Plan International have to communicate with and engage 10,000 staff around the world who help advance children’s rights and equality for girls in over 75 countries. One month in, their new engagement platform Workplace is already helping staff work better together.
“The way we used to communicate here resembled something out of a bad Dickens novel with people using formal and complex language to ask for the simplest of things. With our new channels we have loosened up our shoulders and now talk more like we act.”
So claims Ben Roche, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at INGO Plan International, following the launch of Workplace by Facebook and the revamp of their global intranet, Planet.
Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation which works in 75 countries across the world to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. It’s one of the world’s largest organisations working for children’s rights and gender equality, supporting children in over 53,000 communities globally. It is a billion dollar turnover organisation with over 10,000 staff worldwide.
Dawn of a new Planet
The new O365 intranet is called Planet and it went live on 26th September 2018 replacing an old SharePoint site of the same name.
“We did not want to lose our existing users,” explains Amy Maher, Project Manager at Plan International, “The new homepage is proving to be well accepted. We have been able to draw the user to a single screen where they can do their common tasks.”
Although the new Planet intranet is built on O365, the social component is not Yammer; instead the team chose Workplace by Facebook. Regan Collins of Azuronaut provided the technology expertise:
“What Plan wanted was the social flexibility of Workplace but they also had a strong need for knowledge management as their staff is spread all over the planet. So Planet – the intranet – provides them with the best of both worlds.”
Gareth Evans is Plan International’s Technical Architect:
“We used Azuronaut to join the dots. We looked at Yammer, but because many of our domains are on different tenancies it was hard to integrate them into one Yammer network.
Workplace has matured considerably over the past couple of years. But the Facebook product still does not have many parts you can configure or tailor and so we needed to know if this was a good idea. If we were to implement Workplace just on its own, it would have been a nonsense for us. So Azuronaut helped us with the SharePoint upgrade and to do the integrations.”
Those integrations included the creation of the Plan International Assistant chat bot (Pia to her friends), who can search the site and provides a link to the organisation’s popular applications and files.
Building excitement (and a little bit of FOMO)
The launch of Workplace was six months in the making, and involved building a network of champions across all Plan International offices. Advice from other organisations already using the platform was hugely helpful.
“We connected with Save the Children early on,” explains Amy Maher. “They have been using Workplace for a couple of years on a global basis and we were able to learn from their experience of what worked and what didn’t. The project benefited from a soft launch with 1,000 early adopters in July before the global launch in September.
“We enjoyed the support of over 70 champions from our global offices. And we leveraged many of our existing networks to build enthusiasm and FOMO ahead of the main launch in September.”
The team pre-created 200 groups for go-live and pre-populated them to encourage adoption. These informal, open networks are proving popular. So far only one has elected to become a closed group.
Going live with Workplace
On launch day CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen filmed a two minute office walk-around on the day of the launch, welcoming colleagues to the new platform.
“It’s a lesson for us professional communicators,” admits Ben. “We don’t need to perfect every production for them to succeed. Filmed live by AB on her phone, the video quality could have been better and the sound fades in and out. It wasn’t a corporate video by any stretch, but an honest reflection of excitement at the launch of Workplace, and staff really responded to this. The video has had 2,400 views, 63 comments, and over 350 reactions (likes) to date.
“There was a cavalcade of content around the launch. People baking cakes, doing dance routines, competitions, making bits of theatre – you name it. Everyone got involved!”
It’s only 6 weeks since the launch of Workplace but the team has already achieved 70% claimed accounts, and monthly active users are running at around 60% which is ahead of target, but for Ben Roche it is the cultural impact that is most significant:
“I love the casual nature of the new platform. It’s full of user-generated content that visually demonstrates the impact of our work. Using Workplace to share the stories of our day-to-day – where we operate, what we do and even the minutiae that make up our daily lives – helps make our world a smaller place in which to work.”
When I interviewed the team, Plan International had just had a busy few days.
Ben Roche: “We chose our September launch carefully in order to give ourselves a month to get staff on and using Workplace ahead of International Day of the Girl on 11 October and the launch of our new global campaign, Girls Get Equal. In two days, just one group on Workplace had over 400 posts, 450 comments and 6,000 reactions as staff posted pictures, videos, blogs and stories of the many takeovers of senior politicians, businessmen and influencers around the globe. On one of the biggest days of the year for Plan International, Workplace delivered exactly what we wanted: a sense of togetherness among staff.”