Spend your next 20 years doing something valuable

Once you reach your 40s or 50s, life can start feeling a bit more empty despite all visible proof of success. You have the job, the paycheck, the career, the diplomas, the car, the mobile, the wines, the bike, the travel, the clothes. But somehow the joy seems more distant than before. This might be a sign that your professional life should change in some way. Spend your next 20 years doing something valuable.

Let Peter Drücker guide you

Peter Drucker noted that our priorities change as we get older and that we should adapt for example by becoming social entrepreneurs. Yes, it might sound obvious that life changes, but I don’t think we always note and embrace this change. We are bombarded with messages of extreme youth, never ending beauty, and constant health, and it is said our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish. I say: don’t believe this stupidity. As Søren Kierkegaard said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” It is up to you to harness your wisdom, slow down, read as long texts as you want, and think about how to spend the next 20 years of your work life.

One way of going forward is by following the advice of Peter Drucker. You can either grow older and continue focusing on your satisfaction and growth. You have your boring job, but you get a raise in pay every year. Or you can start thinking about creating something of value outside yourself. Yes, the comfort zone breaks, but perhaps it is sunnier on the outside?

Create your future

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Drucker. One way of doing this is by seeing the signs on the horizon, and adapting to them. This happens a lot when people talk about how future technology could impact our jobs. Another way is using your wisdom to create something the world has never seen before. Remember Arthur Schopenhauer’s “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

Therefore, if you stare in the mirror and wonder about what to do next, you have an option: Either you dig a deeper hole and buy that red sports car, or you start looking beyond where people in your profession are looking. No, I don’t say this is easy. But I for sure think it is worth it.

The changing communication landscape

I have worked in the communications and learning areas ever since the 90’s, and my current job is as a communications manager. One thing that has struck me is how the communication landscape has changed the last couple of years. For many, being a good communicator traditionally meant being good at writing. No matter the subject and its complexity, you could turn it into a well-tasting and beautiful dish, that was easily digested. I still see some professional communicators who seem stuck on this “write for the web” island. Now, I would argue this is not enough if you want to be a good communicator.

I recently arrived back from London, where I was invited as a speaker at the Interaction Conference. Luckily, I was also invited to be part of the panel discussion with Gerry McGovern, James Robertson, Sam Marshall, and Andy Williamson. This discussion made me think more about how the role of communicators is changing. Below are some things I think are vital for any communicator, besides the basic writing skills.

As a communicator, you should also know:

  1. Where the company is hurting, and how you can help ease this. For example, if you only listen to top management’s agenda, you might miss a lot. Yes, the new strategy is important, but so are the fundamental communication problems in production unit X that are causing a lot of confusion and potential risk. Walk around. Listen. Make sure you are like an ethnographer at work, trying to understand the daily lives of your colleagues. Once you have this understanding, think about the communication tools and stories to tell. And once you find what is hurting, never mind the vanity figures the statistics give you. If you have 81% or 11% using your ESN is not the important question. Instead, did using the ESN solve your problem?
  2. How people learn at work. Working and learning cannot be separated, and people such as Jane Hart and Harold Jarche (and many more) can guide us in these changes. If you know more about how people learn, then you can tailor your communication to support that.
  3. Business strategy. We are no Robinsonados: Being a communicator should not be a solitary work on a remote island, where we produce funny and well-written stories. Your job is to stand in the middle of the action at your company. You should know where your business is heading and why. Without this in-depth knowledge, your communication skills will not guide your colleagues as well as they could. Here, also read writers like Molly Anglin and for example “5 practical tools for tackling business transformation“. Sources like this can help you as a communicator change how a transformation is done in your company. The clearer you are, the better people will understand what is happening, and new tools can help you do this.
  4. Technology advancements. New tools for communication are arriving every month, and the existing tools are refined. As a communicator, you should know the technical potential of the tools you have, be it SharePoint, Yammer, Skype, or anything else. You should also keep updated on what happens to these tools. For example, if you use Office 365 tools, then follow Microsoft’s blogs for these products. They will tell you which changes are coming and what it could mean to you.
  5. The future of work. As a communicator, I also think you should know how the workplaces are changing. Otherwise, you risk communicating based on older mental models of what is important. Previously, communicators could get away with top-down mass communication. Now, most users avoid this like the plague, and your job is to adjust. Here, the Marginalia blog from Gloria Lombardi can help, plus reading the excellent book “Perspectives on new work,” edited by Esko Kilpi.

I am in no way fully trained in the above areas, but at least they are on my radar. Every day I am taking another step towards being more skilled in these regions. Hopefully, it also makes me a better communicator.

On the road again

This week was the first after the lovely Swedish summer. Once back, I learned that two companies want to buy Haldex. One company, ZF, is now left and we need to wait and see what happens. If they buy us, we take one road, if they don’t, we take another.

Meanwhile, I turn up the sound on the car stereo and have as fun as possible going forward. There is still so much to do to transform our technology into really supporting humans. No matter in which constellation I will work, creating a humane digital workplace is at the center.

Using an intranet to increase engagement

Disengagement at work is a real and big problem for companies. According to Gallup’s 2011-2012 numbers, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. The rest is either Non-engaged or Actively disengaged.

Gallup’s definitions of these groups, featured Gallup’s definitions of these groups, featured in Harvard Business Review (HBR) here, are:

  • “Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”
  • “Not engaged employees (we use “unengaged” on our map) are essentially checked out. They’re sleepwalking through their workday putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.”
  • “Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”

According to the map provided via the HBR article above, the figures are quite astounding (here are three examples):

France_disengaged Sweden_disengaged US_disengaged

In Sweden, this would mean that on average about every 6th person you meet is engaged, drives innovation and moves things forward. The absolute majority (3/4 of all) are just there to pick up the paycheck by doing an ok job and are basically sleep walking. Finally, about every 10th person you meet are unhappy and shows this actively in action and spirit by destroying the morale and business of others. Of course, this varies strongly between companies. None the less, these figures are alarming.

Disengagement at work is not only annoying and sad. As Stephan Schillerwein noted, also the productivity loss due to active disengagement is huge:


Also, as Chris McGrath and Ephraim Freed pointed out in their Social Intranets and Employee Engagement, the level of engagement has real business impacts:

Top-quartile companies have 37% less absenteeism, 25% to 49% less employee turnover (depending on the type of organization), 27% less shrinkage (employee theft), 18% higher productivity and 16% higher profitability.

Using the intranet to create engagement

We who are in charge of an intranet and other digital workplace tools must do what we can here. If we can help decrease absenteeism, decrease big turnovers, and increase productivity and profitability, we are sure doing a good thing.

To get started, we can look at Harvard Business Review’s Achievers Report. Here, they asked 550 executives to rate the importance of different activities on employee engagement. Some of the actions that were most important were:

  • Business goals communicated company-wide and understood
  • Senior leadership continually updates/communicates strategy
  • Recognition given for high performers
  • Individuals have clear understanding of how job contributes to strategy

This also goes fully in line with what Nonlinear Enterprise reported in their excellent article How to improve employee engagement with a great intranet:

… but virtually all of these studies agree that employee engagement increases when three things happen:

  1. Employees clearly understand how their job contributes to the corporate mission – how they can personally make a difference
  2. High performers are publicly recognized for their efforts
  3. Leadership closes the loop, providing frequent, transparent updates on the success of corporate initiatives and changes in corporate strategy

Nonlinear Enterprise then goes on to mention three tactics we can use today to improve employee engagement:

  1. Make celebration special, and clearly recognize when people are doing a great job.
  2. Show how the contributions from individuals really matter when achieving the goals.
  3. Clearly show the status of the company for all employees to see if what we are doing now is leading us closer to, or further away from, the goals.

Here, I would also add what Newsweaver mentioned in their 10 quick tips to improve employee engagement on your intranet:

Ensuring the intranet is accessible to remote workers. If you want all employees to use the intranet, then it must be mobile-enabled so they can access it wherever they are. Don’t cut corners in your mobile design. It is frustrating for those working remotely to not have access to the full functionality of the intranet – and gives them a reason to not use it.

In companies with a lot of production workers and traveling staff, we sure need to reach them with the celebrations, company goals, and strategies.

To conclude, low engagement is a real threat to companies and we need to deal with it constructively. Make sure you also use the intranet to:

  • Display and describe the company strategy and goals on your intranet, and keep them updated.
  • Make sure each individual understands and sees how they as individuals plus their departments and teams contribute to the bigger picture.
  • Praise people in front of others, and have them share successful stories with others.
  • Enable access for all employees, no matter where they are.

We will continue this journey, and look forward to hearing more about how others succeed.

A quick guide to instant intranet solutions in a box

During the last weeks, I have had the privilege to read reports on ready-made intranet solutions:

The above three resources give you a very good overview of what is available today. They also update these overviews regularly, so keep your eyes open for new versions.

When I browse the descriptions of such intranet solutions, many vendors sound the same. Yes, they all sell the same products, but still, something is missing. I wish more of them came from an organizational psychology / change management / sound workplace angle. And that they show they really know how to code SharePoint, as in jaw-droppingly cool.

Many of them still tell us what we can read from Microsoft’s site: There are search and libraries, it can be online, you can integrate with other services, and so on.

It would be awesome if some vendors took this to the next level, such as:

  • Since we know SharePoint search so well, we have tweaked it via the search engine and web parts to make your daily life easier. Our search experts make sure no one will complain about the search again.
  • Since we know SharePoint, but don’t know you, we always start all projects having coffee and listening to your stories. Once we know you, we present the technical solution.
  • Since we know the hybrid environments so well, we have of course already integrated Delve in your on-prem solution, and can integrate it in your Win 10 installations for a smooth experience.
  • Since we know the current discussions about digital workplaces, that is the start of our talks. We are not here to sell you a platform. We are here to help you work more effectively, lessen your stress, and help you save money no matter where you are.
  • Since we like you, we invite you to meet us and other clients over a coffee or a beer regularly, to socialize and network.

It will be interesting to see if any vendors take such steps. My guess is that, if they remain talking just about the technology, they could be outmaneuvered by others.

Some #digitalworkplace and #intranet people to watch

On April 25, 2016, Janus Boye and Lau Hesselbæk Andreasen published a post called “10 intranet leaders to watch in 2016“. I really like when people are listed like this. Such lists will of course never cover all the people you need to know about. They can, however, open your eyes to professionals you might have missed otherwise.

To complement the Boye post, here are the listed people’s Twitter addresses (the ones I could find):

For more inspiration, I will add my lists for:

Of course, the digital workplace and the intranet are already dancing, smiling, and holding hands. Soon they are one. Before we know it, all this will be placed behind us, and we will only talk about ‘work’.

Me? You find me at https://twitter.com/patrikbergman, trying to see clearly over a landscape in motion.

Digitalization and culture: From flirt to proposal

Last week, I was honored to be invited as one of the speakers at Intranätverk. The conference, held a few times a year, attracts people who want to talk about intranets and the digital workplace. My talk was (no surprise here) about culture and the intranet: Digitalization and culture – From flirt to proposal. The culture and the technology can flirt all they want, but we must also make sure they walk hand-in-hand.

At Haldex, we make sure we don’t just talk about our culture and the 5Cs. Among other things, we also make sure our intranet serves as a concrete evidence of them. There, we do a number of things to remind employees that our 5Cs are at the center of what we do:

  • The intranet is named “Connect”, after the first C.
  • For each C, we display clear examples of each, based on the business we do. For example, when we presented ‘Collaborate’, we created a video of our product manager for disc brakes telling a story on how great collaboration led to business with a customer.
  • We are building a business portal named ‘Connect the dots’, which is the sub heading for the first C ‘Connect’. Here, we will include all the necessary facts about our company, and the world we work in.
  • The intranet is part of something much bigger, which we can refer to as the Digital Workplace, which in turn is part of creating a great work place. At Haldex, we make sure Human Resources, IT, and Communications drive a mutual agenda for this. At Intranätverk, I included a Venn diagram (they always seem to display the truth and be highly scientific) to emphasize the risks of excluding any of these departments:


If Communications is excluded, the workplace can be filled by badly written and overly long PPT files nobody will grasp.

If IT is excluded, people have no access to the tools they need to work effectively.

If Human Resources is excluded, the rest don’t know what to emphasize.

If all play nicely together, we are taking steps to a better workplace tomorrow.

For those who are interested, my full presentation is available at Intranätverk’s Slideshare channel.

How Microsoft pushed me away, and might win me back

Recently, I planned on moving my personal mail and files to Office 365. The marketing ads were glossy and the people in them looked happy. And it was from Microsoft, a company that truly can deliver some great stuff and whose products I work with professionally. But this time around, everything failed.

Maybe, one day we will meet again, but for now it is bye bye to Microsoft for the following reasons:

The support: I had migrating issues when moving my mail, but when I contacted the support, I instead had both migration and support problems. Sometimes, three people answered my emails in parallel, not knowing what the others answered. And no one could help me. Finally, I paid for a third-party product (MigrationWiz from BitTitan) and everything worked perfectly. Finally, the manager and the manager’s manager at Microsoft said sorry, but by then I had already done (and paid for) the migration.
–> Tips to Microsoft: Train your support people, and improve your processes, to be truly awesome. I don’t blame the individual operators, but instead your way of approaching customers with support issues. And partner with BitTitan to help your customers move to your surroundings swiftly.

The file limitations: Aaargh! This is like Microsoft telling me “Please don’t join us. We don’t like users.” They even have a long support page lovingly called “Restrictions and limitations when you sync SharePoint libraries to your computer through OneDrive for Business“. The amount of job you expect me to do is ridiculous. Dropbox and others manage all this quietly and effectively, so why can’t you?
–> Tips to Microsoft: Remove 90% of these restrictions, and just keep the ones you absolutely need.

The sync engine: Aaargh! again. It seems Microsoft is stuck in a vortex of bad coding for their OneDrive sync engines. They just updated it and had a gazillion promises. But hello! Double installs and libraries, mysterious shutdowns, no clue on how much is left or what has synced.
–> Tips to Microsoft: Never, never ever release a sync client that isn’t working as well as Dropbox’s. They have always been the leader also here, and I cannot see why you couldn’t match them.

If I knew people in the Office 365 team, I would tell them they are doing an awesome job. Meanwhile, I would also emphasize that the above are quite serious flaws. Communicate that you take this seriously before end of April, and then keep end customers updated. Maybe one day I will return from Google Apps mail and Dropbox.

Culture-based digital change agent work: One road ahead?

The quest to solve central workplace related challenges affect us all to some extent. So far, I have begun this journey by posting things like Building a humane digital workplace, where we ground our work in our culture. I have also read a lot about the digital workplace during the years. Two excellent examples of making the digital workplace more tangible are:

This week, I also stumbled over World Economic Forum’s How to be an intrapreneur. Then it hit me: Maybe this, the change agent drive, is what might make the image more complete? Therefore, I added them all to a Venn diagram, to see if I am on to something or not:



If the above is somewhat correct (this is just a test), the workplaces we are moving towards can help us:

Make or save the company money while tackling a pressing societal issue, using digital tools feeling as natural as those we use privately, based in the strong company culture. Not bad for a day’s job, I think. The quest continues.


Digital Workplace consultant? Don’t just focus on the technology.

Are you a digital workplace consultant? Then please remember that the technology is only part of the solution. But you sometimes sell it to me, as if the technology will save me from all evil. Please remember that, if all the technical gadgets and solutions do not support our culture and strategic goals, it will be close to meaningless.

As an example, today I stumbled upon a recruitment ad for digital workplace consultants. No, I am not looking for a new job, but since I receive a lot of notifications within this professional area, it reached my eyes. It was talking about cloud based solutions, mobility, and more. Those can be gorgeous, of course. But the ad did not emphasize enough the customer’s employees, adoption, or aligning the technology with the client’s culture or strategic goals.

From my perspective, everything starts with WHY here. And where does this ‘why’ reside? In the company culture. And how does a company culture live on over time? Through the humans who work there. Therefore, creating a better workplace requires people who understand people. I don’t care how awesome Office 365 (or any other product) is, if you don’t hear what I say in the first place. As Simon Sinek said: Place the Why in the middle, and then work your way out to How, and What. If you miss the Why (people, culture, values, strategic goals), I don’t care about the What (shiny technical stuff).

Therefore, the next time I see an ad for digital workplace consultants, I hope the technology is only 10%. The other 90% should be about being a good listener, one who can understand businesses, and bridge strategic and human needs to selecting the best gadgets and solutions. Have you sat in long near meaningless meetings with reluctant people introducing technology they don’t feel they need? Great! Have you struggled aligning what you do in your department with the overall goals of the company, but not known if you have a match? Awesome! You can become a digital workplace consultant.

Yes, we need smarter apps, better IT systems, and shiny things that alleviate us. But first of all we need great people who listen and understand us. Therefore, I hope this will be reflected in the digital workplace consultant ads going forward.