20 January 2017

The 10 best internal communications case studies of 2016

Over the past year we travelled the length and breadth of the UK (and some of Europe) to hear inspirational stories from brands doing a great job engaging their employees.

Here are some of our favourites from the past 12 months…

1. AXA uses love to show commitment to colleagues

Where we heard about it: CIPR Internal Comms Conference, October 2016   The gist: AXA was suffering from a drop in employee engagement after changes in their business structure had created a divide between management and staff. AXA put on an employee event with participation, games and discussion about changes in the business to make employees feel valued and energised. Before the event the Internal Comms team sent out Valentine’s Day cards to employees with the line ‘you complete me’ and asking for one thing they loved and one thing they would change at AXA.   Why we love it: Saying a big no to stuffy, corporate events, AXA’s immersive participation-led sessions put their people at the heart of the conversation. 91% of attendees felt the session was a good use of their time, with AXA’s annual survey revealing a 13-point increase in response to the statement ‘I believe management will act upon feedback’.   Read the full case study here.  

2. Aviva channels Maori strength to embed its business strategy

Where we heard about it: CEB Internal Communications Summit, November 2016   The gist: Before 2012/13 a quarter of Aviva’s employees disagreed that Aviva had a compelling strategy, with 20% of staff actively distrusting the company’s leadership. With the new CEO hailing from New Zealand, they created an Aviva koru, a Maori symbol of strength and new life as their strategy’s visual identity, complete with an unfurling fern with five ribbons representing different strands of the strategy.   Why we love it: Using a striking visual that works without words, Aviva’s narrative is edgy, memorable and sparks conversation. Communicating the strategy through a series of events and forums, Aviva has achieved 80%+ strategy understanding across its employees globally.   Read the full case study here.  

3. Virgin Trains makes colleagues feel at home

Where we heard about it: PRWeek internal comms, November 2016   The gist: Virgin Trains recognised that brands spend lots of time, resource and budget to understand the makeup and behaviour of customers, but rarely apply this to understand and engage their employees better. As part of this, Virgin Trains felt the never-ending cycle of employee surveys adds little value, so they replaced it with a qualitative approach. To do this they chose 600 influencers within the business and used IPSOS MORI to visit colleagues in their homes to discuss thoughts face-to-face. To really understand their employees better, the findings were compiled into portrait cards, an overview of attitudes to the business and a map of the daily journey of each role.   Why we love it: Living up to its “Screw average. Create amazing” mission, Virgin Trains’ approach shows there are other ways to learn more and measure staff engagement. They’re committed too; this in-depth research is carried out every three years, with mobile surveys created every month for the leadership team to have an up to date temperature check of what employees are thinking.   Read the full case study here.  

4. ITV makes staff the stars of the show for product launch

Where we heard about it: Internal Comms Conference, June 2016   The gist: With the launch of a new channel ITVBe, employees were invited to share their own idents (the short video used to identify the channel) with the best ones used by ITV. The IC team took over the intranet and encouraged everyone to post on social media. On the day of the launch, the ‘Mydents’ were revealed with a wall of donuts and an experiential stand where staff were encouraged to have their picture taken with cut-out frames from the Mydents.   Why we love it: Using humour, fun and creativity, there was a real focus on the experience. Creating content made ITV staff feel connected to the brand. 93% said the activity brought the brand to life, with one person stating it was their best day at ITV.   Read the full case study here.


5. O2 keeps calm when the deal falls through

Where we heard about it: Internal Comms Conference, June 2016   The gist: After the European Commission unexpectedly blocked Hutchinson’s takeover of O2, the team had to quickly communicate an update to staff. To do this, the CEO recorded a video to talk about how this would impact employees. Holding messages and signposts to information were displayed on the intranet, leaders met with employees face to face and a text alert service was set up directing people to check their inbox.   Why we love it: Faced with an unexpected last minute issue and a period of uncertainty, the O2 team activated swiftly to ensure the news and questions likely to be asked were answered and guidance was given. They used a variety of channels to ensure all employees were communicated to throughout the day, with promises made to ensure continual updates as things progressed.   Read the full case study here.  

6. British Red Cross brings simplicity to a complex strategy

Where we heard about it: IoIC Live, May 2016   The gist: When launching its new corporate strategy, British Red Cross needed to bring it to life for its 4,000 staff and 26,000 volunteers worldwide whilst creating a personal experience. The communication needed to be simple and involve staff from the start. They started by condensing a 150 page document into a strategy road map with one central vision in a variety of formats including video and posters. They simplified the user experience of the existing portal and created ‘Meeting in a box’ – an adaptable format of 4×1-hour sessions that could be used in every team meeting, asking people; ‘what does the strategy mean to you?’   Why we love it: Employees were given the tools and authority to run with their own ideas and the ability to share their experiences with the rest of the business. 96% of staff are now aware of and understand the aims and objectives. 94% of staff now understand how they can contribute.   Read the full case study here.  

7. IHG’s long-term Employer Brand commitment pays off

Where we heard about it: World Employer Brand Day, May 2016   The gist: Having launched its original ‘Room to be yourself’ EVP and values back in 2006, employer branding is a key component of IHG’s business strategy for some time – it’s all about bringing ‘yourself’ to work. Fast-forward 10 years and with a changing marketplace, 90,000 employees to recruit and 350,000 staff across 5,000 hotels, the EVP had to resonate further, building on the fantastic results achieved so far. As an umbrella brand, IHG found people wanted to work for its hotel brands like Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, adding to their Employer Brand challenge. IHG put together a full suite of communications to build employee engagement and attraction to potential staff. From refreshing the look and feel of the EVP to coordinating in-depth employee surveys, creating multiple language tools for localised campaign delivery IHG ensure its people really were the focus. They also introduced ‘Celebrate Service Week’ whereby managers covered employee shifts, bringing sweet treats to say thanks to frontline staff. IHG put together a full suite of communications to build employee engagement and attraction to potential staff. From refreshing the look and feel of the EVP to coordinating in-depth employee surveys, creating multiple language tools for localised campaign delivery, IHG ensure its people really were the focus. They also introduced ‘Celebrate Service Week’ whereby managers covered employee shifts, bringing sweet treats to say thanks to frontline staff.   Why we love it: IHG has managed to create a personal feel to its communications despite the huge number of people and locations to engage. A YouTube campaign drove 90,000 views and 2,000 clicks to the careers website in four weeks, brand health has risen from 62% to 84% and IHG was named in the ‘Sunday Times Top 25 Best Places to Work’. They’re not stopping there either; the next steps are to focus further on improving the end-to-end candidate experience, localising the global brand and building the capability to deliver the employer brand worldwide.   Read the full case study here.  

8. PepsiCo uses content heroes to attract millennials

Where we heard about it: World Employer Brand Day, May 2016   The gist: With 260,000 employees already working across brands including Pepsi, Doritos and Tropicana, PepsiCo required an attraction strategy to bring in the next wave of its workforce. It did this through the use of content, specifically a pyramid with three different content types; Hero, Hub and Help. This approach meant their content went from large-scale awareness pieces through to push content aimed at their prospects and pull content designed for their core audience.   Why we love it: PepsiCo uses a well thought out, defined content strategy to maintain awareness of their employer brand whilst simultaneously being laser-focused on their core targets. Using influencers to create snackable content for short attention spans, producing content that resonates with the audience sounds easy, but is difficult to do well.   Read the full case study here.  

9. Unilever uses collective intelligence to take action

Where we heard about it: BOC Internal Communications Conference, March 2016   The gist: Unilever’s biennial survey of 170,000 global employees would follow the same steps: data cleansing, translation, implementation and review. But making changes from feedback was taking eight months.Unilever shifted its focus to collective intelligence, simplifying the survey and creating a platform for colleagues to share comments, ideas, solutions and opinions alongside survey data. Employees are encouraged to combine their knowledge and insight and visualisation was used to present the data.   Why we love it: Canvassing the opinions of 170,000 people was always going to be a tough challenge, but Unilever’s new platform showed the company’s commitment to taking action from feedback. Analysis can now be turned around in just four weeks.   Read the full case study here.  

10. BUPA uses happiness to engage front-line staff

Where we heard about it: PRWeek Strategic Internal Comms Conference, November 2016   The gist: The team wanted to raise the profile of employee health and wellbeing benefits for BUPA’s global workforce, many of whom are on the frontline of patient care. They used a week-long #happiness campaign asking staff what makes them happy at work, kick-starting a conversation about how they could help. The team created a mobile-optimised, digital wall completely open to all employees and asked people to share their story of what made them healthier and happier.   Why we love it: BUPA brought the global business closer to home for colleagues, making them feel part of something bigger. With 44,000 visits and 2,000 uploads, the digital wall was a successful channel to engage. 47% of these came from frontline colleagues and 33% from colleagues without email addresses showing BUPA successfully engaged with colleagues who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to have their voices heard.   Read the full case study here.  

What were your favourite case studies?

That’s just a few of the great case studies that we have had the chance to hear over the past 12 months. Oh and we’re too selfless to include some of our own, but just in case you wanted to check out our work with ODEON that drove a 25% increase in engagement, the biggest jump in OHI score McKinsey have ever seen over a two-year period, and drive bottom line revenue for the business, we’ll leave this link here. It’s pretty good, even if we do say so ourselves.   Seen something you think should have made our list? Tell us on Twitter.   

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