On the 19-20th October, the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC) threw its very first in-person festival, boasting leading-edge thinkers, insightful and practical sessions and break out spaces including a dedicated wellbeing garden.
Seeing as this was one of the first opportunities we’ve had as a community of IC professionals to gather and share ideas since the outbreak of COVID-19, there was something rather special in the air.
Across the two days, we shared insights, learnings, and a spirit of togetherness.
Here are 5 of our most important takeaways from a fantastic festival:
#1 Organisations must rediscover their North Star, post-Covid
At the first keynote session, Priya Lakhani OBE – serial entrepreneur and force of nature across government, education and technology – spoke of the essential need for companies to rediscover their North Star, if it’s deviated as a result of the pandemic. Having a purpose that leaders are aligned with, and that runs deep within your organisation’s DNA, is key to mobilising ‘leaders less followed’. Anyone in your team can be a leader, from junior employees to the most influential colleagues. Nurture them and mobilise them behind your North Star.
#2 IC plays a vital role in cultivating a more diverse and inclusive workforce
The employee lifecycle is littered with opportunities to foster diversity and inclusion. Each moment is a chance to make more inclusive decisions, but the work must start with us. How inclusive are we as comms professionals? Investing in training on unconscious bias can help teams make more informed, intentional decisions when communicating across the business. This ranges from the content we’re sharing to the platforms we share it on. Make sure your messages are authentic, diverse and representative, and leverage the tools you have – like Office 365’s accessibility features – to ensure content is suitable for as many audiences as possible.
#3 Creativity is essential for communicators – we must take time to reconnect with our spark
Good ideas come from anywhere, because creativity is all about making connections between one thing and another. In his workshop Alan Oram, Director at Alive!, asked the audience to get stuck in with some practical tasks designed to bring out our creative spark. Our team was asked to use a horseshoe as the basis of a mental wellness campaign. We landed upon the symbolism of a horseshoe as a strong foundation unique to every horse. The takeaway? Anything can get those creative juices going – we just need to be looking for connections.
#4 Experience is everything
In today’s world, employee experience (EX) must be given as much attention as customer experience (CX). According to Mike Sharples and Nicholas Wardle, authors of Monetising the Employee Experience, “an effective EX strategy will not only drive improvements in productivity and reduce employee turnover but is also fundamental to delivering an outstanding CX”. As IC professionals, we must be assertive in driving for investment in the employee experience. We all know happy colleagues make happy customers, but the ROI is tough to measure. Using Mike and Nicholas’ insight, internal comms teams can build the business case for an enhanced employee experience.
#5 We are storytellers, first and foremost
Storytelling is by far the most effective way of communicating with our colleagues, according to Anthony (Tas) Tazgal’s session, ‘Leading through storytelling’. While it’s tempting to rely on the data to make our point, overloading people with information is the wrong approach. Humans are far more driven by emotion, social and cultural factors than numbers and facts. That’s where storytelling comes in. Stories are universal – they help us make sense of the world around us. They connect us to each other, and to the wider world in a way that statistics and numbers just can’t. Tell a compelling story to your colleagues, build it into the fabric of your organisation, and watch employees drive it forward.
If you’d like an expert assessment of your IC activities, the AB IC Health Check is a personalised report that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of IC in your organisation. Go to abcomm.co.uk/health.