“You know what’s going on every day through the feed, and the podcast, and who’s visiting, who’s coming onsite. You see all that information every day, so you feel in the know.”
The Hoover Institution is a non-profit think tank within Stanford University. Prior to the pandemic, it was a traditional organization with little need for remote work.
They needed a tool that would not only allow its employees to work effectively and productively from home, but also help them to hold on to the organization’s culture and personality.
The Hoover team put together an RFP for a workplace solution and sent it to 20 companies that were considered to be the best in the business, but there was one clear winner.
In 2020, the Hoover Institution launched HooverHub, its own fully branded Workvivo environment.
And, while none of us were prepared for how long this new way of working would last, there would come a time when many organizations realized that COVID wasn’t going away any time soon, and that remote work was set to continue.
For the Hoover Institution at Stanford, this moment came some time in the summer of 2020. At this point, they quickly realized that they needed a tool that could replicate the “front desk” of their organization, and help them to maintain the collaborative and engaging culture they were proud of.
As part of vivowire22, we spoke to Carmen Allison, Chief Human Resources Officer at the Hoover Institution, about how Workvivo has transformed this organization’s way of working for the better — even now that most of its employees are back in the office.
The Hoover Institution is a non-profit, bipartisan think tank that sits within Stanford University. Prior to the pandemic, it was a traditional organization with little need for remote work.
“The staff was onsite 100% of the time, Monday through Friday,” Carmen said during our vivowire22 discussion.
“We would have events, we would have conferences […] that really brought people in to hear from the professors on their research. It was a very in-person-centric kind of community.”
Obviously, this all changed in March of 2020.
Hoover is a small organization with a strong culture, which is something that was top of mind for Carmen when it became clear that COVID — and remote work — wasn’t going away.
“Immediately, I think of people, the community, and the culture,” Carmen says, “We had an in-person, engaging, collaborative culture. People sat around the conference table all the time talking about events and stuff, and now we’re doing it via Zoom.”
The Hoover Institution needed to find a tool that would not only allow its employees to work effectively and productively from home, but also help them to hold on to the organization’s culture and personality.
Carmen also talked about the importance of communicating about life outside of work, which many of us have missed over the past two years.
“Via Zoom, unless you plan for that time to disconnect, you were just transactional, and you were doing business, and you were losing that connection with each other,” she says.
There was also the sense that individual employees weren’t aware of the organization’s daily activities as a whole, in the way they were when they worked in person. The way Carmen puts it, Hoover needed a way to digitally replace the “front desk” of their organization.
“You come into any of our buildings, and you come to the front desk, and they know what’s going on for the day. What’s happening. What’s the pulse. What’s exciting.”
With everyone working from home, there was a real danger that Hoover’s employees would become disconnected from the organization and its mission.
By the summer of 2020, it was clear that something needed to change. Carmen and others at Hoover had a vision: they needed to find a way to connect everybody together and create a sense of community, even while they were physically apart.
The team at Hoover was faced with a question: what tools could help them to hold on to that all-important sense of community?
“We had…to educate ourselves to really understand what we needed specifically, what work we were willing to take on, and what would be the next step, so we had quite a huge learning curve,” Carmen says
Carmen and her team put together an RFP for a workplace solution and sent it to 20 companies that were considered to be the best in the business. Eventually, they narrowed down their choices to three finalists — including Workvivo.
And according to Carmen, creating the RFP was an important part of the
“By doing that request for proposal, it forced us to step back and say, ‘What’s our purpose? What are our objectives? What problems are we trying to solve? What minimum expectations do we have?’”
In 2020, the Hoover Institution launched HooverHub, its fully branded Workvivo environment. As part of our vivowire22 talk, Carmen talked about some of the big benefits she and her team have seen through working with Workvivo.
Implementing any new tool always requires a period of transition, and a degree of change management is needed to make sure things go smoothly. This is especially the case when companies don’t have much experience with workplace tools, as was the case at Hoover:
“It was kind of like handholding through the process,” she says, “which was very attractive to me and other people. It’s like, ‘Okay, we’re in new territory here. We haven’t done this before.’”
Carmen compares the process of setting up a workplace tool to the choice between building a custom home or buying a model home and deciding on which elements you want to upgrade.
“We just wanted to make a couple key decisions to put our personality on it. We didn’t want to make a thousand decisions like you have to make on a custom home. […] We’re not the experts on any of this, and so we wanted a product like Workvivo. I hate to say a plug and play, but it was pretty iPhone easy.”
Carmen and her colleagues were also happy with how organically Workvivo grew within their institution:
“We just let HooverHub have a grassroots kind of feel to it. We had some structure and architecture of what we wanted to do with department pages and information, but the community aspect is really [organic]. We wanted it to grow however it needed to grow, and not put too many guardrails on it”.
So, did Workvivo help Hoover to achieve their objective of recreating that “front desk” feel within an employee platform? Carmen says so.
With HooverHub, she says, “You know what’s going on every day through the feed, and the podcast, and who’s visiting, who’s coming onsite. You see all that information every day, so you feel in the know.”
HooverHub is a community where people are free to express themselves and truly feel like a part of the organization.
“It’s very heartwarming to see people passionate, and being able to share their passion at work.”
The Hoover Institution was seeking a solution that would solve some specific problems brought about by the pandemic. But how does Carmen see the future of HooverHub?
Well, for one thing, the Hoover Institution is now far less reliant on outdated, static communication methods, like email:
“We’re finding now, certainly, that our staff emails are shorter, and then there’ll be a link to take them over to HooverHub for more information. We’re getting people to go to Hooverhub more because […] they can’t trust they’re going to get everything via email, so that’s one thing.”
Plus, the Hoover Institution is like many organizations in that many of its employees are still not fully back in the office — and likely won’t be for a while. And for those people that are either partially or fully remote, HooverHub has been invaluable.
“We need to make sure that the person in the mailroom who’s here every single day onsite, and the person that sits in North Carolina, still feel a part of the same Hoover community. HooverHub is the only way that allows us to connect that,” Carmen says.
“Now we’re excited to improve, improve, improve. How can we continue to
make this better and richer, and something that people feel like they can’t live without, because oh my gosh, what did we do before we had HooverHub? That’s exciting.”
“I would certainly highly recommend Workvivo. We’re going to be in partnership for a long time, so I’m very happy.”
Chief Human Resource Officer, Hoover Institution at Stanford
“I would certainly highly recommend Workvivo,” Carmen says, “We’ve been in a great partnership with Workvivo. I think there are lots of other good companies out there that have good products, but I’m living with the decision we made with Workvivo, and we’re going to be in partnership for a long time, so I’m very happy.”
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