I sat down with Yvonne Gemmell Keene, WestEd’s Chief Information Officer, to discuss the company’s employee experience initiatives.
Q: Please tell me about WestEd, your role and your digital workplace initiative.
A: WestEd is a nonprofit, nonpartisan service agency that focuses on providing consulting services, as well as research and development to advance educational outcomes for students of all ages. Our San Francisco-based company began in 1966 and currently maintains 16 offices across the country, with nearly 600 full-time and 300 temporary or part-time employees.
We handle anywhere from 450 to 700 projects simultaneously. Our contracts and agreements are very complex and customized to meet each client’s specific needs. As the Director of Technology and Services, I was tasked with the responsibility of modernizing our outdated intranet.
Q: Take me back to before implementing Simpplr. What were some of the pain points WestEd was encountering?
A: Unfortunately, our organization’s homegrown intranet was only capable of supporting one-way communication. This outdated technology significantly hindered our teams’ ability to create, organize and distribute content in a meaningful way. Not only did this communication gap make it difficult for our team members to find the information they needed, but it also made it difficult for WestEd to share company-wide information. These issues were greatly overburdening our support team.
Q: Once you decided you needed an intranet, what were some of your primary requirements?
A: In order to break these barriers down, improve internal communication and boost employee engagement, we set out to acquire a modern intranet platform. We required a platform that would encourage viable team collaboration, foster and improve employee engagement and enable employees to find the information they needed easily.
WestEd also maintains a very lean IT team, which meant we needed a platform that was easy to use, easy to implement and required little if any, Salesforce skills. This would minimize the stress put on our IT department.
After reviewing several platforms, we went with Simpplr. Key players at WestEd and Simpplr collaborated to develop our Inside WestEd platform, which was designed to meet our organization’s specific needs. This customization allowed for a flexible content design.
Q: WestEd has a highly distributed workforce. What is WestEd’s strategy to keep these employees engaged and connected?
A: At WestEd, we maintain a geographically dispersed workforce, with many team members working on both the east and west coast. In addition to the time zone disruptions, nearly 30 percent of our workforce consists of remote employees. This work environment demands a seamless communication process that enables collaboration and employee engagement.
We originally hoped to build a company intranet with Salesforce Communities. However, it became clear that the Communities’ platform lacked out-of-the-box capabilities and would require significant effort to implement. We realized at this point that we needed packaged solutions that could provide the multitude of features necessary to keep our employees engaged and connected.
Q: When the CEO asks how the initiative is working, how do you answer?
A: Our primary goal of building a new intranet was to create an environment for teams and project to come together. Inside WestEd enabled our agency to improve its ability to organize and manage our content and to transform the content from a departmental perspective to an end-user perspective. This transformation allowed our agency to repurpose much of its current content in a more meaningful and useful manner.
We initially selected Simpplr because of our shared vision of what an intranet should be like. What we did not realize back then is how much Simpplr would transform the way we work and collaborate.
We measure the success of this initiative in several ways, such as:
- Improved Employee Engagement – Today, more than 90 percent of the workforce logs onto the organization’s platform at least once a week. Employees are now able to ask questions and expect immediate feedback through the platform’s real-time feedback mechanism. In addition, we have created 48 new sites for affinity groups that have garnered 540,000 total page views this year. All of these have continued to increase employee engagement.
- Decrease in Email Distribution – With the majority of all-company communications going through the Inside WestEd platform, our organization has been able to reduce the number of time-consuming email distributions.
- Decrease in Support Tickets – The easy-to-use platform has helped to reduce the number of support tickets the IT department handles.