How a culture of open comms can work wonders for retailers
Grafton Group PLC is the largest DIY, home and garden retailer in Ireland, with over 11,000 employees. Since first implementing Workvivo in 2019, Grafton Group plc has rolled out the employee app to over 4,500 colleagues across nine of its brands.
One such company is the iconic Woodie’s brand, an Irish DIY and home improvement retail company with 85 locations across the country. Woodie’s employs 1,500 people in 35 stores and one support office.
Since 2013, Woodie’s has been led by CEO Declan Ronayne, who was named Most Trusted Leader by Great Place to Work just over two years ago.
Declan has built a culture of trust, honesty, respect, and safety at Woodie’s. Today, its people live by six core values – enthusiasm, expertise, helpfulness, homeliness, inspiration, and great value – and it boasts 12 Great Place to Work accolades, including Best Workplace for Women.
The company also achieved the Gold standard in the social, collaboration and communication category at the 2021 Intranet and Digital Workplace Awards.
But reaching this point required work; it required bringing people together, encouraging them to use their voices, actively listening, and investing in internal comms.
There was no culture of recognition. There was no telling anybody anything. The business didn’t have any sort of mission, purpose, and values.”
Declan Ronayne, CEO – Woodie’s
What did internal comms at Woodie’s look like before Workvivo? In 2014, Woodie’s completed its first annual employee engagement survey with Great Places to Work. The responses showed that only 57% of colleagues felt that they were kept up to date with company changes, and only 25% believed they had the opportunity to receive special recognition.
The audit revealed a number of challenging areas. Since 70% of colleagues were frontline with no access to a computer, they also had no access to company communications. A lack of structure meant that key messages were diluted and teams were overloaded with information.
With a newly hired internal communications manager at its helm, a five-year plan was devised on the back of a comms audit.
No central line of communication led to each store receiving updates differently, and people couldn’t connect over achievements and more personal moments like birthdays.
“There was not a high level of trust in the organization,” Declan said. “There was no culture of recognition. There was no telling anybody anything. Messages that would cascade through the organization got as far as the store manager, never went any further. The business didn’t have any sort of mission, purpose, and values.”
In response, leadership made sure that their new internal comms strategy prioritized some key traits:
To make all of this a reality, Woodie’s needed a solid technology partner that would allow it to communicate with staff in a user-friendly and familiar way.
It also needed to merge its old intranet and previous employee engagement app Kudos into a single platform.
It chose Workvivo. Within a single month, over 95% of its colleagues had registered on the platform. Today, that figure has grown to 100%.
By the time the company’s 2020 colleague engagement survey came around, its score for communication had jumped from the 57% it received in 2014 to 88%, and for employee recognition, from 25% to 83% – something Workvivo contributed to significantly.
“[Workvivo] is a communications and recognition app,” Declan said. “And you think actually it’s a bit of Facebook or it’s a bit of WhatsApp, but actually there’s more to it than that.”
The Woodie’s team also amped up their employee engagement initiatives with Workivo, with internal campaigns celebrating Pride Month, individual achievements and more.
Workvivo has been the key to some of Woodie’s most successful internal campaigns. When colleagues started celebrating Pride Month on Workvivo, management took note and made it a priority to host annual Pride festivities on the platform with the hashtag #PrideInWhoWeAre.
During the celebrations, a colleague at the company shared a post on the platform saying that he was gay and proud of himself.
“He said, ‘I’m really nervous about putting up this post’. And I thought, how fabulous that he can tell the whole organization that he’s standing up and he’s proud of himself,” Declan said.
“Workvivo allows you to do that. It’s a peer-to-peer recognition thing, which is very different from WhatsApp and Facebook.”
Another regular Woodie’s campaign made possible by Workvivo is the Woscars – its annual black-tie event that awards staff for their achievements.
What part does Workvivo play? In the lead-up to the Woscars, all communications, nominations, and updates are shared via Workvivo, where colleagues can also lobby and vote for who they want to win.
As well as employee engagement campaigns like Pride Month and the Woscars, Workvivo has also been invaluable for crisis communications at Woodie’s – something the company came to rely on during the pandemic.
Declan said that on the night that COVID lockdowns in Ireland came into effect, Workvivo “really came into its own”.
“There was a very confusing situation around DIY retail,” he said. “The Government made the announcement at nine o’clock at night, so at five past nine, I had a message on Workvivo to 1,400 people in our organization saying, ‘You know what? We don’t know what’s going on, we’re going into a meeting and we’re going to update you as to exactly whether you’re going to come to work tomorrow morning, or whether you’re not going to come to work, because it’s quite a confusing situation. And at midnight with almost all of Woodie’s looking, I could say, ‘Guys, do not come to work tomorrow morning.”
Having a central and accessible internal comms platform has made all the difference, Declan said. In other retail companies using traditional top-down communications like email, people without access to a work email or computer are left out.
Workvivo’s push notification feature and analytics and insights dashboard meant that the Woodie’s leadership team could rest assured that their messages had reached and been read by every colleague within minutes.
“We have a fantastic tool that allows people to get instantaneous communication, that allows us to trade information onto a communications portal,” he said. “Every procedure that we have reaches every colleague and is read within minutes. You don’t need to go running to your manager to do it.
“So, we put a lot of work into communication, a lot of work into recognition, which is what Workvivo does as well.”
I know I have a direct line of communication to 1,400 people, and I can use that to steer certain directions that I want to steer within the organization.”
Declan Ronayne, CEO – Woodie’s
Having that direct line to every colleague across Woodie’s has helped bridge the gap between leadership and more junior workers.
Declan views Workvivo as a “complete communications portal”. So, in addition to the internal campaigns the platform makes possible and the crisis communications it facilitates, it’s also a place where he can publish a weekly CEO blog containing leadership updates.
“I’ve been writing blogs every Thursday for 15 years, and it’s amazing, you don’t run out of stuff to say,” he said. “And because of Workvivo, 98% of our colleagues have the Workvivo app on their phone. And I’ve asked, I said, ‘I write this blog, does anyone actually read it?’. And actually, everybody does because we can measure that on Workvivo. And also some people read it twice interestingly.
“And so, I know I have a direct line of communication to 1,400 people, and I can use that to steer certain directions that I want to steer within the organization.”
Declan’s blog is posted to Workvivo every Thursday at 3pm, and this has become the busiest time on the platform each week with more than 1,000 colleagues logging in.
That direct line of communication works both ways – a crucial step for any organization embracing open communications. Now, feedback and new ideas from frontline colleagues can reach HR easily and efficiently.
When one worker suggested a Back to School savings scheme for colleagues, for example, the company’s HR team agreed to the request within 25 minutes.
For internal comms, showing appreciation for people at work, championing your company values, and reaching every colleague during a crisis, Declan said he recommends Workvivo for “everyone, but particularly if you’re multi-sited and you’ve got a lot of people”.
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