from the event I think you can apply within your role. I didn’t get the chance to note down my thoughts from all the speakers, so this is a brief snapshot that I hope you’ll find useful.

Chuck Gose – Why bother asking the question?

What an opening! Chuck was a true disruptor, challenging us to think about the questions we ask our colleagues and why we bother even asking them if the business will do nothing with the responses. This rang true for me from many past situations when the dreaded email subject line ‘Employee Engagement Survey’ lands in your inbox from your HR colleagues.

So as an #ICnewbie what can you do to #ChangeTheConvo around employee surveys? My top tip from experience is to ask what happened with the results from the previous survey and identify the action plan for once the results are in. Too often the focus is on getting the survey live and completion rates high with little thought given to what happens after the survey until it’s gone live. Leaders will only build credibility through their actions and colleagues will want to know ‘What will happen after I’ve given my feedback?’ and we need to know the answer.

You can also add value by challenging the business on how they plan to give feedback, it’s a two-way communication channel so why shouldn’t you have input. As Chuck highlighted in his session, why bother asking for feedback if nothing will be done?

Many organisations are shifting from the annual survey to regular pulse checks that are shorter and can be timely to changes within the business. You must have a clear plan on how to feedback on this, providing the two-way channel and some ideas include; cross-departmental workshops to identify themes for development, engagement champions at a department level or a live microsite on the intranet that everyone can comment and share best practices.

Rachel Miller – What isn’t been said in your organisation?

Ever since entering the world of internal comms, Rachel has been an inspiration and her AllThingsIC website is a bit of a comfort blanket that I use when I hit a challenge for the first time. Early in her session, a quote appeared on the screen that really struck a note with me from Peter F. Drucker, ‘The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said’. It’s the quote you think to yourself is obvious and then question why you aren’t following it.

You’re perfectly placed as an #ICnewbies to get out around the business, understand the frustrations and challenges faced by colleagues, all of which act as the noise around our communications. We know what messages are going out to the business but I think it’s fair to say many of us get too caught up at our desks and don’t spend enough time out with our audiences.

Set yourself time in your diary to floor walk the office, come in early or finish later to catch shift workers who you wouldn’t normally see or perhaps spend a morning/afternoon with a team you wouldn’t have much interaction with. Having worked at a commercial airline I had lunch with engineers, came in for night shifts with the teams out on the ramp and took flights to speak with the cabin and flight crews.

Don’t forget about your leadership team, they need to be seen, heard and the golden nugget, listen to their employees. You could put together an annual plan where your leadership team visits different areas of the business, spending 1-2 hours with colleagues without interruptions and listening to what people have to say. This will help to fill the gap in what isn’t been said by removing some barriers that exist within the organisation. You can then track questions and common themes and build responses into your regular communications or follow up with to make sure colleagues know the leadership team are listening to them.

Jo Hooper – Just be human

As someone who suffered from work-related anxiety in the past, I’m always interested in hearing ways internal communication can help change the way we talk about mental health in the workplace. Jo only had a 15-minute lightning talk slot yet her messages really hit home about talking openly, honestly and ultimately, just to be human.

It’s worth thinking about your own wellbeing, communications and how you might need to step away from the corporate style and tone to make the language appropriate. As Jo highlighted, we aren’t councillors and rather than worrying all the time about saying the wrong thing must be human. When it comes to wellbeing communications, take a step back and think to yourself ‘Does this sound like something my friend would say to me’?

We should work closely with our HR colleagues to help provide practical and useful guidance, especially to line managers. Rather than providing loads of resources hidden on the intranet go simpler with suggestions such as meeting a colleague coming back to work for a coffee outside the office and walk in with them, clearing down their inbox and letting them know to ease any apprehensions or even dropping a simple call to see how they would their first morning back to be.

Everyone has the opportunity in #ChangingTheConvo, whether it’s asking why or walking the floor to listen to what really matters for your colleagues. I appreciate conferences aren’t everyone’s cup of tea so I’ll be looking at more ways to support #ICnewbies beforehand with some help pre-event networking tips and events.

My personal thanks to everyone involved in making the conference happen and to all the fantastic speakers, sadly I couldn’t fit all of them into this post.

The CIPR inside committee (minus Helen D)

Credit to Thomas Jackson, TyneSight Photography Services for the amazing event photos shown within this post and available here.

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