The Gatehouse Blog

Incentivizing intranets at Interserve

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at

How do you encourage employees to visit an intranet, when many of them never visit a computer? Interserve’s Sarah Archer and Jude Widdowson share their work on MyInterserve.

You may have heard the story about the cleaner on NASA’s Cape Canaveral station, who when asked what she did there, replied; ‘I help to put men on the moon’.  This response sums up what many of us are trying to achieve  when we talk about ‘employee engagement’; the idea that no matter what our task or job title, we are all unified by a common vision and a sense of pride in our work.

Interserve is a 250 FTSE company providing support service and construction services worldwide. At Interserve, we want every member of our 85,000 strong workforce, many of which deliver front line services like cleaning, to feel they too have a part to play in helping us achieve our vision.

However, providing a successful engagement experience for our employees is a particular challenge for Interserve. With only 16% of our workforce office-based and allocated a company e-mail address, only a small proportion of staff receive intranet news, weekly e-newsletters, webinars and conferences.

The majority of our employees are difficult to reach, being scattered across 45,000 client sites and often working alone, with limited line management interaction.  Consequently, many of our employees have a limited awareness of the Interserve brand.

With the job market blossoming, it’s becoming increasingly important to attract and retain the right staff. One way to do this is to give all employees the opportunity to not only understand, but contribute to our business, whether it’s having a question answered, participating in a competition or being aware of employee volunteering opportunities.

We’ve tried a number of different ways to engage our employees with key initiatives, all  with some measure of success, such as ‘toolbox talks’ or team briefing cascades, as well as pay slip and Facebook messaging. We also send out an employee newspaper ‘Focus’ three times a year to all UK staff via post.

An online engagement portal 

What was missing was an opportunity to engage with our workforce using the tools they use everyday, i.e. their mobile phones.   With this in mind, we devised an out of the box solution; ‘MyInterserve’, a mobile compatible, online engagement portal existing outside our network.

Before we developed MyInterserve, we undertook several focus groups with a diverse range of front line employees to help us understand what would encourage people to register for an online portal.

We discovered providing discounts would provide a key incentive for encouraging registration and return users to MyInterserve. Next, we engaged with a supplier to provide a wide range of employee discounts, including money off grocery shopping, restaurants, retail, holidays, financial perks and more.

We developed a technical solution which allows the discount portal and MyInterserve to work seamlessly together using Single Sign On (SSO) technology. This means signing into MyInterserve grants access to employee discounts, without the need for a separate sign-on process. Working with Factor3 design agency, we made sure MyInterserve was accessible across a range of devices using mobile first technology.

To create a secure portal available exclusively to Interserve employees, we worked with our HR payroll teams to use employee numbers as unique identifiers. This allows people without Interserve e-mail addresses to register using the unique number and their personal e-mail account.

Promoting the portal

Now that we’ve got the tool, we keep it alive with news, competitions, tools and resources to help employees understand our brand, vision and values. As well as this, MyInterserve features job vacancies, open comment forums and an engaging e-training module.

We’ve developed a monthly e-newsletter to all registrants, which we use to promote the latest and greatest monthly discount offerings. The e-newsletter also helps us encourage participation in the initiatives and competitions on MyInterserve, such as our employee recognition scheme and a recent idea harvesting competition.

We used WordPress for the Content Management System, this is simple and easy to use and features scheduling capability and admin workflows to allow other divisions to add their own content. The system also allows us to export detailed reports to track engagement across all divisions, business areas and business units that are produced for the executive boards and division leads.

It is early days still, but so far 7,000 employees have registered with nearly 70% from our front line division seeing more engagement from these employees than ever before.

In 2015, we will develop the portal further to help drive engagement across the business. This includes tailored messaging per division, push notifications and programmes focusing on a health and wellbeing programmes.  We are also investigating how we can embed processes onto MyInterserve such as self serviced payslips and an induction programme. Providing translated content is also a priority this year as many of our employees work overseas or do not use English as their first language.


Sarah Archer joined Interserve in March 2013 and is now Group Internal Communications Manager and Interserve Employee Foundation Director.

Jude Widdowson is Online Communications Manager at Interserve and has over 7 years in digital communications.