Acadian and Interact partner to cultivate a collaborative culture, foster the social experience and bridge the gap between dispersed employees through their intranet, ‘Acadian Central’.
“Interact has enabled us to get information out quickly to all of our employees across the country. It’s also helped me personally get to know our employees so much better. I can see their faces, learn about their interests and hobbies, see their work accomplishments, and overall feel so much more connected to our workforce. Our company may be 4,000-strong, but I feel like we are one, big family, in large part because of this Intranet.”
Richard Zuschlag, Chairman & CEO, Acadian Companies
Headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, Acadian Companies offers a diverse suite of services designed to offer support and education in health, safety, and transportation. Established as a small ambulance service in 1971, the organization is comprised of six divisions with more than 4,300 employees dispersed throughout the United States.
Acadian’s legacy intranet was developed by in-house programmers. As the company grew and the demands on the IT department intensified, Acadian determined that their in-house legacy intranet was no longer suitable.
Their workforce, diverse in both demographics and geography, made their feedback clear. The intranet lacked social collaborative functions and customizable content, leading to complaints from many employees who felt like they were being left out of company events or weren’t aware of what was happening within the company. Alongside this central company brand aspect, each division also has different goals and objectives. This prompted the need for increased accessibility and search functionality.
Acadian enlisted Interact to help create a solid Intranet solution to keep every employee connected and informed, along with added a much-requested social aspect.
The birth of Acadian Central
To begin their journey, Acadian conducted extensive research with employees to determine what features were most important and how they wanted to share information. Research revealed the following:
- Employees wanted a mix of business and social content.
- The ability to access the intranet across various platforms, including mobile, was important.
- Because of Acadian’s six diverse divisions, the ability to customize the content was a key element in keeping the intranet relevant for each user.
- Keeping information fresh and easy to find was another key factor.
To get employees excited for the new Acadian Central, they designed a mascot called “A.C., the Acadian Central Expert.” An A.C. character was created for each division as a representation for every type of employee. He made sure to dress the part with numerous outfit changes and matching names.
A.C. appeared all over the intranet, posting helpful information and “how-to’s” to keep employees fully versed in what the new site could do. He reminds them to fill out their profiles, follow other employees and keep up with important memos from the CEO, vice presidents and other company leaders.
A mobile-friendly design
Employee feedback listed accessibility as a major issue with the legacy intranet. To combat these difficulties, Acadian made use of Interact’s mobile-responsive design.
For Acadian’s mobile needs, Interact’s ability to house links and documents was a goldmine. To enhance that feature, Acadian developed easy-to-see “buttons” right at the top of their homepage, linking to all of the most important software and tools.
This toolbar has made using the intranet more intuitive. There has been overwhelmingly positive feedback from employees who no longer have to hunt for the links they need. With frequent requests to add and move these buttons, Acadian also incorporated them into their subpages (HR & Benefits page and the Links page).
To ensure employees see the information they need, there are similar sections for “news” on the new homepage.
The News & Memos section is vital to push out crucial information, including IT upgrades and security issues, changes in medical protocol and equipment used by medics, and required continued learning courses for staff. It gets the word out about company events and celebrations, so distributed employees don’t feel left out.
“Having all these documents in one place makes it easy for me to point new employees to that page during orientation,” says Heidi Luquette, Orientation Coordinator. “It gives them a one-stop shop to go to, so navigating the Intranet — along with their new job — is less scary.”
A social hub for communication
To simultaneously add a social element while stressing the new, mobile-friendly design, Acadian held a “Where’s A.C.?” contest to emphasize the point that A.C. is now always with their staff. They also distributed 11” coroplast cut-outs of the A.C. character and launched a contest to see where our employees could take A.C. Employees were encouraged to take him to work, home and on vacation. They were asked to take a picture of A.C. and post it in the gallery of his travels on the intranet.
Introducing A.C. around different parts of the site aided in giving their intranet a personality. It showed employees that unlike the legacy intranet, Acadian Central wasn’t just a stuffy home for data, but a fun and social hub for connecting with peers.
To encourage employees to fill out their profiles to completion (picture, bio, location, interests, and expertise), a contest was run. For four weeks, 25 winners were chosen each week out of all the employees with 100% profile completion, utilizing the “Profile Completeness” report in Interact Analytics. The winners, chosen at random, received an “Acadian Central” aluminum insulated cup. During this contest, profile completeness rose almost 650% in just four weeks.
The new ‘Acadian Central’
Acadian originally launched on April 19, 2017, introducing social features and improved accessibility alongside a diverse range of content for its users.
However, despite improvements seen after retiring its legacy in-house intranet, the team was receiving feedback that the new site was becoming more of a problem than a helpful tool.
The Intranet team set out to gain feedback through company-wide research. They discovered that staff felt the intranet was too cluttered, cutesy, social and too complicated, presenting difficulties when trying to find things they needed. Despite efforts to serve the different divisions and their needs it was, in reality, built for only one audience.
The Intranet team set about making a number of improvements to Acadian Central:
- Setting up keyword-rich titles, summaries and tags for all content to improve findability
- Introducing Best Bets to prioritize popular pages for particular search terms
- A redesign of the theme, introducing the established external branding
- Removing excess social features, such as wedding and baby announcements, from the homepage
- Introducing a better method of uploading employee profiles
- Removing hundreds of duplicate and unnecessary pages
- Assigning a default image to replace the old ‘broken image’ graphic
The result was a cleaner, simpler look and feel, which began to generate more positive feedback from employees.
An award-winning strategy for offline workers
Although the new design garnered favorable results, it was the lack of optimization for each employee that presented the greatest challenge. To meet this need, the Acadian team focused on making customized homepages for each division, alleviating unnecessary content and links while pushing tailored content and news that was relevant to the users.
The organization’s diverse and widespread workforce comprises medics and medical staff, office-based corporate staff, security staff and safety staff. This final group includes a number of remote, off-shore safety employees who are often isolated and geographically dispersed.
Creating a tailored homepage for this group required a deep understanding of their unique needs and challenges. To meet these, the homepage was heavily branded for the division, adding familiar graphics and information the staff were used to receiving through other channels. Homepage news feeds were also heavily targeted to ensure content was relevant to the division.
Lastly, the team added Employee Spotlights. This not only showcased the great work of individual employees, but also helped them each get to know one another: breaking down feelings of isolation and disconnect.
Acadian’s appreciation of the value and need for customized experiences of the intranet, is what earned them a spot in the Interact Awards, Best Offline Strategy category.
“Acadian are a great example of effectively communicating to a hard to reach audience. Their remote workers often struggle for both time and reception, so delivering a stripped-down homepage and experience based on what those employees say they need, ensures their intranet is easier to understand and adopt.”
– Simon Dance, Interact Excellence Award Judge
Acadian Central has been vital to operations at Acadian Companies. They now have a way to get information to thousands of employees within a few minutes.
Since the full launch on April 19, 2017, there has not been a day (including weekends and holidays) with fewer than 800 unique visitors. On any given day, Acadian can assume that at least 2,000 unique viewers are seeing the content on their intranet.
Changes made to Acadian’s safety division homepage, which serves inspectors, trainers, rescuers, security officers, and remote paramedics, have had a significant and measurable impact. More safety employees are not only viewing the content but actually spending time reading over the articles and documents added.
Prior to the personalization initiative for this particularly remote section of the workforce, the organization also had difficulty even getting staff to log onto the intranet. Using Interact’s Login History Report, the team has since tracked an increase in logins, with more than half of all safety division employees – many of whom work without a reliable internet connection – now logging in at least once per month.
Users are showing particular interest in reading more about their co-workers, with the Employee Spotlights and SMS Standout widget continuing to attract the majority of interactions from staff, including comments and likes. Acadian Central is playing a crucial role in connecting these offline workers with one another and the organization overall.
“Since making these changes in mid-2018, we have seen a 550% increase in views of the division homepage, and users are now spending one-and-a-half minutes more on the page each session than they did before the changes.”
– Beth Chiasson,Intranet & Digital Marketing Strategist