The Gatehouse Blog

Otis staff given lift by new magazine

When Otis rebranded in 2017, it had to ensure staff were engaged with its new strategy and approach. But with over half of employees in the UK and Ireland working in the field, communicating with them using the company’s existing channels and tools proved problematic. We spoke with Head of Communications, Uchenna Izundu, to find out how revamping the staff magazine helped engage the whole workforce and why print media still has value in the digital age.

Otis is a global maker and maintainer of lifts, escalators and moving walkways, offering products and services in 200 countries and territories. The business was founded by Elisha Otis, the inventor of the elevator safety brake, more than 165 years ago, and today it has 33,000 expert mechanics worldwide. In 2017, the company rebranded and launched a new strategy to digitalise the business and enhance how it operates and interacts with customers. Because over half of its UK and Ireland staff work in the field as engineers installing, servicing and modernising lifts and escalators, there were challenges around how to effectively communicate these new strategic objectives, which meant the business needed to re- evaluate its existing communication channels.

The power of print

Staff surveys showed that people didn’t always understand Otis’s strategy or what it was trying to achieve, and it was clear that some of the issues lay with the communication channels that were being used. While Otis UK & Ireland uses various tools, such as Yammer, to communicate with employees, these aren’t always effective for sharing high-level strategic messages with field workers.

Staff surveys showed that people didn’t always understand Otis’s strategy or what it was trying to achieve, and it was clear that some of the issues lay with the communication channels that were being used.

There was an existing staff magazine called Upfront and, although employee research showed people liked it, there were obvious improvements that could be made to more effectively align it with the company’s new identity and strategic focus. One of the most interesting findings from the research was that staff felt they received too many emails and wanted to have a physical magazine sent to their home, with the tangibility of paper and print being cited as a real plus point.

The process of redeveloping the magazine started in autumn 2017, just a few months after the global rebrand. First, the name of the magazine was changed from Upfront to Move. This better reflected the essence of what Otis does – moving people – and also linked to the company’s new brand tagline: ‘Made to Move You’.

The look and feel of the magazine was transformed, with a colour palette that reflected the company’s new brand, and a shift in perspective to focus on culture, with an emphasis on teamwork, customer service and technology. The main objective was to align the content to the strategy, which meant it was imperative to source stories from across the business showing employees who were living the company experience.

One of the most interesting findings from the research was that staff felt they received too many emails and wanted to have a physical magazine sent to their home, with the tangibility of paper and print being cited as a real plus point.

Sourcing the best stories

The eight-page magazine is published three times a year, with a structure that ensures it is representative of all parts of the business. Each issue includes a feature about a highlight from that particular period, a look at an individual who has gone above and beyond, a community or charity article to show how employees contribute to causes that matter to them, an Otis customer interview, and a story that focuses on a specific team, function or initiative. An opinion piece looks at future trends, while a history section casts its eye back to what Otis has done in the past, because employees are proud of the company’s legacy.

“The editorial team is constantly hunting for stories, and the support of the company’s leaders with recommendations about who and what they think is

working well has been vital to the magazine’s success,” says Uchenna. Other communication channels, like the intranet or newsletter, are also used to remind staff to contribute. Employee representatives also suggest stories about projects or members of their department or team.

Constantly innovating

“Producing a magazine feels like an ongoing pregnancy!” comments Uchenna. “It’s like giving birth and then being immediately pregnant again.”

Sourcing stories is a big job, especially in a company that has branches all over the UK and Ireland, each with its own challenges and ideas about how it wants to be represented.

“It’s a balancing act and the team continuously asks itself whether the articles are diverse, have a good geographical spread and, even more importantly, if they are telling a good story about our cultural values,” adds Uchenna. “This way, employees are recognised and become visible role models for others, which is very important to mobilise culture change. We’re at an exciting period in Otis’s transformation as we spin off from our parent company, United Technologies.”

“Creativity and innovation are key. As well as being creative in terms of storytelling, it’s important to keep an eye on new technologies and features that can be used to keep the magazine fresh.”

Creativity and innovation are key. As well as being creative in terms of storytelling, it’s important to keep an eye on new technologies and features that can be used to keep the magazine fresh.

Unlike with the previous incarnation of the magazine, Move uses QR codes to create more of a multimedia experience. For example, there may be a story about the apps Otis has developed to help service and repair lifts and escalators. A QR code can be created that, once scanned, means the reader is sent to a video on YouTube that presents the story in a different way.

As well as the printed edition, a PDF version of the magazine is published on the intranet, and teaser articles and images are frequently posted on Yammer to encourage people to read the magazine.

Celebrating success

“Staff have been really taken aback by how different Move is from its predecessor and many have said that reading it inspires them to do better in their day-to-day work,” says Uchenna. “We’re delighted with theemployee feedback that 92% say Move has made them feel more engaged as an employee. Colleagues in other global regions are also interested in using the template and customising it for their own market. Also, 30%of employees say they share the magazine with friends and family, which shows the magazine is helping spread good news about Otis.”

A real source of pride was when the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) shortlisted the magazine in its ‘Best Relaunched Publication’ category last year. One of the complaints that communicators, especially internal communicators, often have is that the profession isn’t understood or valued within a particular business. Being endorsed by an organisation like the IoIC really helps demonstrate the importance of internal communications.

Biography: Uchenna Izundu 
Uchenna Izundu heads communications at Otis UK & Ireland, where she works with leadership and employee groups to create, implement and evaluate communication strategies to engage the workforce in achieving business outcomes. A former energy and maritime journalist, Uchenna is passionate about internal communications having a 4D effect: employees must see, hear, feel and share great messages and stories to drive change.@UchennaIzundu