Housing organization, Wheatley Group, show how they engage hard-to-reach workers with Interact.
Wheatley Group is a leading housing, care and property management group that provides homes and services to around 250,000 people in 17 local authority areas across Central Scotland.
Named after John Wheatley, the Glasgow MP who was the father of social housing, the Group has firm roots in their local communities, contributing to improving housing, care and regeneration at a national level.
With nearly 3000 members of staff working on sites across Scotland, it has never been more important for Wheatley Group to remain in touch, share knowledge and collaborate. But, unsurprisingly for an organization such as Wheatley, not everyone has access to a computer during work hours. With the range of shift patterns, front-line roles and number of partner organizations that make up the Group, there was a pressing need to find ways to connect all staff regardless of role or location.
Mobile reactive to reach all staff
Initiatives to engage hard to reach individuals
Improved search functions
Better targeted content
Emphasis on video to increase engagement
Wheatley Group offers a unique insight into how an intranet can engage, connect and inform a large, dispersed workforce.
Each organization has its own unique intranet story, and Wheatley Group is no different. Having staff working in different locations across the country may be a familiar set up to many businesses, it’s the way the Group has overcome the barriers that a dispersed workforce presents which makes their story so notable.
Their intranet, W.E. Connect, is now a staple of the business, allowing colleagues, departments and different offices to connect, communicate and collaborate. The hard work and enterprise of the internal communications team, has helped make the intranet an integral part of how Wheatley Group keeps their workforce informed.
In a recent survey, the project team learned:
• Nearly 64% of staff check W.E. Connect
• 41% comment on or like news, articles and blogs
• 80% of staff said it was easy to find what they were looking for
• 86% of staff log in every month and do something on W.E. Connect
• 70% said W.E. Connect was useful
• 77% said the intranet was where they got the latest news and info on Wheatley.
So, how did the team make W.E. Connect such a success?
The project team took a three-pronged approach to make the company intranet as accessible, relevant and crucial to life at Wheatley Group as possible. They did this by delivering:
Targeted news and customizable homepages
When a news story is ready to publish, it is tagged for the relevant department(s). As such, every worker’s newsfeed is customized.
“This has been really useful, for example, we were running a housing conference, and we wanted to push a lot of targeted content out to them, but it wasn’t really relevant to the rest of the organization. So, we were able to do that by posting videos just to their homepage, new stories just to their feed.”
Move to mobile
While it isn’t ready to be rolled out until later on in 2019, the project team are preparing the W.E. Connect app, which will transform the way those hard-to-reach workers access, interact and engage with the intranet.
The idea came out of a focus group that revealed that an app would be an important tool for several teams. The environmental team, for example, reported that being outside all day, access to the intranet only happens when they return to the office later. Despite this, they are still very active on the site, posting up pictures of their day, before and after shots of their work and highlighting the great work they do. If teams like this had handy access to W.E. Connect from their smartphone regardless of their location, it would change the way the workforce used it.
Focus on hard-to-engage workers
Like all organizations, there is a section of workers at Wheatley who are less inclined to use the intranet to make their voices heard. This reticence, in most cases, is down to a variety of reasons, and it’s the project team’s job to create content that ‘converts’ these individuals into fully-fledged users.
The team promotes initiatives like the 10,000 Steps Challenge plan which encourages as many people as possible to increase their fitness levels and hit 10,000 steps every day. Discussions, competitions and targets stemming from the program have encouraged more people to use W.E. Connect more actively
Offer teasers to encourage non-users
A mix of shift patterns, part-time roles and no access to computers means that a large section of workers, particularly care workers, fall under the hard-to-reach bracket. With no office to check in to, and with the majority of their working time on the road or in customer’s homes, Wheatley’s comms team decided to produce Five Things You May Have Missed from the Intranet round-up email.
This has proved massively popular – the email condenses everything workers who are on the go need to know. And going forward, the team will provide a print-off version to leave in common areas.
“The hard copy of the email may seem old fashioned, but this is what has been asked and it’s a format that works for those workers who spend far more time customer-facing than sat at a desk. We’ll leave it in staffrooms for workers to read while they’re having a cup of tea.”
Wheatley Group has used different media on their intranet to great effect. So much so, that after winning 2019’s Interact Excellence Award for Best Use of Video, they are committed to ramping up the use of short films to accompany news and stores across all departments.
“We use video to make staff who aren’t involved, feel involved. Video works really well alongside press releases or news posts – users can see what happens at the event, and staff have told us they get a lot out of video.”
But how easy has implementing video into communications been? Many organizations avoid video – it’s seen as complicated, fiddly and requiring expensive equipment. However, the Wheatley team prove that it has never been easier to use video on a day-to-day basis.
“We’ve found incorporating video into our communications plans pretty easy. The way we operate as a communications team – we see ourselves as content creators. So, whenever we go to cover a story, making a video is on the list to do. All our videos, except for the big, glossy productions, are all shot and edited on an iPhone. This is something we want to encourage our staff to do – by providing them with training we hope they will grab their phone and start filming and start telling their own stories.”
Wheatley’s entry into the Interact Excellence Awards included links to a number of their videos. Coverage of Shetland ponies providing therapy for older residents, footage of conferences and updates on building developments are all filmed, edited and available for Wheatley staff to view on their intranet. The films provide a valuable resource for the internal comms team – a rich medium that can convey a message or idea in a very simple, memorable way.
An example of this is the organization’s promotion of high-rise living. The videos that accompanied the campaign aren’t just used to change the public’s opinion of living in this type of accommodation but hosting the videos on the intranet also allowed the internal comms team to highlight the advantages to staff as well.
“In Glasgow, we have some multi-story blocks of flats – but this type of living doesn’t have a great reputation. People aren’t choosing to this type of accommodation when they’re applying for somewhere to live. However, we have really happy customers in them, and we’ve spent a lot of money on them in recent years – we have friendly concierge teams and the grounds are well kept. We launched a campaign to show the public that they’re great places to live, but, at the same time, we also have a lot of work to do internally to convince staff that they’re a great place to live as well. Video has been key to all this. My colleague and I have filmed two separate videos with people who live in the flats, taking in the views from the apartments and the residents’ opinions of the building. The result is a really effective, sweet video about the communities that form in high rise buildings that are well looked after. It’s really been successful.”
So, has the project team achieved all their objectives? So far, focus groups reveal that the relaunched intranet has been well-received by staff and contains everything they need. Users feed back that its updated regularly, easy to use and it’s interesting and informative.
“People like using it to find out what their colleagues have been up to and finding out more about Wheatley,” continues Hood. “They like the mix of what seeing what their colleagues have been up to and also the big-ticket items like funding announcements for the Group as a whole. They like seeing that first hand on the intranet instead of somewhere else like the BBC news.”
After winning Best Online Site and being highly commended for Best Audio-Visual Communication at the Institute of Internal Communications awards, Wheatley Group’s internal comms team have defined their goals for the year ahead. With a continued focus on increasing engagement, they have aimed to maximize the use of W.E. Connect, by driving traffic there and keeping staff up-to-date with stories and video. This will be supported by the Five Things You Might Have Missed email, with repackaging content for managers and non-desk-based staff as well as introducing the Interact app.
“Doing the internal comms review has been a really useful exercise, it has confirmed a lot of our thoughts that W.E. Connect is a tool that is invaluable to us as an organization. There’s just no way we could reach the number of staff, being so geographical dispersed, without it.”
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