Crowdsourcing on an ambitious scale

AZ2025 composite image

What happened when AstraZeneca used crowdsourcing to boost employee engagement and put the company’s strategy in the hands of its 64,000 employees?

Since 2012, AstraZeneca have been on a remarkable journey. Under the guidance of a new CEO, it’s a well-documented turnaround story. Their mission is to provide life-changing medicines to patients. By 2025 they aim to double the number of medicines and double their revenue. We spoke to Alun Metford, Global Head of Internal Communications, to find out a little more about how their employees played such an important part in their success.

Alun Metford AZ“As we returned to growth it was clear that the world had changed and as a business we needed to change too. In order to shape the next phase of AstraZeneca, we wanted to take advantage of our collaborative and inclusive culture. We wanted to give everyone in the organisation a voice. Having got the leadership team on board, we set out to engage the wider organisation in our future and we did this with Workplace by Facebook,” explained Alun.

 A new ESN

Early in 2018 working closely with the IT team, Alun and his colleagues set about launching Workplace by Facebook to their geographically and culturally diverse workforce. Alun continues, “Since 2010 we had had a couple of other social platforms in the business and although not entirely successful, these certainly laid the groundwork for acceptance of social.  Following a small pilot in the manufacturing and operations area we decided to scale up fast – by fast, I’m talking just six weeks! The familiarity of Workplace really helped accelerate the uptake and we were rewarded with astonishing results.”

Interestingly, Alun and his colleagues decided to ignore the advice from Workplace which was to have it top-down driven. From the start they set out to make it community-driven in approach using disruptors, champions and advocates. An approach that paid off, big time!

  • 77% of accounts claimed in month one (aim 70%)
  • 86% monthly active users by week three (aim 80% in month two)
  • +3–4 More work-centric content, with three to four posts per active group on average. Workplace sets a KPI of two
  • x2 Behaviour change from broadcasting content to dialogue and engagement, with 2x more comments than posts

Shaping future strategy

The rollout of Workplace by Facebook at AstraZeneca was one of the most successful Facebook has seen and, on the back of its success, AstraZeneca decided to use the platform to help them with a hugely ambitious project to crowdsource ideas from their 64,000 employees on how to shape their future strategy. This award-winning, multi-channel, multi-language, global crowdsourcing campaign is known as AZ2025: Think. Transform. Together.

Alun told us, “AZ2025 came just six weeks after the Workplace rollout and for this campaign we wanted very much to include our 12,000 colleagues in China. ‘The great firewall of China’ prevents the use of Workplace so we use WeChat there and it works well. Using the expertise of Sideways 6 to triage ideas, their tool integrated with both Workplace and WeChat. These two familiar social platforms were key drivers of participation, made all the better as ideas could be shared and discussed in native languages – something that had not been possible before. ”

AZ2025. Think. Transform. Together.  

AZ2025 roadshowThe campaign launched with a hive of activity. A globally coordinated communications endeavor involving surround-sound briefing packs, dynamic videos from the executive team and online talks. All this, plus an interactive, travelling exhibition that visited 15 locations around the world ensured everyone in the company knew about the initiative.

The energy behind the campaign inspired people to participate and to think about what the new world – the 2025 world – might look like. “We put lots of effort into catalysing conversations on our social channels. We really got people to think beyond the here and now – things like 3D pill printing for example,” Alun said.

Over the course of just three weeks, the AZ2025 Think. Transform. Together campaign produced 77,000 ideas, comments and likes from employees spread across some 70 countries and a whopping 23,000 unique ideas.

From this enormous bank of ideas, 26 initiatives have been taken forward with $100 million prioritised investment during 2019.

Lasting impact

A successful campaign is one thing, but is there a lasting benefit to the business? Alun thinks so, “Moving away from email towards these social channels has been fundamental in how we make AstraZeneca feel smaller. Our people are better connected and, as a result, we have closed down lots of other platforms. We have a single intranet platform – standardised where possible – but we respect cultural differences around the world so we have, for example, chosen to embrace WeChat as well as Workplace.

“Last June our latest pulse survey showed that, despite shifting priorities, 94% employees believe they can deliver the strategy. They tell us that they understood and were invested in the future of the business. And 81% rate it as a Great Place to Work. That’s a huge level of engagement. Our people are proud that we have recovered our scientific edge. And proud that we are making a real difference for patients. The culture in the business of being able to directly shape the next phase has certainly helped. At AstraZeneca, people are really having their say and it’s social technologies that have made this possible for us.”


The enormous success of the AZ2025 Think. Transform. Together campaign developed by Ruder Finn UK has been recognised with a host of awards including the Grand Prix Award  at the 2019  Institute of Internal Communication Awards.