AB Thinks  →  9th July 2018

The future of work

AB Thinks

Earlier this month AB hosted its fifth AB Thinks Live event in London. I facilitated the day and you can read my opening comments on the future of work here.

Speakers covered purpose, virtual reality, culture and technology and the panel delved into the skills internal communicators will need in the future.

There were lively debates from the panellists around the need for an internal communications strategy – and I think the blog from AB associate Helen Deverell nicely captures some of my own thinking: your strategy should fit on one page, evolve it as needed and be strategic with the tactical.

Find what is uniquely human

In a world of AI, how do we find purpose? Dr Alex Stubbings took us through her belief that there is a uniqueness to humans and this can’t be replaced by robots.

Following The Big Yak,I blogged about my belief that we are forgetting we are human and Alex opened her session stating that we have been encouraged to think like machines – and I don’t disagree. When it comes to technology Alex suggested that robots can’t be creative (intuition), drive compliance through touch (survey completion jumped from 55 per cent to 81 per cent with the touch of an arm) nor do they have ethics, morality and values – traits that drive us.

Democratise communication and bring it into the business operation

When it comes to a change in leadership there is often an opportunity for a change in environment. For Rooftop Housing this included a desire to change the technology that its teams were using day to day. John Rockley spoke about how the team went about implementing Workplace by Facebook. He blogged about it before the event but on the day, two things John said stayed with me:

  • Workplace by Facebook has democratised communication streams and allows people to have conversations entirely relevant to them.
  • Rooftop Housing’s repairs team use Workplace as part of the business process (with photos of the items that need repair) alongside systems already in place.

To embrace virtual reality, we need to be immersive and interactive

Nadine Oehmcke, from game developer nDreams, gave us an insight into the virtual reality industry. She explored trends (there’s been a 117 per cent growth in headset sales in the past 12 months), what to expect in the future with the rise of augmented reality and VR together, a look at headsets that don’t require a PC or phone, and the need to create completely immersive experiences. It reaffirmed my belief that our use of VR in the workplace is so much more than training or looking round an office.

Confidence, pace and strategy

The panel of experts in digital, employer brand, corporate communication and internal communication gave their views on the skills we need for the future.
The big takeaways for me were:

  • Confidence to manage all aspects of communication(internal and external) and to have strategic conversations with senior leaders.
  • Get better at working at pace.The world of external communication can often be driven by deadlines from the media whereas internal communicators can often have the luxury or time to craft the message to ‘perfection’.
  • Don’t get lost down the planning rabbit hole. It’s easy to create documents to plan then spend hours writing a strategy, only to leave it in a drawer. Strategy and planning is needed, but the document should be live in your department not locked away.

You can read my full blog about the panel session here 

The Future of Content

AB’s MD Katie Macaulay ended the afternoon with her predictions on the future of content. There were six:

  • Employees do not owe us their attention, we have to earn it and that will get harder
  • Internal communicators will find ever more sophisticated ways of analysing audiences
  • Internal communication will move from interruption to permission – content that is anticipated, relevant and personal
  • The line between internal and external will become increasingly blurred
  • Content will become more of a craft, less of a commodity
  • Journalistic skills like having a nose for a good story, being able interview people, interrogate facts, and create brilliant, beautiful prose will regain their importance.

Katie has shared her full transcript here and it really is worth a read – the analogy to Clapham Junction really resonated with me and I have long been a fan of fewer, bigger, better – enjoy!

The next AB Thinks Live event takes place in December – to find out more get in touch with the team @abthinks on Twitter or email events@abcomm.co.uk