Just three years ago things looked very different at Travelex. A siloed organisation with little means to openly collaborate with colleagues up and down the chain of the business, low on community feel, and high on the reliance of email for everyday communication. With a fairly traditional top-down management structure and an old-school, one-way intranet platform, it was hard to collaborate, hard to innovate and hard to see how they could capitalise on the diverse thinking and experience across the business to harness the ideas and solutions their customers are looking for.
Travelex is one of the world’s leading foreign exchange and international payments providers, serving over 37 million customers around the world. Its 9500 staff are based in over 1400 bureaus across 70 countries, with 60% of the workforce operating as retail staff with limited or no access to a PC, and only 25% office-based. This highly dispersed retail workforce – often in small teams or even working alone – made for a disconnected global community where interaction with colleagues was extremely challenging.
Dan Coles, Head of Internal Communications told us: “At a time when the clamour for employee voice was rife, we didn’t have the tools and set-up to make it happen. If we wanted to continue delivering for our customers, we had to change things.”
And change things they did!
Creating a community
In a short space of time they launched three new platforms (a socially-enabled intranet, their new employee engagement tool and social recognition platform – migrated to a more contemporary technology landscape. At the centre of everything is The Lounge, their social intranet built with Interact.
Dan continues: “We were keen to tap into our global colleague base and spark conversations across the business people may never have previously had. We needed to introduce a way for all our staff, no matter where they are or what time it is, to connect with each other, for both work or social reasons. We wanted to build a sense of belonging across the entire organisation – where colleagues from London to Sydney could relate, communicate and build relationships.”
Democratic from the outset, a network of c35 content mangers, curators and moderators across the business actively encourage colleagues to share stories and get involved on The Lounge. What started out as role modelling good practice has now resulted in a mature blogging culture with some people acquiring quite a following and natural influencers emerging, managed day-to-day by Dan’s Global Intranet Manager, Tricia Scott.
By giving every employee the ability to post freely about a range of topics and their own personal opinions, it’s provided them the opportunity to build the highly active global community they have today – one where content varies from posts and updates from senior leadership to personal stories from all levels within the business. The Lounge averages 11 blogs each day, with an annual voted competition for Blog of the Year being awarded to a sales consultant who has achieved over 400 likes for a personal blog posted on the site.
So how did Travelex encourage so much user generated content? Dan again: “With any socially-enabled platform, you need to accept you’re surrendering some control to your users – that’s the definition of social. Be prepared to take a more liberal approach to moderating your employee-generated content. Acknowledge that it isn’t necessarily going to look like the carefully crafted and curated content your comms team used to produce, and get comfortable with a more ‘rough and ready’ style. It’s authentic and it’s more real that way, and that is what people want, and crucially what they’re used to seeing in their everyday lives. Like any functioning social network we get the proud parents, the over-sharers, the conversation-starters, the great story-tellers; the leaders, lurkers and even the odd troll.
“And it’s great because it reflects life outside the organisation and creates a familiar environment for colleagues when they are interacting at work. The fact that there is genuine freedom of speech in The Lounge is the life-blood of the channel.
“As the community grew, we could see that colleagues were beginning to bond online and were genuinely curious to learn more about people with similar challenges elsewhere in the business. Despite not having ever met or spoken to each other, content became more personal in nature. We noticed too that colleagues were confident in highlighting shortcomings and suggesting improvements without fear of recrimination. Building this psychological safety within the organisation is vitally important, and crucial in fostering diversity, inclusion and wellbeing in a business.”
Making The Lounge a channel of choice
While certain business processes and complex forms still reside on the old intranet, (it is 95% shut down) it is still essential that The Lounge earns its place as the go-to channel to get people together, discuss what’s going on, gather support and insight and generally make yourself at home. There must be good reasons for colleagues to visit The Lounge.
The Lounge is home to all core policies, daily operational guides, corporate news and materials that help people do their jobs. Recent data suggests that 90% of employees log on to The Lounge every month with each browsing an average of 50 pages. But is this enough to keep people excited about it?
“One of our biggest successes in the early stages was the Lounge launch of our Global Retail Incentive scheme, known as RPM World.” explains Dan. “It consists of a central hub, with 296 individual team sites, each with a designated Team Captain across 8 different geographies. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything to do with retail performance management (RPM). We’re lucky the programme is run by one of our most charismatic leaders, which lends to the engagement factor. He posts a weekly 5-minute video providing a highly anticipated wrap-up of what’s been going on across the business. The home page is visually exciting, resembling a digital ‘locker room’ and it enables colleagues to understand how they’re performing against colleagues in other regions and against their targets. They can share tips and ideas, and really drive their targets forward. It’s this healthy competition that keeps colleagues coming back again and again.” RPM World is the most successful page on the site and generates 12,000 visits each month.
The success of RPM World set the standard for other prolonged campaigns and hubs for activity on The Lounge, including a recent Wellbeing campaign where more than 100 colleagues shared personal stories, and a Think Differently campaign that plugs the innovation agenda, and gives colleagues the opportunity to have their voices heard. Overall per month, The Lounge has a 98% engagement rate with the colleagues, catching all but a handful of their global colleague base.
Dan explains: “Having built such a strong virtual community we are successfully using The Lounge to help solve business problems and innovate to fix genuine customer issues. It is certainly facilitating ideation and collaboration. Our problem is no longer generating the ideas but having a system that tracks and measures how many of these ideas get processed – it’s a good problem to have! Our regular pulse surveys indicate improved employee engagement, definitely as a result of the community spirit on The Lounge. In the summer of 2017 only 53% responded to our monthly pulses. A year later in 2018 and participation levels have risen to 70% with an improvement in the underlying scores too.
There have been tangible positive business impacts too, not least the decrease in email traffic which has been a significant time-saver. A lot of what had traditionally been pushed out on email is now shared on The Lounge, including updates from senior leadership who are active on the platform. The CEO finds time to contribute, whether that’s through vlogs or comments on staff posts, engaging with all users which helps to build better relationships up and down and across the organisation.
Dan continues: “The Lounge is the cornerstone for much of what we do day to day. Forms are more efficient for managing processes, and colleagues are able to independently find information and tools to do their day job by searching on The Lounge and finding what they need in a matter of seconds.
“It’s also been really valuable for training staff globally on new products and launches. For example, when we launched our new Money Transfer initiative, we built a hub on the intranet to educate Retail colleagues. They could watch training videos, read through the relevant guides to selling correctly, ask questions in forums, and ultimately feel more confident and knowledgeable in selling the product. The Lounge hosts all the supplementary materials they need to make their day jobs easier.”
Driving continuous improvement
The success of The Lounge has already been recognised with two awards at the 2017 Ragan Intranet Awards taking the title for Best Social Intranet and Best Blog following the outstanding outcomes seen by their employee-first approach. The team have been nominated for Best Use of Technology at the 2019 Employee Engagement Awards in January as well. But the story does not end there. With heightening expectations there’s a responsibility to deliver an even better user experience, and in the immediate term Dan is keen to promote use of the mobile app internally.
“With barriers falling fast between internally and externally facing media – it’s opening the door to third-party application usage. Platforms are being built with APIs which allow you to connect and take advantage of specifically designed services by third parties – which you can plug in as easily as copying a few lines of code. In this way we can maintain an integrated experience for our colleagues as it’s all on one platform.”
Technology aside, perhaps the most important thing about The Lounge is that it is positioned as ‘the people’s channel’. Wherever the digital journey takes them, at the heart of Travelex is now a community with a sense of psychological safety bringing unity and inclusion to its virtual global culture.