How Workvivo Helped Bupa Connect With Its 83,000 Employees


Healthcare Provider






Internal communications across a global workforce

“Our 83,000 people, for the first time in 75 years, everyone has a voice. Communication is not something that comes top down. It’s every angle you can imagine now.”

In the context of the last two years, the importance of maintaining a strong company culture that promotes engagement and gives employees a voice has never been greater. But that’s not always easy — particularly for large organizations with workforces that are distributed around the globe.

We recently caught up with Owen O’Neill, Global Head of Digital People Solutions at Bupa, to find out how one huge organization is using Workvivo to break down walls, promote internal communication and help its 83,000 employees to feel connected to the company’s values.

Bupa: A 75-year-old, global institution

Bupa is an 83,000-strong healthcare provider that’s been around for 75 years — longer than the NHS (the UK’s national health service). It has employees across 87 countries, and a mission to “help people live longer, healthier, happier lives, and to make a better planet.”

But the world has changed a lot in the past 75 years — and particularly since March 2020 — and this institution needed to change too. Owen O’Neill compares long-established companies like Bupa to elephants, saying, “We’re big, we’re strong… but we’re a little bit slow to move.”

Two years ago, Bupa brought in a new CEO and leadership team with a vision: to lead a digital transformation process that would help Bupa to compete with newer, smaller organizations that are proudly “digital-first”.

Bupa’s leadership knew they would have to make significant changes to the company’s culture and ways of operating to secure its place in the new world of work. But they also knew that these changes could bring huge potential for the company.

As Owen puts it, “When an elephant does move, it is powerful, and it is hard
to stop.”

Becoming a “digital-first” healthcare provider

The team at Bupa had a clear idea of what needed to change to achieve their objectives.

A shift in culture

Bupa has historically been a traditional and somewhat conservative company with a focus on top-down communications — which they knew needed to change.

“We needed an agile-first culture driven by internal communications. We call that the lightning conductor of change,” Owen says.

In other words, they needed to move away from traditional, structured communications, and towards a culture of transparency, openness, and connection — which is not a simple task in a global organization the size of Bupa.

Breaking down walls

Bupa is a business built up of many different markets and business units operating around the world. A dentist in Australia may not feel any sense of connection to a clinician in Chile, or someone selling health insurance in the City of London, even if they all nominally work for the same employer.

Owen and his team saw a real need here, asking themselves, “How do we break down those walls and unleash the power of our global workforce?”

Connecting 83,000 employees to Bupa’s vision and values

Lastly, Bupa needed a way to help its employees to feel a sense of connection to the organization’s values and mission as a whole. Owen put a particular emphasis on Bupa’s frontline workers, giving the example of a care home worker in the UK.

“How do you give that person some pride in our organization and a connection to our values?”, he asks, “That is not an easy task.”

Choosing the right technology for a digital transformation

When it came to implementing the necessary changes, technology would only be one part of the solution. But Bupa did know that they needed a platform that would help them to achieve their objectives.

They also knew exactly what they didn’t need: “The last thing we needed is another communications channel,” Owen says, “What we did need is a common platform for people to work from every day, and to embed communications and values into that platform.”

In other words, they weren’t looking for another oversaturated news channel for sharing formal, structured, top-down communications.

“We wanted our employees themselves to manage those communications and to have a voice, as opposed to being formally controlled, as it would’ve been in the past, from an internal comms perspective.”

Bupa needed a platform that would allow them to deliver on their objective of transforming the company’s culture — and they decided to leap into the unknown.

“It’s not very traditional for Bupa to take a risk. But we did. We started with a smaller, less known organization in this context, and that was Workvivo.”

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Bupa and Workvivo

Bupa chose to make Workvivo its “launchpad for daily work” in 2021. Here are some of the benefits this huge organization has seen since implementing Workvivo’s solution:

Giving everyone a voice
(even when it’s uncomfortable)

One of Bupa’s primary objectives in looking for a solution like Workvivo was to shift the emphasis from top-down, structured communication to something more open, that encouraged people to express themselves.

“We said, ‘we’re actually going to give everyone in the company a voice, and you can say what you want,’”, Owen says, “‘But you have to stand over those words.’”

This did lead to some awkward conversations for Bupa — which Owen says is a good thing:

“We’ve had uncomfortable conversations on there when we talk about diversity and inclusion, and people put in challenging questions. But the important thing is, we’re open to those and we’re linking those conversations to our values.”

Allowing natural communities to form

One of the challenges Bupa faced when implementing Workvivo was encouraging people to use it — especially frontline workers who don’t necessarily feel the need for an employee app. Owen describes the process of getting workers onto Workvivo by making it the platform they use to access things they need — like payslips.

“Their access is through Workvivo. If I’m a cook in a care home and I’m going to get my payslip. The only reason I go to Workvivo is to get my payslip, and I see a picture of a cook from another care home of what he’s cooked this week, all of a sudden I’m going, ‘Hold on a second, I can do something better than that.’”

And as a result, organic communities begin to form:
“All of a sudden, these natural communities are emerging of cooks in care homes, sharing pictures, sharing menus, and building community, and then building a connection with our brand and our values.”

Tying communication to values

As part of its transformation process, Bupa recently redefined its organizational values, boiling them down to just three core principles:

“Everyone knows what they are,” Owen says, “The way we have designed our platform is that every single post you put up gets tied to a value. We’ve had 10,000 posts in seven months. Values now are part of everyday conversation digitally.”

And this has dramatically changed the way Bupa’s employees understand and connect with those values.

“Values are no longer something just on a wall, they’re something that I see every day in my communications because it’s embedded in the flow of work. And that’s been quite transformational for us.”

Embracing the future at Bupa

Bupa has taken the first steps in its journey towards completely overturning its culture and becoming an agile-first, digital-first, connected organization.

“Our 83,000 people, for the first time in 75 years, everyone has a voice. Communication is not something that comes top down. It’s every angle you can imagine now,” Owen says.

And that’s powerful for an organization.

“It is a dramatic change in how we connect with each other, how we connect with the brand, and how we connect with our values,” he says.

“It is a dramatic change in how we connect with each other, how we connect with the brand, and how we connect with our values”

Owen O’Neill
Global Head of Digital People Solutions at Bupa

Learn more about Workvivo and Bupa

Interested to find out more about Bupa’s transformational journey? You can watch our full interview with Owen O’Neill here.

And if you’d like to learn more about Workvivo, schedule a live, personalized demo to find out what we could do for your organization.

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