AB Thinks  →  23rd September 2016

A look back at the Yak

In an unconference – or Open Space event – the conversation is king. Rehearsed presentations and rigid agendas give way to something more organic.

As attendees, we identify and follow subjects of interest down unmarked footpaths. We divide naturally into groups based on nothing more than the way a particular topic piques our curiosity.

So it was with this year‰’s third Big Yak organised by the IC Crowd – Jenni Field, Rachel Miller and Dana Leeson. Around 120 internal communicators willingly gave up their Saturday and participated with a passion rarely seen at traditional conferences.

The opportunity to co-create the event with like-minded colleagues clearly captured everyone‰’s imagination.

So where did the conversation lead? The day’s hot topics were as diverse as they were plentiful – measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) of communication, communicating through change, storytelling, how to call a halt to the all-staff engagement survey‰…to name but a few.

Yet I was intrigued to discover my conversations lead back to the same central question: How do we engage the unconnected?

This poor connection may be physical, mental or technological – although all too often, a mix of all three.

It would appear that despite the digitisation of our world and decades of employee engagement programmes, we are still grappling with workforces that are remote in mind and body.

What’s the solution? A few simple but significant ideas emerged.

Do not think of employees as a captive audience, eager or even interested in what we have to say. Instead, think of employees as consumers of our content.

Treat them as customers. Then borrow proven techniques from our friends in Marketing. Get to know them properly by developing customer personas; conducting research; measuring their satisfaction rates; and tailoring our offer to their differing needs and expectations.

As more and more employees do ‘tours of duty’ – jumping from one company to the next – so our communication must create lifelong brand advocates who feel employee communication just got personal.