Change as the new normal: A recap of simplyEXP 2023

17 November 2023

More than ever as communicators, we’re faced with tidal waves of challenges. It’s never been more important to be agile, adaptable, and open-minded… and it’s safe to say that in the new digital age of the workforce, change truly is the new normal.

This week, Team 106 arrived at simplyEXP 2023 expecting nothing less than thought-provoking (and occasionally controversial) discourse and insights – especially with the added theme of AI. However, nothing could have prepared us for the dramatic undertone that ran through every case study and conversation. It seems that all comms thought leaders can agree: not only is the world as we know it dramatically altered by technological evolutions and cultural shifts, but things will only continue to transform, and at an increasingly more rapid pace.

So… what did we hear? While the new value of AI in our industry was one common thread, it was clear that everyone in the room had a common goal: learning how to unite our people through belonging – more authentically, more consistently, and more effectively. Fasten your seatbelts for our top takeaways.

The conference began on an analytical note with a keynote from Jasminder Thind of Microsoft, who stated plainly and simply: “Generative AI is here.” This set the tone for the next 2 days: many of us have been thinking of artificial intelligence as something on the horizon but not an immediate part of our lives… it turns out, we couldn’t be more wrong.

Alex Kinnear-Mellor took to the stage to deliver an enthralling stand-out session on “how to fail” at delivering a successful internal communications strategy, showing the value of “selling the problem, not the solution”. Long story short – if you don’t want to create engagement and a unified culture – make it all about you.

An afternoon round table session on Trust and Belonging in 2023 and Beyond set the stage for some stellar quotes and insights to come away with:

  • “Belonging is what you bring to an organisation as your identity.” -Isabel Collins, Consultant
  • The formula for trust: (Credibility x Reliability x Intimacy) / Self-Orientation (Lots to unpack here.)
  • We were reminded that for the new generations, belonging takes place within the digital world. We owe it to them to at least understand the distinct ways that they connect, and where they might feel most comfortable.

Jemma de Perlaky and Lucy Watson delivered a case study on how the internal comms team at Deloitte realised that while they were keeping a focus on creating “brilliant content”, it was at the expense of “brilliant basics”. By reducing the noise of their approach and decongesting their engagement landscape, they ultimately boosted their impact. We can all learn that in a comms world where we have access to countless channels, sometimes getting quieter (meaning, more selective about what we choose to say) is what it takes to effectively reach people.

If I were to pick one presentation that completely summed up the new approach we’ve been suggested to take towards AI, it would be AI, EY, and Internal Comms with Matt Holder. According to Matt, Generation AI is definitively the new era. He reminded us that there are always sceptics when it comes to any new tech: but AI is going to, in his cautioning words, “hit us like a wrecking ball”. He delivered an absolutely brilliant case study on how EY embraced AI, knowing that there was no other option. The firm developed their own unifying AI platform, and has guaranteed all employees training to understand the new technology. I was blown away by these initiatives (and the investments that show where their values lie) and think that any organisation can learn from them the value of positioning your company as a leader who can deliver solutions.

Just a mere month ago at the Future of Work Conference, it was said that AI won’t replace you, but someone using AI might. So much of the discourse I’ve observed (and partaken in) on AI has revolved around fear. It was refreshing, and arguably needed, to hear more concrete data and perspectives on how exactly AI can support our work, and in turn, support our people. As a self-proclaimed optimist, I needed that breath of fresh air.


If you are interested in learning more about the increasingly pivotal role AI is playing in the scope of internal communications, employer branding, and student marketing, do reach out to let us know. We are committed to staying at the front line of all the latest trends and updates surrounding Artificial Intelligence and how it can improve our roles – and yours – as communicators. Stay tuned for updates on how 106 is continuing the AI conversation.  

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