Creating one team: reviving internal communication in the Workplace

Thrive Homes is a housing association which owns and manages circa 4,600 properties in the South East of England. Approximately 30% of the workforce is field based which is set to increase as the business begins to digitally evolve to support growth.

The communications challenge
The initial challenge was ensuring corporate communications could reach all colleagues. The absence of a centralised communications platform meant field based colleagues couldn’t access the internal e-zine on their mobile devices and inboxes filled up very quickly with often irrelevant emails.

But the challenge was wider than that. As Leah Thompson, Communications Business Partner and Chair of the Staff Voice consultative group explained: “The absence of an open communication platform meant there was very little exposure to what our colleagues were doing and limited opportunity to feedback.

This sadly created a big divide between office based teams and field based teams.”

Finding a solution
The Staff Voice Group quickly understood the challenge and started to scope what the business needed. In summary, this included:

  • Enabling teams to share knowledge and successes in real time
  • Helping reduce the quantity of internal email
  • A cloud-based, user friendly platform to centralise communication.

The group shortlisted potential solutions and planned to test each option for three months. Every member recruited three colleagues from their team, forming a testing group of 30.

Selecting Workplace
Workplace provides a vast array of features including: instant messaging, video call, live video streaming, organisation chart and an active directory. It easily integrates with Microsoft products and Google Drive and as a final incentive, it is free for not for profit organisations.

Workplace by Facebook was the first solution Thrive tested. Leah said: “Once we started using Workplace we liked it so much that we didn’t move onto the other options. We quickly realised it was the ideal platform for Thrive.”

With this confidence, the Staff Voice Group approached their Executive Team to gain their buy-in, Elspeth Mackenzie, CE said, “We were really pleased to support the SVG in introducing Workplace. We recognised the benefits that this would have in connecting people especially as we become more digital and mobile in the way that we work. It was important to us that this would be developed by colleagues for colleagues. It’s so easy to share what’s happening in different areas and to support each other by ‘liking’ what we do.”

The formal launch came on 27th September at Thrive’s staff day, but there was already a buzz about the platform and over 50% of the business had found ‘reasons’ to join Workplace.

Workplace allows you to personalise your company’s community URL sub-domain. Thrive held a colleague competition to name the domain with an Amazon Echo as the prize. ‘OneThrive’ was the voted favourite and an icon designed in-house by a Staff Voice Group member in line with Thrive’s brand. Today, this icon sits proudly on the front page of the platform.

At the launch all colleagues received their login and a 15 minute introduction from a Staff Voice Group member. Workplace is based on Facebook’s interface, which meant most people knew how to use it straight away. Those who weren’t familiar with Facebook were provided with a guidance and etiquette document for further support. The overriding message strongly echoed by the Executive Team was “don’t be afraid to try it.”

Successful implementation was aided by good support from the top team, with senior managers acting as role models in adopting Workplace themselves. Originally, there were concerns in some teams that encouraging social media use in work time would affect productivity. However, this has since been proven wrong as Marie Carpenter, Multi Trade Operative explained: “I’ve been able to video call other operatives for support instead of asking them to attend a job in person, this has saved so much time. The direct instant contact has allowed so many quick positive solutions”.

Measuring success
Since the launch in September, Workplace has demonstrated many successes:

  • 91% of users have remained active on a weekly basis
  • 76% of users are using Workplace on their mobile phones of which many are using their personal devices; showing a keenness to engage way beyond the day job
  • The group function has resulted in fewer face to face team meetings
  • Streamlined work processes and real-time news, e.g. customer compliments were tracked on a spreadsheet and periodically artworked for onward email circulation. Now they are posted to Workplace in real time, where the recognised team member can be tagged and colleagues can add comments showing appreciation of their peers.

Future developments
The Staff Voice group is keen to explore more functions that the system offers. To date there hasn’t been a great uptake of the instant messaging function with users still wedded to email. However, this behaviour change is on the agenda for 2018 as Thrive introduces remote working.

Leah sums up the progress made to date: “Implementing Workplace by Facebook means we are getting a real human perspective on our own business: instead of simply looking at statistics, we can see the work that previously went unnoticed – what really goes into giving a family a new home. It’s making us really proud to be in the business and feel more connected as OneThrive – one business, one team, one purpose. This isn’t an IT project, this is about owning our culture and a people led change and we’re very pleased with the results.”

If you’re interested in finding out more or would like a demonstration of how Workplace performs in the Housing sector, just get in touch with Leah Thompson, Communications Business Partner:

Telephone: 0800 917 6077