How To Communicate With 100K Employees (Or More) At Once

What's the single most important factor in a company’s success? A great product? Visionary management? Customer experience? Actually, it's none of the above. It turns out that the most overlooked success factor is building a great employee experience through engagement and collaboration. We’re going to lay out an easy-to-follow roadmap to excite, engage and motivate your employees. If you take great care of them, they'll take great care of your customers. In turn, you’ll recruit new customers, increase the loyalty of existing ones, and retain your best talent for long-term success.

Globalization: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Companies have expanded worldwide in an effort to gain access to new markets, reduce labor costs, get ahead of the competition or simply survive. Arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of nature. Staying in touch with your employees, aligning them to the overall vision and getting them to operate as a cohesive team across vast oceans and multiple time zones can certainly be a huge challenge. Companies are struggling to keep everyone on the same page and to work effectively together.

Case Study: Technology Customer Experience

When you think about it, technology is the single thread that connects all of us together and helps facilitate nearly every moment of our daily work life. Moreover, technology has has been held up as the great enabler of global expansion. Regrettably, many companies fall short of implementing technology that provides a seamless, frictionless experience and fully meets employees' needs. There are certainly no greater areas of opportunity than improving technology support, and more specifically improving the relationship between the average employee and the IT department. Here's an example from my own work as an IT leader tasked with improving employee technology experience at a major financial services firm.

 For starters, as leaders in our technology organization, we needed to pinpoint the problem. That meant answering a few fundamental questions:

  1. What were the biggest pain points in the IT support environment? Were we providing an exceptional level of service? Were our technology tools good?
  2. How could we improve? What would success look like?
  3. Following up after addressing the issue: Did we do a good job?

A few harsh realities were identified early on, tempered by the realization that we were blazing new trails. Huge opportunities were identified immediately:

  • We were meeting our service levels, but we were hearing complaints about the quality of our service.
  • We were not collaboration experts, but we knew we needed to find a better way to collect employee feedback.
  • We had some intuitions and a willingness to learn how to communicate in a different, more informative, less formal, but much more engaging style.
  • We needed a partner willing to help us launch successfully.
  • If we accomplished even one quarter of our goals, we would be so ahead of the game with this innovative tool we could be a huge success!

No More Surveys And Focus Groups, Please!

The problem with surveys and focus groups can be pretty much summed up as, "lots of talk, but no action." To make matters worse, the data is often used to tell a distorted truth that things are better than they really are.

We began to realize that we could have better conversations and interactions with an on-line collaboration tool. Feedback could be gathered in real time, at a fraction of the time and effort required by surveys. The tool would make it easy to engage with others, report problems, share innovative ideas, and solve issues across reporting lines and time zones, in streamlined manner, and certainly without fear of reprisal. In fact, we could build an entirely new way of communication that didn't rely on e-mail, conference calls or excessive and costly travel.

So what platform would we use? Many companies come to the initial conclusion that an internal website may be the right vehicle for communication and collaboration. But soon enough, the expertise and expense to hire staff to change HTML and Java content become onerous. SharePoint is a ubiquitous workgroup enterprise tool, but too often it's utilized for roles it was never intended to perform such as collaboration. Share Point is an excellent repository for large files and generally represents a huge step up from shared Windows directories. But even in this seemingly simple function, navigation can prove tricky, as many SharePoint users can certainly attest.

Clearly, we needed a quicker, more independent method to gather and analyze feedback, especially on emerging technology issues in the environment. We eventually learned of a collaboration platform – Jive – that was easy to implement and easy to modify, and would integrate with our corporate directory to engage our entire company.

We started small by posting a very simple, “How are we doing” question and inviting a select group of 1,000 end users to respond. We gathered valuable feedback. Jive supported our continuous improvement process using Lean project management methodologies, identifying the highest-impacting, lowest-effort targets for immediate prioritization. In order to build some interest in a fun, non-threatening way we also created some simple blogs around technology topics of general interest

As we tested the quality of our message, we began to focus more specific groups:

  • New hires: ensuring they everything to hit the ground running on their first day of work.
  • Road warriors: promoting internal IT tools for our our telecommuters and frequent travelers.
  • Employees working in on-site environments: tailoring the types of headsets they used to their specific environments.

Building A Following

We published at least a blog a week on a variety of topics – frequently enough that we were virtually guaranteed to grab the attention of each employee. The style was informal and engaging, with catchy titles, liberal use of humor and a self-effacing approach to our challenges, but with a very serious dedication to fixing issues and telling our employees about it ASAP.

We gauged our success by the number of followers, number of blog views, discussion posts, and feedback. We used the company e-mail directory to include target audiences that were particularly receptive to the information and introduced it slowly but steadily across the globe.  While we wanted all employees to take advantage of our website, we came to realize that Jive is an “opt-in” platform.  As a result, we took an omni-channel approach. In this transition in the digital age, we know there are some people who prefer more traditional communication methods, while others embrace this new technology.  By writing both basic and advanced blog post topics, we were able to attract a wide variety of readers.

Studying effective blogging technique, we applied some valuable lessons around writing effective titles to lure readers, using creative graphics to hold interest, empathizing with the reader to identify with their problem, and linking to related articles to build repeat viewership and new followers via shares.

Something surprising and gratifying began to happen on our Jive site. Rather than our team pushing information to the end user community, the end user community began to post original material, and they began to respond to one another. While remaining within the professional structure of the platform, this evolved to an infinitely more democratic and more proactive approach to problem resolution, dissolving all organizational and geographic barriers in the process. The criteria for membership was knowledge and insight into both the problem and potential resolution to the customer-impacting issue. In short, we had attained something incredibly valuable: CREDIBILITY.

Learn more. Get the details on how to engage your end users in authentic dialogue to improve the employee experience in your organization. Watch the webcast "How To Communicate With 100K Employees At Once."

About the author: Robert Chamberlin is a former SVP for Employee Technology Experience at a Fortune 100 company. He is an IT leader and turnaround expert with a focus on service delivery, continuous improvement, digital transformation and M&A integration efforts.  

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