Trafford Housing Trust (THT) is an independent housing company providing around 9,000 quality affordable homes within the Trafford area of Manchester. We are a “profit-for-purpose” organisation, striving for a society transformed, free from poverty, inequality and injustice.

Poor intranet and disengaged staff

With a staff of around 385 of which a third were not office based, our previous intranet, the Source, was not fit-for-purpose. Navigation was poor, content out-of-date and the search no longer worked. Employee engagement was therefore very low and compounded by the fact that staff had experienced a range of other IT systems including CRM, HR and internal communications systems that had failed because they had been implemented without sufficient staff involvement.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_previous intranet

And so it was decided, a new intranet was to be born.

1) Launch strategy to increase engagement

We developed a campaign three months in advance of the launch, to engage staff and maximise adoption of our new intranet. We set out to achieve this with a 10 step approach:

  1. Message from CEO about the new intranet to say what excites him about it
  2. Survey to understand and benchmark current intranet usage as well as employees’ requirements and ideas
  3. Follow survey up with focus groups to test ideas and explore issues in more detail
  4. From the focus groups build an intranet project team, identifying Intranet Champions representing every area of the business
  5. Run an intranet naming competition
  6. Use the chosen name to build a brand and a teaser campaign that gets employees talking and builds momentum up to launch
  7. Feedback to all staff through all channels and to the Intranet champions on how their ideas are being adopted
  8. Release a Beta version to the Intranet Champions for testing and to get them talking about it to their peers
  9. ‘Leak’ some screenshots and use posters, screensavers and team meetings to communicate a live countdown to launch
  10. Complete launch with intro video and distribute branded headphones to all staff

2) Getting people involved with a naming competition

In order to create some interest and ownership of our new intranet, we held a naming competition with a £100 restaurant voucher going to the winner. We received an astonishing 157 suggestions with Aristotle, Cecil and IRIS the 3 strongest contenders, and we finally decided on IRIS – Interactive Responsive Intelligent System.

It just so happened that the winning name came from one of our colleagues who works remotely – an area of the business that was a key target audience and whom we really wanted to engage with through our new intranet. This group of mobile staff did not previously have access to our intranet, so early engagement and interest was essential.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_naming intranet

3) Building engagement with the brand

Whilst IRIS was created from an acronym, we learnt from our staff survey and focus groups that staff were turned off by ‘boring IT systems’ and there was a perception they were ‘robotic’ and ‘unintuitive’. So we moved away from a technical sounding acronym and actually created a persona that people could identify with.

We used Greek mythology to help with this. Iris was a messenger to the Gods, associated with communication, messages, the rainbow and new endeavours. This made her a perfect choice for our new collaborative communication system; not just a name, but a personality.

And so our newest and most enigmatic member of staff was born. The colourful logo was chosen to represent the elements of her mythical origins with wing, staff and rainbow:

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_IRIS logo

As the team started to refer to Iris as a person she began to take on a life of her own, so we created a profile complete with bio and picture. The fact that she was a ‘real person’ also allowed us to make sure she embodied our corporate values of trust, innovation and impact. And because she had a voice we could ensure her language set the tone for our internal corporate style guide; friendly, informal and authoritative.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_Iris profile

4) Spreading engagement with a teaser campaign

We wanted the teaser campaign to really push the boundaries within the organisation, which is traditionally more formal and corporate. To succeed and achieve our objective the campaign had to:

  • Be attention grabbing and get people talking
  • Have a strong theme and use humour
  • Gradually introduce Iris to the business and develop her personality
  • Build up momentum and inform people of the intranet’s business benefits

Playing on Iris’ Greek goddess origins we used images of classical statues – the very opposite of a faceless, boring, digital system.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_teaser one

Teaser poster #1 “I’ll get you talking”

We kept this first poster and screensaver vague to create some intrigue. We also used the name IRIS as an acronym so when later posters would appear representing her as a person, staff would move away from the idea that Iris was a system, and she would become a colleague.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_teaser two

Teaser poster #2 “Stealing my thunder”

In the second teaser we used the statue of Zeus as if he was the old intranet feeling a bit upstaged by the new upstart, Iris.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_teaser three

Teaser poster #3 “Blowing apart system”

In the execution of teaser number 3 we introduced Iris’ magic staff changing the word ‘System’ into ‘Goddess’, signifying that Iris is not a computer system but a real person, a colleague with power and authority who could help staff.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_teaser four

Teaser poster #4 “Spread the word”

In the fourth poster and screensaver we had Zeus and Hera discussing what Iris was doing and how she was going to make life better for her THT colleagues.

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_teaser five

Teaser poster #5 “IRIS looking good”

In the fifth execution we gave staff a glimpse of the homepage and focused on the fact that, for the first time, the intranet would be accessible to all mobile staff…

5) Capturing all employees with a launch video

We introduced our new colleague, Iris, to the business on 5th of May 2015 with a launch video and headphones placed on every desk and distributed to mobile staff.

Iris launch video

6) Creating a buzz about the mysterious Iris

The teaser campaign really got people talking. The design, use of humour and even the concept of a teaser campaign were all new to our organisation and they caused quite a stir.

By the time we launched, Iris was the talk of the business; people were even speculating that she really was a new member of staff that had been recruited to develop the intranet!

This intrigue meant in the first week of Iris going live, we had 7,013 visits from 302 unique visitors amongst 385 staff. This was quite an achievement considering how underused the previous intranet was and how sceptical staff were of new systems and technology.

Now colleagues refer to Iris as a real person and regularly converse with her on her own Talk to Iris forum.

7) Using analytics to sustain engagement

Measurement is absolutely key to our original objective, as well as understanding and sustaining the long term business benefits of IRIS. Using the built-in analytics we developed a range of measures that demonstrate activity, collaboration and business benefits.

We have used a sliding scale looking at low/basic engagement (logging on) to engagement (reading online content) to interacting with the site (liking, sharing and voting) to high-level collaboration (creating forum posts, blog posts and suggesting ideas to improve Iris for specific teams).

We have then used this information to create our staff segments with targeted marketing activity to move people along this engagement curve, from just looking to high-level collaboration:

  1. Basic (log-on data)
  2. Completing profile to 100%
  3. Low level engagement (visit data)
  4. Engagement (liking, sharing, contributing to forums data)
  5. High level engagement (creating forum posts and blog posts)

Combining these, we have developed an overall collaboration score for the business (total of all influence scores divided by the number of staff) and calculated this to give us a benchmark for the business and each business directorate.

We have also taken steps to measure the quality of collaboration on Iris, particularly things that have improved through bringing different parts of the business together that would not have otherwise happened before Iris. This has been done by encouraging staff to share Iris success stories, i.e. ideas shared, decisions made through the project discussion forums etc.

We have also ensured we sustain engagement by:

  • Feeding back to staff the planned improvements to Iris and the top bloggers/forum users and collaborators in our monthly business brief
  • Using the Intranet Champions now renamed ‘Iris Champions’ to get feedback and work with their teams to develop their team pages and collaboration
  • Having Iris drop-in sessions every week for staff to come and talk to us about training they need, sharing ideas or requesting improvements
  • Ensuring our MDs are encouraging the use of Iris and providing them with analytics for their specific areas of the business

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_intranet analytics

Summary of visits and usage over the first 3 months demonstrating continued engagement

7 intranet strategies to engage your employees_the best of Iris

Extract from our monthly Business Brief news bulletin, demonstrating the use of the gamification and stats