Friday, 18 December 2020

Predictions become possibilities

For many years, at this point in proceedings, we at Sweet Comms drew up a list of ever-so-insightful predictions for the year ahead. Last year, we stepped back from this and reviewed the many differing statements made by mystics in our industry.  

This year, it’s hard to imagine anyone making any assertions with the same level of confidence. 

None of us could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, nor the changes it would bring to our lives. As we look ahead, it is clear we will still be living in the circumstances created by COVID-19 for some time to come. It will therefore take someone braver than me to forecast how the world of work will look in another 12, no doubt challenging, months.

Predictions are, at best, becoming possibilities laced with context and caveats.

However, one thing I will state with some conviction is that internal communication will play an even stronger role in our workplaces during 2021.

This year has brought out the best in our industry, as practitioners have helped our organisations keep inspiring and supporting colleagues despite all the challenges involved. Sharing clear and crucial information, building open dialogue with diverse audiences, helping teams adjust to new ways of working, enabling individuals to find and access support: communicators have played a crucial role in every area. All while working through rapidly-changing events and keeping people aligned and contributing to common purpose and goals.

As a result, internal communication has played a major role in effective employee engagement and helped the wheels of our organisations keep turning, despite all the obstacles in the way.

So that, I suppose, it’s a prediction for 2021. It’s not earth-shattering in its insight, because internal communication has proved its worth throughout this crisis. But I think we’ll see our industry take another step forward and make even more of a difference for the organisations and people we serve.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

The Small Business Revival Guide

We're very happy to have supported an initiative to help the UK's entrepreneurs and small businesses settle, revive and thrive in the current circumstances. Internal comms, external, acting with purpose…lots of great advice in the guide here.

Please do share to anyone you may think would benefit – and as a live document, contributions are very welcome! Please email to submit.

It was really great to partner with some fantastic people on this:
Blurred LondonBLAFemale NarrativesHappy YolkThe Brand Shrink (Tom Newton), VP Comms and Tin Man.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Talking tech: information is not engagement

At an event last week, I heard some worrying words about the role of tech in employee engagement.

Ostensibly, the event was celebrating the difference that tech can make to engaging a dispersed workforce. A premise that I absolutely agree with: within a planned and co-ordinated channel mix, and with a clear role in a wider plan, digital tools and tactics are incredibly helpful.  

However, there were a few statements during this event to the effect that using tech helps you reach more employees, and once they have more information as a result, they will be engaged. That’s it, nothing more needed.

Not the exact words used, but that was the gist of the point being expressed.

This worried and surprised me: it was a throwback to the non-digital days in which a senior external comms colleague once suggested my job essentially involved the use of kitchen posters and mouse mats to share “stuff”. In other words, just put info out there and the job is done.

We’ve moved a long way since then, as a communication profession and a business world. Wave after wave of studies, surveys and case studies have demonstrated the difference that building strong connections, based on two-way communication, makes to employers and employees alike. The explosion of new technology offers many opportunities to take that further.

However, digital tools can only help us achieve that if they are used in the right way. To share information, yes, but also to build dialogue that helps individuals and teams discuss, interpret and respond to the company’s ‘direction of travel’. To nurture the commitment and common purpose that every organisation needs to thrive. As part of wider efforts to align the way the organisation works with the drivers of engagement.

That requires more than posting “stuff”, no matter what the channel. Suggesting anything otherwise risks going back to those dark days and the modern-day equivalent of a mouse mat.

Let’s not risk reviving misconceptions about what employee engagement is and involves. Let’s talk about the role tech plays in a wider context. It will be much more beneficial for everyone involved.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Getting back to basics in 2020

As usual, the beginning of a new year has sparked a flood of recommendations or ‘hot topics’ for 2020. I hardly dare look at LinkedIn for fear of seeing another deluge of earnest proclamations and warnings of issues to watch out for.

I shouldn’t really complain: at Sweet Comms, we have engaged in crystal-ball gazing ourselves on several occasions. Normally, because we have felt there are some really important ideas or issues that have not gained the attention they deserve.

This year, however, I think there is one simple requirement, for organisations of all types and sizes: making sure that the basics are in place to nurture a culture of engagement that benefits all involved.

Over the years, as the field of internal communication has become more sophisticated, we’ve all seen plenty of new frameworks, initiatives and tools emerging to accelerate momentum. While these may have opened up new possibilities for enhancing the contribution we make to employee engagement, they have also sparked the risk of an internal comms ‘arms race’, if I can use that phrase, as different participants pile on new idea after new idea to demonstrate a difference or an ‘edge’.

As I have written in these pages before, I think that creates the risk of ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome. And it may also mean we lose sight of the value we should be adding to our organisations and the colleagues who work for them.  

Communicating clear and compelling messages about where the organisation is going, why and how our people fit in. Sharing regular material (in whatever form) on plans, progress and the people who make this possible. Making sure such information is open to all, not a protected commodity.

Making sure everyone in every area (and at all levels) of the organisation has opportunities to raise questions, give feedback and submit ideas. Demonstrating that dialogue is vital and a non-negotiable element of a healthy culture. Celebrating the insight and ideas we gain, to show how ‘common purpose’ makes a practical difference to achieving the organisation’s goals.

Of course, there will still be a host of different options on how to make it all happen. I’m sure new tools and ideas will emerge during 2020. However, any method or mechanism we embrace should always have a clear role in a strategy that will help us deliver the valued expected of and needed from us.

Otherwise, even the most exciting ideas or tools will become akin to a house built on sand.