The launch of Hammerson's new intranet - Ondemand

Natalie Henderson, interim Internal Communications Manager for Hammerson, the owner, manager and developer of retail destinations in Europe, understands that an employee intranet platform has to deliver value for both employees and the business.

Hammerson launch a new Unily intranet called Ondemand

Natalie strategised a fool-proof launch and engagement strategy to get employees understanding and using the new Unily intranet platform from day one. Just weeks after their launch to 550 employees in November 2017, we spoke directly to Henderson to evaluate the success and find out what they’ve got planned to keep momentum going.

What were your original objectives for the new intranet?

We have employees based at over 40 locations in the UK, Ireland and France and creating a ‘one Hammerson’ culture across our offices and shopping centres is part of our overall internal communications strategy. We needed a platform that not only enables our employees to communicate and collaborate more easily with each other, but to drive engagement, productivity, morale and retention within the company. We also wanted our new intranet to enable employees to receive, search for and easily find up to date news and vital company information such as policies, procedures and HR resources, on any device.

How did you make employees stand up and take notice of the new platform?

The launch was part of a wider transformation of internal communications. We developed and launched a new approach to how we communicate at Hammerson and introduced an internal communications brand, Ondemand, utilising the ‘On’ of Hammerson.

Three weeks before launch

To kick-off awareness of the new platform, we started by creating a buzz with our employees three weeks before our big-bang launch. Physical signage like posters and pop-up banners were placed in all our locations, and email communications were sent to employees, re-enforcing our new vision for internal communication and publicising the new intranet soon to be launched. We also began publishing communications on the old intranet to keep employees up to date with the transition. This included communicating the key benefits of the new platform and reinforcing that we had listened to their needs in developing it.

Early on in the project, we appointed content owners who are also our intranet advocates, across all our locations. These advocates received advanced training and access to the platform to get familiar with it, empowering them to support other employees when go-live arrived; and ensuring there was local content ready for go live to engage everyone from day one.

One week before launch

We knew that leadership support was going to be crucial for getting employees on-board with our new intranet. With a week to go until launch, we issued an email from our CEO to all employees with a link to a short animated video selling the new intranet benefits and new functionality they could look forward to. This really helped to drive excitement and demonstrate that the intranet was viewed as a very important new channel by senior management.

Launch day

Thanks to our pre-launch communication, when launch day arrived, most employees were aware of the change of platform and the reasons for our transition. On launch day, this allowed us to focus on the practicalities, helping people get familiar with logging-on for the first time and using the new functionality. To drive traction, the intranet team spent launch day speaking to individuals, introducing them to the new log-in process and ensuring there were no technical issues with accessing the platform. The personal touch was really important for us, and achievable across all of our locations with the help of our intranet advocates. By taking the time to introduce the platform to people face-to-face, there was much more acceptance and interest.

During the afternoon of the launch day we ran the first of two training webinars, hosted by Matt Boyd from Unily. These were 20 minute sessions which employees could dial into and watch Matt take them round Ondemand to gain a more comprehensive understanding. The team could ask questions throughout the webinar using the chat functionality and I was able to make instant changes during the session based on their questions and feedback.

We recorded these sessions and made one available on the intranet so people could re-play them if they hadn’t been able to join a session. All of this was backed up by a comprehensive user guide which the team at Unily and I created. This is invaluable as it means employees can self-serve, although this has taken some encouragement!

Our fantastic IT team were also instrumental to a successful launch. To help drive traffic to the site, they made Ondemand the enforced homepage for internet browsers. This complimented our strategy that employees should see Ondemand as the gateway to the rest of the digital workplace. Using the Apps and Tools menu on the intranet, they can search and access every other application we use across the digital workplace. The IT team were also on standby throughout launch week to answer any questions that naturally result from a big launch like this. I also acted as a helpdesk during launch week, dealing with any questions that arose and encouraging employees to start using all the functionality available.

What was the response from employees on the day? Was there a particular feature, functionality that took off?

The completely new look of the intranet has been a big hit, with employees commenting how much better it reflects our brand.

The launch also enabled us to streamline how we share news. Because we have lots of interesting news to share, the bright and engaging tiled newsfeed on the homepage is a much more impactful format and the hit rate is proving that it’s much more engaging! And having one global intranet homepage means we are getting better at sharing news across the global organisation.

We use the homepage newsfeed for priority news and are really strict about the supporting image that is used for each item so we have the best impact. And providing each of our locations with the functionality to have their own local news feed means we’re getting a much higher use of Ondemand.

People are also loving being able to create their own content through the social Conversations page, with the ability for all employees to feedback, comment and react.

Did you have a roadmap for what would come next after launch?

During the initial rollout of our Unily platform I realised that it wasn’t possible to do everything from the offset, so there’s still so much more we can do. For launch, we chose to focus on improving our approach to news, ensuring there was an area for each of our locations and getting people on-board with enterprise social tools.

We have a long list of things to do next, including allowing employees to personalise what content they see. We are also working on a campaign to re-engage employees in the Hammerson values; the badges functionality within Unily will be a great support for a recognition scheme we plan to introduce.

What impact has the intranet made since launch?

We’ve had some great results since launch. Firstly, email use has dropped dramatically. Before the launch of the new platform, we would normally see around 10-15 random emails going to 200 people each week about everything from cake sales to raffle tickets. During the go-live week, not one email of this nature was sent through the traditional email channels. Instead, with some coaching from myself, we saw employees posting news to Conversations instead.

The week after going live, we locked down our key email groups completely and employees have found more creative and engaging ways to reach out to each other, which I’ve been really impressed with. We are all getting used to a new approach and working out what’s appropriate for the global news feed, what’s right for location news feeds and what works for the Conversations social feed.

How do you review what’s working and plan your next move?

At the moment we are using anecdotal feedback and findings that our content owners and I are discovering whilst using the platform. From that, we’re compiling a list of tasks to improve the platform. I also have a really comprehensive governance and how-to document for our content owners and I’m constantly reminding them to use it! I keep a close eye on what’s being published; the notification functionality is brilliant for that. I check that they’ve followed the governance and get in touch if anyone overlooks it and publishes content that doesn’t follow the guidelines. Our network of content owners are vital to ensure Ondemand is sustainable, engaging and locally relevant.

Once Ondemand has been up and running for three months, we’re also planning to run a survey to gather more concrete data around user satisfaction and feedback. That will really help us take Ondemand to the next stage!

What’s your top tip for maintaining momentum after launching a new intranet?

It’s important for employees to see that senior management are fully utilising the intranet, as it encourages others to do the same.

Another important tip has been maintaining contact with content owners to share ideas and developments, and to continually push for a good flow of interesting content.

We also refer to Ondemand in emails; providing links to content and driving traffic back to the intranet, which has streamlined our messaging.

Want to know more about the platform supporting Hammerson?

If you’d like to learn more about Unily and how it has helped Hammerson to transform their internal communications, get in touch today.

Intranet launch guide pages


10 essentials for staging the ultimate intranet launch

Launch activities are an essential part of maximizing returns on an intranet investment. Planning an effective launch gets new sites buzzing from day one, resulting in faster adoption and increased engagement. Whether there’s budget available – or just manpower and internal communications – the key to a successful intranet launch is having a solid plan backed by reams of enthusiasm.

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