Home » Communication » #ioiclive14 conference – part two

#ioiclive14 conference – part two

Date: May 30 2014

To follow from the part one blog post of #ioiclive14 here’s part two which I’ve written for cirinside.co.uk and sharing here. It covers the introvert extrovert debate, neuroscience, Bupa and the extra mile, and Peer 1 Hosting and their approach to providing an environment and culture that enables engagement to flourish…

Debate – understanding introverts and extroverts

Helen Deverell

Helen Deverell

Helen Deverell, from Grant Thornton organised the panel discussion having read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. You can read Helen’s guest blog about the book and her personal revelation on AllthingsIC.com, and watch Susan Crain’s TED talk here.

Belinda Gannaway from Nixon Mcinnes facilitated the debate.

The panel comprised a mix of introvert and extrovert personalities. Helen an introvert, Robin Hall, HR consultant a fellow introvert, Shiona Adamson from Natural England an extrovert and providing balance is ambivert Dana Leeson co-founder of the IC Crowd and digital Workplace Architect at British Standards Institution.

Ambiverts are described as someone towards the middle of the spectrum of Introvert and Extrovert, they may display traits of both in different situations, sometimes giving them the name of social chameleons, able to change and adapt to the situation they are in.

Intrigued as to where you are on the introvert extrovert spectrum? Take this short test on Susan Cain’s website

So what’s the relevance for internal communication and can good communicators be introverts?

Receiving information and collaborating

As internal communicators it’s vital for us to understand how our colleagues will feel able to collaborate, and provide the right opportunities for them to get involved and be heard. Introverts tend to listen, and think before they act. Sometimes their style can be misinterpreted as shy, or that they lack confidence. This isn’t the case, and perhaps it’s more the format of the meeting that doesn’t suit them as well as it does their more assertive, thinking out loud counterpart the extrovert. Introverts tend to stay quiet in meetings, processing the information and reflecting, which is not less valuable than the others in the meeting who speak up easily. As Dana, the only ambivert on the panel pointed out, an introvert may respond to the outcomes of the meeting at a later time, once they’ve had the time to thoroughly process the information, or they may prefer the chance to have one-to-one discussions where they can talk openly about their views.

The impact for comms teams

As communication professionals, Introverts bring different attributes to a team and can provide balance and complement the extroverts in the room. Robin Hall explained that he finds his ability to listen and get under the skin of an organisation helps him to do his job. Being an introvert is a great advantage. Helen also finds her listening approach garners great results.

While extroverts like Shiona are well suited to facilitating and love the high energy of social situations, thinking on their feet and multi-tasking.

Fitting in…

It’s suggested in Susan Cain’s book that the world seems to crave extroverts and that there isn’t room for anyone that doesn’t fit into that ideal, so many introverts may find themselves trying to ‘fit in’ and alter their behaviour to be heard in a world that rewards the outspoken and gregarious extroverts.

For some, being called an introvert has also carried with it some negative labels, being equated to being shy or lacking confidence, and that’s not the case as demonstrated by the mix on the panel and in our everyday working lives.


Whether introvert or extrovert everyone brings talent and attributes that complete the picture for any team or organisation.

Flex your communication channels, and use a mix to ensure that everyone feels able to contribute, and get involved. It’s not always about big bold events, and other methods of communication can be really effective at reaching out to your colleagues.

The best skill for any of us is to be self-aware and aware of others you work with. Being mindful and tailoring your comms channels so that everyone feels able to take part, feel involved and able to collaborate, and be a part of the team will reap results.

Neuroscience and communication

This was a really interesting topic discussed by Hilary Scarlett, bringing the physiology and the science to communication, to delve

Hilary Scarlett

Hilary Scarlett

deeper into the way our brains guide us and our behaviour, and how we need to be mindful of this and what we do as communicators. When we understand how our brains work we can work with the physiology, and not fight it.

Three takeaways for us were:

1. Change and how we communicate it

Hilary talked about how we learn at an individual level and how we should be mindful of this when implementing change at a macro level in the organisations in which we work.

Each time we learn something new an electrical signal has to cross the synapse gap to continue its journey and for us to learn something new. Regular and repetition of an activity or behaviour will help us to learn. Learning is difficult to start with, but as the signal crosses the gap it becomes easier. ‘Practice makes perfect.’

And once we’ve learnt something, it becomes effortless, as we just do something without even thinking about it. So when you need to start doing something differently, for whatever reason and no matter what that behaviour may be, it’s not easy.

Change stops our brains being able to predict what happens next. Our innate fight or flight response takes over and we feel threatened. Blood moves to different parts of brain and removes our ability to think at our best. Our reactions to change can be likened to being like a teenager…

So to help break the negative cycle of anxiety that change can bring, use techniques to encourage and remind people of the past achievements or ‘wins’. Praise and recognition are important to reward achieving short-term goals. While laughter and the novelty can also be great stress relievers.

Providing information helps the brain to cope with the unpredictable situations that change can bring. So providing consistent, timely and factual information can help reduce the stress of change and help to smooth the process.

2. Working to your optimum?

Working to your optimum

Working to your optimum?

Our brains naturally steer us away from threats and stressful situations, while guiding us towards rewards. So the threat of having something taken away for a bad behaviour or the reward for good behaviour will have a stronger and longer lasting effect (most parents will know experience this while negotiating with their children).

Being engaged and productive in your work can also be drilled down to the level of neuroscience. Somewhat surprisingly, to our brains physical and social pain are the same. So being treated unfairly for example would feel the same as it does when you are physically hurt. While acts like cooperating, giving to charity, hearing your mother’s voice and being treated fairly or even eating chocolate all affect the same part of the brain as well. So understanding these neuroscience facts, as communicators we can understand the impact of our communication on the brain, and how it can make an individual feel. Of course we’re all individuals and our points of engagement will vary.

So what happens when someone is under-stimulated? With no deadline looming, or no ‘pressure’ to deliver a certain project or task, we can become distracted, disorganised, forgetful, and inhibited.  And if there’s too much stress, too many tasks, deadlines or the environment is creating stress (such as unfairness) we can also become distracted, forgetful and fail to perform well.

Understanding your own optimum working levels will help you to manage your work. While talking about feelings and individual optimum levels with your colleagues will help you work together more successfully. Being more mindful, switching off the narrative in your head, and instead observing your own behaviour will help you to achieve your goals.

Neuroscience also raises questions about the way we work in the modern world, with open plan offices and the always on culture, all affecting our ability to think and be creative. Hilary advises to stop multi-tasking, as your brain can’t do it, and you just end up doing several things badly at once.

3. SCARF model

This is a useful tool to help us understand more about how neuroscience and the five factors in this model affect our abilities to think and collaborate effectively.

These five areas affect our ability to think our memory, ability to collaborate, and damage our physical well-being as cortisol damages hippocampus in our brain. If these five factors are compounded and all are neglected it can have a really negative effect on an individual.

1. Status means looking at ourselves as compared to others in our teams, our organisations, and even compared to ourselves. If we feel we are doing well by comparison and are feeling respected our ‘status’ is enhanced and we will work more effectively.

2. Certainty is really important for us as communicators. As we help ensure there’s enough information to help employees to do their jobs and focus on objectives, this improves certainty. Without a level of certainty employees can become confused, bewildered, distracted and perplexed.

3. Autonomy affects an individual’s level of engagement, it gives employees a sense of control. When you are involved in decision-making you work well. Just some control makes a big difference. So give some decisions back to people and see what difference it makes.

4. Relatedness demonstrates that we are wired to be social and we will work better if we get along with our colleagues. If you feel part of a group, and that there’s someone to ‘look out for you’ you will feel more connected and engaged with your group.

5. Fairness is something we all need to feel. We need to feel we are treated equally to those around us.

Hilary shared a great video of Capuchin monkeys to demonstrate the importance of fairness. We all hoped they both got grapes in the end.


And there’s also a lovely clip of children sharing here, demonstrating the human need for fairness.

When employees feel negative about all five of these aspects, they are in a dangerously un-engaged position, withdrawing from the group and feeling a range of negative emotions. Whereas an engaged person will feel positive, more focussed, willing to collaborate, innovative, and part of a team.

According to Hilary, neuroscience is proving very persuasive with the most sceptical of leaders, and you can see why, the facts are really compelling.


Corporate social responsibility and employee engagement


Marie Doyle, from Bupa talked about the Bupa Ground miles challenge and how this corporate responsibility programme has worked internally building engagement across Bupa.

Ground Miles Challenge – five million miles, is a joint programme with Bupa and International Heart Federation working together to raise awareness and funds to tackle cardiovascular disease, the number one biggest killer in the world, claiming 17 million lives each year.

So on World Heart Day, the challenge was launched to get people walking, asking people across the globe to walk 5 million miles. As part of the challenge campaign an app created by Bupa to help you manage and record every step you take. It’s proven that taking 10,000 steps a day significantly improves your health and fitness. They smashed their target and Bupa employees were a part of that success, walking 500,000 miles.

Watch the video here


Connecting CSR and employee engagement

The purpose of Bupa is to provide ‘Longer, Healthier, Happier lives’ – a purpose that extends to Bupa’s 70,000 employees not just their customers.

Marie talked about unifying employees, bringing them together with a common purpose and engagement coming from that sense of connection to the end goal. And tying back to some of what was covered in Hilary’s talk on neuroscience, it gives employees a sense of pride in what they do, and helping them to feel they are making a difference.

Ground miles is a part of this, bringing together a strong corporate social responsibility campaign and making it work with employee engagement.

They created ‘Chad Strider’ the personality and bit of fun for this campaign.


There were ten takeaways from Marie’s session that are great to help with any CSR and engagement campaign:

  1. Have a clear, compelling and inspirational outcome that takes the idea beyond a list of activities to become an entity in its own right
  2. Link your CSR outcome to your business goals
  3. Enrol key influencers and stakeholders early on and get them involved, and ask for their ideas
  4. Keep it simple (KISS)
  5. Appeal to friends and family – it’s more powerful to speak to people about the health of those they love, than their own health
  6. Keep the story alive, and share successes throughout. Let people share their stories too and provide the platforms for them to do this.
  7. When things go wrong (and there’s always something that will go wrong) reconnect to your clear and compelling outcome to refocus the campaign and get it back on track
  8. Say thank you to everyone who participates and supports you. Celebrate milestones and successes to maintain the momentum and keep everyone motivated
  9. Enjoy it, and have some fun!
  10. And the top quote, tweeted and retweeted many, many times, was: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’.


Peer 1 hosting   Employee engagement

Helen Ives from Peer 1 Hosting, talked about her company’s innovative approach to keeping it’s IC alive and it’s colleagues engaged.

Helen Ives

For many in the room, the office design at Peer 1 Hosting, could not be further from the reality of their offices.  Brightly decorated, with hot desks and a regular swap around of where you sit, a slide, a bar, several dogs and bean bags. But what makes Peer 1 Hosting stand out goes beyond the interior design which is certainly not a gimmick and a real product of the culture (all of which has been chosen by the employees).

The organisation is built upon embracing the entrepreneurial approach. Dreamers, innovators and disruptors are welcomed and the ‘cock up of the month’ is celebrated.

Peer 1 Hosting’s employee engagement score increased by 15% in the last year, customer churn rates are down by half to just 1.4%, and the revenue in the UK was up 150%. So the reality of this culture, fun workplace and engagement for Peer 1 Hosting is real tangible business benefit.

For Peer 1 Hosting, the industry it operates in is fast paced, and attracting the right people is critical.

In an industry driven by money, comprising a young workforce of people who can be drawn out of the business and lured away by a bigger pay check, a way to differentiate and stand out is a real advantage. The Peer 1 Hosting office is the best recruitment tool you could have as it truly reflects Peer 1 Hosting. After going through the processes of psychometrics and candidate assessments, they invite people in, and they can then get the vibe of the office really quickly. Some people know they wouldn’t enjoy working at Peer 1, while many others know they would fit in. And once they start, they tend to stay and as they recently came 11th in the top 25 best places to work list by the Great Place to Work institute, it’s clear it’s a good business to be a part of.

In fact Peer 1 Hosting is so sure that its new hires will stay, they will bet they won’t as stated on their website: “It’s so much fun here, we even bet new PEERS £1,000 that they won’t want to leave after two weeks on the job. No one ever does.”

Check out this video of the Southampton office.


Other resources

IoIC has posted separate blog posts here

Sequel Group’s Suzanne Peck is the President of IoIC and there’s a suite of great posts from Sequel to read here

Rachel Miller’s post about the event here

Lawrence Alexander, aka Larry’s brian and his three things post here

Melcrum’s piece about neuroscience here

Susan Cain’s website and the short test to see where you are on the introvert / extrovert spectrum here

And a piece about engaging introverts at conferences here 

Image credits

Working to your optimum – image by bplanet, freedigitalphotos.net