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The New York Race Association storms ahead with great internal communications

logo - nyra
  • Employees
    1,000-10,000 Employees
  • Vertical
    Retail, Leisure & Entertainment
  • Locations
    North America

The New York Racing Association (NYRA), one of the USA’s leading thoroughbred racing associations, uses Interact software to bring geographically dispersed teams together, and to provide the best guest experience on race days.

Staff can now access information and share their experiences and knowledge on Inside NYRA, whether it’s through a computer on our network, or at one of the many kiosks we’ve installed in public areas such as lunch rooms. Interact is helping us improve the way our staff communicate and more than 75% of our workforce now access it regularly.
Jim Ranton, Chief Human Resources Officer at NYRA

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is one of the largest thoroughbred racing associations in the USA, with around 1,200 employees. More than 1.76 million people a year attend live horse races each year at the organization’s three tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga Springs.

In recent years, NYRA has been evolving its business strategy to improve operating efficiency and to provide the best possible guest experience on race days. As a key element of these changes, NYRA is focused on delivering four key mission statements: “value each other,” “achieve excellence,” “serve as ‘host of the house’”, and “lead the industry”.

Delivering this vision required NYRA to communicate its mission statements effectively across a distributed workforce. Jim Ranton, Chief Human Resources Officer at NYRA, says, “We have maintenance people, HR, Finance, IT, Legal, and we even have a betting team to manage all the gambling services on site. All of these teams are spread out across our huge race sites, and many members of staff have never met face to face, so instilling a common vision and purpose can be difficult.”

To overcome its internal communications challenges, NYRA decided to deploy a new intranet that could foster truly organization-wide collaboration. “Making sure staff can speak with each other across our sites is vital, and we knew a new intranet could help us achieve that,” says Jim. “We needed an intranet platform that could give people fast access to the information they need, find people across the organization, and get crucial details about things that truly affect them.”

Bringing distributed teams together

After evaluating a number of intranet technologies, NYRA decided to build its new site – Inside NYRA – on Interact intranet software. “We chose Interact because it gives us all the tools we need to bring distributed teams together and to ensure that all our people are working towards the same goal: to deliver the best possible experience for guests on race days,” says Jim. “We knew Interact had the features we needed to build employee knowledge of our business and sport, to foster pride around working at the country’s premier horse racing organization, and to ensure that our people feel valued.”

Working with Interact, NYRA uploaded a wealth of information to the site that is useful for employees. This includes key dates in the racing calendar and a repository where people can find documents that improve their knowledge of the sport, from a racing glossary to maps of each NYRA racetrack and a ‘Short History of NYRA’.

Sharing knowledge for success

With teams dispersed across three large sites, Interact is helping NYRA people work together for the same vision of racing excellence. “Staff can now access information and share their experiences and knowledge on Inside NYRA, whether it’s through a computer on our network, or at one of the many kiosks we’ve installed in public areas such as lunch rooms,” says Jim. “Interact is helping us improve the way our staff communicate and more than 75% of our workforce now access it regularly.”

Interact is also supporting new levels of knowledge sharing and collaboration at NYRA with Team sites. “We’ve encouraged all our departments to put information on each of their pages that’s really relevant to all employees as well as to the people in that department,” says Jim. “Team sites give different functions a space to share information and knowledge, which helps us implement best practices across everything we do.”

I think Inside NYRA has really helped us to set expectations of our employees in terms of what we want the guest experience to be. When Chris Kay came on board as NYRA CEO, one of the first things he did was to get everybody a name tag, and that reflects the guest experience we’re trying to create. Interact helps us to establish that part of our brand in terms of valuing everyone and helping us work together.
Jim Ranton, Chief Human Resources Officer at NYRA

Keeping up with the latest news

Importantly, employees can access all the latest company news and information direct from the Inside NYRA homepage, helping the organization to build a more informed, engaged workforce. “We routinely post announcements from our CEO and upload press releases to the site as soon as they go public,” says Jim. “This ensures that our employees are always up to date with any important news or changes.”

Another important feature of the site is the “Daily Handle”, which shows the takings from all three race tracks from the previous day. “The Daily Handle gives all of our people a real-time view of our commercial performance, motivating them to reach and exceed our targets and to go the extra mile to keep us on track in terms of revenue-generation.”

As an additional benefit, staff can now consult Inside NYRA for the latest weather forecasts, as well as the latest news. “We learned from one Facilities Manager that his staff was constantly checking the weather on his laptop before heading outside,” says Jim. “Based on that demand, we created a weather feature that shows the immediate and longer-term forecast in the towns where all three of our tracks are located, which is hugely important information for many of our team members who work primarily outdoors.”

Building communities within NYRA

Using the People Directory, employees across NYRA can find colleagues easily and consult with experienced team members to get their questions answered.

“We have employees in so many different functions and locations that many never meet each other in person,” says Jim. “Interact People Directory helps us to create virtual connections between people to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing, and to create a sense of community and common purpose,” he adds. “If an employee needs support, they can find someone to help them quickly and easily, helping us to run our processes efficiently and provide the best possible experiences for guests attending race days.”

Providing a great HR experience for staff

Inside NYRA offers a one-stop experience for employees accessing HR services. There is an up-to-date repository of HR forms and policies – including travel and expense forms and the NYRA Ethics Policy. “Employees can always find what they need quickly and easily on the new HR pages on Inside NYRA,” says Jim. “This is just one more element of the intranet that is helping us to create more efficient processes and a professional corporate culture.”

To further strengthen NYRA’s HR capabilities, the intranet hosts a comprehensive on-boarding program for new employees, with training resources for team members and managers. “New starters and managers can easily find the training resources and other information they need to do their jobs better with Interact,” says Jim.

Maximizing employee engagement and satisfaction

The new intranet includes features that recognize employees’ contributions to the business and express the company’s gratitude for all their hard work. “We have a section called the Water Cooler where we announce new employees and recognize others,” says Jim. “We also have a program called unsung heroes where we feature an employee who has gone above and beyond on the intranet, which is very popular and well received.”

There are also other features on Inside NYRA that improve engagement and employee pride. “We upload stunning photos taken on race days that show the beauty and excitement of our sport and get team members excited about upcoming race days,” says Jim. “Our racetracks are fun places and Interact has helped us to transmit that atmosphere of excitement to all our people.”

The intranet team uses Interact Analytics to discover which information and features NYRA staff access most. “With Interact Analytics, we can see how people are using the internet and make changes that make content as relevant as possible for them,” says Jim. “Being able to see what everyone wants to see on Inside NYRA means we can continually improve our content and keep staff engaged.”

Setting expectations for employee excellence

NYRA strives to be the premier race organization in the USA and Interact is helping to support this vision by setting expectations for employee commitment and excellence. “I think Inside NYRA has really helped us to set expectations of our employees in terms of what we want the guest experience to be,” says Jim. “When Chris Kay came on board as NYRA CEO, one of the first things he did was to get everybody a name tag, and that reflects the guest experience we’re trying to create. Interact helps us to establish that part of our brand in terms of valuing everyone and helping us work together, and it’s playing a big part in our success.”

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