How do you unite a global workforce? International education leader IIE took on the challenge. Here’s how they succeeded.
A world leader in international education, IIE enables knowledge to transcend borders and provides encouragement for the global exchange of ideas. Its mission is to “help people and organizations leverage the power of international education to thrive in today’s interconnected world”, enabling education to have a direct influence on a global scale.
IIE’s growth as a world leader of education can be attributed to its drive for international collaboration. The organization implements over 200 programs from 19 offices worldwide; serving more than 42,500 enrolled participants and benefitting 14,00 member institutions across the globe, with around 5,700 enrolments in the US alone.
The international challenge: collaborating, streamlining and sharing
One of the greatest challenges facing IIE was a lack of consistency in processes and systems, with different teams delivering each of its programs – resulting in a range of practices and, ultimately, inefficiencies across the organization.
In an effort to bring together dispersed teams to collaborate and deliver effective communication, implementation and support, a legacy intranet platform was implemented, based on Microsoft’s SharePoint technology. However, IIE’s SharePoint intranet proved ineffective, presenting challenges and restrictions when operating with an international agenda.
“Our old intranet was static and felt very corporate, with no features for social collaboration or knowledge sharing,” Sandra Roldan, Intranet Specialist at IIE, observes.
“What’s more, there was no way to search for and find key procedural documents, which was a real barrier to effective working”.
IIE needed to streamline their systems and processes, and get teams collaborating to complete projects more efficiently. With the organization’s previous systems failing to create a sense of community across its international regions, IIE was looking for a solution that would bring all staff together in pursuit of its core vision and mission.
“Out of the box” innovations with Interact
Looking for change, IIE approached Interact with the challenge to:
- Implement knowledge-sharing features
- Create a feeling of “togetherness” for employees
- Boost employee engagement
- Unite under a single, global identity
Social communication would be integral to operational success. The new platform would need to create virtual communities, breaking down the geographical barriers facing a globalized workforce.
Interact’s social and collaboration features form the foundation of its software, offering a solution that met with IIE’s needs. Speaking of the software’s abilities, Sandra observed that Interact “offered all the collaboration and knowledge-sharing features we needed out of the box. There was no need for custom development work or add-ons. This made Interact the clear choice for us”.
(As a cloud-based intranet solution build on the principles of social collaboration, Interact is a valuable tool for globally dispersed organizations)
The challenge was set. IIE would partner Interact to revitalize its approach to international collaboration, removing boundaries set by the previous systems to fully unite the organization.
Unifying global communities
Organizations are more than a name, a logo and a mission. They are created and brought to life by the people who form them. However, global organizations face the unique challenge of geographically dispersed teams operating as silos, resulting in a breakdown of that unified sense of community that makes leading organizations so successful.
To truly realize its vision, IIE needed to balance the need for teams to have their own collaborative spaces, alongside a centralized, global touchpoint where those individual teams could come together.
The solution came in the form of Interact teams. Individual team ‘sites’ within IIE’s new intranet provided dedicated spaces for working teams, who can communicate and collaborate quickly and easily with immediate members. Team members can also upload content or documents specific to their projects or programs, supported by easy navigation and search to make information accessible. Forums within each team provide the social element IIE were seeking, where peers can ask, answer, and resolve questions within a simple, yet effective interface.
“We have forums for departments, but also for events, where employees from different departments and locations may be attending,” says Sandra.
“This means people can work together better, prepare for events and meetings, and share knowledge that helps us deliver programs in the best possible way.”
These department or event-specific spaces were complemented by the centralized nature of IIE’s cloud-based intranet, where those individuals and teams could come together as a collective to share knowledge and collaborate freely and easily, regardless of location or role.
“With Interact, our office in Houston can see what colleagues are working on in Mexico City and Hong Kong, giving us all a feeling of pride in the organization and the work we do together. It’s also much easier to find and communicate with employees globally and there are great knowledge-sharing features”.
IIE also uses its forums to empower staff to request support on everyday processes and systems, ranging from finance or HR enquiries to the external IIE websites.
“We need to make sure people get the technical support they need to use our systems effectively, and Interact Forums is a great way of doing it.”
With Interact, IIE has the benefit of niche, geographical, departmental or event-specific spaces, avoiding ‘information overload’ of having all information hosted in a single location. At the same time, the centralized intranet enables organization-wide information to be distributed effectively, and individuals to connect across the boundaries of location, time zone or role.
The power of global connectivity and communication is demonstrated by dispersed teams appealing to one another for support, ideas, and input.
“The Budapest office recently requested some artwork to decorate their walls, and another team asked for volunteers to review some scholarship applications.” Sandra explains.
“It’s so much easier to work together and support each other with Interact.”
Managing the process of change and encouraging employees to adopt new technology or systems can be a challenge for any organization, and particularly those operating across different locations and cultures. Getting IIE staff involved from the start was essential to drive employee engagement.
To boost buy-in, IIE decided to reach out to its employees during the development stages. “We started with a competition to name the intranet,” says Sandra.
“People had lots of great ideas, but in the end, we chose the name “Eddie”, which is informal, engaging, and a total contrast to our old corporate-style intranet.”
With a new name, came a new attitude toward engaging with employees. Using an Interact intranet enables the option to reward employees for doing good work. This reinforces a sense of community and teamwork, and goes beyond giving a simple ‘thanks’ in showing your appreciation for people’s efforts, or being recognized for you own. With employee recognition a proven contributor to business outcomes including productivity, motivation, retention, customer satisfaction and financial performance, this is a valuable tool that will support IIE in realizing its long-term objectives.
“We’re using Eddie to engage employees in a number of ways, from publishing organization-wide news on the homepage, to using the Interact Rewards feature to get people involved” says Sandra.
“We’ve done trials where people can give their colleagues gold stars, which has been extremely popular.”
Uniting under a new brand
One of the core drivers for IIE in seeking out a new collaboration tool was the need “to create a single, organization-wide identity to bring teams together”. To support this, Interact made it possible to host all new branding guidelines through Eddie, making it easy for teams to access and follow.
Facilitating an easy-to-access, centralized resource provided unanimous branding standards to be easily adapted into various assets.
“The branding resources hosted on Eddie ensure that we present the organization in the same way at events worldwide, and that all our literature and other materials are 100% aligned to our core values” says Sandra.
The challenge of multiple drives, cloud hosting, files, or information simply buried in email exchanges is one many large organizations face. The result can be multiple versions of a single document, risking inconsistencies or a breakdown in brand messaging – and, at worst, employees failing to access latest guidelines or compliance documentation that could leave organizations vulnerable.
Rather than needing to access a multitude of sources to find what’s required, Interact combines integration functionality with cloud-based hosting systems such as SharePoint, OneDrive or Dropbox alongside a powerful content management system (CMS), to bring all information to a centralized and searchable location. Version control and review alerts on vital content reduce risk, while employees are empowered with a more efficient and streamlined process for finding what they need.
(Interact offers integration and a public API to connect your intranet to vital business applications and storage solutions, operating as a facilitator to the centralized digital workplace.)
In IIE’s case, this has enabled a central hub of vital branding materials to ensure consistency, bringing together those dispersed silos under one, united brand.
Working productively – all of the time
Interact’s integrated tools also help increase productivity across the organization.
“There are lots of ways people save time with Eddie,” says Sandra.
“For example, Interact Search and Best Bet features help people find the documents they need quickly, with no need to know who owns them.”
Powered by Interact’s ‘intelligent search’ feature, IIE’s intranet allows users find specific documents with ease – reducing lost time spent searching through endless files and folders, or answering the same question multiple times for different individuals.
To customize search results, ‘Best bet’ lets a specified result override normal search functionality by highlighting that item as a best bet result. This can be set manually, or, if a searches result is used at least three times within a 90-day period. A single search can also scan multiple forms of content – including documents, user profiles, forum discussions and more.
“Interact Forums have reduced emails significantly and team members answer questions just once, instead of multiple times.”
With an estimated 19% of the typical working week spent searching for information, this represents a considerable productivity saving for the organization.
(As part of its report into the social economy, McKinsey found that 19% of the average working week is spending searching and gathering information. Streamlining and simplifying this process could represent significant productivity gains to an organization.)
To explore how much time your organization could save, why not download our free ROI calculator as part of our Business Case Toolkit? Enter just a few simple details about your organization, and our calculator will give you a realistic estimate of the productivity saving an intranet could bring to your business.
Designing and building the perfect intranet
Building a powerful and effective intranet goes beyond the software or platform itself. In order to fully engage employees and deliver value, it needs to be tailored to the unique needs, requirements and brand of the organization.
To support IIE in realizing their vision for Eddie, Interact Professional Services provided consultancy and project management as part of their intranet journey. Working in close partnership, Interact was able to provide an information architecture that would ensure users found the information they needed, when they needed – introducing an intuitive and easy-to-use structure that could be navigated by all users.
“We worked with Interact’s professional services teams to structure our content and ensure that people could easily find the information they use most,” Sandra explains.
“We were so impressed with their approach and with the results, that we used the same exercise to build our external website, which is now live and looking great.”
Furthermore, Interact provided support in achieving a strong internal brand and design for Eddie, carefully considering the objectives of the project to ensure an accessible, relatable and easy-to-use intranet for all employees at partners at IIE.
The result is a powerful collaboration platform that fully unites and engages its global audience, breaking down historic barriers to communication and cohesion to help drive the future success of IIE.