Category Archives: Trends

What We’re Reading

The beginning of a new year is usually a good time for me to catch up on my reading list. I’ve jotted down the titles I’m currently focusing on and I’ve asked my colleagues here at Smith to share what they’re reading right now, too. If you’re looking for a recommendation or a conversation, check out the titles below. If you have a great read you’d recommend, please let us know!

Staff picks from the Smith team

Glen Gonzalez

The Social Organization by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald

Drive by Daniel Pink

A beat up copy of the March 2008 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine.  which I found for $0.99 at my local record store.

Jennifer Needham

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

Sara Levinson

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Checking In: Hospitality-Driven Thinking, Business, and You by Stephen Cloobeck

Allison Artnak

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap and Get to Work That Matters by Lisa Bodell

The Employee Experience Advantage: How to Win the War for Talent by Giving Employees the Workspaces They Want, the Tools They Need, and a Culture They Can Celebrate by Jacob Morgan

Julia Wolf

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines

Gretchen Vaught

The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America by Will Ford and Matt Lockett

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World by Deirdre McCloskey

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Rick Cole

The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change by Bharat Narendra Anand

Baracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston

The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall

Will Spiers

How to Be an Artist: 33 Rules to Take You from Clueless Amateur to Generational Talent (or at Least Help You Live Life a Little More Creatively) by Jerry Saltz

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Michael Garcia

Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

Don Sanford

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

Catherine Sturges

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by Jeff Tweedy

Pat Dodd

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

Amy Crowell

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Lindsey Comas

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

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2019 Communication Trends

Digital migration trends and challenges.

Digital Migration

In 2019, organizational communication continues its march towards all things digital. Companies are investing heavily in applications and platforms that facilitate HR functions, benefits administration, education, training, performance measurements and more. Likewise, employees are increasingly comfortable and eager to engage with technologies that offer the same types of experiences they have in the marketplace and in their personal communication.

As this digital migration continues, communicators are increasingly aware of the gap between the utopian promises of new technologies and the unadvertised challenges created when they are implemented into real working situations. For the savvy, embracing new technologies also includes creating communication strategies that work for their specific internal audiences. This article briefly considers trending technologies and some of the accompanying challenges.

Trending Now

Personalization of data is increasing rapidly across the employee experience. Employees used to create their own benefits profile against standardized offerings, or call into a center to get help. Now they logon to dashboards populated with real time specifics about their compensation, medical, retirement, PTO, performance, etc.

Enterprise Social Media (ESM) differs from employees’ other social media primarily because it is more intentional. Companies are using private social media platforms (usually built on the company intranet or a vendor app) to distribute information and foster conversations that promote collaboration, wellness, knowledge communities, company culture and more.

Knowledge Sharing across organizations is one of the most important trends in ESM. Wikis, blogs, forums, How To videos, and collaboration tools are all ways to share and preserve important organizational expertise, knowledge and memory.

Mobile computing has reached a tipping point. With nearly 80% of Americans owning smart phones[1], employers can expect that their people have access via mobile applications to benefits, job-related apps, collaboration tools, internal information networks, etc.

Wearable devices are being used by companies to help address several key situations. First, many companies offer wearable fitness trackers and connected applications as part of their wellness programs. Second, employees in physical jobs wear devices that monitor the safety and efficiency of their movements. Finally, wearable technology is being used in training and to push performance in professions ranging from package delivery to neurosurgery.

Video continues to rise in popularity as production costs fall. Platforms like YouTube, and the small screens on mobile devices, have made users more comfortable with lower production values and short-format video. The door is open for more organizations and leaders to use video to replace, or supplement, communication that was traditionally done in meetings or print.

Analytics are applied to reams of data available on every aspect of our work in digital communications. For example, we can measure the efficacy of an open enrollment video by knowing if it is watched to completion. This data tells us to make the video shorter, or more dynamic. ESM conversations are tracked and managed to foster an intended activity. Efficiency data is available for online activity and work-related apps. Making sense of all the data is becoming a key job for internal communicators, who must understand how the raw numbers translate into informative stories for leaders and other stakeholders.

Bumps in the Road

Both employers and employees want the benefits promised by new technologies—efficiency, accessibility and customization. However, the road is not without its potholes. Embracing trends in digital migration requires communicators to stretch as they integrate technical expertise into their communication toolkit.

Confusion can challenge the successful implementation of new technology. Converting existing human-reliant processes into digital transactions is rarely a seamless exercise. There are often gaps between the way things are done and the new app. Creating communication to guide a digital migration requires a familiarity with what exists and what is being built, along with a level of technical expertise. Creating a collaborative environment between vendors and stakeholders often hinges on great change communication.

Impatience often follows work-related technologies that are usually far more complicated, and carry higher stakes than consumer products. Billions have been spent on Apple’s iTunes to make buying a song simple and easy. The same is not true of the custom application designed to measure employee productivity. Unfortunately, employees will judge your technology based on usability gold standards found in their consumer experience.

Frustration arises when new technologies are introduced without the necessary human support. User-centered design techniques that help communicators understand the employee experience can help create the support communications necessary to a transition.

Meeting the Future

As technology continues to transform our work lives, the role of the organizational communicator is expanding. Anticipating the promises and the challenges of digital migration prepares us to add value to our organization as we help ensure the employee experience is successful and rewarding.

[1]Pew Research Center. Mobile Fact Sheet. 2018. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

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