25 November 2010

ROI or RODP of internal communications

Last week I attended a meeting about communications, and one of the topics was accountability. How can we, as communication professionals show, or better still, prove our added value?

Tough question when we apply it to internal communications. What is the ROI (Return On Investment) of internal communications? Five minutes time saved per employee with our cool intranet page that allows people to find crucial information, times 24,000 employees is an x amount of FTEs saved per year? Nice try, often used, but complete nonsense, as these 5 minutes will be used by every individual to do something else. We will not fire one of them as a result of time won on a huge bunch of added up 5 minutes.

OK, we can just show the numbers: 200 news items, 1 million page views per month on our intranet, 12 magazines, 4 town hall meetings, 10 presentations for the Board. Those are just the bare facts, and it is at least something to show.

I would like to introduce a new standard for measurement: the RODP, or Return On Damage Prevented. Think what would have happened if your employees would have been informed by the press, not by their own organization. What damage would be done if nobody was informed about our latest rebranding and logo standards? I am sure there are loads of examples that we could use to create our own RODP scale. I’d love to hear your examples.

16 November 2010

If your meetings are compelling, useful and effective, don’t read this blog post

In years and years of practice in internal communications I have met so many people who hate meetings. Just look at the faces of most people in a larger meeting. Or listen to people complaining about the fact that their day is fully planned with meetings, keeping them from ‘work’.

Meetings often don’t start on time and don’t end on time. Very often it is unclear what is decided. Action points are not followed up. The meeting is dominated by just a few people (the loudest, not the smartest). We often tend to start discussions without a clue of what the goal of the agenda point is, and there are quite a few meetings that don’t have an agenda at all.

I have asked this question time and time again, to employees in a wide variety of businesses: “How much time do you spend in meetings?” The average number, for office workers, is 30%. Then, when I ask them if they received any training in meeting skills, the usual answer is: none at all; in college, nor at work.

So, we spend 30% of our time doing something that we were never trained to do. This fact never fails to amaze me, and I think it is a hidden problem in many organizations. In my opinion, we internal communicators should tackle this problem. For years now I have been conducting meeting workshops, and people love them. I teach them how to prepare a meeting, how to ensure that everybody can contribute, techniques to keep time and  techniques to ensure that the meeting members stick to the goal of the agendapoint. I add some background about group dynamics and I stress the importance of following up on what was decided. Basic stuff, but everybody loves it.

For me, in my role as manager internal communications, this is probably one of the best contributions I can make to improve efficiency in our organization. People often tell me that they saved hours and hours of time as a result of the workshop.

This could be a Dutch problem, though, as we are consensus seekers by nature. I am curious about that: is it? Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and experiences with me.

08 November 2010

Can you find the experts in your organization?

The people finder functionality (we call it who-is-who) is the best visited part of our intranet. If you need a phone number, an email address or a job title it works just fine. But what if I would like to find an expert in, let’s say, project management. Sure, there is the advanced search (who uses advances search nowadays?), but I would rely on the fact that the project management experts filled in their full profile (who does that?). Well, with any luck they might have, seven years ago, when they joined the company, but I bet you that they either didn’t bother at all, or –in any case- never updated their profile (who updates their profile on the intranet?).

Behold, the biggest problems with Who-is-Who, People Finder, Company Yellow Pages. They do the job for us, but only partly.

A few weeks ago I had two very inspiring meetings with people who both addressed this issue in a very interesting way. My first meeting was with a representative of Yammer, the internal microblogging company that is slowly conquering the corporate world. She outlined the plans for expansion to me, and she stressed that Yammer will keep the conversation between people as the core of their business model.

The second meeting was with representatives of a Dutch start-up called GuruScan. They developed a very interesting tool to find experts. Their tool ensures that profiles are updated, cleverly harnessing the strength of social networks. One example: others can designate me as an expert in internal communications. Now, it is one thing if I make that claim, but it is so much more meaningful if others say I am. Check it out, part of their website is in English. So far this has been the best effort I have ever seen in tracking people’s expertise within a company. Interestingly enough the basic idea was once developed in the company I work for: Océ, but that is not the reason I mention it here, merely a strange coincidence.

I am convinced that the key to dealing with information overload is in social media. People will connect to other people to get to the information they need. Yammer and Guruscan have a very interesting philosophy about it, and I think that as internal communicators we need to facilitate the connection between people in our organizations. I challenge you: can you find the experts in your organization? If you do, please let me know how, and don’t hesitate to share your stories on Yammer, Socialcast, Guruscan, or any other tool that can help me find experts!