Nothing’s new – yet it’s all new: Reflections from SWOOP Chat ’18 (APAC)

Last week we held our inaugural SWOOP Chat ’18 in Sydney which brought together expert practitioners, researchers and thought leaders from across Australia to further nurture and build the community of people who are wanting to drive business performance, employee engagement, conversation and collaboration within our organisations. Naturally, measurement was a common thread throughout the day.

Presenters included a range of SWOOP customers such as Bankwest, NBN, AMP and University of Western Sydney but also our research partners Sydney University and Griffith University. We had designed the day such that there was plenty of time for people to talk about their challenges, share stories and solve common problems together. After all, this was all about collaboration, conversation and engagement!

SWOOP CEO Cai Kjaer and Lotte Niens speaking SWOOP Chat 18.

So, what did people talk about? I’ve tried to summarise the three themes that I picked up. What I realised was that these themes are not new, but for many of the people in the room they were.

Sponsorship is hard work, and senior leaders can be elusive

Everyone had stories of wanting more action from senior leaders, and we were inspired to hear how NBN’s CEO Bill Morrow is changing the game by engaging his people in authentic two-way conversation. His leadership around the #metoo campaign, and how he used Workplace to encourage his people to air any concerns, was very powerful. However, many more CEOs could easily be learning from Bill Morrow. Doing something as simple as asking your people for feedback on a specific issue is neither hard or time-consuming.

Liz Green, a communication and collaboration specialist who recently left Telstra where she was responsible for managing their Yammer platform, spoke about how senior leaders are driven by outcomes, and that tools such as Yammer, didn’t in their own right generate much interest without its use being linked to outcomes.

How do you make it work-related AND people-centric?

Matthew Dodd speaking at SWOOP Chat 18.

Bankwest’s Matthew Dodd spoke about how they have managed to bring people and ‘business’ together in a seemingly perfect interplay. The popular ‘Pets of Bankwest’ group allow people to show a more personal side of themselves while at the same time practising how to engage with people across the bank without feeling that their professional reputation is at stake. These skills are then used to solve real problems.

In a similar vein, University of Western Sydney demonstrated how they had used Yammer to enable business change – a campus relocation project.  Anyone familiar with such infrastructure projects would know that the organisational change aspects are very substantial, and Chris Croser explained how a small team can have a massive impact when you enable those impacted by the change to talk directly with those who design the change. For example, the library function was able to provide critical feedback on the shortcoming of some design aspect which was then corrected resulting in a saving of some $40-50K on this one element alone.

But many people in the room had experienced the problem of launching a collaboration platform with cupcakes, balloons, free gifts etc as an incentive to ‘start using it’, but had then faced issues around ongoing use. For me personally, it was very rewarding to be able to help people see the dramatic impact it can have when the business purpose is clear.

Convincing people that risk is acceptable compared with the reward

Identifying and managing risks is undoubtedly important, and not being afraid of using technology to drive business outcomes is also important. Having employees posting messages on an enterprise-wide collaboration platform that go against corporate policy could have severe consequences, but it seems that none of the participants in the room had ever actually experienced any of such assumed risks. It appears to me that there is still a substantial amount of inertia based on incorrect risk assessments.

As said above, these themes are not new, but it is important that we keep building the relationships between the people who’ve faced them in the past, and those who are a facing them now. This required an ongoing effort and I’d like to help enable that conversation.

What wasn’t talked about

On a separate note I’d like to reflect briefly on something that was hardly talked about at SWOOP Chat. That was technology. The participants represented from some of Australia’s largest and most iconic organisations. These organisations had mostly chosen Microsoft Yammer or Workplace by Facebook as their technology platform. You might have expected that technology, particular features or bugbears would have come up, but this wasn’t the case. Why not? I think the reason is that the challenges transcend technology, and the themes outlines above applied to the majority of people in the room. Another perspective could be that the technology itself isn’t really the important bit….it’s all about what you do with it that matters.

Finally, I’d like to thank our presenters Nick Barter (Griffith University), Liz Green, Matthew Dodd (Bankwest), Mitch Neems (AMP), Lotte Niens (NBN), Kai Riemer (University of Sydney) and Chris Croser (University of Western Sydney) for your contributions to making SWOOP Chat a fantastic event. I’d also like to thank our partners represented by Scott Ward (Digital Infusions), Tom Hiscutt (Engage Squared) and Adam Shah (Enablo) who actively contributed to the valuable discussions.

To all of the fantastic people who chose to spend a whole day in our company: Thank you for joining us! I took huge pleasure in seeing all the new relationships that were formed. Feedback I received on the day and afterwards has certainly inspired us to run this event again next year. Hope you see you, and your new-found friends, again for SWOOP Chat 2019.

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