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If you’ve spent any time social distancing in the last few months, it’s likely you’ve been using technology a lot more to stay connected. Whether it’s more phone calls, text messages, using Uber Eats to get dinner delivered to your door, collaborating via video-conferencing, or live-streaming the latest government update, our reliance on telecommunications has grown exponentially through the year.
To make sure all these services run smoothly, it certainly helps to have the tools and strategies in place so that people and products run like clockwork. This means cultivating connection, productivity and culture across all teams, regardless of where and when they’re working.
Last month, we had Emma Trehy, People Experience Manager from MNF Group, share how the company has addressed some of the challenges facing its globally dispersed employees, alongside its temporarily remote workforce. MNF Group is a rapidly growing telecommunications software company, with over 400 global employees. Its network and technology power communication via the apps and services many use every day for voice, video or messaging such as Zoom and Skype.
In this HR Heroes post, we cover what it takes to engage and support employees in the tech industry, many of whom are facing a lot of pressure and change at this time.
Joy: As a member of global company, tell us about some of the challenges you face connecting and communicating with employees at MNF Group, and how have you approached this challenge when teams started working remotely during COVID-19?
Emma: We have employees spanning multiple countries and generations, so we know that communicating with employees effectively starts with understanding the different information needs of employees across different teams and regions.
Every people decision and every bit of comms has to be done with a global lens.
When the pandemic started to affect how and where our employees were working, MNF Group put together a Business Continuity Planning team. Many of the action items that came out of those regular meetings were related to our People Experience team, and how we were going to reach and support our people with frequent, relevant communication.
Where there was a growth in demand for voice and collaboration technology, with millions of people around the world working from home or home-schooling we became busier than ever, so we really had to make sure our teams were well-positioned to enable this.
We were lucky, because a few months before COVID-19, MNF Group rolled out ‘Launchpad,’ which is the name we’ve given our employee engagement platform. Over the past few months we’ve really seen how this investment has helped keep our people engaged, because it’s allowed us to reinforce important messages, and provide reassurance and guidance. It gives us a channel to share important information and provide resources to make achievements and progress visible, and keep spirits up.
Joy: You’ve got quite a dispersed workforce, which presents its own unique challenges. Can you share what some of those challenges are, and how having a centralised platform helped MNF Group to overcome these?
Emma: We had to address the global pandemic across different territories, which meant addressing different time zones, different rules, different laws, different scenarios. All of this still applies now that we’re preparing people to return to our offices. So, our first priority has been making sure our people have a key source of information that allays their concerns, and of course encouraging employee feedback immediately, which we could achieve by channelling all our people-related information, crisis communications and surveys through Launchpad.
One of the biggest advantages of having one place to house all of that was being able to reduce the number of emails going out and cut through the noise in people’s inboxes or instant messaging apps.
We also launched a specific COVID-19 information hub within Launchpad so employees could get current updates from sources including the World Health Organisation, and resources specific to the coronavirus.
This meant employees had one place to go to find what they needed. Instead of searching through 15 different emails, they could log into Launchpad at regular times through their week to find relevant updates.
We could share answers to frequently asked questions, link people to resources supporting their mental and physical health, like our EAP and the Wellbeing Centre, and then remind people of the good news happening in the business too, because we had company-wide recognition in the same place.
Joy: What role has recognition and reward played in keeping your people engaged during this time?
Emma: MNF’s employee recognition scheme is evolving more and more. Before Launchpad, we had a brilliant programme that recognised people annually, but that was limited to a shortlist of 12 employees. The reward was amazing and always memorable, but we wanted to enable frequent recognition globally because we knew people were doing things really well in small pockets, but that wasn’t being shared or celebrated as a global group.
We wanted to show what people were doing in the business, and increase the visibility of teams that traditionally don’t have that. Say, if the Legal Team achieves something and is recognised for it, people around the business can now see it on Launchpad, whereas previously they probably wouldn’t have known anything about it.
Having the eCards and social recognition wall on Launchpad means we can tap into the power of peer-to-peer recognition, all day and every day, for everyone.
With the pandemic affecting our people across the world, the People Team wanted to send a care package to every single employee. But what a care package looks like to you and someone else in the business, who lives in a different country, might look really different. So we decided to use the platform to share vouchers to the equivalent of £75, so people could use that wherever or however they wanted to — whether it was something for their house, or maybe a new outfit.
It made it all so much simpler for our team too — we didn’t have to organise delivery to all the different areas, and didn’t have to spend money on something that might not have landed for our people. The response has been incredible.
Joy: What are some of the other things you’ve taken advantage of to reduce the burden at a time when the pressure is on to over-communicate?
Emma: Being able to segment messages has really reduced the repetition of writing different versions of different messages and having to manage email lists. The surveys have also made it a lot easier for us to get feedback from our people quickly - we can ask managers specific questions, or send something to teams in a specific location or office.
We also get immediate feedback to know how many people are reading announcements and we can see what’s resonating with comments or reactions.
The other thing is being able to have a platform that promotes all the different things MNF has to offer its people. When we first looked into the platform, our focus was reward and recognition, but we’ve really used it as a core part of our communication and to promote things like our benefits.
We’ve got our employee discounts programme, which is part of the platform, and something people are really taking advantage of to stretch their disposable income. We also use the platform to showcase information about discounted healthcare plans, parental leave, MNF Flex, our employee share gift plan — it’s given us a way to personalise and share our company benefits to our people. It’s now become part of our day to day and you can see how often people are using it, which is fantastic across all geographies.
As a people team, we can actively see what’s working and what’s not. We can ask for feedback using the platform’s survey tools, and we can also see quite clearly what the usage, response or read rates are too.
Joy: What has the response been from your employees?
Emma: We’ve used employee surveys a lot, especially as we plan for people to migrate back into the workspaces, and the overwhelming response from our people is, ‘Thank you for listening to us, and thank you for supporting us in different ways.’
It’s been really good to have people commenting on the £75 voucher, and tell us they’re accessing benefits they might not have known about or considered before. Before COVID-19 we had a flexibility programme called MNF Flex, but now that we’ve experienced what it’s like to have 100% of our workforce work remotely, that’s likely going to evolve, and it’s going to take input from our people to determine what that looks like.
The surveys also help us identify who needs more support — whether it’s employees who have additional career responsibilities with kids at home during work hours, or individuals quite anxious about catching public transport and feeling apprehensive about commuting.
We’ve had a really powerful way of capturing feedback and giving our employees a channel to voice their concerns and be included in our planning for the future.
It’s been quite a journey, and it’s been a relief moving away from reading 100 emails a day! It’s always been great to have a platform to drive excitement, and to announce fun activities and achievements our people can be proud of.
Launchpad helps our people feel part of the company even though we're remote. It gives our people a sense that there’s something to be part of, and we don’t want them to miss out on it.
It’s all evolving, and we're still on that journey, but we're getting more and more engagement with the platform each week.
Want to find out more about how MNF Group has created a tailored, inviting online platform for employees to connect and access resources to support through change and growth?
Joy is our book-hoarding, food-loving Content Journalist. She combines her experience in communications and change management with storytelling and digital media to help business and HR leaders connect with their people and strengthen their company culture. When she isn’t writing about business, HR or leadership, she’s writing quotes and song lyrics with a paintbrush or calligraphy pen.
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