Love, joy and culture

loveI had the pleasure of attending a Culturevist ‘Stripped’ meet up this week.
It was a small gathering of culturevists from start-ups who got together to talk about culture. Matt facilitated the session well, letting us get to know each other – then making time for us to talk about failures and learning. Some themes quickly emerged for us to dive into and discuss in smaller groups; performance management, internal comms, manager development and defining culture.

One inspiring takeaway for me was hearing a bunch of different job titles with new language – joy, happiness, success, chatter, people. A far cry from the traditional role titles of internal comms, engagement, and even culture that seem dated and rooted in concepts that have changed drastically, yet most companies still chase.

Connecting with people at work who are responsible for joy, or happiness, or success surely creates a different, more human, interaction and forces us to think and act in new ways. There’s a clever moment in the film ‘Arrival‘ (highly recommended) which suggests that language creates the connections and in itself, freed of our usual sense of its linear form, might be more important than anyone thought. I believe that’s true for business.

Continue talking about engagement (a strategic concept) and people will be confused.
Start talking about joy (a human feeling) and perhaps that’ll be the outcome.



Air traffic control

ImageOne of the key things that I often hear that’s missing or not working well for employee communications is planning and scheduling of messages across channels. 

I’m still surprised how many large organisations struggle to coordinate messaging across their channels – and particularly line up external and internal messages. Employees are increasingly looking to external channels for company news, and social channels for opinion, ideas and to connect with others. This means its vital to make sure you’re informing employees of important news early, or at the same, as it’s released outside. 

And within your organisation, employee comms teams must, yes must, meet regularly to review plans and schedule messaging. Some years back, I chaired a cross-functional team that met each month to we collectively agreed on what promotions and messages would reach employees, and when. Not only did this smooth out the planning and avoided ‘crashes’ and conflicts – it also allowed promotional activity to get the priority it deserved. When there’s a big spend on a campaign, the last thing you want is to compete in your own business with another group running a campaign targeted at the same customers. 

When I said crash I referred to the air crash than can happen from poor planning. It’s mostly called ‘air traffic control’ and means landing messages like planes – with sight, scheduled and planned. Here’s a couple of articles:

A great article about setting up an editorial calendar



Communication Futurist: apply within

ImageOn Linked In today, I read a request for a Communications Futurist for a speaking engagement. Two thoughts quickly ran across my brain:

  1. 1. That’s a new and different skills descriptor
  2. 2. Am I that? Could I be that? Should I put up my hand to speak?

What is a futurist?

It mostly refers to; authors, consultants, organisational leaders and others who engage in interdisciplinary and systems thinking to advise private and public organisations on such matters as diverse global trends, plausible scenarios, emerging market opportunities and risk management.

I’m in the field of communications, or employee engagement, or whichever name describes my work of better connecting people to strategy and their employer. I talk a lot about creating belonging at work.

Alejandro Formanchuk perfectly summed up the connection between employee communications and futurism when he said that organisations asking for help to strengthen, or modernise their internal communications and design 2.0 strategies really just want the ‘technological tools’ i.e. blogs, forums, twitter, wikis. Go and explore Alejandro’s approach – it’s right on target.  I suspect this may be borne from Facebook-thinking i.e. all our employees are being social and connecting on Facebook – if we provided the technology, they could do something like that at work. You know, like, collaboration and commenting.

That thinking though, risks ignoring some very important basics as we chase the next shiny, new app. A lot of the client work I do points to organisations with a consistent lack of effective leadership, variable communication capability and disengaged employees with a strong appetite to know more and have a better work experience.

But here’s the thing, futurism is not about the technology. It’s about culture.

Collaboration, cooperation, dialogue, community, feedback, recognition are things your people do. Communications don’t do those things, nor do digital channels. Your culture enables those things to happen. Yet, many of my clients are asking for digital channels to do those things. Switch the mindset to enabling people to do those things first, then consider what they’ll need. If you do that, then you’ll start asking questions of your culture first – how does it enable?

No amount of blog comments or forums will replicate an effective manager who meets with her team, listens, involves and responds.

 And another thing that irks me somewhat – if you’re talking about ‘modern’ technology’, or ‘new channels’ of communications or ‘we need to look into digital channels’ you’re too late. It’s not the future, it’s happening today. And there isn’t a virtual world, it’s all real.

That means my thinking has changed with some browsing and head-space – originally I thought I should write, or speak about the technology available and how internal communications needs to catch up and embrace it all. They do. But in reflection, we need to think of technology enabling the connections that matter. Internal comms and engagement professionals need to stay ahead of how people choose to connect, and at the same time be grounded in what really needs to happen.

I’m as convinced as ever that we crave better face-to-face and leaders at work, not more tools. I like one of Alejandro’s quotes “when we work we focus on the people, not the tools”.


An unexpected baby idea

ImageWe all know that employees connect with their employer on both a transactional level and an emotional level. (I’m deliberately not saying engage with their employer – that’s another post)

It’s not enough to help them know your strategy, goals, their objectives and their tasks – they need inspiration in the form or vision, values and even more so, a proper human emotional connection. With each other and the purpose of your business. I read an insightful article about four unexpected ways to be more influential – with customers and online. In times when we’re all online in and outside work, it makes sense to start thinking about engaging employees differently. Visually and emotionally. 

I love the baby research. I’m going to put a baby pic in my wallet soon.

Want some extra free years? Read on…


Come on people, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. We’re being duped. The incidence of food fraud is up 60%. I’m convinced we’ll look back on the last 2 decades with shame just as we do on the decades where people were told (sorry, marketed at)  to believe smoking was cool, glamourous and OK for your health. We now know the deception and, while people still smoke, it’s slowly becoming socially unacceptable because it kills. I believe food fraud is the next ‘smoking kills’ but its going to take some time. Why wait, be informed and maybe add some years to your life.

  • It started with the horse meat scandal. Millions of products taken off shelves as the European food chain is under scrutiny.
  • Then there was the Ikea almond cake issue. At the same time Kraft cream cheese products were destroyed along with 2.7 tons of Nestle chocolate bars which were found to contain too much of the sweetener sorbitol, which in large amounts, can cause bowel problems. Oh and sorbitol is the sweetener in gum, most sweets and toothpaste.
  • Next up is the study in the US that found that 59% of tuna sold is not actually tuna. Fish mislabelling – who knew? We knew tuna was scarce, so how come it’s everywhere in sushi the world over? Mmmm.
  • New York’s Mayor tried to ban super size soda drinks. Read this good article about how soda drinks, or liquid candy, is making Americans obese.
  • The latest news is that survey of nearly 700 popular meals served in celebrity chef and High Street restaurants in the UK found 347 (half) of the  meals had more than 2.4g of salt per portion, which would earn them a red traffic light label for salt content.
  • Add in the growing awareness of the bad health effects from processed sugar, and we’re starting to build a pretty dire picture of our health and how we are being duped.

Still not convinced? Head over to Hungry for Change and watch the documentary. If you care enough to watch it all and still don’t care enough to make a single change to what you put in your mouth, then more fool you.

Newsflash: it’s not about you



“I didn’t know we had opened a store there” “When did we change the mobile phone policy?” “I wish I’d known about that management role in Spain, I would have applied”

A big slice of life for internal communicators is to  deliver communications that are relevant to employees. Connecting employees to the news that matters and affects them directly is an important element in helping them feel like they belong to an organisation and are connected to what’s going on.

While researching about the value of news on an intranet, I came across a good article that makes the case of relevancy very well. i wondered then, why internal communications professionals don’t look to the principles of strong intranet design for inspiration on how to engage employees. The article gives tips on:

  • why articles and news are not read (the second reason is revealing)
  • what intranet users actually want
  • why all news is not equal
  • 8 good business reasons for having an intranet (surprise, surprise, these are the same things that enable, and therefore engage, employees)
  • and how to increase the value of news and measure it. There’s a good blog post about relevancy – I like ‘think in thirds‘ particularly. How are you presenting your communications?

You should have guessed that these tips are all about knowing what the user needs, then delivering that. They’re not about pushing the things the business wants people to know. Perhaps it’s time to stop the strategy messages and focus on the things that enable your people to work smarter.

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Who wants a fridge magnet?


Recently, I sat in a meeting where a client was convinced that their employees would better engage with the purpose of the business by receiving a fridge magnet with a pithy purpose statement. Helping employees understand purpose is a whole other post, but it was the naievity of this idea that slapped me back into the reality that some large organisations have no idea about what their employees are interested in. Even worse is the assumption that they are interested in what the leaders (or business) wants to say to them. This is good article about the ‘give them goodies’ thinking.

One way to engage around company purpose is to involve employees in articulating what the purpose is – and what it means to them. We all often share our employers story, or purpose, at a BBQ, dinner party or at the pub, so as communicators, lets start by helping people talk about who they work for. I’m not talking about the elevator speech either…it’s time to ditch that concept. Help people have conversations, arm them with facts, bust myths about your industry and find the things that excites people are that they’re interested in. Then let them run.


Bristol Art MRI learned today: about paracosms

paracosm is an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Seth Godin has inspired and educated me, once again, to stretch my brain.

Here’s the kicker: “The most effective, powerful way to envision the future is to envision it, all of it, including a future that doesn’t include your sacred cows. Only then can you try it on for size, imagine what the forces at work might be and then work to either prevent (or even better, improve on) that future and your role in it.”

The insightful Mr.Wilson

IMG_7671One of the pioneers of the dance music scene I love is Greg Wilson. This year it’s 10 years since he re-entered the DJ scene and he continues to bring insight, rare tracks, brilliant re-edits and soul to dance music. In this article he describes himself as a’bridge builder’. Read on… to find out what that means.