Nature’s Way Foods supply retailers and food service companies with prepared salads and fresh ‘food to go’ products. Over 70% of our staff work on shifts with no or limited access to email, computers and company phones, so one of the first things that I did when I joined in 2016 was to investigate what channels we could develop to better communicate and interact with them.
One of the options we came to consider was enabling people to download an app to their personal phones to get company updates. I talked to some of our operations staff to understand if they would be open to this; and the answer was yes. I knew instinctively that digital was the way to go – if people are willing to engage on their days off or on their breaks, a mobile app is the best way to let them do that.
I started looking at different digital solutions with the help of our Head of IT. After some research, we identified that Workplace by Facebook was the best platform for what we wanted to achieve. We contemplated integrating it into a shiny new intranet, like Yammer. But we found that it might confuse people, so instead we opted to keep it as a standalone channel. Workplace has a similar look and feel as Facebook, which we thought would boost adoption.
“I knew instinctively that digital was the way to go – if people are willing to engage on their days off or on their breaks, a mobile app is the best way to let them do that.”
The next step was to get buy-in from the business. We initially signed up for a free trial and ran a small pilot to test it with colleagues. In parallel, I sat down with key stakeholders to explore how they could use Workplace in their business area. They all came up with great ideas, which helped me build a compelling business case to convince our Executive team to introduce this as a permanent channel. In May 2017, the decision was made to go ahead and launch.
Ahead of the official launch, I put together a detailed plan to ensure that we had the right infrastructure in place. I researched how other companies had introduced it, identified the supporting materials available to us and updated our social media policy.
In early September, I conducted a series of face-to-face presentations across all sites to inform our people that we were about to launch Workplace by Facebook, explain how we were going to use it and answer any questions.
In October, we launched the platform. Adoption was strong from the start, and it’s just been a snowball effect from there. We’ve created several default groups on Workplace, including Natures Way Foods Communications, Pensions and Benefits, Training and Development and Personal Fundraising, where people post about volunteering projects and charity stuff . We keep evolving the structure to reflect the needs of the business – with a combination of default groups that people are automatically added to, open groups which anyone can subscribe to, and closed groups that can only be joined on invites. We don’t use Workplace for everything, but it’s become a key channel as we’re trying to reduce email traffic.
People use the platform to share all sorts of topics, from customer and supplier news to social events and colleague updates. Every time I go on Workplace, I learn something about the business or the people I work with.
We deliberately didn’t set parameters on what we are expecting people to post. We simply told people not to post something that they you would not say face to face or write in an email. So far, I’ve only had to block one post. Occasionally, we’ve had a few people sharing personal updates, so I talked to them to make clear that while we are pleased that they enjoy using Workplace, they should save their holiday snaps for their personal Facebook wall!
My team devised a content calendar to set the right tone from the start and get conversations started with good-quality content. We asked key stakeholders to think of what topics they could post about over the first three months. It’s good to think about what content you will put out there in advance and to consider people’s interests. The best way to get people engaged is to make sure that the content is relevant to them!
We also placed a lot of emphasis on getting our senior leaders on board as their involvement is key to adoption. People in their teams want to see what they have to say, and appreciate when their manager sees, likes, or comments on their posts.
Analytics show that the adoption rate is still on an upward curve. However, feedback from a recent internal audit told us that a lot of people did not know that Workplace is available as a mobile app, so we are now running a campaign to raise awareness and I am hoping to get another influx of people signing up and using it.
With new starters joining the business on a frequent basis, it’s important to re-visit why we’re doing this on a regular basis, and ensure that everybody knows how to access it.
Biography: Stephanie Jones
Stephanie started her career as Brand Manager for the Body Shop, and has since held various communication positions before joining Natures Way Foods as a Business Insights and Communications Manager. In her current role, Stephanie is responsible for managing a mix of internal comms channels to engage a culturally diverse workforce, external comms and a thriving Community Programme.