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Our key takeaways from Smile Expo 17

Chat bots, social amplification, and ESNs were just some of the key themes to come out of the latest Smile Expo. We were thrilled to be asked to deliver a session on the Elements of IC and thoroughly enjoyed attending many of the others. Here are just some of our top takeaways... 

The bots are rising

According to Sharon O’Dea, chat bots may very well be the future of employee experience. As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, we soon won’t be able to tell if we’re chatting online to a person or a computer.

Chat bots provide a single user interface saving the employee from having to visit various systems to carry out a relatively simple task, such as room bookings or organising travel. 

It’s a fascinating area of technology and communication especially as language, tone and emotion are all intrinsically linked to their success.

And they can be surprisingly easy to implement as Sharon demonstrated by getting us all to create decision trees for chat bots people might use in the workplace. However, she also revealed that there’s no need to create your own due to there being successful chat bots readily available on the market. 

But what about the fear of them taking the jobs of actual humans? For the time being, Sharon thinks there will be some questions or requests that a chat bot can’t deal with and it will need to refer to a real person. And chat bots should ideally free up people’s time to get on with other tasks.

Definitely a trend to keep your eye on and you can read more about chat bots here. 

Workplace by Facebook

As the event sponsor, Workplace by Facebook featured heavily throughout the day. An interesting takeaway from the keynote session was how employees at RBS weren’t trained on how to use Workplace, due to their familiarity with the product, saving a huge amount of time and resource. Although there were reassurances on Twitter that there were guidelines in place around content, the platform itself didn’t require explanation. 

Most IC pros would probably agree that there needs to be thought and planning around culture and behaviours when introducing a new online tool. However, we don’t get training for the social platforms we use in our personal life, we just get on with using it and learn as we go. So, it could be argued that we don’t always need to train people on the technology within organisations either. 

It was also controversially put forward that Workplace effectively means intranets will revert back to their original static purpose – a point hotly debated throughout the session and afterwards.

And a top tip from RBS was to include the compliance team at the early stages of rolling out an ESN. Include them in the pilot so they can see the benefits for themselves, rather than trying to get their approval without ever having been involved. 

The millennial factor

During the Workplace by Facebook session, attendees also heard that by 2020 millennials will make up 50% of the workplace. There has been much made in recent years about the impact they will have and how they will want to work. 

A story was shared on the stage about how some companies are having to teach their millennial employees how to use email and the etiquette involved due to their prolific use of messaging apps. This caused quite a stir on Twitter with many feeling that generalisations are often made about millennials and actually they are just one of many audiences we communicate with, all of whom have different communication preferences. 

It was a valid point from the stage as far as recognising the changing ways we all consume information, especially as more and more of us use messaging apps like Whatsapp or Messenger. But that’s the key bit, it’s not just millennials using those apps. And while millennials may not use email as much, it’s highly unlikely it’s because they don’t know how. 


The average person looks at their phone 150 times a day, which is equivalent to 240 minutes per day and 96 seconds per interaction. 

And when you consider that the average person also has roughly 33 apps on their phone, 12 of which they’ll use on a daily basis, and only three of those will take up 80% of the time that person spends on their apps, the thought of introducing an employee app can seem quite daunting. 

However, amplification apps can be very useful in getting employees to share your content as they allow you to source, curate, consume and share content on social media. But Jonathan Phillips advises that if it’s to compete with all the other apps employees have on their phones, there needs to be clear benefits to the employee, such as it:

  • pulls all the various places information is stored into one easily accessible place
  • saves them time
  • helps them build their own social media presence by positioning them as thought leaders by providing insightful content for them to share
  • needs to be fun and engaging.

And there needs to be clear benefits to the business too:

  • Creating a network to help spread your content more widely.
  • Legitimises the content you share as employees will be seen as a more trusted source of information.
  • Employees can also create content on these apps – businesses can still moderate before making it ‘shareable’ meaning you have authentic content to share with the wider world.

As with all communications, when deciding on whether to introduce an amplification tool there needs to be a clear business need, you need to understand your audience and have an implementation plan in place around engaging people with it. But as the lines between internal and external comms continue to blur, it’s an interesting solution many companies could benefit from.

Elements of IC

Alan from Alive with ideas presented a session on the Elements of IC. Dreamt up with Chuck Gose, it’s an online tool which brings together the Elements of IC under one roof to jump start conversations, spark new ideas and demonstrate the complexity of internal communication, helping you in your role. 

The aim is for it to never be finished – we want to continue adding to it and evolving it with the internal communications community. We’d love to hear your thoughts so do get in touch if you have suggestions for new elements, resources you want to add in, or just some general feedback!

As expected, Smile Expo provided a lot of insight and interesting debate. We came away with lots to think about as did other attendees – be sure to check out: 

Lisa Pantelli’s blog

Simply Communicate’s Storify

and #SmileExpo17 on Twitter

We’re already looking forward to Smile London in November!

By Helen Deverell for Alive!  

Friday, May 26, 2017

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