The Gatehouse Blog

How AVEVA conjured comms magic from its network of Ambassadors

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic.

AVEVA’s Debbie Install created a Global ambassador network to harness the passion of employees around the globe.

AVEVA is a technology company. We create engineering, design and information management software that helps the process plant, power and marine industries design, build and operate facilities and ships across the globe.

I’m the Head of Global Internal Communications, and one objective that I’ve been set by the Executive team is to stop us appearing to be too Cambridge-centric to our 1,700 employees in 50 countries.

Global Ambassador network

One way we’re addressing this is through a Global Ambassador Network. The idea itself isn’t new – many organisations have comms champions. In fact, when I joined we already had a similar network of 50 people across the globe. However, like a lot of organisations we weren’t using them effectively. Some of them were only on the list because they’d been told to be a champion.

We decided that what we really wanted were people who were true ambassadors for AVEVA. People who really felt passionate about the organisation, but who wanted to develop themselves as well. To elevate the programme, and communicate that it’s something really important to the organisation, we decided that we didn’t want people to take on the full role of ambassador forever but that they’d do it for six months, and pass on the duties to another suitable candidate in their region, but of course remain an ‘ambassador’ in spirit. Eventually, we’d end up with quite a lot of the organisation having experienced being ambassadors and continuing to support the cause in their daily roles in AVEVA.

We also branded this as an exercise from two senior executives – rather than an initiative from internal comms. They champion the network, and personally welcome all the ambassadors, underlining that it’s taken seriously. CHooSInG amBaSSaDorS Recruiting good ambassadors is where ‘comms champion’ networks often falter. Instead of waiting for people to apply, we reached out to individuals we thought would be great. We asked our Regional Operations Managers around the world to work with line managers to identify and invite people they thought would be right for the role.

We’ve been able to recruit people who are developers, finance people – we’ve even recruited a sales person. It’s quite an achievement to convince a sales person to focus on something other than their targets for the quarter! I think we’ve got one from most of the different roles we have in the organisation.

Often with comms champions, people aren’t clear what responsibilities they’re taking on. We came up with a formal role profile for our Global Ambassador Network. We make it clear that this is additional to their current role, and that they don’t get paid extra – but what they can do is put this on their per formance record, and it’ll be recorded at the end of the year that they’ve done this extra piece of activity.

We effectively strike a deal: there’s something for you and there’s something for the organisation. We also provide communication skills development through professional networks, Webinars and the sharing of case studies etc.

Don’t pick junior people

In the past, people selected very junior roles to be internal comms champions. You’d ask the receptionist, or the admin assistant.

That’s because these schemes are sometimes made to sound like a ‘post box’ job – putting up posters and printing name badges for events. I think that’s a mistake. We actually chose people based on their skills, so we cut across a spectrum of roles. We’ve got a couple who are senior managers, and then we’ve got middle managers. We’ve tried to avoid just going for people in junior positions – we wanted people who could talk with lots of credibility, and people who others would come and talk to.

With the Global Ambassador Network, if one of our Executive Team is preparing for a regional visit and we’re going to run a meet and greet event over there, the appointed Regional Ambassador will actually be hosting it with the Executive team. It’s a completely different ball game than somebody who’s just sending stuff out.

Ambassador feedback

It’s early days, but we’ve already had several successes. Obviously, AVEVA has the usual employee survey and a few other carefully chosen channels. What we didn’t have is really good, instant feedback – a temperature check that we could call on at any time. That’s definitely one thing the ambassadors excel at.

Recently we had to send a message out that wasn’t positive, and we wanted to make sure we gave some honest and direct feedback to our Executive team about how it had landed. So, as it was going out we sent a note out to our ambassadors to give advance notice that a message was about to go out, and could they give us any feedback as it hit their areas. They came back within minutes. We had a full report that we could take straight back to our leaders, to help us understand the reaction across the globe.

Other things you can do

It’s got to the point now where our ambassadors contact us when some thing’s happened. They’ll share bril liant community news stories, CSR activities, or any great events that are happening in the regions.

That information goes out onto our intranet on a section that’s called ‘all about us’. At the end of May, we probably only had two stories that were from Cambridge – the rest of them were from our regions. That’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do without our global network of ambassadors.

BIOGRAPHY – DEBBIE INSTALL

Debbie Install wants to live in a world where shoes, chocolate and bottles of wine are free… and good manners are compulsory. When she’s not communicating with lots of people in lots of countries about important stuff (of course), you can find her sat in the garden – weather permitting – reading a book and relaxing.