The IC Space Live, Manchester: 24 October

Post by Jo Pennington

Thursday 1 November 2018

Lego board with the words IC SPACE LIVE

Thanks to everyone who came along to The IC Space Live in Manchester – it was a great day.

For those who missed out, here’s a few key points from the sessions – plus some tweets from the day.


Welcome and introduction by Russell Grossman

  • People give up  time voluntarily across government to contribute to GCS and organise events like this and progress the profession – get involved if you would like to
  • IC is an integral part of MCOM, and we’ve made great strides in last five years in professionalising IC


Why does Internal Comms matter? Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication

  • My simple ambition for this morning – to persuade and inspire you to be IC heroes
  • Lead and motivate your colleagues to even greater standards of public service
  • Help people understand goals of their organisation, the tools available, and give them the information they need to do their jobs well.
  • Use data, use best practice, and don’t be afraid to challenge and disrupt
  • Don’t hide in process rather than making progress
  • Shorten, simplify and improve your corporate story to inspire colleagues to perform.


The Future of Internal Communications: Nick Wright, Senior Adviser, M&C Saatchi

  • 81% of organisational change projects fail because of people
  • 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job
  • Why is this? Because it’s often forgotten that people transform organisations, not process
  • What is culture? Lots of definitions, but your focus should be on changing behaviours
  • Great-looking products are important, but there are five key characteristics for achieving successful change: Agile, Resilient, Innovative, Active, Engage
  • Think Feel Do is traditional – turn it round to Do, Feel, Think
  • People have seen it all before – do something different rather than building a bigger megaphone.


Setting the strategic narrative: large vs small: Kathy Loades, Head of Internal Communications, DCMS and Graham Leftwich, Head of Internal and Change Communications, HMRC 

  • Kathy and Graham set out the very different IC challenges in their very different departments
  • In DCMS, the majority of colleagues are young – millennials – and fairly new to the Civil Service. Engagement levels are high, and the department has a varied portfolio taking in everything from the arts to Artificial Intelligence
  • In a small department, change isn’t rolled out – it happens to everyone, all at once – a challenge and an opportunity
  • Successful IC interventions include stand-ups, face-to-face events and creating a sense of shared experiences – plus some light-hearted videos with senior leaders

  • By contrast, HMRC is a vast organisation which has relationships with every individual and business in the UK
  • The majority of HMRC’s 67,000 colleagues have served 25 years and over, and are overwhelmingly in operational roles and grades
  • The organisation is undergoing a huge transformation – including becoming one of the biggest digital businesses in the UK, transitioning into large regional centres, dealing with Brexit, and welcoming 13,000 new people over the past four years
  • Change is coming fast – but in some ways, is not fast enough
  • To reach colleagues, the IC team has retold the HMRC story, pointed out what hasn’t gone well – not just what has, started to form regional identities, and produced toolkits for managers which were used to support conversations with 70% of colleagues in the first month of the campaign.


Giving employees a voice: Why ‘employee voice’ investments are failing to deliver and how to buck the trend: Steve Bernard, CEO and founder, Connectwell

  • Engagement expert Steve talked about quality listening – making sure you know what your people are thinking and feeling, and showing those opinions are being taken into account and built into your plans
  • Research shows that people are exposed to 4,000 messages in a single day – people are overwhelmed, which means the default setting is ‘no’. This needs to be acknowledged in your planning
  • Any invitation to engage needs a meaningful life cycle – and if it doesn’t create new meaning and break new ground, it isn’t engagement
  • Put some rough edges back into your communication! Too much polish means perceived authenticity and failure to engage.


Fit for the future: the Milne report and the new GCS IC curriculum: Jo Pennington, Head of Communications Professionalism, HMRC

  • Over the past year, a working group including Heads of Internal Communications and GCS looked at whether IC professionals need bespoke learning
  • The conclusion – IC professionals need great content creation skills, but superlative ‘soft’ skills – negotiation, asking searching questions, building trust, empathy and an understanding of behavioural insight
  • There also needs to be a greater understanding that comms skills are transferable between disciplines
  • The result: the IC Learning Pathway, which brings together learning from all comms disciplines which IC professionals can benefit from
  • The beta version is on The IC Space – and we’d love your feedback.


What do our leaders need from us? Stephi Brett-Lee, Head of Internal Communications, DWP

  • In June, the Heads of Internal Communications attended a two-day summit at GCHQ, talking about IC in government
  • One of the highlights was a short video, featuring Permanent Secretaries from across government talking about challenges, the advice they most value, and what they’re most concerned about
  • After viewing the video, delegates discussed key points including how to reach people who didn’t want to be engaged.


Engaging managers: learning from best practice

  • Three short case studies presented by colleagues from three different organisations
  • Justin Merry, from HM Land Registry, talked about making senior leader blogs an effective channel for communication – including insights on the language and tone that work, what doesn’t work, and how to handle colleague comments and encourage response mechanisms
  • Steve Ramsey, from BEIS, talked about bringing a new department through a major change programme. The OASIS plan was backed up by four Cs – Communicate, Celebrate, Collaborate and Check. The programme won a Public Sector Communications Award last year
  • Kate Berry, from DWP, talked about her department’s 16-point engagement survey rise since 2011, and their secret weapon – developing and nurturing great leaders. As she said – good managers do things right, great leaders do the right thing.


Communicating organisational integrity: how do you engage in a conversation on platforms you don’t control? Tony Kluth, Head of Internal Communications, Defra and Louisa Mallon, Head of Internal Communications, GDS

  • A live exercise, asking delegates to plan their response to an unexpected news story reporting their CEO’s departure
  • There were, of course, plenty of curve balls to interrupt the plans!


Q&A with four Heads of Internal Communications

  • Questions from the floor, and submitted via Sli.Do during the day.


Conclusion, Russell Grossman

  • Please keep in touch and work on creating networks. Contacts are really important
  • It’s down to us whether we have the courage, the ability to challenge, and the belief that we are as good as, if not better than, the other functions
  • What will you be: In and visible, or invisible?