How do you communicate with employees who are spread across multiple locations? Does technology have a role to play to enable you to do so successfully?
Meghan Tiplady (pictured), Journalism Graduate turned Internal Communications Specialist has worked across private and public sector companies, helping to improve employee engagement and address communication issues.
One common theme Meghan says she’s noticed throughout her career is the need to provide innovative solutions for bringing geographically diverse workforces together.
Here, she shares one such solution Warwickshire College Group here in the UK has implemented.
The College Group is one of the largest further and higher education colleges in the UK and is one of only four colleges in the UK to be granted Foundation Degree Awarding Powers by the Privy Council – meaning its higher education quality and standards are equal to any university.
Over to you Meghan…
Google your way to improved cross-location comms
All internal communication professionals will, at some stage in their careers, probably come across the issue of communicating with staff across diverse geographical locations.
There are a number of ways you can tackle this issue and I’m not going to profess to know which is best BUT, I do know of a new one that is definitely worth looking into.
As the sole internal comms professional for a college group with six colleges across two counties, I spend a large proportion of my time looking for clever ways to bring people together, to get all staff to work to one common goal.
As I’m sure you do too, I spend most of that time hitting brick walls but, when our Chief Technology Officer, Yousef Fouda mentioned that we had 600 of our 1500 strong workforce connecting socially and informally on Google+ without any training, or any formal prompting to do so, my ears pricked up.
Not content with having the world’s largest internet search engine, in 2011 Google decided to launch its first real attempt at a social media platform.
After just two years, by October 2013 there were 540 million active users, well above a number of its rivals including Twitter. Also by this point, Warwickshire College Group was getting ready to launch the platform internally to all staff as part of the suite of Google apps under the banner of “Google for education.”
Rather than actively pushing the tool for staff, Yousef took the brave step of deciding to let people discover Google+ for themselves. Yousef believed that to allow innovation to flourish in the college you need to provide the correct platform.
“We decided not to push Google+ and social media interaction at work to our staff. If you think about it, you never see adverts for Facebook, or information about how / when to use it. You just sign up and the information follows. That’s what we wanted to do with Google at the college.”
So, in October 2013, the Technology team launched Google+ very quietly via the intranet. At first, people had no idea what it was, where it was or how to use it but, Yousef was confident that it would pick up and, slowly but surely, it did.
“We wanted to allow staff to come to this in their own time. We were aware that staff would need support in terms of training and guides but we wanted them to CHOOSE to find those channels, not to feel like it’s just another channel they are forced to use. It’s really working to empower staff and the posts show that they are adopting this as their own which is exactly what we wanted.”
Google+ has also an amazing tool called Hangouts which enables up to 15 people to engage in a video conference conversation using any device.
By the end February 2015, over 1200 video conferencing conversations have taken place between our campuses resulting in over £50k savings in travel.
Number of current users:
From Nov 2014 – Jan 2015.
Reaping the benefits
Now in its second year of implementation, the usage is increasing all the time and the feedback is largely positive.
We carried out a communications survey towards the end of 2014 and 68% of staff said that they are comfortable using Google+.
Also, from the open comments we could see that the overwhelming majority of these people said that they see it as a great tool for sharing best practice and connecting with people outside of their college, which is exactly what we’re looking to improve on.
That said, we need to resist the temptation to say, “hey, we have a communication channel that works, let’s use it to get our important information out there”.
In order for Google+ to really work, and for staff to fully engage with it, it’s crucial that we don’t hijack it and turn it into another “push” channel.
In short, it’s a fantastic tool and, used in the correct way, it can really help to connect and empower staff and promote working together across diverse geographical locations.
Post author: Meghan Tiplady.
What do I think?
Thank you for sharing your story Meghan. It’s always encouraging to hear organisations stepping back and allowing employees to shape how something evolves. I like the fact it’s crossing the internal and external boundary too, well done to everyone involved.
As I’ve written numerous times, social media is a mindset, not technology. You need to put the same considerations into making smart choices that fit your culture, as well as looking at the technology. (Tweet this)
Want to know more about the tools they are using and how to use Google Apps? See below for lots of information and to start a free trial. Disclosure: This is a new referrals initiative being run by Google.
If you follow the tech press like me, you’ll be aware Google indicated last week it is making changes to Google Plus as we know it. This includes separating out its photo app from the rest of the service, which is now being known as “streams.”
Writing on G+, Google’s VP of Product, Bradley Horowitz wrote: “Just wanted to confirm that the rumors are true — I’m excited to be running Google’s Photos and Streams products! It’s important to me that these changes are properly understood to be positive improvements to both our products and how they reach users.”
Who’s using G+?
As I wrote in my article about using Google for internal communication, I’ve used it since 2011 and it’s the main way the CIPR Social Media Panel I sit on communicate (through a private community).
We even wrote two books: Share This and Share This Too through Google Docs and the Community function as it enabled us to connect and communicate seamlessly as a large group of people. We use Hangouts for our meetings too when we can’t all be in the same room.
Follow the conversation via #PRstack on Twitter too.
Further reading on my blog
How Google+ is benefitting a Disabled Staff Network
How to use Google for internal communication
Why use enterprise social networks for internal communication?
Why invest in an enterprise social network?
What is Google Apps?
Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere and on any device. It’s simple to set up, use and manage, so your business can focus on what really matters.
Millions of organisations around the world count on Google Apps for professional email, file storage, video meetings, online calendars, document editing and more.
These are some highlights:
Business email for your domain
Looking professional matters, and that means communicating as firstname.lastname@example.org. Gmail’s simple, powerful features help you build your brand while getting more done.
Access from any location or device
Check emails, share files, edit documents, hold video meetings and more, whether you’re at work, at home or in transit. You can pick up where you left off from a computer, tablet or phone.
Enterprise-level management tools
Robust admin settings give you total command over users, devices, security and more. Your data always belongs to you, and it goes with you, if you switch solutions.
Watch this video to find out more:
Post authors: Meghan Tiplady and Rachel Miller.
First published on All Things IC blog 10 March 2015.