On Tuesday 16th February, simply partner SocialChorus and GSK (GlaxoSmithKline), the science-led healthcare company, came together to share their story on creating a global employee experience.

GSK’s Tam Sandeman, Vice President: Global Internal Engagement and Joe Lees, Director: Internal Digital Channels, Communications and Government Affairs were joined by Kensley Wigginton, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus.

GSK operates across 90 countries and every day aims to help improve the health of millions of people around the world, focusing on researching, developing and making:

  1. Pharmaceutical medicines
  2. Vaccines
  3. Consumer healthcare products

As a company, they are working towards a poignant time in 2022 when GSK will become two new companies. In a time of major change, Joe and Tam have been discovering new ways of helping people and maintaining trust internally.

This process has been ongoing whilst under the spotlight, due to global vaccine demand as a result of the pandemic.

The team shared that supporting Covid-19 efforts and delivering and ensuring the effectiveness of internal communications has never been more important.

Implementing an omni-channel approach

The GSK team highlighted that Covid-19 and the rapid move to remote-working for over 70,000 people has really shown the benefits of digital communications and a driver to keep improving. The number one channel preference continues to be face-to-face interaction, even with the increase in virtual communication.

In 2013, GSK launched new branding which gave the team the opportunity to improve their internal comms, which included an updated intranet and new platform called GSK Today – a responsive news platform with targeted and multi-language capabilities.

After a while, there was a concern over double-publishing on GSK Today and SharePoint, which prompted the pause on this platform.

Then two weeks before Tam joined in 2018, a new social network – Workplace from Facebook – also arrived in GSK. The tool was launched to everyone in one go and deemed a success.

Tam told us: “The adoption has been exceptional. And significantly dialled up during the pandemic, which is great.”

What were the challenges of this process?

Fast forward two years, a key challenge was being experienced by the team – with ‘too much clutter’ on Workplace regularly heard. Joe explained that it was ‘too noisy’ to allow people to find news quickly. With messages from the CEO and activity from groups, it was a lot for people to digest.

Asking themselves: “How do we crisply and cleanly get timely news to our people?”, Joe and Tam set about speaking to colleagues at Vodafone to gain insight into possible solutions, which is where SocialChorus came in.

Another challenge identified – and one that should be considered by all communicators – is the issue of ensuring compliance with privacy laws. As GSK is global, the privacy laws that govern employee behaviour are different around the world.

For example, China has stringent privacy laws which require more consideration. To ensure compliance, GSK deployed their new SocialChorus platform, GSK News, to countries with GDPR laws first, in a ‘privacy-first’ approach.

The three channels

Moving away from traditional practices, GSK has put discovering new medicines and delivering great performance at the forefront, as well as sustainability and diversity and inclusion.

Joe explained that to successfully deploy the new strategy, it was important to define a vision for each channel. The three channels are a SharePoint Intranet, Workplace from Facebook and GSK News.

The main aim was to get quality information to employees before anyone else. Prior to the pandemic and launch of the new strategy, external shareholders were informed first, but this has now shifted to prioritise internal colleagues.

Tam said: ‘The pandemic brought leaders into using digital more often. To reach a wider audience, you’ve now got these wonderful modern and easy-to-use digital channels.’

What are the platforms used for?

Intranet: GSK use this in the traditional sense – a place to store information that may need to be there long-term for employees to access whenever needed.

Workplace: The Facebook-owned platform is the place for leader-led comms, commenting on topics relevant to the business and starting conversations for people to comment on.

SocialChorus: GSK News is powered by SocialChorus. This platform is for communicator-led news, featuring integration with Workplace. The framework from Workplace is amplified in SocialChorus.

GSK knew it needed to go where employees were, rather than force a one size fits all approach on people. “Build and they will come.” – Joe Lees

GSK’s omni-channel approach required expert minds and in-depth research into employee experience, followed by the creation of personas to understand how people read and understand news.

Joe explained that the idea wasn’t to create a one-stop shop, as a global brand needs multiple touch points to reach their 99,000 employees.

The strategy was of course underpinned by GSK’s company strategy – which combines activities around innovation, performance, trust and culture.

The process included managing change, which can be a challenge within any organisation, but particularly one that is navigating it virtually to a vast audience.

The success of the roll-out will help people feel valued and informed as they look forward to a bright future as the company prepares to create two new companies, in 2022.

If you’d like to watch the full webinar, visit the SocialChorus website.


Laura Riaz

Laura Riaz is simply’s content creator. With a strong background in copywriting and social media management, she thoroughly enjoys writing about the wonders of internal comms.

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