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smilelondon talks about remote workers

Meritxell Guinart Mola on stage at smilelondon 2019.

smilelondon talks about remote workers

Something that stood out to me at smilelondon on 18th November was how many of the case studies were centred around remote or deskless workers. This is something that I have been researching a lot recently, so it might be a case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, but ‘deskless employees’ has been an area to challenge internal communicators and intranet managers for a long time.

I’ve written up some of the case studies that were presented, and our Wedge has shared all his notes if you’d like a taste of the day.

NRMA and Yammer

Who they are: The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) is an Australian organisation offering roadside assistance, car servicing, insurance etc. It’ a member-owned organisation that’s nearly 100 years old (so it’s a very trusted brand with customers).

The challenge: Pete Johns and his team recognised that there were trust issues between the diverse frontline and management / leadership. They decided to work on ways of connecting the frontline and empowering them.

What they did: They already had Yammer within the business, but it was underused. So rather than investigating the tool itself they identified the business goals where Yammer could bring value (this is something that Wedge has explored in his ‘Don’t do a pilot in your digital workplace’ blog piece). This resulted in examples such as: a customer service representative was able to resolve an obscure issue in 45 minutes rather than several months, which previously it would take because of their formal logging and paper-trail approach. So, parts of the business often wanted to solve problems at pace, but systems and processes often got in the way. Yammer now provides a shortcut, while also helping with engagement, but not taking anything away from the formal processes that can still happen at the same time.

The results: In three months the NRMA digital employee experience score has increased by 10% and employee engagement has improved by 8% in the same timeframe. This has happened by putting business reasons and requirements first, not the tool.

Morleys Stores and Speakap

Who they are: Morleys Stores is a group of eight department stores in Greater London, plus a couple of other department and furniture stores in southern England.

Three people on stools on stage, named below.
Guy Chiswick of Speakapp, Louise Walker of Morleys, with Lisa Pantelli at smilelondon.

The challenge: Louise Walker and her team wanted to bring together the different stores, who had their own communities and were doing their own thing. Finding a solution that would work for their deskless employees was also a must.

What they did: They introduced Speakap, an employee app dedicated to communication. For them, this was the best fit as they didn’t need to worry about Microsoft licences, and they felt it was truly mobile-first. The employees quickly began posting and sharing content, and even the less-tech-savvy employees were finding out about what was going on through conversations in the staffroom – meaning that everyone really was better connected.

The results: Budget cuts to training haven’t impacted Morleys as much since the introduction of Speakap, as they are now able to deliver short training-style sessions through the app. The company is also much better connected. Even desk-based colleagues understand the importance of it, especially since they were the victims of a cyber-attack and all systems went down, except Speakap. Meaning they could still communicate with and help their store teams, which wouldn’t have been possible before.

Imerys and LumApps

Who they are: Imerys is a multinational company which specialises in the production and processing of industrial minerals. Imerys has operations in 50 countries and has more than 18,000 employees.

Three people on stage, named below.
Marc Wright of simply, Philippa McLean of Imerys and Laurent Boncenne of LumApps.

The challenge: Not only did Imerys need to reach all of its remote workers, but they wanted something that would sync with Google docs. They also wanted to engage the leadership team more, as they were often posting to LinkedIn more than internal communication channels. This presented a great opportunity to maintain the behaviour but switch the platform.

What they did: They introduced LumApps, which is an intranet product with a mobile app -although the app is the next focus for the project to connect all employees and drive engagement. Philippa McLean and her team have already been setting up a network of community managers though, with associated key topics and locations. As an example, ‘Health & Safety in Brazil’ is a community site that has worked very well so far and is likely to improve with the mobile focus.

The results: Different functional and business areas are posting their own content and using style guides for reference, which means people are taking responsibility for their own content. They have also been able to streamline the many newsletters they were previously publishing, as well as integrate Poppulo to give a unified experience.

Nestlé and Workplace

Who they are: Nestlé is a Swiss multinational food and drink conglomerate and is the largest food company in the world. Nestlé has over 400 factories, operates in around 190 countries, and employs over 300,000 people.

Meritxell Guinart Mola on stage.
Meritxell Guinart Mola of Nestlé.

The challenge: Engaging the incredible number of remote employees was the primary challenge, but they also wanted to explore ways of making the business more efficient and agile.

What they did: Meritxell Guinart Mola and her team introduced Workplace by Facebook, because they felt the familiarity of the site (with normal Facebook) would encourage early adoption. They worked hard to make people realise that it was a working tool, not just for social posts. By developing some simple personas, they identified where people’s pain points were and turned it into a very practical tool.

The results: There was 60% adoption after the first year, but more interestingly 53% of people said that they felt more connected to leadership since the launch of Workplace.

Interxion and Beezy

Who they are: Interxion is a European provider of data centre services, with over 50 data centres in 11 European countries.

The challenge: Interxion has expanded quickly in a short space of time, meaning that they have to move from a big-business-minded small-business, to a big business with a small-business culture and approach. The platform had to integrate with ServiceNow and Metric Stream (for policy and process documentation).

What they did: Tara Regan Overton introduced Beezy after having visited every country to find out what people wanted. They knew they wanted something better, but not what. Beezy was then selected as the new intranet platform because it was intuitive and had a user-centric approach. The launch was based entirely round their people, with a focus on deskless workers, through the use of champions and physical launch materials and games to build interest.

The results: A merger has been announced, which can be a difficult and uncertain time for people and is only in its early stages. The senior leadership have made a commitment to only use the intranet, as it has become a vital business tool. So, the communications team created a community site for everyone, to be the central hub for merger communications and documentation. Without the intranet this wouldn’t have been possible or carried out as smoothly.

‘Remotely Interested’ – a table talk

Jenni Field talking earnestly.
Jenni Field.

Jenni Field, Director of Redefining Communications, and Benjamin Ellis from SocialOptic joined forces to explore the issue that remote / deskless workers are “one of the biggest barriers to internal communication, yet the priorities of internal communicators doesn’t reflect this change”. They went out and spoke to / surveyed over 300 people to find out “what channels were best, how important the line manager really was, and whether there was any correlation between content and channel”.

‘Remotely Interested’ is the report of their findings, which contains invaluable data and conclusions that is a must-read for anyone in a business with remote workers. You can download it for free from the Remotely Interested website.

What’s next for remote workers

I think that technology has finally caught up to the ways that people work – I don’t mean that as a dig at workplace technology, but technology generally. Most of us now carry a powerful computer in our pocket, which is full of apps and other software that has been designed to work to fit our situation. They are leaner and therefore more intuitive than larger intranet systems. This brings a new challenge to desktop approaches for remote workers, who now see a different way of approaching and presenting information in their personal lives. “Why doesn’t search work like Google?” is now often supplanted by “why can’t it be as easy as an app?” as the usual cry.

These challenges are why I’ve been researching apps so much recently, and we intend to publish a new report in 2020. This one will be similar in format to our SharePoint intranet-in-a-box report but will offer independent reviews on the dozens of employee app products that are out there. The research is going well so far, and fingers crossed it will launch in early-summer. If you currently use an app internally in your business, we would love to hear from you so that we can do even more case study research, and let you know about the launch of the report.

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Marc Wright on stage.
Marc Wright of simply communicate.

Finally, thank you to Marc and the team at simplycommunicate for shining a light on this business challenge; it’s a fascinating subject to explore as technology in our personal lives improves remote workers will only expect more from their business tools.

Suzie Robinson

I've always worked with intranets, and have practical experience with all aspects of intranet management, including research, implementation, governance, and strategy. My roots are in internal communication and I focus on employee experience and engagement.

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