Why Mastering these Employee Experience Trends is Essential in 2018

January 20, 2018by Gregg Apirianpodcast

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Introducing ‘Inside Vignettes’–A New Podcast Dedicated to Elevating the Employee Experience

At Vignette, we are passionate about the employee experience (EX). Inside Vignettes is co-hosted by our Employee Experience experts Gregg Apirian, Managing Director, and Mike Lepis, Creative Director. We talk, debate, experiment, celebrate and often shake our heads at what some companies are doing—or more so not doing when shaping the employee experience. From current workplace trends to interviews with progressive Internal Communications and HR practitioners at the world’s top companies, we are going to be dissecting and discussing the challenges and opportunities of making your company a great place to work.

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Inside Vignettes is available on Apple iTunes,  Sticher, Podbean and other platforms and apps. You can also listen via the media player below.

Episode 1 Show notes: Employee Experience Trends 2018

In our opening podcast episode, Mike and Gregg revisit Employee Experience (EX) Trends with a new twist. Instead of jumping into the latest platform, technology, or engagement philosophy that ‘guarantees quick results,’ the two share insights on why many trends from last year are relevant. If you are looking ways to improve your EX practice or just explore ideas to improve your planning, tune in to our lively discussion where we’ll cover the following ‘trends’:

  1. Leadership Disruption
    If leaders are not driving a transformation of EX at your company you need to get them there. Why should they care? How should you approach them?
  2. Strategy
    If you have no plan, you are planning to fail. What are the ins and outs of an IC or EX Strategy? We partnered with our friends at Poppulo to co-create and publish of “The Ultimate Guide to Internal Communications Strategy” whitepaper: The Ultimate Guide to Internal Communications Strategy.
  3. Understanding Your Audience
    You are not the target market when it comes to employee communications. Get to know your audience, and you’ll deliver better quality communications and experiences.
  4. Employer Branding
    You may have an employer brand but is it being used the best of its ability? And if you don’t have one, how do you create, leverage, and govern an employer brand?
  5. Measurement
    Why is measuring so hard? Understand what, how, and why you should measure in your EX practice.
  6. Insights Driven Creative/Experiences
    Remove the guesswork, make better decisions, create better briefs. Drive your EX with insights, not guessing or being a copycat.
  7. Storytelling
    As we are getting to be better storytellers it is time to sharpen our skills and realize that different types of stories have their place in EX.
  8. Piloting
    Take bigger risks on a smaller scale to get your ideas tested and validated. Piloting is such a great approach before rolling out any type of communication to the entire employee population.

We hope you enjoyed our first podcast and are inspired to elevate the employee experience at your company. We would love to hear from you, so please reach out with any question or comments. Also, a review on iTunes would mean the world to us. Thanks in advance!

Transcript

Gregg:
Hi Everyone, this is Gregg Apirian, Managing Director of Vignette.

Mike:
This is Mike Lepis, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Vignette.

Gregg: 
We are both very excited today to launch our first podcast. And this format has been something that’s been really interesting to us because it’s just a natural way of just talking and having conversations about content that is easier for us and you. You can actually sit back and relax and or work while listening to this so we’re very excited here today. We’re doing this podcast because we want to continue to be thought leaders in this space and the space of internal communications is really struggling. It’s in the ice ages, and we need to get it out of the ice ages in the way that we’re going to do that together. So Mike and I are here to use this podcast as a platform to continue to inspire all of you around how to ignite the fire needed in your company to transform the way that you practice internal communications. And the result of that is delivering an employee experience that makes employees want to work for your company.

Mike:                      
What we had talked about doing for our first podcast was originally a trends post, you know end of the year. We do this every year as a blog post. It’s also really popular. I think people are looking for ideas to get them started in their in their practice. But what we had discussed and thinking about this this first episode here was there are some foundational elements to make your IC practice successful that are still after years of writing and talking about this, are still not being met by many of the organizations and people that we talk to. We thought today would be a better way instead of going through when looking at really far advanced concepts and topics and vehicles and devices and software platforms to really look at what is really required on a fundamental level to really advance the IC practice and employee experience across the board.

Gregg:
Amen to that Mike. And essentially what we’re doing here is a 2018 Employee Experience trends conversation. We have narrowed down from the trends that we’ve been talking about for years. The top eight that we think are the most important to focus on. And what we’re asking of you, our audience, our peers, our community is to really start to put these to practice and let us know how this is working for you. All right let’s get started here.

Trend 1: Leadership Disruption

Our first trend is called leadership disruption and we talked about this for a long time because it’s the greatest issue plaguing all of us in this industry. Essentially if your leaders, your C-Office, or your high level leaders are not driving the employee experience at your company. You’ve got a challenge as we all know because it affects the resources you have. The budgets that you have their participation all this kind of stuff. We’ve got to change their perspective, leaders have to care about this the way that we do. You each have to figure out how to do that. Now one piece of advice to start with there, is that there’s this term that not all of us use but many of us use called “Human Capital,” treating people like assets. Have you heard the term “people are our are greatest assets?” That’s the wrong point of view. Let us put an end to that right now. People are humans, and humans want experiences. We have seen the world of marketing bring out the emotions through experiences for people. All of us have felt that from some brand or another. And that’s what we have to get to here.

Mike:                    
Could you imagine changing employee communications from instead of “dear employees” it was “dear assets” or “dear human capital?”

Gregg:                    
Or “dear table” “dear chair”

Mike                   
I think it’s a great insight, to say people aren’t aren’t human capital. Nobody wants to be referred to in that way. I mean, I understand it. You know we all get it you know. You know our people our biggest investment you know we hear that a lot, but I think that the leaders need to open up you know about that I think just that’s a word choice that we’re talking about there. I think it’s a strong transition word choice because it influences how we think about this. They’re not capital. If you make an investment, if you’re printing company and you buy two million dollar printer. Guess what, the printer is not going to be looking for another job. But if you invest in your employees and you treat them like assets, guess what, they’re going to look for other jobs. And we are very well aware of the consumerization of the employee experience, that people have ways to look for jobs to explore jobs, to fantasize about other jobs by looking at LinkedIn and looking at Glassdoor. If you’re not doing the best that you can for your top employees, your top talent to connect with your organization to create an employee experience that this is not coming from leadership. You’re going to have lots of issues there. Wouldn’t you agree?

Gregg:                    
I would say skilled employees have lots of options for employment that’s really what it comes down to. Your job is to retain them, and this word retain is not a tactic. The tactics lie in how to engage your employees so that they’re happy to work for you. Most of you are saying to yourself, well we know this already but what’s the way that we’re going to do this and what we don’t have the tactical advice for you here today, what we can tell you is help your leaders understand that people are human and that they want experiences and what that means. Help them understand they’re at risk every day for losing great people by not caring about this more and participating in this more.

Gregg:                    
Most of all, the way to get a leaders attention at least, through our experience, is through data and insights. Most of you are not operating in a data-driven way. If you can come to a leader with a statistically significant perspective, then you almost have an irrefutable refutable case. I think the ultimate message here is that we all have to spend more time disrupting leaders and getting them on board. The other thing is to do this, you’ve got to show them the numbers. Start acting like a CMO, because there’s no CMO operating out there thats not using data to solve these issues and to create these experiences.  

Mike:                    
I think that’s great. First get leaders to change their thinking. Second, get them to understand that employees have lots of options. Third, hit them where it counts, show them the data, show them the insights of why this is significant and why you need to make your case to have a strong strong IC or Employee Experience strategy within your organization.

Trend 2: Strategy

Gregg:                    
Which brings us to our second trend, which is to have a strategy. We are using our experience to say right here right now that probably 60 to 70 percent of companies in the world do not have an internal communications strategy or an employee experience strategy. You’re probably asking yourself what’s the difference between the two. Well, the simple way to just discuss here right now is internal communications is one of the few facets of the employee experience. It’s a piece of it. You’ve got communications, you’ve got training in development, you’ve got office design and amenities, and the list goes on. All of those things together make up the employee experience. You need a strategy to manage all of that. Or you might just need a strategy just to manage the internal communications piece of it. Now if you don’t have the strategy today, Ben Franklin said it best himself, “If you don’t have a plan, you’re planning to fail.”

Gregg:                    
Most of you practitioners out there are starting tactical, and saying I’ve got an idea for a poster or a video or an event before you even have a strategy. Your leaders (back again to leadership disruption) have certainly put out a business strategy. They’re almost dependent, whether they know it or not, on you helping them create a communications strategy that helps realize that business strategy. There’s there’s all this opportunity to create a framework of a strategy or a comprehensive strategy that leads your way and helps you align with others in the organizations who think like can help you achieve these goals and to get your leaders on board to do their part, play their part.

Mike:                    
I think you know for all in this space here who think since we have an editorial calendar and that’s our strategy that is that is not so, I want to put that out there as detailed as that may be. But if you think it’s a great tool and it’s a great practice to have and we really hope you know most people are communicating in that way. But really, think of it as the layer on top of that. Why do we have this editorial calendar? Why do we continue to communicate and engage employees in these ways? Is this driving the strategy in the way that we’re communicating? Is this driving, as Greg said, our business goals here as an organization?

Gregg:                    
What we have for you is something that’s going to be very helpful here. Mike and I just co-authored with our friends over at Poppulo, a white paper: The Ultimate Guide on How to Create an Internal Communications Strategy. It’s about 30 or something pages long, a great framework to help you think through and create your strategy. We also did a webinar with over a thousand attendees telling us many people needed help with this, but we got great questions and great responses so you can find this whitepaper on Poppulo’s website as well as the Vignette website. And we encourage you to check it out because this is the year everybody’s got to have a strategy. By 2019 when we’re talking about trends, this won’t be there any more because we know you’re going to have it right?

Mike:                    
Also, the whitepaper, in addition to having great content and insights in there the design is very pleasing and very engaging as well. The folks are Poppulo with us did a really good job on that, so we’re really happy with how it came out. Don’t be intimidated, if you’re like oh it’s 30 pages long I don’t want it to… it’s very easy to read, it’s very scannable, it’s very actionable as well. I think there’s a lot of practical things that we included in there that can really help you get some started and get moving.

Trend 3: Understand Your Audience

Gregg:                    
 Agreed, and on that note, our third trend, which is talked a lot about that in that whitepaper, and probably the ultimate fundamental tool that you need to accomplish all of the above here, is to understand your audience. This is an ageold marketing lesson and let’s ask ourselves: Why do we need to understand our audience? There is so much to people, their preferences, their behaviors, their habits their frustrations, their wants, their needs etc. The list goes on, and in your organization, whether you’re a few hundred people or thousands of people, rest assured, not everybody is the same. So the more that we learn the similarities, and the nuances of people and their preferences and their behaviors, the more we can create targeted content which will end up being more meaningful to them. Imagine you send something to someone in the channel they prefer, in the vehicle format that they prefer, the part of the day and the time of the week, and type of area that they prefer etc. Now they’re listening to you because they know you understand them.

Mike:
I think it’s fundamental to understand in order to create strategy, tactics, plans and campaigns that you really need to understand your audience. There’s so many examples of people who have done this successfully, either through surveys and interviews, or even people just traveling, and interacting with employees. I heard a leader and in this space, speak years ago, from the client side, and he had a great insight and said If “I’m at my desk, I’m not doing my job.” And what he meant by that is, if I am not interacting with people, and figuring out What it is that they are concerned about? What is helping them what? is hurting them in their job? Then, I’m not really doing my job here of being an internal communicator within an organization. I think embracing that, and really acknowledging that the target audience is out there, it’s not within your office, or your cube farm, or your neighbors of where you sit. You really need to get that cross section of your entire organization, because it is going to transform what you’re doing in communications to shape the employee experience. It will absolutely transform it, If you have those insights.

Gregg:                    
You can do this by creating an audience profile, simple as just a few personas that help you understand the similarity and nuances across people and you can look at the segmentation from a geography perspective, a generational perspective, a role-based perspective. There’s lots of different ways to do this. You even take it to a full-fledged comprehensive audience segmentation. But the end of day, is if you understand this then you’ll know how to apply it to when you create your messaging, you’re going to tweak it a little for each segment, or each persona. When you use imagery, you’re going to use different imagery for each one. Ultimately, you’re using the tactic of targeting to deliver content and communications in a more meaningful way so that your employees are listening, and they will take the action you’re asking of them. It sounds much easier than it is, but if you apply this logic and create this sort of breakdown, this segmentation, you will find through trial and piloting that it’s going to work.

Mike:                      
I would even add to that, big organizations are going to have people in leadership roles who didn’t come up through the organization, so they may not understand how the organization works and functions, and they may have a great idea that they bring in over from the previous company like oh you know we should do this to engage with employees, and if you are in this role and are supposed to understand your audience you could say this will work or this will not work for our audience just because it was a great idea someone else. The benefit here, is understanding your audience, helps leadership understand the audience as well, and it gives validity to your approach and how you’re going to create the employee experience within your organization and not just a copy of something that somebody else did. You are doing what is best for your employees, for your culture, and for your business.

Trend 4: Employer Branding

Mike:                      
Our next trend is employer branding. So why is employer branding so important? Why is it so significant here? Obviously, it’s important to the employee experience here, but what why do we call this out separately here. In short, your brand as an organization means one thing to people in the outside, and it means something to people on the inside. But there is this there is an employer brand here, and we see a lot of people missing in this space here. They take their external brand and they think that since employees that resonates with consumers, that it’s going to resonate with the employees. But really, what it comes down to is employees are a different audience. They have different expectations, they have a different relationship with the company. As internal communicators, and people that are driving the employee experience, you really need to be very mindful of this, and really use your position within your organization to influence this, to shape it.

Gregg:                    
I think, Mike, that what most companies are missing out on, is as an employer brand is really helping to influence the perception of being a great place to work. Everybody wants to be known as a great place to work, but they’re not using the tools and the strategies to enable that. An employer brand is just another subset of your brand, but focused on employees, very employee centric, and is using the narrative behind an employee value proposition so people really recognize why it’s so great to work here.

Gregg:                    
Additionally, that even bleeds further outside of the company, into the recruitment marketplace of job seekers and candidates are feeling the power of that too. And that’s a huge, huge, recruiting tool. If your employer brand, and the narrative and the style behind it, and your marketing can actually bring and attract top skilled talent your way, that’s saving you so much time and energy and resources and money from hunting and trying to find them. The bottom line is, when you’ve got this powerful narrative, and this powerful style guide it’s really again back to the consumerization of the employee experience. You can now use this to write copy, create websites, to create all sorts of vehicles that power both the perception and the experience behind what it’s like to work there.

Mike:                      
I think the EVP or the narrative here is such a strong piece in this equation here when talk about and about employer branding. It just opens your eyes to see, you are an organization with a culture with a dynamic vision that you’re trying to create this experience for employees. I think even if it’s not written down, I think that it’s within every organization. I think it’s something that we say this a lot that we’re not going to create it, we’re going to uncover it. It already exists there within your organization. Obviously, in terms of creating, we do create a lot of style guides for this and there is strength and power and utility in having those in your organization. But really for me personally and I’m working on projects like this and we get to develop the narrative part of this or the EVP it’s really exciting because you can see so much potential for an organization once they all align around that part of the branding process.

Gregg:                    
Agreed, and for those that have done this, speak up out there help others realize how powerful this is for those that have not done this. This is your time. It’s never too late 2018. Get started now.

Mike:                      
Yeah, I can imagine that it would be really difficult to work without these guidelines. It can create a lot of misunderstanding, misuse, miscommunication, and that it really aligns a kind of this core set of values and direction and purpose for an organization that without it, you might get lucky but that you’re not going to get lucky every time.

Trend 5: Measurement

Gregg: 
All right so the fifth trend that we’re going to talk about here today which everybody talks about yet, so few do is measurement. Why is this so hard for everybody out there? I think I have the answer. Those that know how to measure are already giving it. Those who don’t which I would argue might be 80 percent of the total internal communication practitioners are not doing this because they don’t know how to do this. There’s not one solution out there to measure all internal communications. Internal communications does not some special measurement plan. If you are consumerizing the employee experience, marketing already is measuring 90 percent of what you need to measure. Look to your marketing department understand what they’re measuring, how they’re measuring. A lot of this just starts with the beginning of any initiative or program or project should begin with what are my business objectives? What are the KPIs? What does success look like for us? There’s no other place to start because then when you start to understand the types of channels you’re going to use in vehicles you’re going to use each one brings a specific type of KPIs and metrics and approach to measure. But what’s really funny is most organizations out there are measuring everything else in the business except internal communications or the employee experience. We’ve got to change this.

Mike:                      
I totally agree with you on this. I think, as we mentioned this earlier, the thing is the biggest challenge that we have here in thinking strategically? Is that we’re always trying to jump into something and we’re always trying to get tactical as soon as possible here. I think we know we can you know as an overall trend and skill, and part of the culture of what we do we need to really ask before we move a single pixel, or write a single word here is like how are we going to measure success for what we’re doing?

Gregg:                    
It is scary because, there’s a skills gap in this space, there’s a lot of people again who aren’t prepared to do this but there’s a lot of help on the outside. There’s a lot of help by individuals. The gig economy itself has many individuals out there just sitting there waiting to have you call upon them and help you at this. I would highly recommend to all of those practitioners out there with everything you do. Let it be led by data and insights, and let it be measured in the right ways. When you think of measurement, there are tools you’re going to need for this, technology you’re going to need for this, there’s people in skills you’re going to need for, this, there’s processing workflow that you’re going need for this. If you’re not doing it it’s not an easy next step, but it’s a very valuable one. And when you can, once again, look at that data. Good or bad results. You know how to fix it to get to the good. If it’s not good, and if it is good you know how to use that to go back to your leaders and get more budget, more resources, more participation. Measurement must start happening. There’s no excuse for not doing it yet.

Mike:                      
I would add a challenge to that, when you’re thinking about measurement, think about activity is not progress necessarily. You want to measure impact. When you’re looking at developing a measurement plan or strategy or how we’re going to measure success, the number of things you produce is not measurements. The number of behaviors or habits or insights or opinions that you’ve changed, or you are activated within your organization, that’s a quality measurement. I know it’s hard, and it’s challenging, but those are the type of insights that really drive change with an organization.

Gregg:                    
If you’re saying to yourself right now will I believe you guys, I really do, but I don’t have the budget for this. Well, figure out how to get creative and measure something and show that it was successful and that it can get you just a little more budget and a little more each time. Start basic if you have to get a little more you know credibility under your belt in terms of playing with measurement and how to do it. And then from there you’re going to have a practice that’s going to be led by this going forward. I promise that.

Trend 6: Insights Driven Creative and Experiences

Mike:                      
Next trend, insights-driven creative and experiences. As you can tell from listening to us to this point in the podcast, we’re really big on insights and being methodical and thinking about taking us out of our comfort zone and dispelling assumptions that you might have in your organization. I think when you really do this, and you develop these insights and you pull them out. The power of what you can do within your organization is really significant. We see creative and content that is created off of insights that have started with an insight within that organization is really amazing. It’s not necessarily the size and the scope of what you’re doing, but it’s really the power of the insight that’s going to make what you’re doing change within your organization. Gregg, what would you add in terms of the power of insights with an organization?

Gregg:                    
Well, I think that there’s no better way, because if you understand your audience and their preferences through these insights, and the challenges you’re also through those insights find the solutions and the paths to experiment with and try. I’ve seen your own practice Mike, when we learn on a job about our audience. The ideas that we come up with are more practical, they’re more creative. When the team that sits around us, because it takes a village to do all, this right, so everyone’s going to be working with other people and resources and departments. When you can bring insights that are comfortable to understand together you can create action plans of how to solve those insights, because not all insights are bad and some are good some are not so good. But ultimately every one of them leads to the next step, and you’ll realize that once you get comfortable with insights maybe your team’s not, and you’ve got to get them comfortable with working with data and insights. But it does not require you being a data scientist to do this. If you as an example, have a promotions process and you’re realizing that not enough people are trying to reach out for promotion and you dig deep you might find out exactly why that is and be able to fix that program so that it’s working the right way and you’re getting to where you need to be with promotion.

Gregg:                    
I just think ultimately, back again to segmenting audiences and targeting content that’s the future for all of us. Marketing is doing this really well, and they’re doing it purely through data and insights, so they can almost predict what would be success for a campaign or solution. I think that anyone not working in this way needs to transform this way and however long it takes you to get there as soon as you get insights one time that you haven’t seen before it’s going to be like surfing and getting up on your first wave or doing something that’s so exciting that there’s a rush that comes from this like no other. Being informed like that is so powerful when it comes to creative. You’ll see your team just explode with ideas and executions.

Mike:                      
This seems like a lot, of how to put these into action. I think it’s really simple. I think it’s once you find an insight or define it insight, through surveys or research or interviews you build that into a brief that you’re writing for your team that’s going to work on a solution. Instead of leading with we need a video, you lead with, well we’re concerned because our promotions pipeline is 40 percent down this year over last year. Why is that happening? That’s that’s that’s an insight or a challenge to figure out what you need to get out. When you get that answer and include that then you could figure out is a visit a communication issue? is it a structure issue? is it a content issue? You can really turn up the power of your creative team by just giving them that insight. That’s going to spurn a lot of ideas that you probably haven’t even thought of.

Gregg:                    
Not to mention, fuel your leadership discussions and continue to help you disrupt them through data and insights. I know we keep talking about data insights a lot. The reason is because they are very powerful, and they hope you achieve your business objectives, so those operating without it are literally guessing, and guessing usually leads to guess wrong.

Gregg:                    
Guessing is expensive. It is.

Trend 7: Storytelling

Mike:                      
Next trend Storytelling. All right let’s move away from measurement insights here for at least our next two trends. Storytelling, everybody loves to talk about storytelling. It’s a trend that we are still including it here in our list. I think that there’s still a ways to go for people to understand why it’s important, and why we should embrace it. We know it’s a buzz word, but it is still so powerful when done right that we need to include it. I think the thing that we’ve expanded on in terms of talking about storytelling is really, again thinking about the audience here, but also thinking about the forms and the style. When you know your audience you know we know there’s audiences employee audiences that don’t have great access to high speed internet here or even their own device.

Mike:                      
Storytelling is not just videos. Storytelling can take place in many different ways across the organization. You have the form of oral storytelling, so having people within your organization understand how to tell good stories that drive the business and embrace the values and the purpose of the organization and recognize employees. There are ways of telling stories through print. We’ve done a lot with large format posters. Having vehicles throughout an organization that are much more environmental, and less desk-based. Those are a great way for you to fuse storytelling into organization, and then coming down to video or to digital ways of telling stories. Broadband high-speed Internet is still an issue, so is there a way to tell stories through images and words, versus just using the video form and then of course video is great. Your access to video content and people’s familiarity and comfort and even being able to create great video content on their own is a significant opportunity, going forward.

Gregg:                    
There’s such a myth out there that all stories and the formats of these vehicles that are produced need to be written in such a way and designed and built in such a way that feels like marketing and that works a lot. But sometimes a less produced type of content is more authentic, and helps activate. Because I think everyone creating this content, from blog posts to videos or what not, they’re putting it out there. But, if you understand your audience enough and know where you’re tweeting it so that it fits within that audience’s profile, then your chance to get them to read it, watch it, and listen to it will be greater. They’ll start to internalize it a certain way and then a lot of employees, believe it or not are holding back from sharing stories, or creating their own stories and then sharing them and I think it’s a cultural thing. We’ve seen for example, the audience segment engineers may not be so thrilled about having to read or watch videos around stories or tell their own stories, their frightened to death to do that. But there’s ways around that. If you can build a culture of storytelling. The trick is to do it the way that’s culturally right for your organization. Some things will be highly produced and feel like marketing, and some things won’t be and will be user-generated and more authentic, but you can’t look to one company and say they’re doing great storytelling. Let’s do the same thing you have to figure out what storytelling means to your organization and to your people and try it that way. Because then you’ll start to see them activate. Activate doesn’t always mean to attend this event, or push this button, or watch this video. I think if you were to go back and measure their engagement and sharing around storytelling you might find that it’s working more you actually are activating them just has to be culturally right.

Mike:                      
I totally agree. I can just reinforce that just because someone else is doing it does’t mean it’s right for your organization. I think that’s seen to be very mindful of that. If your director, your V.P. is sending you examples on links it’s like “oh look what home depot did.” And you’re like well we’re not home depot that’s different. It’s compelling and engaging for one reason, but for our audience, and again this goes back to knowing your audience and knowing what would be effective, you have a different approach, you have a strategic approach of what is going to resonate with your audience. And then you drive that with insights, as we talked about before.

Gregg:                    
Maybe the last piece of advice, is I know this is easier said than done because storytelling as a buzzword sounds so easy, but creating stories and activating people around them is hard. And if you find it scary or hard, one way to think about trying this with your organization that we have seen be very successful is through the power of your company’s purpose or mission combined with your values and your beliefs. When you start to tell stories that are based around these things when people do have a shared sense of beliefs and ultimately purpose they will listen to these things they will start sharing and contributing more and more. And I think you can’t forget about that. If you don’t have a purpose, and you don’t have values that’s a whole another story. You need him for so many reasons. We’re not here to preach that as much as that you can use them as assets to help jump start your storytelling. If you’re Lucasfilm and you’ve got R2-D2 and I’ve seen this before, you’re going to create great stories. It seems like it’s very easy to write if you don’t have R2-D2. There are many organizations you can create equally powerful stories, you just need to understand your audience and use the power of journalism and media to get there.

Mike:                      
Yeah, maybe even a license agreement with Disney so you could use a few other characters.

Gregg:                    
Yeah, that’s going to work really well with the budgets we all work within this space.

Trend 8: Piloting

Gregg:                    
All right, let’s talk about piloting, our last trend. We mentioned this pretty significantly last year in our trends and practice this as well. Think about it we just came from a conference at the end of this year that we that we shared and attended and it was reinforced there. This idea of piloting within our space is really a very valuable approach to to get new ideas out there, to test things to really deliver a proof of concept and then come back with the insights and data to show hey this works we need to expand this or we need to tweak it and do it in a different way. The thing that I really love about internal communications and working in the employee experience space is that there’s the opportunity to take creative risks, and you can take tactical risks or risk in other ways but creatively you have an audience that is a bit more forgiving at times and you have a platform and you have access to them that take these risks create them and don’t call them risks when you pitch them. This is where the word piloting comes in and is very applicable here. But really, think about how to pilot this new idea that is driven by these insights to get more buy-in across the organization. If we think less about you know what’s my 12-month plan, and more in the mindset of we’re going to try this for two weeks and see what works. I think we’re going to find a lot more success.

Gregg:                    
Low hanging fruit for piloting can really be in your channels and vehicles. The times of day and days of week that you choose to communicate with your audience, so if you’re you know doing some research and learning this you’ll know for sure. But for the most part right, most companies have just a few channels. You’ve got e-mail, maybe you’ve got an Internet, a good or bad one and, you’ve got in-person. But but that’s it. And I’m using this as an example because there’s exceptions to the rule because others who have more channels, but that’s the idea. If you realize that your internet, people only want to go to for a specific reason or it’s old and outdated and literally needs to be redesigned in a modern way, then using that channel again that nobody wants to go to is is basically failing. Right. So you have to experiment there. What would be the opposition to that you would basically say hey let me spin up a quick WordPress website, and let’s use that instead since it can offer us the experience and functionality that we need for this particular initiative. The idea is really, start experimenting more with diverse channels and vehicles and times of day and days of weeks of when you communicate with people and you’re going to find the right ones at work and it’s going to allow you to get rid of channels that don’t work. To use new ones that you’ve pilot seem like they’re there to stay forever. Or there could be a subset of them that you just keep highlighting on specific things. Not everything in your toolbox needs to be used for everything that you do.

Gregg:                    
And I’d also add that the whole notion of marketing which we need to apply to this space here is if you’re being data-driven to some extent, and you’ve got these insights those insights are almost like your formal hypothesis to go out there and try something when you try that and you’re measuring it. You’re going to learn. Good or bad. That’s the point. Once it’s out there you don’t know what it’s going to work until it’s out there. Once you learn what’s working that’s very beneficial to you to keep doing what you learn that’s not working. You’ve got the opportunity to optimize or refine enough to get it to work right. It’s not one and done. This whole business of communications is continuous, and the idea is if you’re measuring it and piloting new things, you’re going to find what works what doesn’t work and it never stops. That’s the business of communications.

Mike:                      
You know what I would love Greg?

Gregg:                    
What would you love?

Mike:                      
I would love to hear from people who are piloting programs, and to see what takes shape. I think would be awesome to say, hey you know to hear from somebody else we’re going to pilot this program and then see where it goes, see if they can show success, see if they can get some traction on it. I think we’re all big thinkers in this space, and we don’t want to look like one week two weeks out ahead of us. We look at our business in terms of months and years and expansion, and I if we’re not growing you’re shrinking, this whole idea. I think it’s it’s been really great to see. I wish people would share that with us. Maybe we can put that out there and try and solicit some people who are piloting ideas or have great ideas or programs that originally started out as pilots. I’d love to be able to share that with people.

Gregg:                    
I would agree, and that sort of takes us to the close of this podcast session which I got to say Mike, I really enjoyed having this conversation. And rest assured, that you did too and I know that our audience is probably enjoying this, but there’s a lot more to come and based on what Mike just said we don’t just want this to be a one-way communication from us to you. We want to hear what your challenges are? where your successes are? We have to start sharing these things and helping our brothers and sisters out there and this community to become better practitioners and believe me it can only go up from here. I think you would all agree with that.

Gregg:                    
Don’t be a stranger to our awesome audience of listeners and reach out to us. You can get us at hello@vignetteagenncy.com or you can just go to a vignetteagency.com and our contact form and reach out. Again, we’re just trying to be a helpful resource to all of you out here and stir up some inspiration for next year. You might believe in these trends, you might not believe in these trends. If you don’t. I wonder what you’re doing already. I’m hoping it’s stuff more progressive than all of this stuff. And if you do believe in this stuff it’s never too late. Keep that intensity going on your passion for internal communications, it’s done a whole lot of good for those that have done it right. For those out there that are employees that are frustrated by all this it can only get better so help them feel about love. Right.

Mike:                      
Thanks everybody.

Gregg:                    
Until next time.

 

Gregg Apirian

As the Managing Director of Vignette, Gregg is responsible for agency-wide vision and strategy, operations and finance, business development and engagement management. With nearly 20 years in entrepreneurial and executive-level roles, Gregg has been an instrumental leader at many distinguished agencies. Prior to Vignette Gregg was EVP, Digital Marketing at Trailer Park, EVP at Schematic (now POSSIBLE), and began his agency career as co-founder and CEO of BLITZ. Over the years Gregg’s leadership and combined experience drove growth, profitability and delivery of innovative and effective solutions for brands like GE, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Target, Verizon, OWN, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, Johnson & Johnson, HSN, Ann Taylor & LOFT, Nike, and Reebok.