The Guardian Group of companies is a leading financial services organization in the Caribbean and has been established for over 165 years.
Distributed workforce - Guardian's underlying businesses operate in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and the Dutch Caribbean, with agencies and brokers across the Eastern Caribbean, the Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands. The group employs a distributed workforce of 2,800.
Corporate rebranding - In July 2013 it underwent a corporate rebranding initiative and while retaining the individual operating companies (legal entities) the constituent businesses have all been repositioned in their respective markets as a single brand.
Ranuca Hamlet is the Group Internal Communications Manager and is accountable for managing communication with employees and agents across the individual companies and countries in the region. She was heavily involved in the rebranding initiative, which kicked off in 2012, and her responsibilities included explaining to the global workforce the rationale for the rebrand, gathering feedback about it, fostering employee engagement with the new brand and building excitement about its launch.
Multiple languages - The challenges of communicating with nine previously independent businesses spread across a number of countries and speaking three different languages (English, Dutch and Papiamento) were significant. Hamlet had no single tool that would enable her to communicate across all the different territories.
Multiple email platforms - Email servers on the same network were only operational in the businesses in the English-speaking locations (Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica), whereas the businesses in the Dutch Caribbean (Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba and Sint Maarten) were operating different email platforms.
“That really drove me in my research looking for a solution that would be seamless and would allow me to communicate with all employees across the region.”
Engaging a physically and culturally distributed workforce - While Hamlet concluded that there were fewer cultural differences between the countries than she had anticipated, she found that employees were more connected to the local business brands they worked for rather than seeing themselves as members of a larger group. So it was vital to Hamlet that the solution she implemented gave her the ability to communicate the group’s new vision, mission and values in a consistent and engaging way. She also needed to ensure that communications did not come across as “Trini-centric” (Trinidad being the location of the Head Office of the group) or come across as imposing to employees.
Easy to implement and manage across multiple locations - Hamlet’s research into a software solution that would allow her to communicate more effectively with the distributed workforce led her to the SnapComms internal communication software and in July 2012 Guardian implemented four of the communication channels — Desktop Alert Software, Scrolling Desktop Tickers, Employee Newsletter and Internal Staff Survey tool. Instrumental in her choice was the fact that she could deploy the internal communication tools immediately and would have no ongoing reliance on her IT department to administer them.
Hamlet has been pleasantly surprised by the fact that the SnapComms software delivers on its promise and really is as easy to use as it’s claimed.
“It's really living up to that advertising and I am delighted that I'm getting the results. I'm able to use tools and communicate to all the regions that we operate in.”
Distributed workforce in seven countries
2,800 staff in nine business units
Software-as-a-service (cloud) hosting of the SnapComms solution
Multiple languages - English, Dutch and Papiamento spoken – in English and Dutch speaking Caribbean
900 field agents, 600 in Trinidad and Tobago, 300 in Jamaica
Reducing Email Volumes
A better alternative to internal e-mail - Prior to using SnapComms, Guardian was reliant on email and an intranet that had become dated and which was targeted more at Trinidad and Tobago staff. There was limited interaction by the Head Office, with employees in Jamaica and Barbados and even less with the business in the Dutch Caribbean (acquired 10 years previously). Group communications were facilitated via email to the business unit executives outside of Trinidad, who then had responsibility to share these messages with general staff in their respective territories.
While Guardian still uses email as part of its internal communications mix, Hamlet says that the group will be reducing reliance on internal email as both managers and staff struggle with managing the volume of emails they receive.
“As other more efficient communication channels are utilized by our departments, I could see us moving away from our current overreliance on e-mails.”
Reaching Agents and Field Workers
Guardian’s 600-strong sales team in Trinidad are not technically employees but agents working for the life assurance side of the business. These agents are not office-based but operate largely out in the field. In order to retrieve company emails they had to go to a shared facility at a convenient Guardian office, access the network and download emails. This often resulted in information not being seen on a timely basis. Since the implementation of SnapComms the agents have been able to receive messages directly onto their personal computers/laptops, without needing to go into an office.
“SnapComms allowed us to bridge that gap in terms of getting directly to the sales force.”
Internal Sales Campaigns
While the SnapComms software has been used extensively for sharing corporate-level information, such as the launch of the new brand and CEO messages, it has also been used effectively for internal sales campaigns in individual business units. With these extreme execution campaigns, the scrolling tickers and other channels have been used to send out information and motivational content, such as breaking news and progress updates stating how teams are performing.
Targeting communications within a distributed workforce - The ability for Hamlet to send messages to all employees or to segment her internal audience by physical location and business unit has ensured that the communications she sends are relevant as well as timely. This is managed seamlessly because the SnapComms solution integrates with Active Directory to replicate the organization’s user group structures within the SnapComms Content Manager.
Customizing messages for a distributed workforce - Most employees have responded positively to receiving information through the SnapComms communication channels, seeing it as a progressive and simple way to be kept informed. Some senior staff members did report that they would prefer to receive fewer technical alerts; this was easily adjusted in the message set-up, which can be completely customized, and the frequency of these updates has been reduced.
Measurement aligned to business needs
Collecting employee feedback - One of the main benefits Hamlet has derived from using the SnapComms communications tools has been the ease with which she has been able to collate employee feedback. With the corporate rebranding for example, she was able to follow up with surveys and quizzes on the various briefing events, which outlined to employees what the company was trying to achieve. Once the initial survey was set up she had the ability to quickly refine and resend it to different employee groups and once the survey was completed, she had the flexibility to drill down into the data by territory or department.
“The beauty of it is that I have to spend zero time collecting the data.”
Measuring employee channel preferences - In addition to measuring employee readership and responses to messages, Hamlet has also been able to measure employees’ communication channel preferences; for example she is able to analyze levels of responses to desktop alerts compared to scrolling desktop tickers or pop-up staff surveys and tailor the communication channel according to type of content and observed preferences.
Hamlet intends to spend more time exploring the potential of the SnapComms tools and to help other areas of the Guardian business implement them. In particular, she sees the SnapComms Internal Communication Software as being a particularly good fit for the IT and HR business units where it could be very effective in issuing important alert and updates.
Key benefits of SnapComms:
Easy to implement and use, with limited support needed from scarce IT resources
Targeting - of relevant messages to specific staff groups, departments, business units or territories
Cross platform communication - can communicate with distributed workforce, even those on different email platforms or working remotely
Collation of data and employee feedback in one central repository
Measurement - of employees’ engagement and interaction with communication channels
Creative and attractive ways of communicating with all internal stakeholders