According to Coral Communications' Justene Cowie, the future's so bright, we gotta wear (Google Glass) shades. But don't lose sight of the basics.
Do you remember the Jetsons? The 1960s family of the future: George, Elroy and the rest? I certainly do and remember discussing with my brother how amazing, but impossible, it would be to video phone someone. To actually see someone thousands of miles away whilst you were talking.
I mentioned this to my colleagues at Coral which lead us into a highly entertaining conversation about what the future, and not so distant future, might hold for internal communications.
Here’s what we came up with ….
It’s an average work day six years from now, you come into the office and your ‘Google Glass’ gives you directions to which desks are available based on what you’re working on and who you need to talk to. You start your day with a company-wide video conference with your CEO, posting questions from your genius phone (smart phones are so 2014!). Next you log into your weekly team meeting via a 3D simulated version of yourself which can mimic your actual movements and facial expressions, it’s as good as being there in person!
As you work, software tracks which apps you use for how long and at the end of the day your virtual manager produces a report with personalised suggestions on efficiency improvements. All real life middle managers have been phased over the last few years and the change has been terrific because the new ‘Personal Manager’ app is always available, always has the latest strategic company information and always knows just the right way to motivate and reward you based on your unique personality type.
Your body monitoring device encourages you to get up if you’ve been sitting around for too long doing things like playing the video games developed by your company to make important corporate information engaging or to encourage and reward innovative thinking.
At the end of a productive work day it doesn’t occur to you that you haven’t actually spoken face-to-face with another person, because it’s just an average day.
Could this future organisation really be only six years away?
Who knows? But certainly some of these future ‘predictions’ will be a reality in the workplace in the next couple of years. And undeniably the role digital communications plays in all aspects of our life will only continue to grow.
Ask yourself this – can you think of one work day recently where you did not communicate via a digital medium for the entire day? No emails, no checking the traffic conditions on your smart phone, no reading company information on the intranet, no tweets, blogs or apps? I can’t.
Whether or not we are one day virtually replaced by our own avatars in the workplace, today’s reality is that digital communication takes up a huge part of our working day, with some studies suggesting that we spend up to 30 per cent of our work day on emails alone. And as internal communicators, email is still the most frequently used tool in our communications tool kit with last year’s Coral iC survey telling us that all Internal Communicators use email more than any other channel.
Tomorrow’s reality is also that there is a serious digital skills shortage within organisations. Over 90 per cent of companies lack the digital skills they need and by 2015, 4.4 million IT jobs will be created to deal with advancements in data analytics, social media, mobile devices and cloud. Yet only a third of these jobs will be successfully filled due to the vastly inadequate supply of skills.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the speed and developments in this field of communications. I know I certainly did coming back into the workforce after a four year break with my young children. ESNs (Enterprise Social Networks), CEO blogs or groupware just weren’t a part of the internal communications mix and I found myself on a steep learning curve.
The potential of digital to drive compelling and collaborative internal communication, employee engagement and bottom-line results is immense. And whilst some argue that it is just another channel at our disposal, given the fact that digital communication has fundamentally changed the way we live and work, it cannot be viewed so simply.
Even for something as rapidly evolving and seemingly complicated as the wide world of digital communications, a back-to-basics approach can keep you focused and it’s this approach we use at Coral. Solid communications principles stand the test of time and technology and here are our four top tips for ensuring the role digital plays in your communications is right for your organisation.
Amazing ‘Google Glass’ technology is on our doorstep. Check it out if you haven’t heard of it yet.
Four back-to-basics tips for digital communications
1. Keep up with the trends, but don’t get on the bandwagon
You definitely need to educate yourself, be open-minded and embrace up-to-date technology. Invest time in reading blogs or attending seminars to keep your knowledge current. But don’t jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else seems to be, even at the insistence sometimes of senior management.
If we look specifically at ESNs, the Gartner Report of 2013 predicts that by 2016 ESNs will become the primary communication channels for noticing, deciding or acting on information relevant to work activities. However, between now and the end of 2015, a massive 80 per cent of ESNs will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and overemphasis on technology.
The one-size-fits-all approach is likely to lead to failure, you need to develop a roadmap to sequentially use new digital and social media tools appropriately for your business.
2. Little or no leader support = little or no chance of success
The top two drivers of the success or failure of digital initiatives are senior management interest and internal leadership.
The importance of leadership support cannot be understated in all aspects of internal communication, it’s a back-to-basics essential after all. And it’s especially true in trying to embed new initiatives. Is your CEO blog actually written by them? Is it authentic? Do they take the time to comment on online communities and recognise their value?
It is the role of internal communicators to identify internal thought leaders (including, but not limited to senior management) who are authentic and charismatic and help them develop communication and social media skills to ensure the organisation’s culture is developing into one supportive of digital experimentation and collaboration.
3. Empower employees
Companies need to adopt an approach that engages employees and pulls them in, rather than simply have technology pushed on them.
Ikea developed an employee-led assessment of current – and desired – digital workplace options which informed its decision making and ensured tools were invested in that the organisation was ready and willing to adopt.
When employees are engaged in any organisational decision, they feel empowered, involved and excited about being a part of it.
4. Don’t give digital all the glory
There is such a high degree of focus on digital communications that more traditional forms of communication can sometimes be delegated to second tier options.
In our endeavour to ensure our communications are as interactive and collaborative as possible, don’t forget that the most personalised, authentic and reassuring communication occurs during face-to-face communication. Not through a digital intermediary, regardless of how good it is.
There is a risk with the rise and rise of digital communication that it will be matched with a fall in face-to-face communication and as internal communicators we play the key role in ensuring the communication mix does not become unbalanced.
The final say
With the fast paced world of digital technology, it’s an exciting time to work in internal communications. Without question we must be keeping up with new trends and challenges digital communications has for us and planning for ways we can best communicate and collaborate with our employees both now and into the future.
But it’s also important to remember that fancy new digital channels themselves are not the first prize and that without careful consideration and application many new initiatives are destined to fail. First prize is getting back-to-basics and staying true to sound communication principles regardless of the channels we choose to use.
P.S. Did you know that the Jetsons also featured interactive televisions, tanning beds, robot vacuums and talking alarms clocks, all of which became realities. We might have to wait another 50 years for the flying cars though!
ABOUT JUSTENE COWIE
Justene completed her studies at the Queensland University of Technology and holds a Bachelor of Business and a Masters of Business majoring in Marketing and International Business. Justene’s 15 year career has been varied, starting off owning her own cafe, then moving into journalism, employee communications, external affairs, events and communications. After working for big corporates for over 7 years in Victoria, the UK and South Africa, Justene now enjoys providing the level of service that only a small, dedicated agency like Coral Communications can give.
ABOUT CORAL COMMUNICATIONS
Helping people in business thrive!
At Coral, we partner with people; likeminded professionals who are passionate about creating an environment where people can thrive. We help connect a business with its people. How do we do this? By restoring the balance to your communications processes; activating brands in the hearts and minds of people; holding the mirror on what matters most; and releasing creativity by navigating the path to innovation.