Interact gives Wheatley Group staff a voice

"I consider the team at Interact my friends; they are all, without exception, incredibly helpful, passionate and committed to intranet excellence."

Wendy Jordan, Intranet Manager, Wheatley Group

Wheatley Group's vision for their new intranet would be an easy to access, easy to use, central point for all information requirements, with a powerful search facility that would enable people to find what they needed quickly.

The Problem

Wheatley Group previously GHA’s old intranet, ‘GHAnet’ was built in Dreamweaver and it was so difficult to create pages in that it fell to one person, an often overwhelming task. Over time, with neglect and an inability to search, catalogue or delete out of date content, it became nothing more than a ‘dumping ground’ where 10,000’s of documents came to die.

Beyond the problems they had building and maintaining the old intranet, it had numerous problems for the end users. It was flat, uninspiring, tricky to navigate and utterly failed to engage them.

For Wheatley Group, the need to give their staff a voice was an urgent problem. Opportunities to spread best practice and solve problems quickly were being missed, vital information was being lost in a morass of documents and finding contact details for the right person, especially those with key responsibilities was difficult if not impossible, which wasted huge amounts of time and lead to increasing internal frustration.

Goals

Wheatley Group’s vision for their new intranet would be an easy to access, easy to use, central point for all information requirements, with a powerful search facility that would enable people to find what they needed quickly. They also wanted to offer a fun, friendly and engaging environment for their staff to share knowledge, communicate and collaborate.

As Wendy Jordan, Intranet Manager for Wheatley Group states:

“The previous intranet had a few useful tools but the usability was poor and visually it was flat and bland. We had to do something different to excite people, make it fun, easier to use and also store data in a useful and more manageable way.”

They were looking to save time and effort across many different departments, most notably HR, who needed to be released from answering the same questions over and over again and streamline their processes. This would then have the knock on effect off giving managers more time by making their paperwork more efficient.

"Building Holmes was not easy. It was a very steep learning curve and it continues to be a challenge to make sure the intranet is as good as it can be – but I know I have the team at Interact to help me, to get me unstuck, to inspire me and to show me new, better ways of working. It’s been a brilliant experience."

Wendy Jordan, Intranet Manager, Wheatley Group

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Research

While investigating the sort of intranet solution they would like, there was an ‘IT Freeze’ at Wheatley Group, meaning there would be no more IT spending for a while and this included the intranet. Not perturbed, Wendy and her team put the extra time to good use, creating an exhaustive ‘wish list’ of the features, tools and functions they wanted their new intranet to have. This helped to focus their decision making when the IT freeze was lifted and they were able to start assessing venders.

Interact Intranet appealed to Wheatley Group for many reasons. It was easy to use, meaning others could get involved with the creation and maintenance of the intranet. It had a powerful, intelligent search, a very feature rich People Directory and a host of collaboration and communication tools that ticked a great many of the boxes on their carefully thought through wish list.

Launch

There was a lot of interest surrounding the arrival of ‘Holmes’ their long awaited intranet and this was nurtured with updates and sneak previews. On the day of launch, everyone was given their own set of ‘Holmes’ branded headsets so they could listen to the videos the new intranet now incorporated, without interrupting others. This was a master stroke of internal marketing, as it gained immediate attention, being a physical item, showcasing the Holmes branding and also pointing out, right from the start, ‘This intranet is different, this intranet is exciting and dynamic and for the first time there are even videos!’

Adoption of the new intranet was rapid and extensive, with everyone keen to find out how the new intranet would work for them. It wasn’t long before Document Comments, @ and # Tagging, Blogging, Interact Teams and Status Updates were all part of life at GHA and they continue to strive towards continual improvement.

GHA even set up a video tutorial that educated users on the latest features of their intranet: See the video here >>

As Wendy Jordan states:

“Building Holmes was not easy. It was a very steep learning curve and it continues to be a challenge to make sure the intranet is as good as it can be – but I know I have the team at Interact to help me, to get me unstuck, to inspire me and to show me new, better ways of working. It’s been a brilliant experience.”

glasgow-housing-association

"The previous intranet had a few useful tools but the usability was poor and visually it was flat and bland. We had to do something different to excite people, make it fun, easier to use and also store data in a useful and more manageable way."

Wendy Jordan, Intranet Manager, Wheatley Group

Communication and Collaboration

Holmes has proved very popular and Wheatley Group feel they have made a very positive change in the way they engage with their staff. People feel completely safe and empowered to comment, chat, question and converse.

Blogging quickly became the most popular feature on their intranet and has already proved to be most useful in solving some of Wheatley Group’s business problems.

Wendy Jordan explains:

“When we first launched Holmes we were going through a restructure, getting more staff out on the frontline and onto calls at the Customer Service Centre (CSC). It was causing fear among staff, who were worried about moving to the CSC, so we decided to tackle their fears head-on. I asked for a member of staff at the CSC to blog on Holmes about what it’s really like to work there. I was delighted to receive a great blog from a very talented colleague. The blog got hundreds of hits and scores of comments. Perception about the CSC shifted, people were now talking about their excitement about working at the CSC, fears were dealt with and we sped through the change cycle.”

This success gained the attention of senior management with one of Wheatley Group’s Directors asking if he too could blog. This too became a hugely popular, with staff being asked for their honest opinions on how Wheatley Group did things, such as rent collection and people were happy to oblige creating pure, open, transparent consultation between management and the frontlines. The comments and ideas that were offered have been used to change Wheatley Group’s policy for the better, improving the service they offer their customers.

Andy’s blogs get scores of comments. His first blog asked staff for feedback on rent collection – the feedback from staff has now changed our process so he blogged about the changes – this level of engagement and feedback is astonishing!

Their “Think Yes” page is where Wheatley Group ask staff for their stories of how they are thinking yes and delighting our customers. We also ask staff for the reasons they can’t help customers through our blockage bursting portal, we then try to remove the problem and help our staff deliver the best service they can.

Another popular feature was Interact’s People Directory, which Wheatley Group renamed, ‘Find a Colleague’, not only were they able to search for details on a specific person, but were now able to view entire teams in one go, see who managed who and use the Skills and Interest tabs to locate people for particular events or projects.

For Wheatley Group, one part of their new intranet that has made a huge impact is Interact Teams. They have used this online, real-time collaboration facilitator to revolutionise the way their Customer Service Centre (CSC) operates.

As Wendy Jordan tells us:

“In our CSC they used to send daily bulletins to all customer service centre staff with all the things they needed to remember that day. If you worked at the CSC you have to remember who sent the bulletin and which bulletin had the article you needed. The CSC now has a Team site which the staff are constantly logged into. They post their bulletin as an article every day; tag it appropriately and then broadcast to all staff that it’s read to read. All people need to do is search for the heading they need and they find the article.”

This change in business process has replaced a system of daily bulletins and 42GB excel spreadsheet which took 20 minutes to load, making the CSC much more efficient and assisting with their company mission. This has been coupled with the ability for people to update each other, using the activity feed in the Team site in real-time.

Summary

Holmes is everything Wheatley Group wanted in an intranet and more, reflecting the passion and commitment that went into building it, back at the people who engage with it every day. In less than a year their intranet has proved itself an invaluable business tool, justifying the project with the time saved across the organisation, the improvements in internal communication which have led to better customer service and more engaged, happier staff and faster more robust processes.

Their intranet has been such a success in such a short time that it scooped two awards during the Intranet Excellence Awards for Best Design and Best Overall Intranet as judges were astonished with the internal changes that had occurred in such a short space of time. Through all this Interact has helped out with advice, training and consultancy throughout, as Wendy Jordan attests:

“I consider the team at Interact my friends; they are all, without exception, incredibly helpful, passionate and committed to intranet excellence.”

Having recently gone through a major restructure Wheatley Group, previously GHA, now employ over 1,600 staff, 80% of which are frontline to their 70,000 plus customers. Spread out over 60 offices they can proudly say that one in six people in Greater Glasgow live in a Wheatley Group home.

Employees: 1,000-10,000

Vertical: Housing Associations

Locations: Europe

wheatley-group.com

Wheatley Group challenges

Wheatley Group's old intranet, ‘GHAnet’ was built in Dreamweaver and it was so difficult to create pages in that it fell to one person, an often overwhelming task. Over time, with neglect and an inability to search, catalogue or delete out of date content, it became nothing more than a ‘dumping ground’ where 10,000’s of documents came to die. Beyond the problems they had building and maintaining the old intranet, it had numerous problems for the end users. It was flat, uninspiring, tricky to navigate and utterly failed to engage them.

The solution

Interact's intelligent intranet software appealed to Wheatley Group for many reasons. It was easy to use, meaning others could get involved with the creation and maintenance of the intranet. It had a powerful, intelligent search, a very feature rich People Directory and a host of collaboration and communication tools that ticked a great many of the boxes on their carefully thought through wish list.

Key benefits

  • Easing fear over the move of people from one environment to another during an organisational restructure
  • Streamlining of staff update procedures in their Customer Service Centres
  • Empowering staff to feel they could have an opinion and it would be heard and acted upon, letting people know they have a say in how policies are made
  • Saving time and effort across the organisation for anyone searching for a document
  • Encouraging collaboration and the sharing of best practice, getting people talking more to each other
  • Bringing the organisation together, making them more familiar with each other through the information held in their profile page, then putting them in touch with each other using the People Directory
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