Sunday, 30 March 2014

Building a social organisation

How do organisations create a more collaborative culture? Angela Ashenden, has been putting large businesses under the social microscope. 
Angela Ashenden is the Principal Analyst Collaboration at MWD Advisors. I met her at the Connected Business Expo 2014 where she delivered a talk on building a collaborative culture.

GL: In 2007, you helped to build the collaboration practice at MWD. Since then, what's the biggest change you have seen in this space? 

AA: Over the years tracking the market, there have been so many technologies entering this space. At the beginning it was not the strength of the capability of the platform for which organisations were choosing the technology. They were choosing it based on whether they could work with the vendor or whether they knew someone else already using it. So, it was more a practical perspective. Over time however, it became apparent that it was less about the technology and more about how to get people to use the tool as well as addressing the cultural change side of collaboration within the organisation.

GL: From a cultural perspective, how can traditional organisations become more collaborative? 

AA: It is difficult to put it simply, but fundamentally it is about encouraging people to be open to share and interact. It is about changing their natural behaviours so that so they can automatically think 'How can I take the initiative that I have just started and make it more collaborative? Who should I be getting involved to make it more collaborative?' In order to do that the lead needs to be taken from the top because without that kind of guidance people will not see the long-term need for change. Examples of that might be having your senior executives posting micro-blogs, or maybe doing a weekly blog, or a video blog in order to show the rest of the organisation their visibility there. But it is also about having them interacting with people; so it not just publishing out but actively entering in discussions with the employees.

GL: Many internal communicators I have spoken with find it hard to have their CEO or most senior management involved. Based on your research, what's your advice to get leadership involved with an enterprise social network?

AA: It is about proof. Prove the value of it as much as you can. Amass a 'catalogue of evidence'. Find examples of projects where better collaboration inside your company speeded up processes, created new opportunities, helped to save money. These are all small and fairly easy to manage activities. The more you can pull them together the better. Then, take these to your senior managers. The aim is to give them evidence that inside your own organisation collaboration is already working and giving advantages to the business.

GL: Let's assume we have the leadership buy-in, what other key elements are needed to become a more collaborative organisation?

AA: You need to take advantage of the grass-root, bottom-up viral adoption that social has become famous for. Which is why the advocate network is so important. But remember, it is not just about top-down and bottom-up: you have the barrier in the middle which is your middle manager layer. Often that middle layer fails to buy into strategy and stops it from succeeding. They are the people who control projects, outputs, people performance, processes and everything else. So you have to make sure that they really understand the value of a more collaborative approach.

GL: What should an organisation do to overcome that middle manager layer barrier?

AA: If you have leaders’ buy-in, then you should be able to go to them and say - even dictate - that they cannot reject or block it, but rather take it on board seriously. From an adoption strategy perspective, target those people individually. Work closely with them so that so they can identify what difference collaboration can make to their job and to their teams. It comes back to education. Not everyone will get it on day one. Some people are naturally resistant to any kind of a change. And you have to accept that. That it is not necessarily a bad thing as long as there is a constant shift into the general culture. Just because they are slow to change it does not mean that they will not change.

GL: How does management change in a networked organisation?

AA: It becomes less about telling individuals what to do and controlling their actions, and more about coaching and helping them to determine their direction. It comes down to having a better understanding of your employees, and what they are trying to achieve. In a lot of cases it would be also about putting people in touch with the right people, because in theory, in a fully networked organisation where you have the technology and culture in place you should be able to surface the relationships that the workforce need to be building.

GL: What's your opinion on the role of the community manager?

AA: The community manager has to lead by example by contributing on a regular basis in a way that is purposeful and relevant to the community and its members. He/she needs to encourage people, pull them in, whether it is directly contacting the individual asking them to submit an opinion or whether it is about targeting specific projects that someone could discuss on the platform. They need people skills and to be able to communicate in a peer-level way, engaging with employees to understand how they can benefit from the platform. They also need to be quite creative in terms of finding opportunities to get people involved.

GL: Do you have any good example of a collaborative company?

AA: A good example is Avanade. They took a very strategic approach and invested well in the people change side. As a fast-growing company that depends on the knowledge and skills of its employees to deliver consulting services to its clients, Avanade needed to find a way to better connect its staff and centralise its knowledge across its globally-distributed organisation. As part of a global programme to drive business change and develop a more collaborative culture, they decided to upgrade the existing Microsoft SharePoint-based intranet to deliver a more interactive environment that could take advantage of new social technologies. The rollout and gradual launch of the company’s new social intranet, called @Avanade, began in September 2011, with the final migration of existing email-based communities to the new platform completing in May 2012. Two years on, adoption of the @Avanade social intranet continues to grow, with active participation reaching 20% of the company’s onshore workforce, and post volumes growing by around 30% per month. While business change and adoption efforts are on-going, the company is already seeing positive results through anecdotal evidence of greater interaction between staff in different parts of the business, and a flattening of the organisational hierarchy as senior executives become more accessible and engaged with staff.

GL: Based on this and other research, could you give us any final advice?

AA: Be clear as to what the advantages are to your organisation; what is your purpose of doing it? Understand how collaboration will this make things better for your specific organisation, how does it tie in with the business strategy as a whole. The more effort you can put in articulating the purpose the easier it is to determine your strategy for gaining adoption and for making the change that is needed. If you clearly understand what you are doing and why you are doing that than it will become much easier to communicate that to everybody else.

GL: Finally, what are your thoughts on the future of social business?

AA: It will become less of an entity but just business. It is an evolution in the way organisations work. We have been trying to make this change from probably the mid 90s or even earlier when the first knowledge management tools appeared. This desire to be more collaborative and to be more networked started back there but the technology was not ready to support it. A five-year timeframe perhaps is not enough for seeing a real cultural change, but in ten-years’ time I think there will be a big shift in terms of the how organisations are structured, to make them much less hierarchical. Even the more traditional organisations will not be able to escape. They might be less networked than the majority but I think it would be very hard to avoid collaboration altogether.

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Keep SMiLing...ESN resources

This week was a bit special for simply-communicate: our fourth SMiLE London- Social Media in the Large Enterprise - was held on March 17th. More than 200 delegates gathered at the prestigious St Paul's venue to hear some of the best enterprise social network (ESN) stories that we research and feature in our magazine.

            Photo by Ben Eden

On Friday, we published and shared all the news, resources and videos from the conference. If you are interested in internal communications and social business you might learn something new and find useful ideas to bring to work. You can have a look at each story – videos, slideshares, pictures, related content - from the following links too:

Pearson have introduced a Jive-based social network to replace 170 intranets and to connect employees from companies as diverse as the FT to Penguin Random House. This was the chance to learn the lessons from Karen Gettman and Kim England about their Neo platform- one of the most mature and successful examples of an employee social network.

Grundfos is the world’s largest manufacturer of pumps with more than 18,000 employees. They also happen to be one of the most innovative users of Yammer in Europe. The enterprise social network is taking the organisation to an entirely new level of co-operation and innovation. Head of Global Working Culture and Social Business Thomas Asger Hansen shared with us the progress they have made in less than a year. 6,000 worldwide employees are active members of the Yammer community. 1,500 staff are engaged every month and around 400 communities have been created on the network. We also heard from Martin Risgaard Rasmussen, who recently moved from Grundfos to Yammer and Rav Dhaliwali, building and leading Yammer's European Customer Success organisation in the UK, France & Germany.

Ben Thompson, Digital Communications Manager at the Head Office of Johnson Matthey, the global speciality chemicals business, took us through the launch of their ESN myJM. He described the experiences of their first year and how they built adoption and developed a champion's community in a very traditional scientific and engineering business.

Sarah Etherton and her colleague David Ingram, Senior Writer/Editor at Unilever talked about the Jam session they orchestrated for managers. The Change Leaders Conference is a two-day event that brings together 400 of Unilever’s most senior managers from around the globe. Its purpose is to share and hone plans that will help achieve the company’s Compass strategy and Sustainable Living Plan ambitions. Traditionally, this has been a closed event followed by an internal company-wide cascade via a series of town-hall type events to share and localise top-level outputs from the two-days. However, in 2013, for the very first time, thousand of employees and contractors were able to engage with the live conference – virtually – through Unilever’s internal online social collaboration tool, Chatter.

Some of most popular tweeters, bloggers and forum owners in the UK social business space run their expert table sessions. Delegates were be able to choose from: online content and news for the intranet; social networking and the social construction of organisational culture; internal social media adoption; social media strategy; engaging your mobile employees; the link between employee voice and social media; how internal social media supports employee engagement; gamifying the enterprise; video on ESNs; working with SharePoint 2013; the mobile enterprise; managing your career.

            Photo by Ben Eden

SMiLE London: Driving Business Value at Thomson Reuters

When Larraine Solomon joined Thomson Reuters she took a great risk; she stopped sending out important information via email. Suddenly 4,000 people were cut off from their usual source of announcements about senior appointments and important business news. In meetings people started to notice that certain colleagues would know key information before they did. How? Because they were reading it on The Hub – the company’s employee social network. In this enthralling session Larraine Solomon, Director of Internal Communications for IP & Science and Audrey Scarff, Editor in Chief of The Hub, talked about the growth of their online connected workspace.

SMiLE London: Social Business in the Public Sector

Norman Jardine, the Head of the Internal Communication unit of the European Commission and his colleague Julie Guegan, talked about how the European Commission, one of the largest public administrations in the world with 30,000 employees and 24 languages, has been using internal digital channels to drive cultural change, create a more collaborative organisation and connect with external stakeholders. They also spoke about their annual Digital Competence Day(#ecdigiday), an event they have been organising to get staff on board with their digital agenda.

Chris Thompson of regional newspaper group Archant has over 4 years under his belt managing their Socialcast network. So what difference does time make as your network becomes more mature? We heard from him if plans turned out as expected and whether the hurdles of social were as difficult to overcome as we might think when you set out.

Lafarge, the world's largest cement manufacturer, is using a knowledge management platform to spread the company's best practicesto 40,000 employees across 63 countries. The seeds of today's Einstein, were first planted in 2002. Knowledge Manager, Jean-Luc Abelindescribed the journey of an organisation that entirely transformed the way colleagues share and use knowledge to improve their performance.

As we can see from these stories the world of employee social networks and social business is in constant development. Many are the implications on communication, innovation, relationships, experiences, behaviours and productivity. I look forward to keeping exploring this on-going evolution as well as its value to the future of work.

Ps: During the conference more than 2,000 tweets were generated including the ones curated in the below Storify. Keep SMiLing!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A taste of social business

If you were looking for an essential guide on social business, The Social Business Cookbook by Peter Furtado and Lawrence Clarke may be the tasty answer. 
Thinking of social business like cooking up a meal may not be the very first thing that comes to mind. However, in The Social Business Cookbook, Peter Furtado and Lawrence Clarke use just this analogy to describe the key aspects of making social business work: you need an appropriate kitchen, the right ingredients, recipes, methods, and tools. They are not the only authors to come up with this analogy. Last week, Thomas Asger Hansen, Head of Global Working Culture and Social Business at Grundfos published the Social Business Cookbook for the Danish manufacturing company’s employees and partners. But this one is aimed at a more general audience and is also worth perusing.

Onions and social business layers 

“A social business has an integrated presence in different layers, to give its audience a unified experience of your business” – Furtado and Clarke 

Like an onion, a key ingredient of many recipes, a social media space is made of multiple layers. The authors describe each of them:

The surface is the whole external social media where people might be discussing about your company. Although you have no control, you can monitor and participate in the discussions.

The next layer is the external social media of your company, such us your Facebook page or Twitter account. You are more in control of the conversation and can send messages out. “But it’s hard to get closer to your audience here, and you don’ control the data,” emphasise Furtado and Clarke.

Underneath, is your customer community where you engage in conversations and offer content that is valuable to your customers. This precedes the supplier/ partner community “probably a private space for developing your offering.”

Finally, at the heart of the onion, is your internal community where your employees communicate inside the enterprise. “Because an organisation’s internal communications lies at the heart of the onion, they affect everything else the business is trying to achieve,” write the authors.

Networks and communities

When introducing the concept of social business, the distinction between networks and communities is one of the first to embrace. While social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) are self-organising and have no central control, a community is structured around a topic, and requires “proactive management in structuring the site, stimulating activity and supporting members.”

Mind your kitchen’s culture

“Your business culture – the attitude the management takes towards its staff – can be measured on a gauge on a pressure cooker” 

The way you run the kitchen has a direct effect on the quality of your dishes. The same can be said for business. If you have the tools but not the right culture your social initiative will fail. An honest assessment on where you are on the ‘gauge’ – Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate, or Empower – will help you to work on the cultural change needed to become a social business.

Getting the ingredients and recipes right

So what are the basic ingredients of social business? Are they the platforms? The widgets? The Blogs? None of them, apparently.

According to the authors, the main ingredient - and where you should start planning your social business - is “the motivation of your audience.” Four sets of motivation in particular – completing a task, connecting emotionally, fulfilling a need, and sharing a passion - “can produce use cases that form the basis of community platforms.”

Community of Purpose: this can be for example your social intranet where employees come together to do a job.

Community of Circumstance: it might be built around a specific event or a course, letting users to connect beforehand and continue their interactions afterward.

Community Practice: this is the space for practitioners to share knowledge and develop a professional practice.

Community of Interest: here is where people come together to share and discuss, an interest, as well as learn from others.

However, like a recipe is not made just by one ingredient, the same applies to online communities. They are made out of a planned mix of primary and secondary motivations. Look for example at TES, the world’s largest community of practising teachers. Their primary motivation is improving knowledge (Practice): hundreds of groups and online discussions are around practical issues in the classroom. Nevertheless, TES is also a place for teacher to find a job (Purpose), and have social discussions on certain topics (Interest). It is also a platform for promoting conferences and events on education (Circumstance).

Choosing the right tools

To make an excellent dish you need the right tools. Rather than purchasing every gadget available, you want to buy the most appropriate based on your kitchen, recipe and ingredients. In a similar way, to help select your tool set, Furtado and Clarke suggest thinking of the different motivations of your audience. These give rise to different communications needs that your choice of functionality needs to meet.

There is a host of tools available nowadays. Each of the four types of communities identified earlier requires a different suite of tools. However, ‘structured groups’, ‘profiles’, and ‘#hashtags’ are almost certainly valuable for all the types of audiences.

Methods of cooking

To turn dough into bread you will bake it (boiling is not suggested!). In the context of social business the methods you use “are the strategies, policies and plans you put in place to make your audience feel they can converse comfortably, safely and usefully.” The authors identify four fundamental strategies, which link back to the goals of your audience. For each strategy there are a number of plans and policies to implement.

Business strategy relates to the identification of opportunities “for raising revenue through transactions or collaboration engendered by social activity; and with setting targets and ensuring that these are met.”

Support strategy is concerned with supporting your audience in reaching their goals within your social space, and “to establishing a space in which people feel is well-managed and welcoming, where they can safely meet one another (network) and open themselves up to learn from one another.” Here is emphasised the role of the Community Manager. “This is the pivotal role for running your social space – and may well evolve into a pivotal role in the entire organisation. Resource it well.”

Content strategy. The uniqueness, quality and relevance of the content found on your social space plays a critical role in attracting community members and allowing them “to learn about your specialist topic and to succeed in their endeavours.” To ensure the on-going flow of this type of content a strategy is required.

Sustainability strategy keeps your social space alive by ensuring that members come back and are engaged. Worth of note is the idea of ‘social learning’. While education on social communications and behaviours is highly recommended, the traditional type of training may dissipate. In fact, a platform allows members to collaborate and explore opportunities together: “rather than training, this is ‘social learning’ where people learn and create, together, the things your social business needs to succeed.”

Finally, when it comes to governance, it is vital to be clear on who is responsible for what. In a social and collaborative environment this can be easily confused, and should not be overlooked. Identify the key roles, their major responsibilities and reporting lines can help.

How good is your dish?

To access how well you are doing, and whether you have to adjust your way of cooking, going back to the original audience motivations is once again key.

Furtado and Clarke suggest five stages to ‘taste test’ your platform to see if you are getting results.

Drawing a ‘shareholder value map’ and success criteria that shows the business benefits from the community. Benefits can be at individual level (e.g. recognition), team level (e.g. problems solved quickly), operational level (e.g. completed projects) and bottom line (e.g. reduced costs).

Gathering metrics including platform analytics, management reports, and polls in the community with feedback from members.

Documenting past actions to understand the progress made against the success criteria.
Scoring your community on each of the four strategy dimensions (business, support, content, sustainability).

Crafting an action plan to identify specific actions to take for each dimension or those of highest priority.

Taste tasting allows you to find the areas where performance should be improved. It also helps to establish future targets and responsibilities. Finally, it gives you the necessary information to understand if you have to extend or refocus your community (new topics, new activities, new functionalities or less areas to cover).


The Social Business Cookbook is a concise guide on the key elements of a social business. Complemented by summaries, tables and graphs it might be the essential and helpful resource to keep on your desk. Enjoy your meal!

This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Putting humans at the centre of work

This is the key take away from the collaboration and communications technology event Connected Business Expo 2014. The two-day conference took place this week on 4th and 5th March at Olympia, London.
With a packed agenda of employee engagement and social business seminars under the same roof, the choice of which presentations to attend was not the easiest to make.
I opted for workshops on creating a collaborative culture, revolutionising internal communications, re-imaging work and going beyond social. Was it worth? Let's see together.
Building a collaborative culture

Angela Ashenden, Principal Analyst at MWD, drove home that "while it may be easy to see the advantages of better collaboration, it’s not enough to simply invest in the latest, greatest technology: the cultural shift required demands a clear and well-thought out business change strategy."

Ashenden defined collaboration as "the act of people working together to achieve a common goal, with shared responsibility, and where all benefit." In her words, "better collaboration equals to a better business: better sharing of knowledge, driving innovation and differentiation, supporting distributed teams, and building better relationships with both partners an customers."

She also emphasised three pillars of a collaborative organisation:

• A networked and non-hierarchical structure. Individuals are empowered and defined by their skills and expertise; teams are defined by their goal, not their place in the organisation structure; focus is on leadership, not management.

• An open, honest and trusting culture. Employees feel confident to voice their opinion; there is no fear or sense of threat from inviting feedback or comment; sharing is promoted above personal knowledge; executives encourage input, and maintain transparency in decision-making.

• An engaged and valued workforce. They want to listen, understand, and contribute; they feel they can make a difference and believe their opinion matters; they feel they have a space to grow and develop. This drives higher retention, increase creativity, and innovation.

According to Ashenden there are a number of reasons why improving collaboration is hard. First is people’s resistance to change: habits are hard to break, knowledge is power - so, what's in it for me?, lack of time, tools fatigue, and middle management blocking adoption.

Secondly, collaboration is often approached without an adequate strategy and investment. This includes insufficient executive support, poor education as well as un-managed expectations.

The MWD Principal Analyst suggested a number of steps to lay secure foundations:

• Understand your business need: "better collaboration is not enough. Tie to your organisational goals."

• Clarify ownership: "Role requires ability, enthusiasm and clout. Multiple owners are better than one."

• Secure budget: "Budget for an initiative, not a project. Include costs of technology implementation and business change activity.

It was also interesting hearing about the relevance of having a "multi-faceted business chance strategy" that implies a "balance between top-down, bottom-up and middle-out."

At the end of Ashenden's presentation, the key messages to take away were: "a more collaborative culture brings a host of benefits to create a more agile, innovative and differentiated organisation. It won't happen by itself; you need a clear strategy and the right investment and leaders to make it work. Your business change programme must be long-sighted, and combine top-down, bottom and middle out strategies."

Velvet revolutions

Next, I attended the seminar by Engage for Change's John Smythe on "The rise of employee engagement, the fall of command and control." This was delivered as a two-way conversation with the audience. He challenged people with a great deal of questions to test assumptions on leadership styles. "Why do people turn up every day for you? Why do they give you their creativity? Do they feel part of the mission or like 'extras'? Do they set sufficient direction without emasculating the talent?"

According to Smythe there are two key ingredients of effective engagement for leaders. The first one is Decision-making pattern:

• Consider who will add value if engaged upfront;

• Negotiate authentic agreement about decision: a shared story;

• Consider who needs to be engaged in execution;

• Consider how to engage and communicate: method and style;

• Learn from listening and observing.

Engaging employees in decision-making upfront will drive better decisions, faster execution through and with people, and increase trust and happiness in the workplace.

The second key ingredient highlighted by Smythe is the minutiae of the leader's personal presence (language, tone, body language): "Your legacy precedes you," said the engagement guru. He described how different style could help or hinder engagement. Is the leader adopting a visionary or arbiter style? Is he/she a team coach or a bully? Maverick or arbiter?

The seminar ended with a persuasive Smythe citing Chair Lloyds Banking Group, Wim Bischoff: "employee engagement will become one of the key health factors to be considered by shareholders" - the velvet revolution at work is becoming mainstream.

It's time to re-imagine business

"Everywhere you look it feels like technology is taking over, but instead of succumbing to the information deluge, automation and endless filtering, we should focus on using technology to cut through the haze and reimagine how we live, work and do business," this was Microsoft's Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin.

He stressed the point that the rise of always-on devices has brought us new opportunities and advantages such as real-time communications with colleagues around the world. Also, social media at work is giving voice to the voiceless and driving agility. Yet, Coplin reminded people that, in other ways, the same technology could disconnect us. For example, "the rapidly rising volume of information is affecting all aspects of our lives, in the real and digital worlds, as individuals, as consumers and customers, as workers, and in business."

He re-called the need for re-discovering "discovery" by taking charge of our "deep thoughts", "insights", and the "wisdom to know what to do". He stressed the importance of mindfulness, living in the moment ("If you are in a meeting, be in the meeting not in the email") as well as "creating space for creativity and blurring the boundaries."

Coplin also emphasised the power of big data suggesting "learning to love data to bring stories to life" and "moving beyond intelligence."

His final thought for attendees was that "technology is not for the machines but instead is the ultimate platform for the rise of humans."

Beyond Social

Christopher Morace is Chief Strategy Officer at Jive and author of Transform. How Leading Companies are Winning with Disruptive Technology. His Twitter handle says a lot about his philosophy of work, @thinkoutloud! He ran an engaging seminar - the last one for me - on Beyond Social.

In line with the other presentations he stressed the need for "putting people at the centre of work". This is what organisations should do if social business efforts want to achieve intended benefits.

He took an interesting approach by taking the audience through an honest look at the developing relationships between people and technology. In just a few years we have moved from "sometimes with you, periodically connected devices" to "always with you, constantly connected devices," from "single format interface to multi-format interface", and from "data tied to machines to data separate from machines." All this has changed profoundly our behaviours. "Everyone is efficient, 24/7. Agile to the extreme."

The future of work is led by the next generation digital enterprise infrastructure, which adopts new ways of interacting by addressing concerns around organisational change, rollout, measurement and value. At the same time it requires to address issues around access, identity, data security, regulatory compliance, integration and risk.

With social business an organisation also needs to consider the whole ecosystem, which includes customer and prospect communities, have a mission focused collaboration as well as a strategic alignment and communication.

Other noteworthy content from Morace came when he gave some examples of companies who are doing well with social, such as Swiss Re. The company are seeing their culture gradually change to one that fosters increased participation and open sharing of opinions. Their organisational structure does not always reflect how people work, or how they want to work. Their internal social platform has already helped them to make decisive steps against that problem.

Another example is the one of Metaswitch; they and all of their customers are engaged throughout the solution process. The result is a large influx of innovative product ideas for the company and higher value solutions for the customers.

Humans at the centre of work

Walking away from the conference, the message that resonated most was that, we should not forget that work belongs to humans. Business belongs to people. Technology has to serve individuals, not the other way round. This simple ethos is something that we all are in charge of and need to foster to make our organisations more collaborative, productive, agile, and innovative.


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Internal Comms in India, meeting author Aniisu Verghese

Aniisu K. Verghese is an author, and friend of simply-communicate who lives in India. He writes extensively on the state of internal communications in his country. This week, for the very first time he came to visit our London office. It was a pleasure to sit with him, listen to him and talk about what I usually read throughout his work.

The meeting left me with a very positive feeling; afterward I could not help but re-reading all of the contributions he has made to our publication since 2006. In this global and networked economy, an understanding and appreciation of internal communications in different countries such as India is a prerequisite for organisations to grow. Aniisu makes this very clear through his writing.

With these Marginalia on Engagement I would like to recall some of his articles available on simply-communicate. These are extracts on employee engagement, social media in the workplace, corporate social responsibility, international and leadership communications. I hope you will enjoy them, and encourage you to explore the author's work even further.

The challenge is to work towards a ‘one’ global company.

Articulate the future clearly. There is always a sense of uneasiness when it comes to working with multi-nationals based on earlier experiences the country has faced. The ‘hire and fire’ methods employed by firms have been resented in a country where government-run units ensured security with pensions and union engagement. Questions are asked about the future in terms of the organization’s commitment and business stability. Companies need to articulate a vision and culture to keep the workforce motivated and energized. Be transparent and honest in your communication. There is no greater loss than an organization caught for hiding information from its own employees.”

The sea-change in internal communications is quite evident. From a command-control and formal – directive mechanism, it is today about inclusion and two-way transmission of meaning. There is greater emphasis on engagement and conversation. The options available for communicators have exponentially expanded. 

Each employee has unique talents and expertise and you can help harness it for the organization. By connecting experts and channeling a discussion, the time for information access is reduced dramatically. They say we are separated from each other by six degrees of separation. Make those six degrees closer than your employees can think.”

If you build it, they will come’. Not so with social media adoption in India. You may have the best infrastructure and invite your employees to participate but if the culture within isn’t open to criticism and feedback, you are going to run into issues. On the other hand if you have a robust social media system in place but your IT policies block freedom of expression and access to websites then you will end up with disengaged employees. 

If leaders don’t see value in social media or label it a ‘productivity buster’, employees understandably will stay away. Without a clear understanding of the medium, companies will continue to baulk at the idea of setting up discussion forums or allowing comments on blogs defeating the purpose of social media!”

Half of India’s population is below the age of 25 and the nation has the world’s youngest workforce. India, with the lowest median ages across major economies, will be the largest contributor to the world's workforce —136 million people —over the next 10 years.
The message is clear. To understand how social media can be adopted better, we need to revisit how communication is created and received by this important group.

Social media adoption is exploding in India and the scale and diversity offer challenges as well as unique opportunities. To be able to adopt social media in internal communications, organizations need to appreciate and understand the influences of sports, entertainment, culture and community.”

The internal communicator in the future can be more relevant to organizations by gaining context about culture and how it impacts communications, by acting as a bridge between staff and leaders, by becoming an expert in human behavior and psychology, as well as understanding organization design, tapping the potential of staff, and leveraging social media for knowledge sharing and internal branding.”

Conducted once every two years, Sapient’s Silent Auction is a community fundraiser program that aims to bring together approximately 7000 employees in a fun and engaging way. At the event, people offer services or products at a price which is ‘silently’ bid by others in the organization. Services can range from ‘table tennis coaching for an individual for one month’ to ‘conducting a fun event for a team of 20’. The highest bidder wins the service or product.

A Loud Auction run by senior leaders follows this program where the company bids for the most creative services or products. The funds collected from the winning bids are donated to charities Sapient engages with, including services that support education, underprivileged children, and those that build capacity and infrastructure in the communities Sapient serves.”

Internal communicators can play a leading role in ensuring leadership transitions are communicated well and that employees get to know the story direct and upfront.

In India, the tenure of CEOs and MDs has come down to 1-3 years. Their role is often examined closely and every action scanned. Apart from employees and the board they also need to gain the confidence of analysts, stock markets and the sales teams. Those organizations expanding globally also need to consider keeping leadership transitions smooth to avoid unnecessary media attention. Communicating in a timely and suitable manner can allow stakeholders to focus on the way forward.”

Recognize cultural barriers that may hinder the flow of information. A good point to start learning: Hofstede’s theories on culture.

Travel to the new offices, understand the framework in which they operate and how the connect with one another and the organization. Take the time to make this happen – the networks you build will be invaluable.

Watch your language: while English is the de facto language of business, words, phrases and humor don’t always convey the same meaning in different countries. If it helps, you may want to create a simple guide for different business units. Remember to set guidelines for content, including social media.

Meet with your network regularly to discuss issues around communications, engagement and collaboration. Encourage the sharing of ideas and best practices.
Create an incentive to share ideas from different regions.”

The opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills beyond work, the ability to interact with multiple stakeholders and the power of making a tangible difference to society are some of the ways in which organizations position CSR initiatives at work.

While organizations strive in India to make their CSR programming more inclusive, realistic and aligns with business goals they also can do a lot more to articulate their purpose better, engage employees through communications and report progress and impact more. I believe the opportunities to do greater good exists. Organizations need to be more mindful of their investments, be transparent, build platforms for employees and stakeholders to engage more and conduct sustainable campaigns that deliver long term results.”

For engineering students and college graduates in India joining a recognized organisation is important for their career aspirations and identity. The culture of the organisation comes a close second in their criteria of a great place to work. With numerous organisations seeking to hire from among the talented pool of professionals it can become a challenge to get a preferred slot on campus and then get the attention a brand needs.”