Working for the first time in the UK? Keep Calm and Fit In!

This week I wrap up a short term assignment with Tesco’s Group Communication team at the company’s head office in London. On reflection the assignment has given me a new perspective of work, culture and life.

My role was to help audit and refresh the company’s core purpose branding across the business. It led me to offer a creative solution – a Challenge – which crowdsourced stories from employees to celebrate and recognize how their work impacts customers every day.

A new core purpose takes longer to embed especially with a company as big and diverse as Tesco. Considering the scale of operations and the pace of change there is always that balance you need to strike between what is possible and what is right for the business.


For someone from a different culture to come to the UK and lead a change campaign is tough yet exhilarating. Tough – since it takes time to get familiar with the work ethos, dynamics and expectations of a team and organization.  Exhilarating – cause there are immense opportunities to make a difference.

Before coming over I researched and read about the culture, attempted understanding the ways of working and sought peoples’ opinion on what I could expect or need to factor in. My Linkedin contacts were a fantastic source of inspiration and insights. People who worked locally and others from different geographies with some knowledge and experience of working in the UK contributed suggestions. I was overwhelmed by the response and here are a few of the suggestions that came in.

  • “Be aware of the company’s culture”
  • “Understand the local culture and sensitivities”
  • “Ask lots of questions”
  • “Listen intently”
  • “Look for opportunities to improve how things work”
  • “Be aware of physical spaces between people”
  • “People will be fairly objective”
  • “At work, think of reaching remote workers, the usage of technology for communication and engagement”
  • “Be yourself”
  • “Consider the differences in writing styles”
  • “The style and tone of voice can be conversational”

If there is one key take-away from my experience it is the need to be culturally integrated and immersed in the business. In other words – ‘fit in’.

This means appreciating the culture, valuing and tapping the strengths of people around you, seeking help when needed, being available for others, serving the community and leading with conviction. It isn’t easy to do so when the people you meet may have limited context of your background and capabilities or not know the relevance of your role in the wider scheme of things. I am grateful for the support and encouragement I received from my colleagues during this stint and hope to continue the engagement in the future.

Have you worked in the UK? What has been your learning?

To understand the ‘Keep Calm’ poster context look up this page .

2015 Employee Communications in GICs Survey Results

The case for investing in employee communication at global in-house centres (GICs) has never been stronger. The 2015 Employee Communications in GICs Survey, a first such study which gauges the current scope, relevance and understanding of employee communication within GICs indicates a need to improve the level of communication satisfaction with about 30% sharing high satisfaction ratings with what they received. A GIC that works to strengthen its communication improves its ability to rally employees and get everyone to work as one team.

To put that in context, a study by Deloitte – ‘Taking global in-house centers to the next level – connect at the core’ indicates that a 24% increase in investments in information sharing could lead to a decrease of US$11,000 in operating cost per employee  and a 33% investment in building common ground could lead to a decrease of US$2,133 in operating cost per employee. Likewise, a 11% increase in investments in information sharing could result in 99 more patents filed per year. Moreover, employee communication is seen as a shared services function enabling businesses to deliver more value.

The 2015 Employee Communication in GICs Survey serves to gather insights about how satisfied employees are with communication in the global in-house centres they work for. In 2014 we invited corporate communication leaders from GICs to participate and share their opinion on the state of the function. Results from the study are available online. For the 2015 study, employees from GICs were invited to share satisfaction levels within their organizations.


Communication within a GIC is unique due to the demographics, distributed teams, parent company expectations, regulatory environment and restrictions among others. While most organizations measure employee engagement in annual or bi-annual studies there is limited understanding of how employees perceive the quality and effectiveness of employee communication in such environments. Message content, channel efficiency, communication improvements are among factors that impact how employees identify with their organizations.

Key findings:

  • The level of communication satisfaction about an employee’s job, progress, personal news, recognition were rated average
  • When asked how problems reported at job were handled the satisfaction levels were below average indicating a need for quick redressal
  • On the communication about the organization in general (policies and goals, financial standing, accomplishments and failures) – the level of satisfaction was higher.
  • The satisfaction levels related to supervisor communication with subordinates most felt they received adequate motivation and interactions
  • Respondents indicated that the organization did well in choosing people with good communication abilities and that had a positive impact on their satisfaction levels
  • Furthermore, supervisors were perceived as open to new ideas and giving employees the autonomy to express their best selves
  • The extent to which respondents receive information in time to do their work is low
  • The satisfaction levels related to work meetings and group compatibility were moderately ranked
  • About half of respondents indicated that communication helped identify and connect with their organization better
  • A third of respondents found organizational communication interesting and helpful
  • Supervisors indicated satisfaction with communication related to their teams basis the flow of information, responsiveness and employees ability to engage in conversations
  • Supervisors also shared that they didn’t face much communication overload

Overall, the results highlight the growing importance of employee communication within global in-house centres and areas that need more focus to build trust and engagement. Two-way communication is crucial for information flow with channel efficiency and content appreciated by all levels within the organization.

What are GICs?

Global in-house centres refer to the service and delivery operations units that serve parent companies around the world to standardize processes, systems and programs and in turn save costs, improve efficacies and enhance centralized capabilities. They are often referred to as ‘captives’ or ‘shared services’.

According to NASSCOM, there are over 825 GICs in India itself, offering the entire spectrum of services – IT services, BPM, ER&D, and software products, employ over 530,000 people, and account for 17 per cent of the total export revenues in India. It is estimated that 50% of Fortune 500 firms to have GIC footprint in India by 2015. While hiring, engaging and retailing employees are important for GICs very little is understood or researched on the role of communication within these centres.

A quick call out to the students from the University of Windsor/Alliance University who helped me conduct the study: Jenny Perla,  Alexandra zamfirescu and Ricky Thomas

Keen to sponsor future surveys? Send me an e-mail at

7 tips to effectively communicate change in your organization

Change is inevitable and yet when communicating change within an organization we often can end up missing key communication aspects that help employees feel respected and the organization being viewed as a sensitive employer.

Be it a change in a team, a structure, the executive members or a process employees have a right to know and be consulted before it happens. They also need to have a say in how such change occurs if it impacts them directly or indirectly. Here are a few pointers that internal communicators can be aware of which designing and leading change management initiatives.


  1. Watch for body language: Often the focus is on the words that are included into a change plan or the e-mail communication which reaches employees but we forget that our body language can convey a lot more. For example, if the leader delivering the messages in a town hall is fidgeting or reading from a script or not looking at people in the eyes (culturally this action will mean different things) the chances are that employees may not believe your story completely. Spend time to coach your leaders about their own presence and how they can be perceived while sharing communication with a group.
  2. Actions matter: If the change message is about transparency then demonstrating that in actions will give employees the confidence in their leaders. In a change management event after briefing his team the leader then asked managers to stay behind. The excluded group felt slighted and doubted the intentions of the leadership team even though the briefing for the managers was only to help them manage their team’s expectations. Could have been done differently? Yes, surely.
  3. Time your change: Getting a change exercise done swiftly is possibly best if you can manage expectations with stakeholders. However, sending an e-mail about the change before briefing the impacted set of stakeholders can lead to confusion. An e-mail, however well drafted, can always be open for interpretation. Nothing can be better than sending a note summarizing the changes after the initiative is over.
  4. Demonstrate sensitivity: Most change management exercises, especially if they are related to organizational structures, begin top-down. As in, the leadership team gets to rewrite their structures and then the cascades happen down the line. That works in traditional structures although in large organizations it can mean that employees further down the ranks wait the longest for word on any changes. This can be unsettling to say the least. To minimize anxiety for those further down the line it is either helpful to speak to them in parallel while the changes happen upstream or give them opportunities to have a view on the outcomes.
  5. Stay accessible: There can be nothing more disturbing than finding leaders or managers missing when change happens. It is always best to keep options for ‘drop-in’ consultation or planned team and individual meetings so that everyone has had a chance to share how they feel and what they believe will be the best way forward. Also by indicating their availability in a transparent manner leaders will hopefully be viewed more positively.
  6. Test run the new ways of working: Every change will mean that how people interact or how the workplace engages will change, ever so slightly – or dramatically! For employees it can mean that they sit now in different places or commute to a new location or work with new employees – the changes will vary. Most importantly, consider how and what the new change will look like when stuff happens. Test runs a few examples of the ‘old’ processes on the new one to be sure that there are no gaps. If there are you have time to fix them.
  7. Capture tacit knowledge: With everyone focused on the changes what can drop between the cracks is the crucial knowledge that exists in the minds of the impacted set of employees. Even if there isn’t a job loss taking place when employees move to different roles the transitions may falter leading to more effort in re-training and upskilling people. Have a way to store key documents and learning centrally so that it becomes a repository for the organization in the future.

Helping employees through change is a priority of every internal communicator. By staying close to the action and alert to feedback that can shape the change we can be more effective in delivering the right outcomes.

What other recommendations do you have to communicate change effectively?

5 Tips to Launch a Successful Internal Communication Campaign

Getting a campaign off the ground can be tricky with internal processes, differing stakeholder viewpoints and overlapping interests to navigate within the organization. Not to forget the business implications and timing that need to be aligned before a campaign can be considered or even launched.

  • Understand the organization’s culture: Depending on how open the organization is a campaign can go places or can be left the wayside. Inclusive and welcoming cultures are willing to listen, encourage and back campaigns that add value. It can be frustrating to craft a campaign that doesn’t have leaders pitching in when needed or when the messages aren’t addressing the ‘what’s in it for me’ for employees. Spend time to appreciate what worked and what didn’t from earlier campaigns. Test run the campaign idea and communication to ensure messages are clear and understood. If you need to factor in translations for other geographies sense check with a group of employees before you roll out.
  • Consult and consensus: Most campaigns hit a roadblock when key stakeholders aren’t engaged early and well. Ensure you are feeding back on the progress you are making and involving them in decision making as you build the campaign. Identifying key people to consult and gain commitment is as important as getting them on your side before the campaign launches. Most often people with the most clout with regard to resources, influence and support within the organization can be on your list to consult.


  • Time it right: Often you can have the best campaign idea and plan in place only to be drowned by the ‘noise’ from other communication that your stakeholders already receive. Get a sense of when and how other communication occurs and what is the best time for a campaign to be slotted in. Socialize the campaign idea at various forums so that they are aware and also find ways to support you when it launches. Provide reasons why the campaign will be a win-win for all. Get the most trusted leader to back your campaign.
  • Keep the drumbeat on: Employees are busy and have only so much time to absorb information that you share. Launching a campaign isn’t often enough. Therefore keeping the momentum going with a regular flow of communication can help sustain interest. Depending on the campaign’s goals consider what can get your stakeholders to be more aware, take action or change behavior.  Integrate your campaign with ongoing initiatives so that it doesn’t feel like a stand-alone piece.
  • Plan for ‘after launch’: Launching the campaign is only half and the work done. It is important to consider what happens right after and in the future. Many campaigns can fizzle out if there isn’t a clear focus to keep audiences constantly thinking about the initiative. If there is an end-point for the campaign then work backwards from the date of completion. Consider what will keep employees motivated to either share or contribute over a sustained period of time. You can map out key events, milestones and celebratory moments along the timeline to feed a regular stream of communication.

Remember that not everything in your campaign plan may go as scheduled. Therefore, stay flexible to the ebb and flow of business cycles. Factor in some leeway to make improvements or changes as you go along as you make your campaign memorable.

7 Ways to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session

Have an idea and want to make it work? Try getting a diverse set of views in a brainstorming session.

Conducting a brainstorming session is helpful but can also be tricky if you aren’t prepared for the interaction or unsure of how to channelize suggestions that emerge from the discussions.

Consider your goals: Think of what you want out of the session. For example, it is an opportunity to get to know people, understand their point of views, learn more about challenges your idea can run into crowdsource suggestions to make your idea take-off.

Do your homework: Before you get people together it will help to do a pulse check of the key benefits and challenges that they see from the idea. That can form the basis of your discussion rather than start with a clean slate. Starting with a clean slate also helps – just that it takes a lot longer to steer the conversation.

Embrace diversity: Invite people from different teams who have a connection to your topic so as to get the most of the conversations. It is good to have a healthy debate on the pros and cons of the topic. In one such interaction I ensure that teams who had conflicting approaches sent their resources and it helped for both to realize they needed to converge their thinking.



Prepare a briefing note: The note must spell out the objectives, what people will be expected to contribute to and how it will fuel the next round of interactions or take the idea forward. Be prepared for a mix of people with varied experiences and personalities.  To ensure that introverts, for example, contribute share a printout of this note and give everyone time to reflect on their thoughts before you begin.

All views on board: While staying laser focused on the topic ensure that everyone gets a chance to voice their views and clearly indicate that there are no ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ ideas. Avoid interrupting during the exchanges. Only intervene if the decorum of the meeting is at stake.

Summarize and follow-up:  Ensure you get the key points shared quickly and assign ownership for next steps so that the conversation moves forward. In essence, people need to see that their ideas and suggestions are taken on board. If you can’t proceed with a suggestion it is important to call that out early.

Recognize their support: It will do wonders if you can drop a note to their managers that their team members contributed over and above with suggestions. If you can create a social media page or group for the conversation to be available online that will help immensely.

Lastly, continue the engagement and keep the group posted on the progress you are making.

Try these and let me know how it goes!

Add Value To The World. Build Your Personal Brand

When I think of personal branding this Chinese proverb comes to mind.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 

To me, it conveys that you can’t build a personal brand without concerted effort, commitment and consistency. And it is never too late to start. In an earlier blog post I wrote on on personal branding Manoj wasn’t sure what he needed to do to stand apart in an increasingly competitive world. There is a way. Manoj can still build a reputation that holds him in good stead over the years.

Hearing that your employees are interested in differentiating themselves is a positive sign. It indicates that your employees are:

  • ready to promote themselves, if they aren’t already
  • they see value in extending their value beyond the organizational boundaries
  • they believe the organization can help them succeed in this initiative

As William Arruda points out – personal branding is not about you but about others. I love the tips he shares on situations where you can leave your mark and gradually build your brand.


So what prevents people from building their personal brands? To begin, most aren’t sure what they want to convey or stand for. Articulating your mission is essentially the first step on your journey. Communicating that mission consistently is helpful to take your brand to the next level.

Why is this relevant for internal communicators?

Like it or not, employees are already presenting and promoting themselves outside the organization in many ways – social networks, offline connections, with alumni, as CSR volunteers, as speakers at forums.

Today, there are no jobs for life and employees realize the importance of crafting a ‘second’ career before or right after the current one ends. With more and more automation coming into the workplaces employees will look for ways to invest in their own future. In a way, organizations of the future will be an amalgamation of brands. Internal communicators will need to realign their practices to make them more inclusive for such brands inside the organization.

Traditionally, people who think of a personal brand see it as a social media outreach program or a networking and relationships building exercise. However here are a few tips to get started in your personal branding journey using social media.

Personal branding isn’t easy.

If you are expecting to build a brand overnight you might also be mindful that it can also vanish likewise.

Look around at the number of cases we hear of accomplished people who fail and fall after building brands over many years – Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong etc. You can also see how brands suffered by associating with these personalities.

So how can you build your personal brand?

Be mindful – knowing yourself first and how you can add value to the world is your starting point. Stay close to your core and know what makes you tick. Very often, we get enamored by the latest trend or what our colleagues, families or neighbors expect of us. No two lives are alike and therefore no two personal brands can ever be the same.

Be focused – distractions are everywhere and moving your eyes of the goal is the beginning of the end of your journey. Often, we look for short term gains since that is visible and makes us feel great. A personal brand is built over time and requires commitment and laser sharp focus.

Be consistent – look around you and it is evident that we seek stability in people and events. We look for those who are reliable and respected. This confidence allows us to put our faith and hope in their abilities. Therefore consider ways in which you can bring in more consistency in your actions.

Be resilient – it isn’t easy navigating the world and what it has to offer. There will be highs and lows. How we react to situations defines who we are. How we bounce back from the lows in our lives redefines us. Your personal brand is shaped by these experiences. So have faith and stay on course.

Building a personal brand is a lot to do with knowing how your self-identity and the organization’s identity (if you work for one) interact. Also appreciating that in a world which puts pressure on people to compete or creates the ‘fear of missing out’ staying grounded about your goals can take you places.

I thought this quote by author and playright Oscar Wilde summed up personal branding well – “be yourself, everyone else is already taken”.

If you have other perspectives and lessons do share them here.

Starting Out In Your First Job? Know Yourself. Be Yourself

Doris finds is unsettling. She is a high performer in her team – at least that is what her rating indicates. After a few months in her new role she finds that her peers get more opportunities, responsibilities and rewards from the manager than her. Despite working hard and diligently others are pulling ahead of her. She decides she must change her personal style of working. However that adds more stress since she isn’t always comfortable around people but forces herself to be in the middle of the action and become more successful. Over time her work suffers and her leaders notice a drop in performance.

Alex is close to 3 months in his new role at a leading multinational bank. He has been observing that the approach to inducting new hires has been slow and often cumbersome with many days spent in-house rather than with customers. He writes up a plan to make changes to the training process and shares it with his leaders who take a liking to the new approach. They recognize his effort and put him on a fast track project to get more out of his talent. Soon, there is a restructure that takes place in Alex’s workplace and due to his proactive solution to the training process he is retained and continues to perform well in his role.

Over my last 2 posts ( Make Sense of Work and Life and Know What the Future Holds) I shared insights and perspectives on starting out in your career can mean. In this post I cover ways for new hires to think deeply about themselves and what they stand for to make a difference.

Before getting to a clear plan, it is essential to appreciate the world of work from a theoretical context. Understanding these theories and how they play out at the workplace can help make meaning to practical issues new hires will experience.



According to the leader-member exchange theory managers have an in-group and out-group. The former are closer to the leader and have access to communication, opportunities, responsibilities and rewards. The latter are managed by formal rules and policies and often react against the organization due to their position. The other relevant theory is the social exchange theory that explains how movement of valued resources takes place via two-way interactions leading to improved relationships. Individuals are more likely to behave to a reward stimulus basis how, when and how often they experienced earlier interactions. In a new world order, as employees before personal brands first and then advocates for the organization a ‘give-give’ exchange is expected more often. Exchange of skills, tools, resources lead to reciprocity of new commitments, time, effort and money that comes back to the giver.

New hires must begin by self-introspecting on their worth and what they expect from their experience at a workplace. Apart from knowing that one can make a difference to the workplace, it is important to know if the organization will give you support to pursue your goals and that you are working towards a common goal.

Knowing your preference for working, the culture you will be living in and the organization’s goals can provide you a better grip when you get started. For example, at the workplace you will find colleagues who are experts in specific areas (domain champions), traditional career graphers (who aim to work through the system), experientialists (who love the range and depth of experiences) and entrepreneurs (who gain experience for future businesses they will start).  Decoding the culture expects one to be observant and mindful at the workplace.  Be aware of the values and ways of working. However, look for the tacit assumptions about the workplace and if employees are living it.

The first 100 days is crucial for new hires to get familiar with the workplace and transition into the organization smoothly. Organizations expect the employee to be contributing from day one. After 90 days the employee isn’t considered new to the role or the organization! The expectation is to begin adding value and delivering results.

Moving from a campus to the corporate world isn’t easy and one needs to make a mental note of what the new role will be at the workplace.  This 100 day plan excludes the orientation program which every employee will experience during the first few days at work.

Consider this plan to build credibility, invest in learning, gauge opportunities and challenges, engage leaders and peers, make the most appropriate decisions and craft a future at the workplace.

Internally, the plan helps you learn about the organization, team, culture and your peers.

Set up meetings with your team. It includes investing in training, seeking insights about the ways of working, what practices worked and hasn’t, read the corporate literature and get to know the key influencers.

How does one identity key players in an organization? Look for those who manage teams, are accountable for resources, direct change, have access to information, are provided status and command loyalty.  Don’t limit your span of influence and learning only to your internal stakeholders.  Get hold of a list of external forums and industry bodies that the organization engages with and network with alumni and experts to know more about the state of the business.  Enroll for certifications that bolster your merit in the organization.

Sign up as a volunteer and involve yourself with projects that are currently underway. Research reports indicate that those employees who are engaged as volunteers have more enriching experiences in their lives and stay loyal to their organization.

In terms of transitioning to the new role the employee is expected to ask questions and be clear on the tasks on hand. If there are plans which already exist, learn more about the context and which elements worked for the organization. Take feedback from stakeholders as you improve on the plans. Demonstrate quick wins as you begin performing on the role. While making progress also look for mentors who can guide and coach as you plan next role and expand your horizons.

Being your best at the workplace is also about staying connected with workplace changes around you. Observe information that is shared and not shared. To build strong relationships, you need to be seen as credible, consistent, competent, trustworthy and honest.  Organizations expect employees to go beyond the role and add value. Frequently contributing to initiatives outside the scope of work is known to drive the team’s performance. Knowing that you are making progress each day is essential for your engagement at work. Believe in your organization to gain more from the experiences and interactions at the workplace.  The future belongs to those who can grasp newer skills for the workplace – having a design mindset, making sense of the complex world, being empathetic and creating value for the organization. While doing this be aware of credibility degraders such as indulging in office politics or sharing information that isn’t appropriate or confidential with anyone at the workplace.

Overall, to make an impact it is important to understand who you are, get immersed in the culture, believe in the workplace and mission, do your best, add value to others, give as much as you can and be yourself.

Agree or disagree? I am keen to hear your thoughts.