Smile London 2018: The 4 Big ‘Aha’ Moments

November 14, 2018 - 9 minute read

Simon Sinek once said, “Customers will never love your company unless the employees love it first.” It seems like such a simple statement, but the truth and power behind it is impossible to ignore.  That’s certainly how it felt when I attended the Smile London 2018 conference in London earlier this week.

Companies from many categories – retailhospitality & restaurants, logistics and more – all came together to discuss their common employee engagement challenges, learn from other internal communicators and possibly even find the right internal communications platform to help them achieve their business goals. That sounds a like a lot to pack into a single day, right? Well, I won’t pretend we all came away with the answer to every one of our questions or a definitive solution to some of the challenges we face. But I will say, there were four big ‘aha’ moments for internal communications and employee engagement that resonated at the event. 

Cut down on the email clutter; give me relevance, relevance, relevance

Globally, a staggering 269 billion emails are sent each day and there are currently just over 3.7 billion email users worldwide, according to a study by Radicati Group. Whoa. Just take a second and think about those numbers.

Blog Image_Email ClutterThe frustration at the overwhelming clutter of emails came up repeatedly during the event. How can we cut down on the email clutter? How can we make sure our employees get the most relevant information, content and training they need based on their roles, what they’re interested in and who they’re following? How can we ensure the employees who work shifts in our restaurants know what menu items are being discontinued or added and what promotions are launching without interrupting the customer experience? How can we communicate the information that’s critical to our retail associates performing their work without distracting them from providing the best service to our customers?


It’s not going to be effective to send out mass emails to all employees in these instances. This tends to be one of the biggest complaints of Yammer users (it’s no wonder it was seen as the ‘problem child’ of internal communications tech at the event). It’s something I personally felt in my last role – I would get way too much clutter and noise in my Yammer feed and 90 percent of it wasn’t relevant to my role in global communications. And it looks like I'm not alone. During one of the Smile London sessions, Sam Marshall from Clearbox Consulting, shared some data points from a research study they had conducted. When they surveyed respondents (internal communicators) if they used an enterprise social network (e.g. Yammer), not only did 30 percent say 'no' but another 8 percent said 'yes, but it doesn't work.' 

SmileLondon11Instead, create specific groups for different functions/roles, departments and locations and only share the information and content that’s relevant to those groups. Don’t spam everyone about everything. If you do that, you risk losing their attention – and that could mean they don’t read an important message about a new product launch or a new dish being added to a menu. The reality is that by giving your employees access to the most important and most relevant information (and weeding out the ‘spam’), you could see an increase of 20 to 30 percent in employee productivity due to less duplication of efforts, according to our own UK & Ireland Managing Director, Guy Chiswick.

Tech can be your operational and sales ally

During one of the sessions, Penny Grivea, UK Managing Director for beauty brand Rituals (which is also our client), put the reality of internal communications into the context of how it delivers ROI for the business. She recalled a specific incident a few weeks ago when the brand experienced some technical issues and their cash registers (or ‘tills’ as she describes them) went down for a few hours. A few hours may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re a global beauty brand with over 1,500 stores spread across 27 countries, this kind of technical difficulty can have monumental repercussions on the brand’s sales and even customer satisfaction and loyalty.

SmileLondon18How did tech take some of the pain out of the situation? Penny and her team used their internal communications platform, which happens to be Speakap, to contact the store managers and associates and inform them of the technical issues. As Penny explained, “We were able to share this information quickly.” And speed matters when dozens (even hundreds) of customers may be entering a single Rituals store at any given moment. If those customers can’t buy what they want when they want it, Rituals could lose significant sales, not to mention their satisfaction and loyalty in the long-term.

What I also found interesting from what Penny shared in her session is that she looks at internal communications technology (specifically, Speakap) as a useful tool to boost competition among their staff and share customer satisfaction emails for employee recognition. As daunting as tech can sometimes feel to the frontline employees who use it every day, it's clear that it can also be an operational and sales ally for both the companies implementing it and the frontline employees using it on a daily basis.

Don’t stress about the naysayers; focus on the natural users first

In the world of internal communications and employee engagement, it can be easy to get side tracked by shiny new things or try to do everything and be everywhere. That’s not necessarily going to deliver any impact.

And there will always be naysayers and people who just aren’t willing to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. Rather than let the non-believers bring you as an internal communicator down, it’s important to stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve. That could be anything, such as celebrating the achievements of individuals and teams across your organization, helping your employees become more efficient and stronger performers, or even sharing best practices with each other. Whatever that goal is, stay focused on it.

This sentiment was echoed by Larraine Solomon, Head of Communications and Engagement at Monster Worldwide. She recounted the resistance she once faced from a financial director, who basically likened using an internal communications platform or social intranet to what his teenage daughter does. That’s not something he would do, no sir. It wasn’t serious enough.

Larraine didn’t spend all her time trying to change his mentality or opinion. She let him do what he does and focused elsewhere. As she put it, “Go where the energy lies, where people are natural users. Don’t stress about the people who are reluctant. They will gradually come on board.” I won’t lie. This was an ‘aha’ moment for me and I had to stop myself from standing up and saying, “AMEN!”

The KPI struggle is real

For most people who work in a company, KPIs are a key window into how we’re performing. How do we measure success? What metrics define what success looks like? These questions have been asked time and time again. But when it comes to internal communications and employee engagement, it can be tricky and tough to navigate.

For instance, Ben Roche, Head of Internal Communications & Engagement at Plan Global, made it very clear that his focus and goal wasn’t sharing information and knowledge. That’s fine for a platform like Microsoft Sharepoint, but it wasn’t fit for his (and his organization’s) purpose. As he put it, “it was shit for engagement.” I wouldn’t necessarily use those words, but I like how concrete he was about his organization’s purpose.

Blog Image_Customer SatisfactionBut the KPIs that work for one company and their internal communications department may not fit for another company and its larger business goals. Case in point: Rituals. As Penny Grivea explained at the event, she looks at three key KPIs to measure their internal communications success (with using Speakap):

  1. Employee engagement
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Cash flow
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Ragini Bhalla

Written by Ragini Bhalla

A veteran in B2B content and communications, Ragini lives and breathes for storytelling, traveling (up to over 50 countries and still so many more to explore) and trying out new foods.