Wandle is a housing association based in South London providing services to around 7,000 homes to tenants, shared-owners and leaseholders across nine London boroughs.
They aim to shape vibrant communities in their boroughs, working with local partners to provide services that meet people’s needs. They are focussed on:
- Continuing to improve services for their residents
- Building new homes and improving the quality of their existing homes
- Making a difference in the communities they serve
- Making Wandle a better place to work for their people
- Delivering better value for money
The Communications team at Wandle saw their intranet as a key tool to connect staff to essential information and resources in order to support these strategic aims. They also wanted to ensure that it be instrumental in driving the Wandle culture and engaging staff in what’s happening at Wandle. The team were resolute that the intranet should work hard for the front line customer service team, to make the information they need easy to find, easy to understand and easy to relay when under pressure.
The legacy intranet had a lack of direction and management. It was a little neglected, not organised well and the content not optimised to allow customer services to get accurate information quickly. The taxonomy was siloed to follow organisational structure and the information it contained wasn’t written in a simple language and was structured into lengthy policy documents.
Against this, Wandle like all housing associations, was working in an uncertain environment due to changes in Government legislation on benefits and housing, and with staff turnover above average. If this wasn’t enough, a previous intranet upgrade initiative led by the preceding Communications team had promised much but failed to materialise which left staff disengaged and vocally negative.
The intranet strategy
At our first meeting it became really clear that the majority of Wandle staff had a very negative opinion of the intranet. It wasn’t useful to them in any meaningful way, was difficult to navigate around or find information via search and the failed upgrade had further embedded their disengagement. The new team, with the intranet project led by Ashley Rudge, Wandle’s Communication Manager, were adamant that they needed to get things right this time. Together we had to ensure that the new intranet delivered on its promises and got the basics right.
We developed an intranet strategy that would ensure the new platform had substance to create trust and form the building blocks of the intranet developing into a vital business tool. This was centred on three key areas:
- Promoting and driving the Wandle culture by connecting staff together
- Improving internal and two-way communication by taking messages and information out of email and shared drives
- Better service to internal and external customers by ensuring information is up to date, relevant, useful and useable
Intranet strategy – step one
Wandle needed to ensure that their people directory was accurate and each person had a picture and bio completed. If they wanted people to communicate through the intranet they needed to know who everyone was! The Communications team had to make sure that internal messages were taken out of passive channels and into the intranet thereby encouraging staff to like, comment and share.
Intranet strategy – step two
Perhaps the biggest challenge was to overhaul all their documentation and re-write it in a non-corporate tone of voice to deliver via the intranet in a simple structure and easy-to-read format. Ashley worked closely with Performance, Policy & Compliance Manager, Gregor Henderson-Begg to understand the needs of the customer service team, and to deconstruct and reconstruct policy and procedure information into bitesize pages structured around key stages of the tenant life cycle. This is backed by a central library containing the full policies and procedures to refer to when needed. Everything is linked together via @tagging or related items, ensuring that information and documentation on one subject is all easily reachable, regardless of the route taken to find it.
Structure was built around the lifecycle of a tenant in social housing. The idea being that documents or guidance could also be found by considering whether the resident was moving in, living in or moving out of a Wandle property.
For launch, the team were mindful of the perception of the intranet and took a very ‘business as usual’ approach when introducing the upgraded platform and content. They also decided not to name it. The previous upgrade initiative had been led by a naming competition and a highly visible internal marketing campaign but had failed to materialise. The team felt any name they gave the intranet would negatively associate it with the past.
Their main focus was on providing an easy avenue for staff to report any problems and resolve them in a timely way. They did this in a forum and made sure that they responded and resolved any queries on the same day.
From the outset, Wandle was clear about what they wanted to achieve; an intranet that served as the key central resource of information for staff, and by this measure the new intranet has been a great success.
Five months post launch, Wandle report a 10,256 average monthly hit rate. The average monthly hit rate on the old intranet was 5,291 – which is a 93.8% increase.
The intranet’s design has been completely overhauled, making it much more accessible and visually appealing, whilst maintaining features that users found useful.
Anecdotal feedback from staff has been very positive and the intranet is now seen as an integral part of working life at Wandle.
Most importantly staff can find important information they need quickly and have complete confidence in its accuracy. It can be accessed quickly whilst on the phone to residents – significantly improving their experience, and allowing staff to work more efficiently.
Probably the strongest indicator of the intranet’s success is the enthusiasm it has generated in other teams to create content to help them work better. Wandle’s Repairs and Asset Management team are currently working with Communications to help them share detailed scheduling and programme data with other colleagues.
Now the intranet has embedded, the Communications team want to focus on increasing employee engagement and moving more processes online. Increasingly staff are blogging about work they’re doing and posting updates, and Wandle is confident they can still better utilise the full potential of the Interact software.
The success of their intranet indicates Wandle has overcome its original issue with disengagement and now has a solid foundation on which to build an even better platform. We’re very excited to see where they take it next.
If you’d like to see Wandle’s intranet and hear Ashley and Gregor speak about their journey, book your ticket for Interaction 2015 today!