FSB's intranet, myfsb, meets the needs of its complex and diverse workforce, demonstrating huge attention to detail and boasting great stakeholder support.
The success of myfsb has been underscored and driven by Chief Executive, Julie Lilley, who first got the intranet project launched for FSB. For Lilley, it was a plan not without significant risk: the intranet represented a substantial investment in an unproven product that would require curation and continuous development to ensure its success. A previous, unsuccessful attempt at a SharePoint intranet did not help Lilley’s case (despite its set up occurring before Lilley’s time at FSB). However, her well-defined vision and steadfast endorsement of myfsb have ensured that FSB’s intranet journey has gone from strength to strength.
Here’s an excerpt from Lilley’s original vision, which underpinned the essence of myfsb from its genesis:
“myfsb will be a resource that provides us with tools we need to do our jobs more effectively. It will be easy to navigate and use, becoming the ‘go-to’ place for communication, business tools, and content… It will give us information about employees and volunteers and make it easy to connect with other people within FSB, across regional boundaries and departments. … It will be a platform that will support understanding, communication, and a sense of community. It will celebrate who we are and what we do.”
Early on, based on this, the team developed intranet ‘cornerstones’: to connect, communicate, discover, and share. These helped keep the focus on what was needed to deliver the intranet.
FSB has an atypical workforce structure, with a core of around 150-200 member volunteers who are supported by approximately 200 employees to manage and organize activity. In addition, there are about 85 -100 self-employed salespeople (Membership Advisors, or ‘MAs’). FSB’s members are situated across the UK, as are their volunteers, staff, and MAs. Additionally, there are offices located in Blackpool, London, Cardiff, Glasgow, and Belfast.
There has always been a heavy focus on how to meet the needs of the various groups and varied roles within the organization. One of the ways the team achieved this was through implementing three different homepages for the three key audiences: the volunteers, staff, and MAs.
From the outset of an FSB user’s intranet journey, the intranet team looked for ways to provide both the global and localized information that the audiences want, in ways that they find most practical. A quick comparison shows the difference in features:
- FSB news
- Blog feed
- People news
- Timeline feed
- Graphic toolkit for key content
- FSB on twitter
- FSB news
- Graphic ‘tiles’ for quick navigation
- Key content areas including incentives directly from the homepage
This has had a huge impact on use. Each homepage is targeted to a core audience with irrelevant or unnecessary information is removed, and the user gets what they need and find useful and interesting on their specific homepage.
One of the strengths of myfsb is its ability to connect the workforce with peers and senior leaders. To enforce this, Lilley blogs every single month; and during an internal communications survey last year, this was one of the highlights of the feedback that many of the staff mentioned.
“I think it’s [internal comms] above average in that the COO [Lilley] regularly communicates with staff via myfsb.” Media and Comms
While her blogs are always popular, it is Lilley’s visibility on myfsb – commenting and praising on other people’s activity – that outlines the value of having a key stakeholder in an intranet project. And it’s not just from a business aspect that Julie sees the importance – she understands the need for social interaction in building networks and making people feel part of a team.
While Lilley has demands elsewhere in the business, she still finds the time to communicate on the intranet.
The challenges of a complex workforce
With FSB’s complex and diverse workforce, it was clear that an organization like this would benefit massively from an intranet. However, its complexities presented a challenge in engagement.
For example, the sales team and development managers are all remote workers who are often on the road, located across the UK and who all have to access myfsb through an external connection. But by offering a mobile-friendly site, access can be done on a smartphone. For FSB’s field-based staff teams, this is one of a number of features from myfsb that has been designed to prevent individuals from being isolated and feeling out of the loop.
“Opening myfsb is like walking into the office and joining in a conversation.” Field Staff member
“Given the number of home-based roles and travel required from many staff, myfsb is a great way to read about the challenges and successes of colleagues from around the entire UK. Without it, the role would be a lot lonelier, and we would need to spend a lot more time and money on training.” Policy Advisor
“One of the features that has made OSC life much easier is the OSC group – this has been a great help to pull together all the resources that we need on a day-to-day basis into one place. It also means we will have up-to-date versions of documents as and when they’re updated on myfsb, rather than having to save different versions on a computer drive.” Support Co-ordinator (field-based)
“The ‘Application & Tools’ section on the homepage is really good. The whole of myfsb is good visually, so it doesn’t take ages finding what you need.” External Affairs Advisor
myfsb has given remote staff the tools, resources, and above all, a voice, to celebrate and share with other teams the challenges and extraordinary variety of the role they undertake. Every month, the intranet team receive around eight to ten from the field-based team alone.
Under the guidance of Lilley, and its popularity amongst staff, there has been support from managers who are keen to ensure increased user stats.
“As Director of Field Staff managing a team of 45 field-based staff located across England, our intranet is vital. When working from home, it’s important that staff feel engaged and connected to the business, and myfsb has been invaluable for this. It serves to inform staff on all communication, whether it be departmental, national, or with our team of volunteers. Equally, it’s important to create the team spirit which is not so easily achievable when working remotely. We run photo competitions such as best-looking dog or most beautiful walk. Staff learn about each other and their roles with interesting blogs. Our intranet has brought together lots of different staff across the UK as one team.” Director of Field Staff
Acing employee engagement
Sharing knowledge and stories is one of the ways to achieve employee engagement. It is blogging that pulls users, particularly staff, to read and engage with myfsb repeatedly. With free access and without any restrictions on subject matter, users celebrate their own and each other’s activity, with the knock-on benefit of sharing a great idea or receiving advice.
Most blogs are work-related, but the social and personal blogs – stories of fundraising or special anniversaries – are also encouraged, and are often instrumental in driving engagement, and above all help to connect and give a voice to formerly isolated and silent staff teams.
“The blogging section is particularly useful and allows for a range of posts from the launch of high-level policy reports to the success of the latest Macmillan bake sale or the newest FSB baby on the block. It helps me to feel more closely connected to my colleagues in other locations, which I believe allows me to do a better job on a day-to-day basis.” Press Officer
The team behind myfsb continued to recognize the needs of their various users. This is demonstrated in their work with staff in the contact center who needed to get quick, highly visible, and easy-to-manage updates to their teams. A forum was created to provide a searchable ‘daily update’ where staff access information and managers can monitor. Adopting this process has proven to be a highly functional and straightforward communication format for all involved, alleviating a number of problems, foremost the circulation of out-of-date and inaccurate content via email.
“…the Daily Update has been an immeasurable improvement on the process, as it gives our teams a single source of information, and has been very easy for all of us to implement and adopt.” Contact Centre member
While myfsb was not brought on board to deliver cost efficiencies, many day-to-day examples demonstrate how the digital workplace has reduced costs. As a democratic organization, FSB requires many detailed procedural manuals, including volunteer and financial guidelines. According to figures from the organization, the cost of merely posting out one of these manuals to 150 people is in the region £235 – this is without factoring in printing and staff costs.
Of course, with improved processes comes more cost savings as efficiencies within the business increase. The co-branding process adopted recently is an improved method that has delivered considerable savings annually.
There have been massive cultural improvements too – myfsb has supported the business extensively in their digital transformation. It has heralded in a more interactive approach to working; giving users a voice, facilitating the building of networks and sharing of information and cross-pollination of ideas between different teams.
myfsb provides a platform to share and network, not just with other staff, but also volunteers and MAs. Staff, in particular, have jumped on this opportunity, with blogging going from strength to strength, driving real engagement with colleagues and understanding of the challenges and differences between roles.
Statistically, this is evidenced by the excellent use by staff in particular; according to stats, staff interaction hasn’t dropped below 99% (per month) in the last three years. Also significant is the improvement over time of regular, frequent visits. New starters feel welcomed and myfsb even gets engagement from people on maternity leave (two people on maternity leave have visited in the last month) or long-term sick – dropping in from time to time to keep in touch.
Internal communication has benefited too. Before the introduction of myfsb, email, the monthly ‘Cascade Brief’ and the old SharePoint intranet interface made up digital communication internally. With that setup, none of them interacted, and very little information was shared proactively or with any kind of immediacy.
The picture is very different now; staff surveys have shown that staff now consider myfsb to be their most preferred and useful source of internal communication.
“Communication has much improved over the years with the implementation of myfsb and the move for different departments to work together, particularly using technology to convey its messages.” Field Staff
The need for a central platform through which to communicate, as well as provide practical resources, is now self-evident in almost any organization, and myfsb provides FSB with that centralized corporate communication. But the real value of a successful intranet implementation for FSB was more challenging and less tangible; connecting teams and individuals in the different locations and offices, reaching those different audiences with relevant information and alleviating the isolation experienced by its many field-based users.
But above everything, myfsb has enabled FSB to do things that they did not – and could not – do before. In their words: “It has been a central, visible manifestation of our internal modernization, has supported us in that journey, and continues to do so.”