Webinar Transcript Part 2: Internal Communications Top Challenges Bring New Opportunities for Action
Paul Barton, ABC, Principal Consultant of Paul Barton Communications, and Kris Pugsley, Senior Global Communications Manager for ON Semiconductor, recently co-presented a webinar hosted by Emma Hanley of Poppulo (formerly Newsweaver). The following is Part 2 of a two-part partial transcript of that webinar. Here are links to Part 1, the recorded webinar with audio and slides (sign-in required), the results of the polls taken during the webinar, and the PowerPoint slides.
Paul: Another area that is clearly growing for most internal communication departments is area video. Again this is this being driven by a lot of outside influences when you think 10 years ago most cell phones didn’t even have the ability to take pictures let alone the ability to do video and access the internet with all these wonderful apps. Now we include a site like Facebook that has added video capabilities, including live. We are influenced by Snap Chat and YouTube, so not only is video growing but the expectation that video and the authenticity of it has changed, too. Tell us if video in your internal communication group is growing. It looks like it is growing for the most part. We do have a few more not at all that I had in my survey of my block subscribers and clients, but clearly, it is still an area of growth.
I think the keys to this are again authenticity, the old days of corporate videos that were very slickly produced where we used to estimate $1,000 a minute to produce a video which to work out pretty well. A 10-minute video usually cost you around $10,000, even hiring outside talent to be the spokespeople and so forth, those are resonating with employees anymore so authenticity- you get pretty good video just on an iPhone. What was considered short 10 years ago is too long now and it’s just getting shorter and shorter. And then embedding those videos as part of other news feeds rather than separate standalones is the direction that we are headed.
What was considered short 10 years ago is too long now and it’s just getting shorter and shorter.
I did a couple of case studies on my blog last year. One was with a company called First Solar that is global, and they’re using video as almost their only channel. In the old days we thought of video as a support to our other communication channels, but increasingly for many companies, video is becoming the primary channel. I also did a case study with Honeywell Aerospace, that not only uses video but they have actually set up an internal TV station style set where they have employee communications professionals serving as news anchors and actually broadcast via video to their global employees. They also supplement that with manager hard copy tool kits knowing that not everybody can access the video, but it’s clearly become a much bigger piece of their business then it has been in the past. The challenge, of course, is that some leadership in many organizations still has difficulty accepting the new reality that the authenticity of video content is vastly more important than the cinematic quality and I think that’s holding companies back, but the pressures from the outside will most likely drive and change that over the next few years.
Kris: As I mentioned throughout the presentation, I think there are various communication channels that you can infiltrate and obviously it depends on what the employees are reading and what they’re interested in viewing. With ON Semiconductor being an international and global company, a lot of our employees are going to rely on email alone. Many of the things that we do through graphic design or even through our videos has resonated more with them than a standard employee message. Our visual designer also tracks the type things that he is working on and as you can see he receives a tremendous amount of requests and has a high project completion rate every quarter.
Some of the types of videos that we show are ones that are community relations focused or where our end products are impacting the community which is where you see JDRF at the top right. At the bottom right, you see a video snapshot of our president and CEO in a Santa hat. A few years ago we had employees request a holiday video from our executive and sometimes with the power of asking and hearing ‘yes,’ you can go a lot further than you originally thought. In some of our communication channels can, we asked our CEO if he would wear a Santa hat and he said yes. We shot a video in his office wishing our employees happy holidays and thanking them for all of their efforts. This was one of our most highly viewed videos by our employee base because it shows such a different perspective of our CEO and our leadership team then they’re used to seeing. I challenge everyone to take a look at their internal brand and perhaps put your leadership team to be seen in a more personal way, I think it resonates a lot more with the employee base.
I challenge everyone to take a look at their internal brand and perhaps put your leadership team to be seen in a more personal way, I think it resonates a lot more with the employee base.
Paul: Another area we really wanted to look at again looking back at those things that cause us to change one of those was technology. We now have unprecedented ways of looking at employee communication and one of those ways is employee social networking. Not too long ago those were things you had to buy as add-ons but now if you have Microsoft, SharePoint comes along with it as a free version so companies are having to make the decision on whether to deploy that technology or not. So I’m interested to see if your companies are, and if your result turns out a little bit different from my poll again of my block subscribers and clients but clearly not entirely different, it looks like some folks are doing it or at least I considering it somewhat leading the way there. My survey clearly showed growth in that area, but I think it shows that not everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon. This would be things like Yammer and Salesforce chatter. My suspicion is that many organizational leaders aren’t seeing the value of enterprise social networks and therefore are a little reluctant to invest their time or money into them. I also believe that many internal communicators aren’t seeing their role as being a facilitator. We’re used to being the controller of messaging and the people who disseminate those messages and then try to measure all of that and I think we’re a little reluctant to jump on this bandwagon as well.
My suspicion is that many organizational leaders aren’t seeing the value of enterprise social networks and therefore are a little reluctant to invest their time or money into them.
My belief is as mobile communication technologies continue to grow that the demands of work will eventually force organizations to embrace employee social networks as a way to collaborate. Many of the people entering the workforce that’s how they’re used to communicating in their personal lives and they see no reason why they shouldn’t continue communicating in such a fashion when they join the workforce. I think the concept is something that’s really needed for most organizations to really tap into a vast sea of knowledge that we have among the employees that we don’t always even understand that that exists and that’s when I kind of call freeway communications – it’s the peer to peer aspect, we don’t always know what we don’t know and we don’t always know who in the company has answers or knowledge in these types of systems can open that up, but I think there’s still a lot of reluctance of people wasting time on personal things like Facebook and so forth and there’s some reluctance to jump on the bandwagon of employee social networks.
Mobile apps are clearly becoming a bigger piece of our lives and therefore a great opportunity for employee communicators to consider using that as a channel. I wrote an article recently featuring some data from a company called Devfacto that has an employee app called Sparrow and they did a rather interesting survey that shows that even desktop users within their client companies reported that they preferred to receive information on a mobile device. And at first, that seems like how could this be, these are desktop employees. But once you stop and think about your own personal behaviors, you most likely have a desktop or a laptop but you will still find yourself checking your phone. There are times during the day when you’re standing in line or when you’re having some sort of downtime, when you’re in that big line at Starbucks or wherever we are checking our phones so not surprisingly people want to do that to check their employee communication news as well. So I think this is an area of growth potential.
And last but not least are virtual teams. I’ve been surprised by how many of my clients, including as an example one that is a large global real estate company which is a very traditional conservative industry. Yet their entire corporate communications is virtual – they do not have offices. I think that is a trend we are going to see increasing more particularly as mobile increases in numbers. So those are some opportunities that I don’t think we’re quite there yet but I think we’re headed there. With that, I think we will be open to take your questions.
Questions and Answers
Paul: OK I’ll take the first one – asking if leadership doesn’t always see the value of internal social networks, what would I say to them to change their mind. Sometimes it takes time, but I think I think a great deal of this has to do with the way we market and position products. I remember years ago when I was at PetSmart and SharePoint included a feature called “MySites” which was simply like a personal profile. This was at a time when the outside application MySpace was still somewhat popular and when people saw MySites, they thought it sounded like “MySpace” and they envision people posting pictures of their dogs and food and wasting great amounts of time when they could be working on things more productive. First off, I thought the pictures of food and dogs might help draw the company more together on a personal level and I thought that might be valuable but with that aside, it was business and we were told to basically disable that feature of SharePoint. It came out a few months later and we reintroduced it under a different name. Instead of MySites, we referred to it in the shared workspace and we talked about the tools and how that would be used for employee collaboration and it sailed right through. So I think sometimes it has to do with how we position things because there are some assumptions about how these tools will be used.
Emma: Kris your communication structure and the data you report on is impressive. How many people are on your team and what are their roles?
Kris: Thanks Emma for that question. We have a total staff that reports directly to our group and three people in our corporate PR group. Our corporate PR manager manages our corporate press releases and media outreach and then her team also manages our global social media platform and our corporate events. We have a couple large company events every year with a lot of our major customers and so that’s how that group is structured. We do have someone in our group who reports directly into our organization in Eastern Europe and she’s the one I was sharing with you that has created an interactive portal within SharePoint in the Czech Republic. We have a senior visual designer and then we have an internal communications team of three that does our messaging SharePoint, answers our employee questions and helps prepare our executives with their site or departmental leadership team meetings.
The other types of things that we do as we mentioned at the beginning are assisting with special projects and crisis communication and things like mergers and acquisitions and then we also partner with our investor relations team with our quarterly earnings releases. So that’s the Direct team, but we also build a network of what I call liaisons around the world and most of those folks are within the HR group. Our group reports directly to the sales and marketing organization. So the folks that we rely on an HR are actually working to communicate at the site level at many of our locations. We have around 160 locations around the world so they’ve helped us with deploying company strategy and messaging at the site level and then also providing us with feedback from the different sites. So hopefully that answers the question on the setup and how our team works as a global organization.
Emma: Are employees reading through the entire 20-page newsletter? How do you determine which articles they see first and which are place further in the newsletter like department and policy changes etc.
Kris: That’s a great question. We don’t typically put a lot about policy changes in the newsletter unless they have a global impact, but we do share things in our newsletter based on the different types of community relations or employee events that are happening. When it comes to policy or any other news material in the newsletter, we like to share things that are more global that are more applicable to the entire employee population. When it comes to reading the entire newsletter on the digital version, we can tell clicks and views on certain pages where they have hyperlinks and the interactivity that way but obviously, with the print copies, it’s hard to assess who is reading what. We do deploy a survey with every single edition that is sent out and employees do comment on what they’re reading and if they wish the newsletter was shortened or not so similar to the poll results we share here and use for the group with this online webinar and we never get comments that say shorten the newsletter – it’s either just right or add more pages. So we don’t plan on adding any more pages in the interim, but we do know that the way that we structured it is based on our employee feedback so that we’re sharing news in a way that is resonating the bus with them.
Emma: How are the page hits/open rate numbers received by the executive team? And how are they connected to your business metrics?
Kris: When it comes to communication, I wish we had a one-size-fits-all for every single one of our organizations but we try to tailor our analytics and metrics based on the department so obviously some departments, especially those that are support organizations, are going to rely on different types of metrics. Let me give you an example. With HR, the open rates of benefits emails or comprehension of new policies that are coming out from the HR law department is going to have a different attach on the business then a business unit that was trying to deploy something similar. On the flipside of that, we do want our employees to understand our company’s strategy, so we do try to measure clickthroughs or opens on various channels or how the messages are resonating based on what the projects are and what the needs are of that specific business. So it’s not the same all across the board for the entire company. When I do meet with our executive leadership team, I meet with most of them on a monthly basis. I’ll ask for a wrap-up or summary of some of the projects they’ve been doing and what they’ve been working on, but we also use what other departments are doing kind of as guidance for some of our other teams. As I mentioned, what we do and what organization isn’t going to necessarily go together so it’s really important for us to take a look at the different types of channels we’ve used in the past and where that employee base is gravitating towards the most and then we try to tailor those messages in those areas.
Emma: Paul I’ll direct the next one towards you. On our Enterprise platform, employees look for immediate clear resolution rather than sharing ideas and collaborating. Is there any way to change this?
Paul: Well I think that one of the ways I really foster collaboration is within your enterprise social network if you create groups of work employees. For instance, the internal communication folks who may be scattered around the world in a global company can have their own separate groups to collaborate and I think you’ll find that people are more conversational when they’re talking to peers who do the same job as they do to begin with and then once they become more accustomed to that hopefully that spreads throughout the rest. But it’s a new toy and we’re learning how to use it.
Emma: The social enterprise workspace has become more robust. Is there a trend move away from intranets or do you see them continuing to have separate important purposes?
Paul: I think that that’s a very interesting question and I think clearly the trend is away from internets, but I think companies again are very reluctant to make that shift. We’ve invested a lot of money and time and effort into producing intranets, but I clearly believe just as it is in the external world that apps are bigger as we see in our own personal use, you most likely use the apps on your phone far more than you access static what pages do your browser on your phone. I think as we become more mobile that apps will become a bigger piece but like a lot of technological trends, companies have a large investment and things and are sometimes a little reluctant to jump on those bandwagons and make those shifts as quickly as the outside world.
Emma: I’ll open the next question to both of you, which metric do senior leaders most value?
Kris: Paul I don’t know if you would agree with this statement, but my belief is that people like to see engagement, they want to know what employees are looking at, but they also want to understand their comprehension or retention of that material. I know a lot of companies that have done small working sessions and they’ll do visits at different sites and get a small group of perhaps 10 employees together to provide feedback and it’s also a way to take a look at whether or not your messaging is understandable and relatable by that population.
Paul: I wholeheartedly agree that engagement is the metric that seems to turn them on the most, it’s kind of a mixed blessing. I think a lot of communicators are tired hearing the word because it’s difficult sometimes to define and we argue about what the definition is and if you can’t decide on the definition then it becomes really hard to measure it. At the same time, I think we’re fortunate that leaders are seeing engagement as something that so important because it involves us and that escalates our importance and our ability to help drive engagement and drive the needle in a positive direction. So I think ultimately that’s a good thing for us.
Kris: Yeah and I’m sure that many organizations Paul has worked with, as we’ve discussed this in the past together, have used things like engagement surveys. For our company, this is done every two years, typically after the engagement survey has been launched by the HR team. Our group helps communicate out the results at our quarterly meetings, so we use the channels as a tool to communicate those results and then we typically will take the two top areas identified by employees and actually create teams around the world that help create results. The folks within these teams are comprised of every grade level within the company and every type of job function to get a good mix and make sure we are tailoring our suggestions based on our employee population around the world.
Emma: Video is preferred by our staff but management is insisting on PowerPoint because it’s faster than a video production. What other communication vehicles can you recommend that occur within a fast turnaround?
Kris: With video, it depends on whether or not you have a dedicated resource. If you don’t have a dedicated video production team on staff or someone within the company that you can work with, one thing that I know a lot of companies are doing now is smart phone video. This has become so much better than it used to be and companies are encouraging employees to submit videos that way. It depends on what type of project you’re working on, but most of our videos we can get done pretty quickly. They’re not extensive – we don’t do one hour or 30 minute videos, they’re typically 2 to 5 minutes and I think that’s where that sweet spot of engagement with employees will happen if you give them that quick message but also show them who they are communicating with, especially if your workforce isn’t all in the same location or if you have a very large workforce. Paul, I don’t know if you have any other suggestions for folks outside of doing quick videos on smart phones or perhaps webinars or you can go through presentations and create more of a personal feel for the employee base.
Paul: I worked with a company that had employees from around the world submit short video clips and Kris I know you did a summer project. Do you want to share that story – I know that was pretty successful.
Kris: Yeah there are times where we will engage global work teams to send us clips from their smart phones but then our video editor can put those together. So again depending on what type of resources you have at your company and figuring out what’s the most effective use of those. I do think PowerPoint can be effective if you have a leadership team or folks that are visiting site so you’re able to deploy that, but I don’t think very many employees will flip through a presentation on their own if there isn’t a narration behind it or if there’s not a video associated with it, but then again that’s something I’ve seen with our workforce and I don’t know if Paul had seen anything differently.
Paul: You know in the case of First Solar, she’s basically just had to learn to be a video editor and she’s able to turn those pretty quickly now. It’s just become a new job skill that she’s realized she has to take on and I think many employee communication professionals are going to have to learn to be quick and dirty video editors in the very near future. There are easy tools I can help you do that and again authenticity is the coin of the realm right now so they don’t have to be perfect.
Emma: Kris, how do you record time spent on projects?
Kris: The way we structure recording time on projects, I actually stole this idea from when I worked in law firms prior to when I worked in the communications field. Some of the ways that we track time is a spreadsheet where we pick specific areas. So we’ll pick HR or projects that we’re working on for HR, and each of the teams submit a weekly status update to me which I called a dashboard. It basically provides a status on each of the projects so and estimates the time they are spending on each of those projects and we receive those reports on a weekly basis. From these reports, we pull them all into one spreadsheet where we can track over all times been on a project. So as I mentioned during a presentation this has been very helpful for acquisitions so I know what type of bandwidth is needed for the team.
You can also take a look at it if you need to hire someone temporarily or use a contractor for a specific project because then you’re able to show over the course of time what is needed to accomplish a project in a specific way. With our last acquisition, we were thinking about the fact that they liked the type of results that came from the group so both internal and external communications and social media and that gives the management team an estimate of what is needed for a future acquisition based on those analytics. I started a foundation and kept up with that every single week. Part of it’s the due diligence of yourself and your staff and I see the dashboards as well can provide a specific amount of time that’s needed. We also know for example how long it takes to produce a video for a certain length of time or someone has a large graphic request, so that’s why we track our time and projects the way that we do so we can clearly articulate the resources needed in a future project or if we have any resource constraints, which I’m sure we all have, so it’s very helpful to do that with data.
Emma: Kris I’m really interested in hearing more about your newsletter and how you’ve gotten employees around the world to generate content. Can you share more information on that?
Kris: When I first joined the communications team moving over from the law department, I was trying to figure out creative ways to get our global workforce engaged and understanding that they found value in the newsletter and it wasn’t just corporate or US-based was one of the challenges. We’ve been talking about challenges for the last hour and how we handled that was I started introducing myself to key leaders and teams that each of our sites and depending on which region and site. We meet with these folks – either once a week, every other week or once a month. Through these meetings, we’ve built a rapport with these different groups to help us use their channels locally to communicate with employees if we don’t have someone directly reporting into our group. With the newsletter, a lot of sites started asking why they weren’t being highlighted and we have clear parameters set an article links, what we’re looking for pictures depends on what it is. Some people just send a photo and caption, others will write stories no longer than 300 to 400 words and then we build our own pipeline for our group to see what type of articles are coming in every month. So typically we’re backlogged 2 to 3 months and sides have noticed others pushing articles to us. On their own, they’ve created competition with very little effort needed on our part to create a competition after they started seeing other sites publicizing their information. Now I will get requests in frequently either for our employees’ questions box or to one of us directly whether or not they can publish their article that month or what they need to do to submit a couple photos from their site. So it’s become a really great friendly competition between the different locations, and garters some high engagement. I know there’s a question on here surrounding whether I can provide a copy of the newsletter and I’m happy to do that.
Emma: For the past three years, we’ve been trying to increase the use of social networking. Any ideas on how to drive more adoption?
Kris: I’m reading this question online and smiling because I think it’s a struggle that many of us have with social networking on internal platforms. We’ve tried a couple different ones prior to our group’s expansion, so we haven’t tried anything new in the last few years. But it’s been a struggle for a company as well because there are so many different ways of communicating with our employees and I know that was another question and here is, how do you not inundate people with information figuring out what’s needed by your employee base so it’s hard for me to say that yes it’ll work for all of you because I haven’t found a good way for it to work for our company personally.
Paul: I think that groups are key where people can actually collaborate who may not be at the same place at the same time and use all the functionality that you do on your personal sites so you’re able to link to articles and you’re able to embed photos and videos. The other key I think is real authenticity again not stock photos, not flip videos and not corporate speak but just people talking to people and sharing that type of information when you need it. One thing that I’ve seen that I worked on was an actual cookbook as a way to promote the Wellness program and to try to bring a global community together. Our little catchphrase was “bringing the company together one bite at a time.” I think really making the stuff more personal and more authentic and having people share and talk to each other as human beings is the real key to it.