The Gatehouse Blog

Getting mobile and unwired colleagues connected


Head of Internal Communications Zoe Chiverton describes her approach to launching the first employee self-service benefits portal to a largely remote audience at the Priory Group.

The Priory Group is a behavioural healthcare company dealing with mental health and addiction. We’ve got 20,000 employees spread across 400 sites in the UK. I joined two years ago, in a newly created role within the Corporate Affairs team.

Despite an attractive employee benefits offering, uptake was low. Employees didn’t know what benefits were available to them and there was no self-service, which made our people reliant on the HR team, having to call them to ask what their pension contribution was, for example. Our objective was to modernise our benefits processes, raise awareness of the benefits available to our people and give them the flexibility to choose and change their benefits themselves.

A culture change

We decided to launch a web-based solution where people could simply log in to access their personal information. To align the new portal with our internal branding, we called it the ‘Your Priory, Your Benefits’ website. We also decided to make payslips available on the portal and go 100% electronic. It was not only a huge cost saving for the business and a significant reduction of our environmental impact, but also a key driver to boost adoption of the website.
In an organisation where most staff don’t sit at a desk and many don’t even have a work email address, this was a significant behavioural change. Communications had to educate people that they had to take control of their own benefits, and could do so from anywhere.

“Communications had to educate people that they had to take control of their own benefits, and could do so from anywhere.”

Involving the staff forum

We rolled out communications in two phases. In December 2015, we gave employees a heads-up that this was coming by weaving the message throughout all our business as usual communications, such as the quarterly CEO conference call and the CEO’s Christmas message, to introduce people to the idea early on.
This ‘soft launch’ was complemented with a pilot with representatives from our staff forum, which we call the ‘Your Say Forum’. This channel enables us to both listen to frontline colleagues’ feedback as well as get the message out to them, ensuring that all our communications are inclusive of staff without email or intranet access.

We gave them a sneak peak of what was coming and demoed the website to them so they could advocate it to their teams after the go-live.

Their feedback was invaluable because it helped us to see how our messages were landing and gave us a chance to adjust them ahead of the go-live. We tweaked the wording to ensure that our communications were matching the language used in the portal, for example. Being heavily involved in the project, it’s easy to forget that people don’t have the same level of understanding of the portal as you have, and may get confused if you don’t align your wording across all communications.

Monitoring adoption rates

The portal went live to the whole business just a few weeks later. Having done a pilot, all communications were ready to go, so this freed up time for me to monitor login rates across each of our four divisions and adjust the communication plan accordingly. For the first few weeks, it was a case of identifying areas of the business where adoption was lower and targeting specific groups with additional messages.

For example, one of our divisions was quite behind the rest of the business one month after the launch. We decided to keep the paper payslip for an extra month and hand out a leaflet with personal log-in details to the portal when people came to collect their payslip from their site manager. This way, we made sure they had all the information in their hands that they needed to log in and this removed all the barriers for them. The adoption rate of that division jumped up after doing this.

“For the first few weeks, it was a case of identifying areas of the business where adoption was lower and targeting specific groups with additional messages.”

Exceeding expectations

The campaign delivered a fantastic result, with 69% of employees having signed up within three months of the launch. This is double what the portal provider expected us to achieve based on their experience with companies similar to us.

We keep improving the platform and launching new benefits. A year later, the website has reached over 190,000 logins and 84% of employees have signed up, with their personal or work email address, which is something we can leverage for our future communications.

Biography – Zoe Chiverton

Zoe runs internal communications and staff award schemes for Priory’s 20,000 staff in over 400 sites. She is the driving force behind the group’s new in-house IC function, which she has spent the last two years establishing. She has worked for international companies, gaining experience of both internal and member communications. Zoe was highly commended as Internal Communicator of the Year at the CEB Awards and holds a Diploma in Internal Communications from the CIPR.