View from the Summit – day two
Day two of the Ragan/Simply Employee Communications Summit was another interesting one.
First up was Richard Dennison of BT who let us peek into the organisation’s social media kaleidoscope. BT is a great example of a business that’s experimenting with just about every social media tool available. They’ve got corporate and project wikis, podcasting, photo sharing, blogging, user generated news, RSS and Facebook-style social networking. They’ve got thousands of publishers and in excess of 60,000 people (out of a total population of 110,000) regularly access, comment and participate in intranet-based discussions. Not bad for an organisation that launched social media below the radar. For more, check out Richard’s blog.
Next came John Smythe of the Engage Group, talking about…. engagement. Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of John’s book, the Chief Engagement Officer, so I was looking forward to this session. And it didn’t disappoint. John is a good speaker and practices what he preaches – so there was a nice balance between tell/sell and discuss/debate.
He started off talking about the future of the workplace and how, by 2020, organisations will be a lot more democratic, fluid and flat – a little like Brazil’s Semco Group, W L Gore, Whole Foods, Waitrose and Google are today.
He then introduced his ‘four modes’ of communication/engagement – telling, selling, including and co-creating. We then broke into groups to discuss the challenges we all face in making co-creation a reality (of which there are quite a few!)
This session underlined that engagement is, first and foremost, a philosophy – a way of operating that leaders either ‘buy’ or don’t. Only then is it a set of processes, tools and activities. It also highlighted the fact that co-creation involves risk on both sides – leaders need to let go of control and employees need to step up to the plate and implicate themselves.
The final session I witnessed today was an enlightening look at employee communication inside eBay by its European IC chief, Tobias Huebscher. Now there’s an interesting organisation – one of the fastest growing businesses in history, a global household name, a business with multiple brands (Skype, PayPal, etc) and an average employee age of just 29/30.
Much of the discussion focused on the eBay’s intranet, iWeb, and some of the social media tools that form the backbone of it. There were echoes of the other sessions (IBM, Microsoft) but everything was done in a slightly more quirky/funky way. Like other best of breed intranets, iWeb includes the must-haves (podcasting, blogging, video and RSS) and it is successful in stimulating a conversation – employee comments and challenges accompany every news story, for instance.
All in all, this year’s Summit provided considerable food for thought. Social media was a strong theme and is, clearly, something internal communicators can no longer ignore. My only grumble is that it’s a shame so many case studies came from the big technology companies – whilst it’s great to see what can be achieved in an organisation that lives and breathes technology, it would be nice to have heard about successes from organisations that aren’t packed with techies.
I’ve tried to give you a little taste of the event here, but I recommend you check out the Simply website next week for a full review, including video clips of the sessions. You might also want to check out Krishna De’s live event blog.