Global communications firm Golin, an IPG owned agency, currently operates in over 50 offices with approximately 30 affiliates. Founded in Chicago over 60 years ago by Al Golin, the firm is now a top ten firm, with over 1,000 employees and 150 clients. Along the way, they have aimed to keep their people-focused, mid-western culture embedded within the fabric of the company by trickling through the different aspects of what they work on.
Internally, the firm has a unique structure, organized in four specialty communities: Strategists, Creators, Connectors, and Catalysts. From those specialist communities, it's paired down by practices. They have eight different practices and, from there, based upon geographical locations. It's a complicated internal communications landscape.
The team at Golin have always tried to foster collaboration within their open-concept office layouts — they wanted to bring people together online to share expertise, work with different perspectives, and get great new unexpected solutions.
Golin had a very silo-ed, outdated method of communicating globally to employees. For example, someone working in New Business needs to get content fast; it needs to be updated and current and what they were getting wasn't helping and ended up making their job more difficult.
The firm had multiple social portals, similar to Twitter, but they were closed by communities, where people weren't working together. They were just talking amongst themselves, which they can easily do in emails or shouting across the office. These platforms promoted a silo mentality and the team would see outdated content circulated, making it hard to manage.
They also had an extremely unpopular SharePoint-based intranet that was not aesthetically pleasing, not well organized, and well … ultimately not liked. No one was on it and it wasn't helping foster the collaboration that they created within the company.
Their old intranet was very much based upon transactions. There was a "command and control" approach with facts, dates and commitments. It was very much a single source of truth, the higher power of corporate and nothing else.
Checking their stats on SharePoint, they could see that information wasn't being downloaded or read. Asking employees if they had read or seen the information did not yield better results. So, they decided to send a poll to employees worldwide to gauge how they felt and, from there, they looked into options.
They spoke with Igloo, Socialcast, Jive and a few others. It then became easier to pare down what was working and what wasn't. Since employees were complaining they couldn't share information quickly, they questioned the vendors about best practices, what they encountered in the past, what worked and what didn't.
They decided they needed their intranet to:
- Foster a global community instead of separating everyone by continent or office
- Promote ideas, insights and engagement
- Be an open forum, where everyone can grow together and share information
- Act as one place where everyone can get and share information
- Be scalable. It needed to grow with the company
- Work as a file storage/sharing system
- Needed to work with pre-existing essential apps
- Be mobile-friendly
- Be cost effective
In addition to making it easier to share knowledge, they wanted to decrease their dependency on emails. With a lot of larger files being circulated, it would be much easier to share items without a 20Mb limit of space. Throughout it all, there was persistent desire to stop duplicating work — they didn’t want to have recreate documents that were hard to find. With these goals in mind, they needed to figure out what platform would achieve their goals.
Because their IT team supports multiple companies under the IPG umbrella, they didn’t have a lot of technical support. They needed something that was intuitive and easy to use with a painless company-wide roll-out.
They needed Igloo.
Rolling out Igloo
After Golin decided to move ahead with implementing Igloo, they hosted focus groups to make sure they understood what employees wanted out of their intranet and what they wanted to maintain from their old intranet.
To get a head start on employee adoption, they brought employees into the naming process of their intranet, which, for an agency is an intensive process. The name needed to be original, cross-cultural, and easy to spell, say, and remember. An email was sent out to everyone, giving them a chance to submit their suggestions and be a part of the new intranet. Suggestions varied wildly, but in the end the winner was Simon. Playing off the ‘Simon Says’ reference as well as their previous intranet’s name, Alvin, the name was also symbolic since it represented a business friend of their founder — someone who acted as a great sounding board.
Getting to know Simon
To ensure a smooth rollout, the team decided to start with a beta phase — launching to select groups in every level within each Community/Practice/Office and giving them a chance to test it extensively. Their new solution had to be specific to each groups, and this is an area where they looked to Igloo for expertise. They had an idea of what they wanted, but not the functionality or best practices — Igloo was able to help troubleshoot and figure out what would work best.
When employees got to Simon, they needed to be able to see top-light Agency news right away because they knew employees would be drilling down to their Communities, Practices, or Offices right away and ultimately skip over it. They made it very visual to catch their attention. Everything on the homepage is one click away, making it easy for them to get to watch a video, go to the Golin Awards, or even get a logo.
The team also wanted to have a robust search function. For example, they have a lot of RFP/RFI pitches that need to be stored and referenced on a regular basis. Thanks to Igloo, a simple search can bring back the exact pitch that they’re looking for in seconds. This also lets employees search for certain answers to commonly asked questions, reducing the need to email a co-worker asking what was done in the past.
Golin now has a smart, easy to use repository of knowledge, assets, and news. Employees can find everything, from credentials, to templates, to logos, to RFPs and case studies, and the Agency News Blog.
The Agency News Blog is also a great example of fostering a global community. The blog is a chance for the executive team and the marketing team to compose important agency news — for example, Golin’s CEO, would post here about a major global hire. This information would normally be shared through email, but by posting it in the blog, he is sharing personal thoughts about a major initiative and he also has the opportunity create more of a multimedia experience by embedding a video of an interview with the new hire, giving a little bit more insight into what was planned for the new role. In addition to employees getting a firsthand conversation with the new hire, they can use the comment section to people can share what their thoughts and congratulate them on joining Golin. Thanks to this page, people feel comfortable interacting with their CEO.
The team also really wanted to promote collaboration. These areas were created for Specialists, but they can be accessed across the firm:
- Inspire Pages: share external items such as industry updates and competitor news
- Examples of work that did not get ultimate approval but that a team was really proud of
- Stories from the top major news outlets on the Media Specialist page, so employees can monitor for anything that would impact the clients that they manage.
For Golin, it was important for information to live in one place. They didn’t want information to live in twenty different emails that are only available to the people on the recipients list. If anyone else needs to find this information, they can search for it. They will also know who the content owners are and can go directly to them if they have more questions.
But it wasn’t just about knowledge management, there was also a real drive to promote culture. Simon does have HR information and company news, but it also offers offices their own intranet space within the global sphere.
Offices have things like calendar events, photo albums, posts, and microblogs to bring people together. The London office, for example, shows off how social they are by gathering everyone in their office, going out for team building, and posting pictures the next day. Everyone else gets to see it, not only adding to the fun, but making them want to share more.
- Executive buy-in and participation is important from the start. Not only are they the ones signing off on the budget and approving the project but, if they are as engaged in this intranet as you are, it's going to be a top-bottom trickle down.
- Plan and staff appropriately. This isn't a three person job, or even a one department job.
- Assign content owners. You need content owners at all levels of the organization, including the executive level.
- Communicate regularly with stakeholders. You need to have a unified mission that you stand behind as you move forward and build this out.
- Make it scalable. The team wanted a platform that could change after it was launched, in case employees’ ideas changed.
- Plan beyond your launch. Having a 2-3 month communications plan won't cut it. This is ongoing.
- Get to know your "super users". "Super users" rise above the everyday and are going to be the one who are going to come up with solutions, interact with others and bring more people to the sites they want to hear from.
- Be patient. Old habits die hard - even though you might not be getting the engagement you are looking for in the first month or two, it will change. Stick with it.
- It's never 100% finished. Be comfortable with that, move forward and evolve with your company, instead of behind it.
Read a transcript of the video presentation here.