Internal Communications predictions for 2014

10 January, 2014 - 09:30
What’s in store for the internal communications world in 2014? You are about to find it out from leading experts in the field. See if you agree with what they say.

Last year, saw the rise of the sharing economy and the consolidation of the networked organisation. Companies started to adopt enterprise social networking with stronger business cases, and more awareness around the value of social business for employee engagement. Social networks and new apps became very popular; Vines, Instagram, Pinterest, to name just a few confirmed the popularity of visual, fast digital communication to convey content.

How about 2014? As we did at the beginning of 2013, we caught up with different experts and thought leaders in the internal communications, employee engagement and social business areas to learn what they think we should expect from the year ahead.

Marie Wallace, Analytics Strategist at IBM Social Business Division, blogger at All Things Analytics:

"As an analytics strategist, it won't be surprising that my predictions are all analytics related, touching on 3 topics; privacy, the enterprise, and share of voice.

There is no doubt that 2013 has been a really bad year for privacy, however the upside is that this will unquestionably put it front and center in 2014. This is going to impact everything we do on the social web, not least of all the analytics that we apply. Governments and privacy rights organizations will play a critical role in forcing industry to get serious about privacy and the ethics of capturing and analyzing personal or social information. I am hoping that the key social networking and technology providers will take an active and positive role in driving the policies, methodologies, standards, and technologies to protect privacy and apply good ethics in their treatment of personal data. The future of the social web requires a close partnership between all concerned parties in order to navigate the ethical challenges and successfully come out the other side.

In 2014 the enterprise is going to get a lot more of the social analytics action with a focus on how human-centric insights about the business (engagement, influence, expertise, share of voice, opinion, sentiment, ...) can be used to drive better decision-making. Connecting expertise across organizations and using this to deliver better products and services to customers is going to be a major focus area. Also integrating social with business process in order to deliver more measurable ROI will be a priority.

Customers and employees will continue to see an increase in their share of voice and the impact of their opinions across the business and beyond. This will force marketers and communications specialists to rethink how they harness the crowd in order to most effectively distribute messages internally and externally. Social measurement will continue to evolve as a mechanism to help effectively harness the crowd and this will become increasingly important inside the enterprise with new social KPIs (such as engagement, eminence, expertise, share of voice, influence) being introduced to help employers and employees be more effective.

Social as a concept is definitely becoming more mature, and with that will come greater pressure to show business value aligned with that investment. It will be an exciting and at times bumpy road for 2014."


Mike Grafham, Yammer Customer Success Lead:

"2013 was another huge year for Enterprise Social and we're still seeing a dramatic uptick in both the number of organisations starting to use Yammer and the level to which Enterprise Social tools are getting embedded into the business.

I asked our network what we thought the top trends for internal communicators were going to be for 2014, and got this great set of trends back from across various parts of our organization within 24 hours (so thanks to Ashley, Shobha, Lisa, Sanjay, Steph, Anne, Diane and others):

Responsiveness hits the top of the agenda: 2014 should be the year that we all accept that the way the world communicates has been fundamentally changed. People can self-organize far faster than ever, meaning all news (good and bad) now travels a few orders of magnitude faster. IC pros will need to focus on how to help their companies communicate in a way that allows them to be responsive to this changed environment. There are movements like www.theresponsiveorg.com that have appeared to help companies on this journey.

IC goes from creation to curation: It is now easier than ever for people in organisations to tell their own stories, and the role of the IC pro is now evolving to one where they embrace this ability and act as 'curator-in-chief' to shine a light on the highlights for a larger audience, be they the best stories or the most useful nuggets of knowledge. We have seen some great examples recently of IC pros using Enterprise Social tools for this purpose to great effect. The next evolution will be when IC pros move from being 'curator in chief' to teaching others how to apply this skill to their daily work.

Authenticity is the expectation: Greater connectedness creates a demand among staff for authenticity in IC (if it isn't there, people now have a great channel to call you on it). Fortunately, it also provides the channel for allowing those authentic stories to be told. Expect internal comms to contain more stories about real people doing real things in the organization. This demand for authenticity applies to leaders as well, which may not come naturally, so providing this coaching is likely to be a key focus for IC pros in 2014.

Enterprise Social gains critical mass: Organisations that invested in using Enterprise Social to change how they work are now starting to reap the benefits and gain competitive advantage. The rate at which success stories are appearing is increasing (covered by simply-communicate and also listed at www.allthingsic.com/list amongst others), and we think 2014 will be the year that many other companies make the investment before they get left behind.

Everyone is a knowledge worker: Whether you work behind a desk or in a shop, train station or as an electrician, you are an expert and that expertise can be useful for others. It's increasingly the job of IC pros to help find ways that these traditionally decentralised and non-vocal employees can have a voice and contribute to how work gets done 'back at base'.

Social goes seamless: We'll stop thinking about 'Social' as a separate platform and more just part of the way communications happens. This will be aided by the tighter integration of the tools into everything we use on the day to day. We're already starting to see that through Yammer and SharePoint working more closely together and being able to have conversations seamlessly between devices regardless of where you are, but 2014 will be where the joins become far less visible."


Kevin Ruck, Co-founder The PR Academy:

Another year of stagnation ahead…unless we create a stronger voice

"In 2013, Heather Yaxley and I researched the history of internal communication. This revealed how long it has taken for internal communication to evolve and move on from the shadow of “industrial editing”.

Progress has been, at times, very slow. So, in making predictions for 2014 in the UK, I have been very cautious:

  • Employee engagement will remain low at around 30% 
  • Employee satisfaction with being kept well informed about important organisational issues will increase marginally to 55%
  • Employee ratings of managers seeking their views will increase marginally to 55%
  • Employee ratings of managers responding to suggestions will increase marginally to 50%
  • The number of employees who have access to internal social media platform will increase significantly from 26% to 40%
  • The number of employees who believe that senior managers use their internal social media platform to understand their views will remain at 9%

Predictions as flat as these require some reflection. In the past 30 years I have seen Human Resources (HR) and Marketing have become established as core strategic organisational functions. And I wonder why internal communication has not evolved in the same way.

Part of the issue is the lack of a strong, unified, voice for internal communication. We are represented by a disparate range of organisations: Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC), CIPR Inside, IABC (UK Chapter), and the Engage for Success movement. We are also served by other entities such as simply-communicate and Melcrum and other smaller networking groups, operating primarily in London.

All do great work in their own way. However, none of the organisations that represent internal communication has ever conducted a study that identifies the number of internal communication practitioners that exist in the UK and the contribution made to the success of organisations and the economy.

We do know that there are around 62,000 PR practitioners in the UK and around 60% of in-house PR practitioners have internal communication included in their role. On these figures, around 37,000 PR people in the UK spend a good deal of time on internal communication.

However, this PRCA/PR Week survey probably under-represents internal communication. I was once in a team of 20 internal communication practitioners at BT and I was the only person who was a member of any of the organisations highlighted above. This suggests that there are many “homeless” internal communication practitioners who feel no affiliation with any professional institute.

My conservative estimate of the number of internal communication practitioners in the UK is therefore around 50,000. They may have an IC or a PR job title, an HR job title, or even an operational job title. Some may do other external communication related tasks too. However, internal communication is often not perceived in the same light as HR or Marketing. The vast majority of internal communication practitioners tell me that their senior manager team does not treat internal communication that seriously. There are some notable exceptions and the status of internal communication is rising, but far too slowly.

For internal communication to become better valued, it requires a more joined-up voice from representative groups, more research, and stronger associations with academia including teaching within MBAs and Business Studies degrees. Above all, it needs to adopt a more assertive approach to owning the enablers of organisational employee engagement which are keeping employees informed about important organisational issues and giving them a voice that is treated seriously.

As a next step, how about the organisations mentioned above getting together in 2014 to do some definitive research that identifies the value of internal communication to organisations and the UK economy?"


Mark Morrell, Intranet Pioneer:

"Organisations increasingly face the challenge of how to strengthen employee engagement while their workforce increasingly work from remote locations or while mobile. There is a great opportunity for internal communications to take a leading role with developing a plan that addresses these challenges with greater use of communications channels.

What is different now from previous years is the range of tools and know-how which can be used to successfully have engaged and mobile employees. The key to this will be the rich experience employees will have online as they are able to read communications when they need to, where they need to, and be able to share, feedback, rate the value of the messages with other people who share a similar interest.

An example of this could be combining collaboration tools with traditional online communication channels will help provide that rich experience so a key company announcement video, CEO blog post and detailed background information available is strengthened by a discussion forum managed by internal comms to continue the conversation with quick polls on the awareness and understanding of key messages.

It is how it is implemented and how it is managed within a wider governance framework will help decide how successful it will be. Good luck with whatever you do in 2014!


Stephen Welch, President of IABC UK:

"2013 was indeed a funny year, which makes it difficult to predict trends for 2014.

This time last year, we were assured that the recession was on its way out and that some of the shackles inside companies would be loosened. Reviewing last year’s predictions is always fun – and I fully expect someone to do it to me in 12 months – but when we look back at last year’s column, we see a lot of sunny optimism:

“2013 will be the year when internal communications breaks free….”

“I predict many ‘flexi fortnight’ organisations will invest heavily in making the digital workplace permanent in 2013”

"I'm looking for 2013 as the year corporate video itself goes TOTALLY VIRAL”

"Our IC predictions for 2013 are:… An increase in people wanting to know and understand the role of gamification …”

“The popularity of visual comms/infographics will continue to grow in 2013.”

Now look, I know I am only one person but the only one of these for which I have personally seen definitive clear evidence is the last – infographics. And indeed, their popularity has grown. Everyone is using them – and the number of slapdash, superficial infographics has soared as inexpert musicians jump on the bandwagon. So the good musicians/designers get lost in a cacophony of crap. As for the other predictions, I would personally have loved it if they had come true, but as I said at the beginning, 2013 was a funny year. Many businesses, like many communicators, started the year with sunny optimism only for to be doused in a continuous cold shower of economic stagnation, putting organizations, leaders, and employees under pressure from customers, shareholders, the media and other stakeholders. So what does mean for 2014?

Can we reboot our optimism and hope again for viral videos, flexi-fortnights, and growing gamification? Perhaps.

But my predictions for 2014 are a bit different:

  1. There will be continued pressure on organizations to deliver results. Whether this is in the Public Sector where government budgets are under pressure, or in the Private where shareholders are becoming increasingly demanding, employees will continue to be asked to do more with less. Yes, there are a lot of commercial positives to all the advances in internal communications (productivity gains, increased business performance, etc) but until IC professionals can act as true business leaders, rather than functional experts, they will continue to be undervalued. All this talk of curation and new technology sounds like the corporate librarian or the IT Crowd speaking. IC professionals deserve better. I hope that in 2014 they can step out of the library or the metaphorical basement of Reynholm Industries and really show their worth.  
  2. But this will not be through even more ROI analysis. Functional departments in organizations (such as HR, Internal Comms, Finance, Risk, etc) have a role to play in the successful execution of strategy. But only if they go about it in the right way and are able to be a real business partner, rather than seen as a cost centre. This is not by trying to justify their existence (when was the last time you saw a study on ROI to justify the existence of the Finance department?), but rather in talking business and understanding how they can help senior leaders achieve their business objectives. But I see too many IC people ignorant of the fundamentals of their own business to make a real impact. In 2014 I hope to see IC professionals strengthening their business nous because they see that is how to be heard and grow their careers (certainly I’ve recently been doing a lot of counselling / training work in this area).
  3. Finally, I hope that 2014 is the year that leaders recognise the value of IC. Not the value of the department, but the value of their own IC with their teams and colleagues. This might mean a changing role of IC professionals, from delivery-expert to coach, from doer to advisor, and from technical expert to business expert, so that they can properly and sagely advice senior leaders. This, though, will require a shift in thinking so that IC professionals get less excited about technical solutions and their own success, and more excited about making a real impact, ad helping others to be successful. I hope to meet and work with more and more people who are making this transition happen. Of course I could be totally wrong, hopelessly off-piste and too downbeat. Perhaps viral videos, flexi-fortnights and growing gamification are the way of the future. But my experience is that, while these things are sexy and nice – and we’d all like to have them – the reality of shareholder, customer and/or taxpayer demands is that there will be a continued focus on business results until we can definitely say the recession is over and – to paraphrase the song – money’s no longer too tight to mention."

Stephen Welch is President of IABC UK. This column represents his personal views and not those of IABC.


Ian Buckingham, internal communications champion, senior partner at various IComms consultancies and author of Brand Engagement (2007) and Brand Champions (2011):

Internal Comms – BIG in 2014:

Having worked with leaders across sectors during a couple of major economic slumps now, the ones that emerge with most credit work hard to focus their stakeholders on three phases:

  1. STAY ing in the game
  2. PLAY ing the game
  3. and finally LEAD ing the game.

In short, most will have initially been focusing their people on doing all they can just to survive, usually by cutting costs wherever possible and ensuring that all noses are to the grindstone of the day job. They will be aware how attritional this can be and they won’t have liked watching most of their employees shuffle down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But they will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that they’re still in the game when many competitors and peers have fallen. And when the time is right, they will hope to switch gears and eventually look to out pace the competition.

This downturn has been longer and deeper than most. Yet as the economic indicators start to show some delicate signs of recovery, moving from a survival mindset to one which embraces the changes required to meet the challenges that come with improved trading conditions isn’t easy, especially with the fatigued and disengaged workforce that all the statistics suggest most organisations now have.

It’s a little known fact that more businesses go bust during the upturn phase of a recession than during its darkest days. This is because they fail to adapt to the cultural and behavioural challenges and can’t facilitate the very different way of thinking and working required to take advantage. The skills required to engender innovation and inspire fresh thinking are very different to those of the hard-nosed, axe-wielding downsizer, as many leaders have found to their cost. And internal communicators working alongside the leadership team throughout often find themselves on the change management front line given they have such a potentially influential role to play in shaping the ongoing change narrative. As a consequence, they need to nimbly change gears themselves or risk being seen as part of the problem.

With this in mind, I suggest that there will be three key focal points for internal communicators as the gradual upturn we’ve witnessed thus far gathers pace in 2014:

Behaviours:

Internal communication should, of course, be about much more than message management. Customers, whether internal or external, care much more about promises delivered than weasel words. This will never be more true than on the upside of a downturn during which so many have had their confidence undermined. Internal Communication professionals who believe in the increasingly abused term “engagement” must finally recognise that it’s less about channels and more about behaviour and that in order to influence the internal culture/behavioural agenda they must form close partnerships with the HR community who, along with the CEO’s office, are and will doubtless remain the function most responsible for shaping and managing the behavioural change drive. This should embrace leadership development, especially the relationship between organisation values and leadership processes like performance management, reward and recognition. I predict that in 2014, the best Internal Communicators will be working increasingly closely with their HR colleagues to create sustainable, results-focused engagement strategies in partnership, not ploughing a lone comms planning furrow obsessed with broadcasts, media and message.

Interim Management:

This has clearly been a substantial growth area during the downturn as organisations have sought to offload fixed costs from beleaguered balance sheets. While we’re all doubtless aware of the considerable advantages that interim employees can bring in the form of fresh external perspectives and an alleged objectivity with regard to internal politics (at least in theory), it’s seldom the sign of a healthy business when business critical internal functions are managed by essentially external resources. For me, the flexibility of this arrangement is out-weighed by the loyalty, dedication and conviction which is offered by someone with “skin in the game”. I’m also a believer in the notion that employees at all levels are at their most effective 2 years into a role and am not the only one to view appointments of less than a year with suspicion. Given the need to stimulate fresh, inspired thinking and create a more opportunistic and positive mindset amongst often long-suffering employee populations, I’m already aware of a shift from the use of interim IC resources largely employed to generate copy to employing more experienced Internal Communicators who have the skills to mentor, coach and form genuine partnerships with their internal stakeholders while bringing the complex insights that can only come from having experienced people-centred change previously. I expect this shift to quality and full time roles to gather pace in 2014.

Gimmicks:

The downturn has coincided with the development of rafts of new media from platforms through to apps, communities through to gamification and infographics. All have merit in one form or another, most have been a tantalising addition to the way we interact with each other inside and outside of the office, and most have served to democratise access to information to such an extent that quantity threatens to swamp quality and we risk losing sight of the proverbial wood for the trees. However, there has been an overriding misunderstanding, perpetuated by the purveyors and producers of these tools that any one of them could/should be a communication elixir. Yet none are, nor will they ever be. The beauty, as ever, will be in the blend. To coin a well-used line “it ain’t what you do but the way that you do it”! The best internal communication professionals will develop appropriate strategies where the tools help to deliver the business outcomes rather than the business becoming the slave to a delivery mechanism that like many before it (like email broadcasts) will be rendered obsolete if the messages aren’t reinforced through appropriate leadership behaviour. While I expect the development and adoption of social media and other platforms to continue apace in the new year, I expect to see a significant rise in the perceived importance of face-to-face communication between senior leaders and their employees and particularly first line managers and their reports. This has always been and will always be the surest way to generate sustainable engagement, moving the conversation from surviving to thriving and, despite the additional channels, I’ve seen nothing to suggest that there’s a better way."


Marc Wright, Publisher of simply-communicate

So far the genesis of employee social networks (ESNs) have come about owing to the enthusiasm of early adopters - whether they be engineers, communicators or corporate revolutionaries.  But in 2014 I predict we will see the demand starting to come instead from the senior ranks of large organisations - from the executive suite as CEOs, Finance and Operations Directors develop a sudden rush of top-down enthusiasm for these tools that encourage collaboration and the holy grail of business agility.

Why?  Not because a new breed of CEOs are going to suddenly see the light and become advocates of corporate democracy.  No - it will come from fear as they see their own business models disintermediated by the power of the web.  Imagine the scene at Blockbusters when they saw - too late - the arrival of Netflix.  Or the Board of Woolworths as Amazon started to eat their lunch, and their DVD sales.  They were too blinkered or just plain wrong-headed to recognise soon enough the threat to their business model and they sank without trace at a rate so alarming that it is keeping other corporate behemoths awake at night.

As Deloitte’s Shift Index shows, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years today, and it's heading towards 5 years if your executive suite has ostrich-like tendencies.

Those companies (2,000+ staff) that employ the majority of internal communicators are the least agile and most at risk.  The power of patents is short lived, the ownership of raw materials and other cartels is more volatile, and the barriers to entry by new competitors (especially those web-based) are falling faster than the needles of your discarded Xmas tree. So what should large organisations do? 

Well you don't have to be Malcolm Gladwell to realise that big is no longer beautiful in this world of "Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants".  Instead of celebrating their size, large companies need to start releasing their smallness; their granularity; their tiny teams of innovative workers who will come up with the product, idea, service or process that will make life easier for their customers.  And how are they going to break down the stifling bureaucracy, the poisonous silos and the hegemony of hierarchy?  Through the same technology that is threatening these slow-moving leviathans in the first place - the very web where hyperlinks subvert hierarchies

In 2014 CEOs will stop come calling you about how social networks waste time in the office and start demanding how an ESN can save time, improve productivity and foster innovation.  Be ready for when that call comes; what I will predict is that your answers will starkly reveal you as part of the solution or the problem.

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Tim Johns - Change Agency

Undeterred by the fact that many of my predictions for last year are yet to materialise, here are some thoughts for the year ahead.

Firstly, I think that we’ll start to see a drop-off in the idea of “engagement” as a concept and, secondly, in the employee surveys that purport to measure it. Not only are both concerned with the output rather than the outcome, but they are also one-dimensional tools for understanding how people and organisations work.  Time to say goodbye.

My prediction is that we shall start to see a new big theme for internal communications: well-being. Frankly, there is no point in trying to communicate, engage, tell stories, or interest people in strategy and values if they are too tired and stressed out to care. Look around you. Everywhere you look you’ll see people who are working too hard and under huge pressure. In many businesses, re-organisations have seen people go but their work stay, meaning fewer people doing more work. Doing more with less may sound good but often it means increasing the burden on individuals.

Many people would say that their work lives have been transformed by communications technology; but not all would agree that it has improved their lot. Technology was meant to liberate humans from drudgery but, for many, the always-on, 24hr, instant response nature of modern communications has become a hugely stressful burden. High workloads and constant communications create real pressure, and smart phones and tablets mean that wherever you go, your desk goes with you (and with the added expectation that people will work through colds and flu and answer emails on holiday which means there is rarely any time to recover).

But is this a job for internal communications? Well, IT can’t/won’t do it and HR… (well, the less said the better). Internal communications needs to step up to the plate. It needs to start finding ways to help people communicate more effectively, to facilitate and encourage collaboration, and to share and learn from each other. It needs to design channels that allow information and knowledge to flow freely, unhindered by hierarchy or organisational design. Internal communications needs to become a liberating force that helps people to work smarter and more effectively rather than merely being a channel for constantly bombarding people with more and more information.

Mental health and well-being will be the big themes for 2014, and internal communications can choose to take a lead.

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The IC Crowd, Rachel Miller, Jenni Wheller, Dana Leeson

  

As the new year gets underway we always try and get a crystal ball out to tell us what it holds, but this year we think it’s more about utilising trends than predictions. Every organisation is different and needs different channels, messages and support from an internal communications team, but there will be some trends that start to surface and for us we see a strong focus around storytelling, transparency, mobile and those blurred lines between internal and external communications. 

We think this year will see more storytelling than ever before as leaders go to their internal comms teams to craft better communication; taking the strategy and the business history to tell its story to the teams. With a renewed sense of transparency and openness following too many examples of where social media has caught organisations out, we expect to see this trend open doors that have always been hard to open. 

With the blurred lines continuing to be a topic for discussion and mobile communication coming to the fore in 2013 there has to be a need to look into this more inside your organisation in 2014. It might not be right for you, and storytelling might not yet be on the agenda but we think they are worth a look as you start to put your plans in place for the year.

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Euan Semple, Director, euansemple.com and author, "Organisations Don't Tweet, People Do":

A year can feel like forever or the blink of an eye. Some changes happens faster than we expect some slower. The speed of adoption of mobile devices and the consumerisation of business technology is increasing all the time. This continues to call for change in our organisations and is putting communications, IT and HR departments under pressure to keep up. They remain slow to change and few organisations are even aware of the scale of changes they are likely to face. In this twin track world what sort of changes are we likely to see in the next twelve months?

Digital. There is still a tendency to see technology as an add on to work rather than fundamental. The use of the word Digital allows us to place things we are unfamiliar with, or uncomfortable with, at one remove. "Oh yes, we have a digital department" or "I don't do digital". This year it will be more apparent to more people that this isn't some new fangled thing called digital - it is life. Technology is a key part of how we get things done.

Maturing social media. The failure of recent grandstanding events by British Gas Ryanair and JP Morgan Stanley on Twitter signal the tail end of a marketing dominance of social media. Trying to use what is essentially a two way, conversational, medium to do "celebrity" broadcast events doesn't work. More organisations will realise this and start to learn to have real conversations with real people. The same is true of how we communicate inside businesses. More managers will wake up to the opportunity that social tools inside the firewall afford to have real ongoing conversations with staff.

App culture. It used to be that your best computer and fastest network were at work but this hasn't been true for years. Our phones and tablets are better designed, and better equipped, than our out of date, slow machines at work. But not only that, the focus of app development these days is on mobile platforms. The best productivity apps are on consumer platforms, the best communications apps are on mobile platforms, and increasingly our data is more easily accessed on mobile platforms. I recently heard of two financial firms whose boards of directors were using Whatsapp to communicate with each other. Who says this is a bottom up revolution!

The Quantified Self. There will be more interest in measuring our activities in order to improve performance. This ability has grown quickly in our personal lives. We can already track our weight, our food consumption, our heart rate, and our movements. As the lines between personal and work blur, this ability will impact our lives at work. Wearable computing will increase this impact. The possibilities are many. Tracking the current location of someone we want to talk to in a large dispersed organisation. Knowing who we talked to when. Seeing the amount of time we spent tied to our desk or "walking the talk."

But there is a big brother flip side to the quantified self. Who owns the data and who is willing to share what with whom. If we have systems that make us individually and collectively smarter we will use them. If organisations only ever let the data from their systems be seen by small groups of managers monitoring everyone else then we sill soon stop playing. How many organisations have spent millions on HR systems and yet we all find it easier to find each other on Linkedin!

Individual Behaviours. Individuals will adapt to this new world before organisations do. We will find ways to cope with technology advance and learn how to make it work for us. We can't afford to stand back and say "Oh I don't do digital". We also need to look out for our careers and make our own networks work for us. To deal with increasingly volatile work environments we can take nothing for granted. In the face of social tools that help information and ideas spread at lightning speed we need to examine our roles as managers and leaders. This will be the year when more people realise this and work towards adapting to the change.

Management Approaches. As I write this piece online retailer Zappos have announced that they are doing away with management and job titles. They are instead implementing a series of overlapping small groups dubbed a holacracy (inspired by the Greek "holon," which means something that is at once a whole and a part). Zappos have been the poster child of social businesses since they began. They use social tools inside and out with very public blogging by their senior team and lots of online conversations with customers. They are adapting to the challenges of managing a highly connected and autonomous workforce. Who knows whether they will succeed or not with this latest move but they are surely a sign of things to come.

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Neville Hobson, Business Communicator, Blogger and Podcaster

Re-Defining Today's Communicator

"Less than two weeks into 2014, and much of the talk about what’s hot and what’s not for communicators is about technology.

Of the many, many tech topics that appear on trends and predictions lists, there are three that I believe warrant our attention in early 2014 above all others:

1. Mobile: especially usage shifts and trends such as BYOD, the mobile cloud, and the ”appification” of the workplace and business generally.

2. Collaborative economy: access to and/or use of an asset – a product or a service – when it’s needed, rather than the actual ownership of that asset; and the rise of peer communities to facilitate the sharing of and access to products and services. This shift has big implications for businesses, both in how they sell products and services and in how employees work.

3. Data analytics: gaining actionable insight from raw data needs a broad understanding of tools and methods to process that data, quickly and effectively. It also means a greater need to filter information, knowing what to look for and what to ignore. The need for expert knowledge is paramount, so the role of data analyst will grow. Yet not everything needs deep or detailed analytics, meaning the communicator needs “DIY skills.”

For communicators, the focus at the very least is understanding the role of technologies and behaviour shifts like these in the organisational communication setting, internally and externally. It’s not about being expert in use – although proficiency is clearly a good thing – nor being the go-to guy or gal for everyone with a question.

It’s about understanding…

• the relevance and context of such technologies and behaviours in the workplace;

• what communicators need to do; and

• how, where and when.

Understanding digital and how to use social media have been a huge focus for communicators during the past few years. As knowledge of social networks, tools and channels have become mainstream – in society and in the workplace – and use more universal, the pressure for communicators to “embrace social” has grown to be almost overwhelming.

But today’s communicator must do much more than tweet and post likes to her timeline or pics to Instagram. Today’s communicator – at whatever level he or she occupies in the organisation – must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives.

Here’s what you need to have as your foundation for 2014:

1. Deep understanding of organisations and how they function.

2. Understanding of your own organisation culture and structure.

3. Knowing who the major influencers and key subject-matter experts are within the organisation.

4. An impeccable understanding of your organisation’s business vision and mission.

5. A clear view on the measurable benefits that can arise from being a ‘social business.’

Your foundation is critical to enabling you to fulfil the important role you must play in the rapidly-changing landscape that embraces organisation change, behavioural change and technology change; and where the three intersect, online and offline.

In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, it’s time for professional communicators to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients, showing evidence through confident knowledge and the context of its benefit – the ROI – to the organisation.

Let’s get cracking!

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Gloria Lombardi, Community Manager, Webmaster, Reporter of simply-communicate

"My predictions for 2014:

Managing networks of relationships. In 2014, mature social organisations will leave behind the old management practices based on rigid bureaucracy and top-down approach to communications. They won’t live in anarchy either. A new type of leadership and governance will focus on networks of relationships, rather than the tight control of individuals. This will revolutionise internal power dynamics. For example, I see line managers reinventing their jobs from supervisors of teams to connectors of nodes.

Understanding social media. More resources will be invested in training staff to understand how social media work in the specific context of the workplace.

Managing the reputation of the organisation will be a key priority in the agenda of communicators. If done well, one of the opportunities for them is to help colleagues become some of the organisation’s best advocates.

Strategic focus. Organisations will adopt a more strategic mind-set aligned to the achievement of business objectives. Many companies will start viewing enterprise social networks (ESN) as a tool to get real work done rather than as the ‘Facebook behind the firewall’.

Agility. Companies will invest in agile technology, processes and structures to foster collaboration and innovation. More content will move to the cloud, new workplace apps will be rolled out, and wearable devices will be on the horizon. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will not be a disrupting concept anymore; smartphones and tablets will be just one of your normal work companions.

With all the challenges and changes comes excitement. I hope that by the end of 2014 many organisations will have experimented with new form of communications to encourage meaningful conversations, achieve business goals and drive their company forward."

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