Employee CommsEmployee Comms

The inside track from Poppulo's Communicators Forum, London 2019


 — March 20th, 2019

The inside track from Poppulo's Communicators Forum, London 2019

Three years ago, one of the world’s biggest telecoms companies, Telefónica, acted on a radical reappraisal of their internal communications strategy - they committed themselves completely to ‘people-centred communications’.

The result has been extraordinary, by any standard. Today, 40% of their internal communications are generated by their huge global workforce - including company chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete, the force behind the people-centric approach.

The story of Telefónica’s fascinating comms journey was one of an Everest of highlights from Poppulo’s Communications Forum in London last Friday, where delegates got to hear top-class presentations from some of the best and most progressive in the business.

They included Yamil Salinas Martínez, Telefónica’s Global Internal Communications Manager; Joss Mathieson, founder of Change Oasis and former VP, Global Head of Internal Communications at GSK; Olga Klimanovich, Internal Communications Director, VEON; Nazia Nathu, Internal Communications Manager, BDO; Sarah Pelligrini, Group Head of Internal Communications, Brambles; Mike Pounsford, Founder of Couravel and former President of IABC; Sian Cargan, International Internal Communications Director, CDK Global; Russell Norton, IC Consulting Manager, Scarlett Abbott; and Poppulo Enterprise Account Executive, Eoin Cotter.

Employee-centric communications: The key to workplace engagement

Getting senior leadership buy-in for an internal comms strategy that gave such freedom and empowerment to employees at a 95-year-old company wasn’t a difficulty, as Yamil Salinas Martínez told the Forum. “I could say we were lucky as we have a chairman who persuaded us to do it! “

As an example of someone walking the walk and not just talking the talk, chairman José Maria Álvarez-Pallete certainly led the way in embracing the need for senior leaders to be visible and involved in modern workplace communications.

For example, last year Telefónica and Netflix announced their global partnership through a video shared on Twitter by Álvarez-Pallete and Netflix chief, Reed Hastings.

Novel internal comms techniques at Telefónica include senior execs getting their message out in fun style, doing Carpool Karaoke.

How did the company manage to get such enormous employee involvement in its comms?

“Our goal is to empower our people and let them communicate by themselves. So we build, grow and offer them platforms to communicate because we believe there is no one better than them to communicate what Telefónica does,” says Yamil.

He said that to achieve this requires a combination of tools, people and culture, and Poppulo has played a key role in the transformation.

Yamil told the Forum how Telefónica has successfully integrated Workplace by Facebook with Poppulo and how ‘email is still king’ in a company of 122,00 employees serving 350 million customers in 16 countries every day.

His company believed that it is people who give purpose to technology and not the other way around. Challenging IC and HR departments to redefine their values and fight for a collective purpose, he said:

“Throughout the years we’ve learned an important lesson: perhaps people just need to feel part of a purpose. Perhaps they only need to feel part of something good, of something BIG!”.

They’ve also learned something else: “If you encourage and make it easy for people to participate and be part of your communications process you will discover amazing talent in your organization.”

And on the flip side, where there isn’t a clear company purpose and there’s a less healthy communications environment: “the great will leave you, and the average will stay.”

Yamil took to the stage after a presentation by Eoin Cotter and the introduction to the terrific lineup by Poppulo VP of EMEA & APAC Sales, Andrew McNeile.

Using data and insights from Poppulo’s experience of working with 800+ customers - many of whom are the world’s best and most successful organizations - and the 10,000+ IC professionals who use the platform to engage over 14 million employees every day - Eoin addressed the topic of ‘Decoding best practice employee communications - how IC can drive alignment and engagement.

He focused particularly on the most desired quadrant of the IC Maturity Matrix, where the Strategic/Integrated role of IC aligns with Value-Add.

Also, Eoin wasn’t the only person at the Forum to stress the critical importance of the ‘R’ word in relation to employee communications - relevance - and the importance of asking questions of the comms themselves.

What’s the goal of the communication? Is it aligned to our business goals and strategic campaigns? Who is this relevant for and what does it mean for them? What’s the best channel to reach this employee group?

As someone said during the coffee break, “those questions should be to the front of every comms person’s mind every day they go to work!"

Of course, as Eoin stressed, the issue of being relevant presupposes knowledge of who your audiences are and what information they want or need to hear - which is where the power of Poppulo’s audience insights software comes into its own.

It was a point also picked up on by Joss Mathieson who had a neat summation of what comms professionals should keep top of mind: know your audience and what you can do to make their life easier.

What can you do, or what is this communication doing, to make life easier for the person receiving it? Sounds like a surefire route to employee engagement!

Joss delivered a wonderful presentation on ‘Taming the email monster...and other stories’ where he recalled how Poppulo had helped GSK reduce hundreds of newsletters into one - GSK News - for 198 audience groups among its 130,000 employees, but with individually targetted content for the different audiences. (For more about this see Chelsea Moore’s article here)

This achievement ticked the boxes of Alignment, Productivity, and Collaboration, meeting the requirements of a new CEO who wanted all content aligned to GSK’s strategic priorities. “We couldn’t have done it without Poppulo but what also impressed me about Poppulo was how it helped collaboration across the organization,” said Joss, who also focused on a topic discussed earlier: the importance of purpose and culture.

“To shape and sustain organizational culture, leaders need to connect with the emotional side of the workforce, creating a shared sense of purpose and motivation,” he said, quoting Deloitte’s ‘The culture or the Leader’.

The Forum also heard some wise words and tips from Olga Klimanovich. Here are some:

Tip 1: Define your company strategy

We’re the tail that wags the dog, and if there’s no strategy, chase the dog until you get one. Improvise!

Tip 2: Check in with senior leaders and senior stakeholders and ask questions – and listen

If necessary, offer help in articulating strategy better. Enlist their support. Don’t overpromise and manage expectations.

Tip 3: Check in again, this time with communication champions – formal groups, informal groups (or create them)

Tip 4: Check in again…. the power of the watercooler. All internal communicators should be located near the watercoolers/canteen/ coffee area! That’s where you hear the truth.

Tip 5: Numbers speak louder than opinions.

Measure and measure again and talk to your senior leaders. Her favorite Poppulo number sets: engagement by strategic theme; open/click rates benchmarking; engagement by department/geography; content popularity

Tip 6 Line managers have the power….of passing your messages on or blocking them!! (See Olga’s Poppulo guide: How to Help Line Managers Become Better Communicators)

Russell Norton drew on the marketing communications techniques of the Oscars to show how IC professionals can apply an Academy Awards Winning technique to content strategy.

And his audience breakdown criteria was memorable, segmenting them into Skimmers, Swimmers and Deep Divers.

Skimmers just want quick and easy to access information; Swimmers want a little more detail, but nothing that will slow them down, while Deep Divers want the full story and have all the time to explore it.

As Russell told the Forum, ”if you can break your content down along these lines you’re doing a good job. And once again on Friday, he mentioned the ‘R’ word: “Relevance is EVERYTHING!,” he said.

Seek relevance through:

  1. The length and complexity of your content
  2. Through the format of your content
  3. Through storytelling

And speaking of storytelling, Sian Cargan is evidently someone who would never need lessons in that particular department, as she demonstrated in her engaging CDK Global journey since 2014, when, despite having an international footprint the company had no internal communications function or strategy.

Unsurprisingly, there were low engagement scores around understanding of strategy, there were limited channels to deliver messages and measurement was non-existent.

Two years later Sian signed up Poppulo and since then has launched a weekly international newsletter with an audience satisfaction rating of 83% and a monthly international managers update newsletter with a satisfaction rating of 90%.

She also found measurement to be highly persuasive in influencing stakeholders - tell a story with your numbers, it can be very effective, she advises.

So happy has Sian been with the Poppulo platform that when she heard the company was going to build a mobile app for customers, she asked that CDK Global be on the beta program.

Employee feedback has been very positive - "easy to use & clean interface, loved the notifications, convenient way to receive messages, and all respondents said they would like to see the app implemented”.

So now Sian’s looking forward to the next stage of her journey when their Poppulo mobile app launches next month.

Like Sian, Nazia Nathu found answers to the questions that were exercising her at BDO in the old chestnut that is measurement. So much so that her mantra is, go back to basics and measure, measure, measure.

She deployed Poppulo to create communications with a great look and feel and to achieve high levels of targetting and personalization but she also needed answers to questions such as ‘How do we know if we are engaging people?

“Did we spark them to action? Did we facilitate behavioral change? Has understanding been increased? We used Poppulo to get answers to questions like these,” she said.

In his address on Designing and leading conversations for change, Mike Pounsford returned to a topic also addressed by Yamil and Joss earlier in the day: purpose.

“People need a sense of clarity and purpose about what it is we are trying to do, especially in times of disruption and uncertainty.”

He said he believed:

  • People sign up to the plans they help shape
  • Shared ownership of purpose, vision, and strategy is essential in fast-changing times
  • All perspectives are valuable - especially those that differ from our own
  • Listening is under-rated
  • Human interaction trumps digital interaction; combine them to achieve great conversations

And what gets in the way of effective communications?

  • Lack of clear purpose and plan
  • Forced contributions
  • Poor listening, checking
  • Filtering out difficult areas
  • Talking at, not talking with
  • Imposing process not valuing people

Well, hopefully, this has given some sense of what an interesting event the Poppulo London Forum 2019 was last week. It certainly covered a lot of ground between 8.30am and 3.30pm and the feedback’s been great.

Here’s to the next one!

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