With 15 years of experience in the field, James has been the Global Lead for Digital Collaboration at Kellogg’s and worked with a number of large enterprises on digital workplace, climate change, and change/communication strategies.
James currently works through several organisations, including digital workplace providers Beezy, climate culture specialists Solvable and short-form audio platform, Soundbite.ai.
At the heart of everything he does is the question: “How do we get our people to connect, collaborate and innovate at a large scale?”
First on James’ list is Soundbite.ai, a platform that offers internal comms and HR teams the option to send voice messages, called Soundbites, instead of a long email or creating unnecessary meetings. Soundbite allows leaders to create and distribute recordings anywhere within Office 365 (and more) or to their device. This means you can catch employees’ attention where they get work done, such as in Teams, Yammer, Outlook, Microsoft Viva, and Workplace by Facebook.
Soundbite is most exciting because:
- It saves the leader and communications team time. Instead of spending hours crafting a company-wide email, they can record a message on their phone or device in a couple of minutes.
- Soundbite short-form audio is one of the most accessible forms of communication. Research shows it receives more meaningful engagement and helps build better connections and empathy compared to text and video.
- By meeting people where they work (in the tools they work in), key information is accessible for the whole workforce, especially frontline employees and anyone who is on the move (or is just tired of too many emails).
James said: “Internal comms can have a lot of approval gates. With Soundbite, leaders can record short audio Soundbites and send it directly to their team or create drafts for their comms team to edit it beforehand. Employees can listen to a Soundbite whilst they’re making coffee and I’ve found it really seems to resonate with leaders because the clips are so easy to create and consume.”
One of the key selling points of Soundbite.ai is the engagement pricing structure, which is that customers only pay for the software if the users engage with it.
James explained: “The barriers to entry for the pilot are low and there’s a one-month pilot programme, which helps you discover the use cases and set the metrics, as well as help with coaching leaders or whoever else wants to create content. We have a roster of experts that can be brought in from podcast production through to voice presence coaching.”
Next on the agenda was Solvable and a focus on ESG and internal sustainability. Through their Communicating Climate workshops, Solvable is in James’ words: “helping create an internal culture of sustainability by building a foundation of effective communication.”
Solvable’s initiative is called internal climate action, as it encourages organisations to consider the impact of their choices on the world around them. James told us that part of the challenge in introducing ESG as part of strategy is that internal communicators aren’t sure how it directly affects their jobs.
“Internal communicators work hard to make things more human and engaging, and we tend to back information up with a lot of stats and data, but the subject of climate brings up emotions that internal comms teams and leaders generally aren’t used to talking about. This creates an uncertainty aspect, and a lot of people are anxious and fearful – if we talk to just the fear or the anxiety, we can drive apathy or anger really quickly.
Climate and sustainability are going to become an integral part of their jobs. The question is how do you get ahead of that and build a climate culture? What the workshops offer is the opportunity to draw upon people who have that experience and explore how to communicate and engage people in this topic, which is enormous and complex.”
Social by Design
James is also the author of Social by Design, a short business guide that aims to advise businesses on how to create a more socially connected company, as the name suggests!
James explained the inspiration for the book perfectly: “Just turning on Yammer, Teams or Workplace, does not suddenly make you a social company. What doesn’t happen on those channels is just as important as noticing what does. So, for example, which executives are engaged in these tools and which are not. What does that tell you?”
Social by Design stands out against other business books because it focuses directly on the strategy, by cutting out lengthy case studies and instead focusing on clear steps that organisations can follow to achieve the results they want.
James said he created it this way because:
- As a practitioner, he wanted something well-researched and well-written that he can apply and make his own. This allows organisations to ask questions to start the conversation and remain consistent
- Business books are usually really expensive, which takes away their accessibility. Social by Design is affordable and easier to share amongst our networks