Lookers’ Leadership Comms given a boost by Workplace

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How Lookers are using Workplace by Facebook to help boost leadership communications to create a positive and vibrant culture and a ‘One Lookers’ feel. 

With over 170 dealerships, Lookers have grown from humble beginnings as a bicycle retailer founded in 1908, to a high-performing business with a diverse commercial portfolio. One of the UK’s largest automotive retailers, the company sells and services new and used vehicles – that’s cars, vans and motorcycles – from an extensive list of manufacturers. The business is underpinned by a customer service-led philosophy that is delivered through an industry-leading experience. This is embodied in the ethos ‘For You, For Life’.

This customer-centric ethos seems genuine, even welcoming dogs as well as children. Lookers’ mascot is Lucky the Dog, encapsulated in a cartoon, with Lucky the Dog books and drawing available in the children’s area of each dealership. This family-friendly and fun element is beginning to sound like a pretty good Saturday morning outing!

So how does a business that has grown largely through acquisition, instill across its various business divisions a shared sense of purpose and a ‘One Lookers’ feel?

Alison Boothby spoke to Hannah Peaty, Group Colleague Engagement Manager at Lookers Group, to find out how.

Hannah Peaty_Lookers“The company has quite a complicated set up of nine divisions, broadly by manufacturer brand, and each operates quite independently yet within the Lookers Group. Ultimately they all have the same goals and we want colleagues to affiliate with the Lookers brand as well as with their vehicle brand” explained Hannah. “The inspiration for this comes right from the top. It comes from leadership. Our leaders do travel a lot, but physically reaching nearly 9000 colleagues across 170+ widely dispersed sites is not realistic, and we wanted a better way to facilitate the communication between our leaders and colleagues, wherever they sit within our business.”

Leadership communications

Hannah continues: “We had an intranet called Engage. It was flat and static, with no interaction functionality. It was pretty clunky and not intuitive. Ironically – not engaging at all!

“We knew we wanted a tool that would reduce our reliance on email and encourage a more open, two-way style of communication. We were adamant that there should be easy access for everyone, whether in head office, on the sales teams or in the service and technician areas. It was vitally important that whatever solution we went with would embrace all colleagues, whether or not they were set up with company email accounts. We chose to run with Workplace because the app is very good on mobile phones and the familiarity with Facebook really helps. We could see that from the leaders’ perspectives, Workplace would help to open up the company, allowing them to share what they are up to and where they are, as well as them being able to see what’s going on across the group.”

Getting started

Initially there was a pilot with a smaller group of invited participants, representing different areas of the business. Workplace champions were draw from this group of early enthusiasts and helped to introduce the platform to their areas of business. Adoption was supported by a digital information pack of interactive communications explaining the what, why and how and this was backed up by a video from COO Nigel McMinn explaining it and supporting it. A desktop background takeover also helped raise interest levels and intrigue. Since then, it’s been more about organic growth, Hannah being under no illusion that changing the cultural communication habits of the business is going to take time.

“It’s a slow but steady journey and we still have a way to go. However, what we have accomplished in just under a year is very positive” said Hannah. “At the outset our CEO actually asked me ‘How much do I have to be involved?’ and a year later he’s a total convert and uses it all the time! It’s an excellent way for him to engage with the group. Lookers Ask Andy thumbnail_wp3He is willing to get involved and his quarterly video Ask Andy sessions, where he shares his thoughts directly with colleagues, are popular and really positive for the business.”

This is backed up by Lookers’ write-up in the latest Best Companies Survey results which states: “CEO Andy Bruce is widely considered to be very approachable and is very active on the brand’s Workplace platform. He is often seen across Lookers’ branches, talking to team members and asking for their thoughts about any improvements to be made to the firm.”  Perhaps this is why he was recently named the 12th-highest-rated CEO in the UK by recruitment company Glassdoor – ahead of Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg!

But it isn’t just Andy Bruce who is making the most of Workplace. Hannah points out: “Since we launched Workplace, less than one year ago, our wider executive team have been heavily invested in using the platform to share their key messages to our workforce. From engaging videos and sharing regular timely updates straight from the operations board meetings, to commenting on posts to reinforce positive behaviour and giving recognition to colleagues across the business, our execs have definitely embraced Workplace“

Popular use cases

Hannah admits that in these relatively early stages, the success of Workplace requires constant investment in the creation of engaging content which needs to be timely, interesting and fun. By way of example, there are a few particular use cases that have been instrumental in the success of the platform so far and have resulted in a steady rise in active numbers.

Lookers’ Life – this is a monthly focus on lifestyle issues to get colleagues involved and engaged, often with a competitive element. In February for example, Lookers’ Love campaign encouraged people to share great customer stories and in March, Step into Spring urges everyone to do 10,000 steps a day. Campaigns like this create a certain amount of chatter about the business which in turn creates curiosity and gets people joining in who perhaps were not active on the platform.

The Electric Charge – Workplace came into its own during a charity challenge the ‘Lookers Electric Charge’ where the entire company were involved in an electric car relay challenge which touched every dealership. At each site there were fundraising challenges, all shared on Workplace, making good use of the video capability of the platform as colleagues tried to out-do each other with their fancy-dress get-ups and carpool karaokes!

Annual recognition event – This annual event took place last weekend in Berlin with live updates on Workplace. The nomination campaign was run on the platform with nominations open to anyone for anyone. Workplace has really helped raise the stakes this year with over 1000 nominations – that’s 5 times the usual number! Everyone who received a nomination was awarded a certificate and champagne, which many captured and shared on Workplace with shortlisted finalists announced via an exciting video.

Annual management conference – From a leadership comms perspective Workplace has transformed this annual set-piece event. Where previously, senior management disappeared for three days and colleagues were essentially none the wiser, the event is now fully transparent with colleagues able to tune in to daily updates. Feedback suggest that they appreciate being kept in the loop. It’s another win-win for leader-colleague relations.

Annual engagement survey – Lookers make use of the Best Companies annual engagement survey and having run a campaign through Workplace to raise awareness of this year’s survey, they had the highest number of colleagues completing it this time round.Response rate increased by 18% with more than 50% of the workforce participating. The results are shared openly and leaders comfortably discuss the highs and lows in video Q&A sessions.

Acquisition – the business continues to grow through acquisition and for the latest, the leader team were able to use Workplace to announce the acquisition as well as welcome and onboard the acquired colleagues to Lookers. Hannah was quick to point out that new recruits are speedy to get active on Workplace, perhaps more so than some longer-standing employees.

What about Groups?

Hannah explains: “We decided not to have rules around group creation and it has been beneficial to see now our people want to use Workplace and what groups they set up. By way of examples, we have a Stockport Compound Group which is consistently one of the most active groups on the platform. Essentially it is helping a remote vehicle compound communicate with several dealerships around the movement and availability of vehicles. It’s not exciting perhaps, but it has revolutionised how they work, keeping records of everything, reducing duplication of effort and streamlining process. It’s vital to how the business functions efficiently. It is a very specific use case, but an excellent example of how Workplace can help to transform workflows.

“And on a rather different note, another very active group has been set up by staff in our service area called Job Card Of The Day. It’s a bit of fun where unusual or funny service and repair requests get shared. One customer had asked for her car to be looked at because she said it sounded like golf balls were rolling around in it when she was driving. The technicians reported that they had indeed discovered what the problem was: there were golf balls rolling around in the boot when the car was driven! On another occasion a live snake was discovered in an engine! Having a social platform like Workplace that can help bring people together and build relationships across geographies and silos is great for colleague engagement and great for reinforcing the sense of One Lookers.”

Measuring success

One of the criticisms frequently levelled at Workplace is that the analytics that come with it are not super useful, necessitating some sort of additional analytics integration – like SWOOP, for example. However, Lookers’ own IT developers have created a dashboard to provide the data they need and for now, it’s working fine. Hannah adds: “For now, it’s mostly about getting colleagues on board and active on the platform. Of our 9000 colleagues, more than 6000 have claimed their accounts – a pretty key milestone. In terms of active accounts though, it’s more like 4,500 so we still have a way to go. So far we have had had over 20,000 posts and in excess of 100,000 reactions. Comment numbers are slower to grow but this aspect of dialogue is gradually picking up. It is tough to change some of the older cultural habits in any organisation, so leadership role-modeling is key here.”

Hannah is certainly responsible for quite a bit of the content on the platform and sees her role largely as one of educator, posting tips to all users under #Thursdaytips. “We are encouraging the various business owners to take responsibility for communications from their area and, as we move more of our divisional communications onto the platform, active user numbers will increase. I regularly update business areas with user data and we also have incentivised people in the dealerships to activate their accounts rewarding them with coupons for free advertising on Facebook for their dealership.

“Across the business, we have seen use of and reliance on email reduce and have terminated the old intranet. Workplace is definitely getting traction.”

Learns

Here are Hannah’s 5 key pieces of advice to anyone embarking on a Workplace implementation:

  1. Keep growing and evolving the platform. It needs constant attention and investment, constant review and improvement.
  2. The more you use it, the more you understand how it can help the business.
  3. Continue to educate colleagues as to how to get the best out of it. It’s especially important not to use it like Facebook, which is essentially used as a broadcast channel. Focus energy on how to get things done with Workplace.
  4. In terms of leadership communications, be creative! Don’t be shy and do let the real personalities loose. It’s the human side that builds engagement so keep it fun and lighthearted alongside the serious stuff. Most importantly, keep it authentic.
  5. Keep plugging away. Make Workplace part of every business decision, and make sure it’s where all up to date information is held.

Business impact

Lookers CEO site visit on WPHannah concludes: “The biggest impact of our executive engagement on Workplace has been the fact it has opened up our communication channels, from static and one-dimensional to open, real-time communication. Our execs can have direct, transparent and open conversation with our entire workforce including those harder to reach such as our vehicle technicians and drivers; our colleagues in turn feel more in touch with our execs. Furthermore, we have seen a real positive culture shift with the emphasis on reinforcement of positive behaviour and those good news stories that keep everyone motivated and build a sense of pride in being part of the Lookers community.

“In terms of what’s next, we are developing a chatbot in house to ease the burden on our IT, payroll and HR colleagues. This will help colleagues find answers to frequently asked questions making processes quicker and easier. I know there is so much more we can improve across the business with Workplace – we’ve really only just begun!”