The Future of Internal Communications: Interview with Kat Eletskih from BOC Global Events Group
Technology has had a huge impact on almost every aspect of our lives, from the way we work to how we communicate. We caught up with Kat Eletskih, Conference Director at BOC Global Events Group, ahead of the 5th Annual Internal Communications Conference in March 2017 to hear how leading internal comms professionals are managing cultural change and reshaping their function for the future.
Wisembly: Thanks for speaking with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background?
I’ve been in the conference business my entire career, starting in 2005 and working for different conference organisers. I’ve pretty much tried and done it all having worked in sponsorships, event management and finally production – putting agendas together, researching speaker topics, and following up with speakers and key partners of the event. I’ve been with BOC heading up the conference side of the business since it started in 2012.
W: What are the biggest challenges facing traditional companies when it comes to managing their internal communications?
Underestimating the role of internal comms. One of the main reasons is internal comms professionals themselves need to take more responsibility, as some are still trying to use older methods of communication rather than leverage technology and moving together with changing business norms.
From what I see, your internal comms is one of the biggest resources you have when it comes to engaging employees and creating a culture where people can flourish, which has a huge impact on business outcomes and future profitability. So they need to be more in tune with the global economy and show what they are capable of, and then get backing from business leaders. You need to have both, but most of the time it’s one or the other that’s missing, which comes from not understanding the importance of the function.
W: Are there any emerging trends that companies need to be aware of?
Working on the ICC, I get to speak to various international speakers from well-established, traditional organisations – for example, GE, which is one of the oldest organisations in the world. And the amazing thing that’s happening, not just there but in many other large organisations, is that they are moving towards being tech-first organisations.
They’re realising that they have to change the way they do business for their clients and their employees, who are increasingly tech-savvy millennials. They are trying to abandon old beliefs and strongly embedded organisational culture of ‘perfection’ to be fast, agile, flexible and embracing a culture of failure – not advocating failure, but letting people learn from their mistakes.
Companies like GE are creating cultures that embrace failure and embrace change, and are looking outwards to see what competitors or other successful businesses are doing. Most companies only look inwards and not what’s around, so GE seems to be tackling that in a really innovative way which I applaud them for. As GE puts it, as long as they learn then that’s fine because the more they try, the more they fail but the more they will succeed as well. It’s jumping off the cliff and building their wings on the way.
W: How are those changes being applied within internal comms departments?
It’s about changing the entire culture, so whether applying to internal comms or not it starts with leadership coaching, looking at each manager as a leader and empowering them with entrepreneurial skills. We saw a similar message from Rolls Royce’s aviation business at our conference last year.
Companies aren’t striving for perfect, they just know that they have to do something in order to survive and continue to be leaders within their field so they are trying different things. Internal comms profession will have to embrace that notion and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
W: How has the introduction of tech impacted the communications industry?
The main thing is that it’s making communications more fluid and transparent and more impactful, by allowing communications professional to gather data and measure the benefits that they’re bringing to the business. It’s helping to develop the function and move it into a strategic role where they can impact the bottom line of the business and measure success through data. But, as with any other industry, tech has huge potential still. It has changed lots fundamentally, but what I hear from speakers is that most of the change is probably still ahead.
W: Have you seen tech have big effect on comms for conferences and events in particular?
Tech is becoming a bigger and bigger part of conferences and events because people want enhanced experience while they are there. As a conference organiser we use the added benefits of various tools and platforms (like Wisembly!) to make the registration smoother, manage the clients better and encourage engagement or additional questions the audience might not ask if there wasn’t a tool for it. It definitely adds a different dimension. It also helps us analyse data and feedback post-event which then helps us improve for future events.
W: What are the risks if companies don’t embrace digital transformation?
It depends on customer demographic, of course – a very few may be just all right if their market isn’t tech savvy – but most will have to choose to change rather than be forced to change, as otherwise it’ll be way too late. What we see is that businesses that lag behind with tech or don’t change how they interact with employees and customers start to slowly disappear. There isn’t much room to make mistakes, and it’s only organisations that offer something exciting or an enhanced experience, not just to customers but to employees, are the ones that will succeed.
W: Finally, how can companies ensure that they are future-proofing themselves when it comes to technology?
It starts with creating organisations where people don’t feel like they are restrained to one task or job for the 2, 3 or 5 years they are there. Really tech-savvy organisations are trying to open up huge potential for employees through training – so if someone is a great salesperson but also enjoys public speaking, they will invest in public speaking training. It’s about developing different talents within their employees to create environments where people can fulfill their dreams and ambitions, and encourage and support that through the use of technology.
The 5th Annual Internal Communications Conference takes place 22-24 March 2017 at the Bentley Hotel, London. Tickets available here.