smilelondon2017 – my reflection on engagement technology


Last week, I attended the 2017 smilelondon event, run by Simply-Communicate. This was my first time there, but I’d heard good things from Emma, who’s been lucky enough to go most years.

It was great to hear about the latest emerging technologies, Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) and Employee Apps. We know from our own ESN research that these can all have a really positive impact on employee engagement and wellbeing, particularly when used to facilitate employee voice and collaboration.

The conference included a number of case studies, where organisations had introduced a new platform, an app, or created new capabilities on their intranet to make them far more employee-centric.  Some of the results were pretty impressive.

It’s clear that technology has moved on so much in the last 5-10 years and the options today are fantastic for internal comms teams.  But what really came through in the presentations for me, was how much had been invested by the project teams to ensure the shiny new ‘kit’ was really embraced by employees.

Whether it was through a big bang launch (goody-bags and roadshows), or a campaign with a subtler office presence (such as posters and screensavers) – it was this part of the process that was integral, in making sure they financial investment in the tech, really paid off.

Hearing a few conversations around the venue over the course of the day, it felt to me that there’s still the belief that if you bring in new technology, then you’ve ticked that box – the job’s done.  This was reinforced to me during the Q&As, where a lot of the focus was on what the tech does and how much does it costs – and less about how they got their people to adapt to this new way of working.  This was not the message we were receiving from our speakers! They had all taken the time to plan how the tech should be introduced to the users. They’d got their teams excited about their work and as a result, uptake was often above your industry average.

I had quite an interesting conversation with another delegate who works with a huge percentage of field-based employees.  In the past, they’ve had no online connection to the rest of the organisation whatsoever – no email and no intranet.  In the coming months, they’re hoping to give each of these employees iPads, but she knew that didn’t mean the problem would be instantly solved.  Many of these individuals weren’t particularly tech savvy, some didn’t even have personal smart phones – and they actually found this change to be quite daunting.  The real challenge now is to help them understand the benefits of the technology and give them any support they might need in these early days of embedding the change.

As always, it’s important to get them involved, give them a chance to express any concerns, and let them test the new platform – this could also be a great time to make use of employee champions.

If you’re thinking of introducing some new technology, but not really sure how to engage employees in the process, then why not get in touch and we can share with you our experience on how to make it a success.

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