My first observation as chair was what a full room we had. We had in excess of 75 delegates from countries as far afield as Kuwait, Brazil, Norway, USA, Belgium and France, to name but a few.
My opening words reflected the fact that I believe people want to belong to communities in the workplace. In the gigging economy, they want to feel connected to brands as employers and long after they’ve moved on to work somewhere else. I passionately believe that it is the ICE professionals who have a key role to play in building these communities and in creating brand fans for life. In an outside world full of uncertainty for many groups in society, where we go to work is must be somewhere which can feel welcome and a sense of belonging.
Being chair also gave me the opportunity to challenge ICE professionals to make sure we are all evolving as fast as the world around us. Undoubtedly our value is increasingly less about comms plans, channel management and intranets, it’s about being superlative coaches, brand builders and behavioural change experts.
As Emily Kirwan from the BBC rightly said in the afternoon, we benefit from a privileged position where we have access to every part of the organisation, influencing from the very top all the way down. We need to make the most of this position before others do and we find ourselves lost somewhere between the Executive Coach and the HRBP.
First speaker up was Phil Askham from HSBC who shared an amazing case study on how the organisation had responded to the American Department of Justice findings, regarding certain banking practices. What we learned from his story was the power of visible leadership, telling compelling stories in a connected environment. Particularly at a time when internal pride in the brand would have been greatly impacted. This was a great case study on how to re-ignite organisational belief whilst changing behaviours.
Lynda Knight made an impressive conference speaking debut whilst she told us about the change journey KPMG finds itself going through as it continues to bring to life its organisational purpose and a stronger sense of its values. This reminded me of how exciting and challenging it is to effect behaviour change in a Big Four, something I’ve always massively enjoyed at various points in my career.
Den Carter did a fantastic job taking us through the very scientific ways in which Virgin Trains checks for colleague engagement on a regular basis. I have never been a fan of the ‘must have’ annual employee opinion surveys which only serve to keep organisations full of cynicism and locked in a spiral of unachievable change fatigue. The Virgin Trains case study gave me hope that there is an alternative way of making colleagues feel listened to.
After lunch Wendy, Michelle and Alex from Jive Professional Services showed everyone in an interactive and energetic way how Jive can make life simpler in an impactful way for comms professionals.
The whole room was inspired by Sian Cargan from CDK Global – this little known B2B brand which we have all likely used without realising it, is home to one of the most enthused, engaged and connected workforces I think I have ever seen. Sian proved that with imagination and colleague co-creation, you can deliver an impactful engagement experience with limited resources and on a global scale. In a world of corporate blandness, we should all be a bit more CDK…
Unashamedly my favourite part of the day was when I was let loose chairing a panel discussion on Leadership, live streamed on Facebook. Humour me folks, this was as close to being Dimbleby on Question Time as I will ever get. I was joined by Den Carter from Virgin Trains, Emily Kirwan from BBC, Julia Sloan from Ernst and Young and Laura Storey from IBM. We easily filled an entire 50 minutes talking about the role of leaders as key engagers inside organisations; how we can better coach and develop them to fulfil their engagement potential as well as getting into the detail of what a great leader, or as Laura would call them, a Rockstar, really is. Have a look at the recording via the BOC website and tell us what you think.
By now it’s almost the end of an intense but rewarding day. The delegates went off to learn how to drum (the laughter and music was incredible!) whilst we rearranged the room and got out the canapes and wine for the BOC awards presentation. Having seen the mix up at the Oscars this was the part of the day which made me most nervous as I didn’t want to read the wrong thing out. Kat coached me perfectly and we all got to celebrate with four very deserving winners.
I would once again like to thank all the delegates who contributed with questions and challenges throughout the day, enabling us to extract some really rich discussion.
Thanks also to Kat and Maka at BOC for trusting me once again to chair what I think is the best conference on organisational engagement.
About the Author: Tom Crawford
In a long career, both as a consultant and inhouse senior exec, Tom Crawford has gained disverse and rich experience in HR and specifically Internal Communications & Engagement. He has spent many years helping employees believe in their organisation and do their best for its brand. He has worked with leading global brands including; Deloitte, British Airways, Nokia, GSK and many others.