What does the C-suite think?

When was the last time you got to pick the brains of four – count them, four! – C-suite executives from four leading companies? Doesn’t happen every day, right?

Well, that’s just what I get to do on Wednesday, June 8, when I moderate the C-suite panel at the IABC World Conference in New Orleans. I am particularly fascinated to ask them how communication can be reinvented to meet the changing needs of business.

Our C-suite panelists come from four different parts of the business:

  • Business ethics and compliance
  • Communication, business development and client service
  • Human Resources
  • Information technology

What’s interesting about the combo is this: HR is trying to find and keep great employees, IT is trying to arm these employees with the right technology to get the work done, and communication is trying to enable them with the right information. Meanwhile, business ethics and compliance is trying to ensure all employees make good decisions. It is a set of symbiotic relationships. Or at least it should be.

Why collaborative communication is crucial to business

Success in the picture I paint above depends on great communication across and through the entire experience. And, I mean “communication” in the most collaborative way possible. If any one part tries to go it alone, they likely won’t deliver the highest ROI.

For example, if IT deploys great technology without the right training, communication and adoption effort, no one will use the technology. Moreover, if IT failed to engage users in dialogue about their needs early on, it might select the wrong tools.

Meanwhile, HR departments that haven’t learned how to reach out to millennials in new recruiting channels might not meet the needs of the organization. Plus, if they are still trying to respond to individual employee queries with phone calls, the HR team members are probably not enabling remote or field employees effectively. Those remote employees can’t count on making a phone call during the “normal” work day, but they can access reference information via a mobile device or engage in dialogue via messaging tools.

Communication teams that haven’t embraced the content curation role – who are still trying to create and control everything themselves – are missing a crucial opportunity to engage people across the organization. When  it comes to content, it’s no longer about perfection, it’s about sharing knowledge and knowhow.

Finally, ethics in a global context includes collaborating with employees in all locations to understand cultural traditions. This makes it easier to manage employee behavior to corporate expectations. Transparent team communication further encourages ethical behaviors.

What matters to the C-suite?

In the end, it really comes down to what drives the C-suite and the business. In the examples above, that might be:

  • Full ROI of technology investment
  • Enablement and productivity of remote/virtual employees
  • Attraction and retention of the best and brightest
  • Sharing and capture of intellectual knowledge across the organization
  • Avoidance of ethics and other regulatory violations

Each of these supports goals involving cost, output, capability and sustainability. That’s what the C-suite cares about. But don’t take it from me. Take it from the panelists on IABC’s World Conference C-suite panel. Register today and join us!

Have a question you want me to put to the panelists? Ask me here in a comment and I’ll try to get it into the conversation. Then I’ll blog about the discussion afterwards.

Discovering what women in the C-suite think

Why is it we find four accomplished women on stage at the same time fascinating? Would we be so enthralled if it were four men? How many in the ballroom would be offended if it were all men? Will we ever get past the point of a gender focus to one on talent and expertise?

When the IABC Program Advisory Committee embarked on creating a panel of senior-level businesswomen for the IABC World Conference, I was interested in what might be different about their perspectives. As a woman, I think I bring an often-unusual take my male colleagues and clients sometimes struggle to follow. I hope it’s a valuable perspective to the business.

The panel is made up of these four impressive leaders:

  • Nancy Higgins, Chief Ethics Officer, Bechtel
  • River Ho Rathore, CHRO, Sinar Mas
  • Colleen Moorehead, Chief Client Officer, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt
  • Fumbi Chima, CIO, Burberry

Each woman has built a career and reputation in her discipline over time. Each comes from a different part of the business; this alone means they’ll each have different approaches and views of leadership and employee engagement.

Women in the future workplace

Part of the inspiration for this panel was the section in keynoter Geoff Colvin’s book Humans are Underrated about women being terrific at the very skills that are so important in the future workplace: communication, empathy, collaboration. What does that mean for women currently in business, and what might it mean for communication?

So, it’s with great anticipation that I prepare for the C-suite panel in New Orleans. Some of the questions I’d like to ask include:

  • What do women bring to business that is different from men?
  • How effective are women at innovating? Why?
  • If women excel at future workplace skills, and a majority of communicators are women, what might that mean for the future of communication as a profession?
  • What setbacks or challenges shaped you as a leader?
  • How are you mentoring and encouraging other women in business?

If you could sit down with these four great women, what would you ask them? Of course, you’ll be able to join us and ask your own questions. Can’t make the conference? Share your ideas here and we’ll try to get to as many of your topics as possible. After the session, I’ll blog about the discussion.

Even better would be to join us in New Orleans. Get registered today!

Creating a digital workplace with what you have

Last week in Chicago I was honored to chair ALI’s conference on SharePoint for Internal Communication. The lively group of about 70 communicators, IT professionals and professionals in other related fields participated in a session I led about digital workplace. It was an opportunity for them to step back and consider what digital workplace is and what they already have that might help them get to such an integrated view. I promised the group to blog the results.

First, I share with them our definition of digital workplace:

Eloquor’s definition: The virtual space in which employees work, collaborate, innovate and make decisions online. It either is an adjunct to or entirely replaces the brick and mortar work environment many previously experienced. A combination of technologies, including mobile and search, enable work from anywhere, anytime, with anyone.

Second, I asked them what they have in their environment that makes up the employee’s digital experience that isn’t about SharePoint specifically:

– Jabber
– WebEx
– Yammer
– Customer Relationship Management system (e.g., Salesforce)
– File management: Box, Dropbox
– Huddle
– Outlook
– Skype
– IBM Connections
– Learning Management System
– ERP (e.g., Lawson, SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft)
– Survey tools (e.g., Survey Monkey, Marbella)
– Google apps
– Active Directory
– Single sign-on
– Slack
– Timekeeping
– Microsoft Office Suite
– Concur

Third, I asked them about third party tools they are already using with SharePoint that might enable an integrated digital workplace experience. I’ve added a few additional details here to round the list out:

– Analytics (e.g., Google Analytics, Webtrends, intlock)
Metalogix (includes Controlpoint)
BA Insight

This blog post has several additional ideas that didn’t come up in the session, but I gave them the link, so I should share it with you too. There are many, many third party tools.

Fourth, I asked the ALI participants what exists in SharePoint that they can use to create a robust digital workplace. This was interesting because most seemed stuck on what they could leverage, so I’ve added a few items to this list to illustrate how potentially rich the platform can be:

– Search
– Social

– Discussion/activity feeds
– Communities
– Profiles
– Tagging
– Newsfeeds
– Delve
– Yammer (feeds and groups)
– Blogs
– Wiki
-Follow, ratings, favoriting

– Calendar
– Alerts
– Online forms
– Workflow
– Document repository
– Document retention and discovery management
– Content typing
– Presence indicator
– Web-meeting integration (Skype/Lync)
– Lists (e.g., for project management, decision tracking, dashboards, etc.)
– Collaborative editing

Some of these were favorite features of a speaker. Still, most people aren’t yet considering how their organizations can use them in an integrated way. Shows that so much of digital workplace is still conceptual.

Fifth, I asked about mobile. This topic raised more questions than answers. The following questions were raised as being useful to the discovery process:

– Who is really mobile?
– Where are they in the organization?
– What devices are they really using?
– If using tablets, are they using keyboards?
– How do you push to the right device at the right time?
– What do they really need access to on a mobile device?

Two specific issues were raised as needing to be resolved to make mobile work effectively:

  1. iOS compatibility
  2. Security containers and tools (e.g., Airwatch)

Finally, we discussed three key areas to give focused consideration to:

  1. ROI (e.g., time tracking, productivity, cost avoidance/savings, process improvement, email decline)
  2. Launch/evolution (big bang versus incremental improvement, platform migrations, communication and training to drive adoption through demonstration)
  3. Funding (securing support for large initiatives, day-to-day operations and customizations for individual departments; demands a method for sharing new capabilities and functionality to ensure full leverage)

I left them with a charge to go back with their notes and do these three things:

  1. Identify existing barriers to establishing an integrated, robust digital workplace experience for users
  2. Identify the players who can make a difference with their involvement
  3. Plan the steps to get there, whether in a big bang or incrementally

I hope the exercise was useful for attendees. It was intended to get them thinking beyond the intranet to a broader view of what makes up an employee’s digital experience. Perhaps we’ll have a different sort of dialogue in 2017!