Tag Archives: #media140

How British American Tobacco use social tools for employee engagement

Next up at Social Media Week London, David Richard Hare from British American Tobacco (BAT). This is a live blog so keep refreshing the page for updates.


15.54: BAT had ‘ten years of failure’ with online communities. It was difficult to get people to engage with the tools. 


We tried five platforms over ten years. There were too many barriers to communication: people forgot their passwords, changed jobs etc.


In 2005 we tried a workshop called ChangeNet. We realised our approach was wrong again: we were concentrating on the technology too much. At the workshop, people began to build relationships, they are now able to interact virtually as friends. Adding this human direction was a big step for us. It was partly because we (the online engagement team) moved from IT to HR.


CommunityBuilder was a tool that showed employees how to get people engaged with their projects. 


In 2006, we put a World Cup Forum up. Immediately became the most visited place on our intranet. It didn’t take up too much of people’s time but helped break down barriers within the organisation. There was a big spike in activity during the world cup.


In 2007, we set up a Management Trainee Community. Now one of the most active communities: people set up weekend social activities together etc.


Tom, our Change and Communications Manager (Global Operations and IT), came to us in 2004 and said he wanted to try blogging. It took about 3 attempts but in the end we developed something ourselves in Lotus Notes – gave him an area within his site where he could blog. He linked his everyday blog very well to the business world and business strategy, and others followed.


One new blogger was particularly suspicious of social media, but she’s a marketer and she realised that when you get your stories in front of people, that’s what engages them. She’s now one of our most prominent bloggers.


One colleague started blogging about how the organisation needed to open up, eg use Facebook and YouTube and had around 8,000 page views per blog post. Now BAT is considering his proposals.


BlogCentral (BAT’s internal blog network – given same name as IBM’s) monthly users started out at around 400, grew to around 2,500 by April 2010. 


16.13: I was pushing for a Facebook like internal network for years. We had an internal directory (called Connect – also ‘stolen’ from IBM). When Twitter arrived it seemed the time was right to something that combined the three (profiles/social networks with updates with real-time connections). In 2008 we built Connect: went live in July 2008. We’ve linked it to Active Directory, we’ve linked it to SAP.


Suddenly we’ve got this global directory, this huge network. You go in and see activity updates first thing in the morning. 25,000 registered users (everyone who uses the intranet has to sign up to it).


16.20: opens up for questions.


Question: the user experience people want is actually very different from what IT departments inevitably provide.


Question: what happens when people leave?


Andy (from IBM): I might retain info from corporate related groups on external networks. For example, people leave company but still show up on its facebook page. IBM has set up an alumni network as a way of engaging with formal employees.


Richard: that’s a problem with Yammer: you can’t throw people off it.


Comment: where next? Are there plans to go down the 2.0 course? 


Richard: when we released Connect, we asked people what they’d like to see. We don’t really have a high level strategy.


Question: it seems a big role for us as internal communicators is focusing on coaching management on how to communicate?


16.36: yes!


16.37 onto next speaker – see new post.


Matt O’Neill on using social tools to organise meetings

This is someone from Media140 introducing Matt (sorry I will get her name).

15.05: Matt is going to talk about using social tools as part of your internal communications – to organise meetings and conferences.

Firstly, engage with participants.

Second, seek out identity influencers.

Third, use a variety of media: people absorb information in different ways.

If you really want to get reach: make it mobile-ready. When senior execs have their dead time, waiting at airport etc, that’s when they’ll interact with this sort of thing.

It becomes a really live environment with people contributing questions via Twitter, IM etc.

Promote event by using existing channels, asking delegates to forward links – helps to build traffic and they like being asked, stroke influencers’ egos, ensure email notification with each major update.

Tell people the conference matters: be adamant about objectives. Tell people about workshop activities, again get influencers on board.

15.15: during event you want to report in real time. Some of the key plenaries can be written up in advance if you know what they’re going to say. As you’re putting up new content, take the comments that are coming in and feed them back into the event: eg: reading out tweets that have been made during lunch break. Try to get different viewpoints on what’s been said: create buzz.

Be visible: use LCD screens in break out areas so people can see live content. Make sure roving video/audio team are clearly identifiable.

You don’t want talking shops, you want action shops. Less powerpoint, more interaction.

How social tech can maximise your workforce

I’m live blogging the Media 140 event on how social technologies can maximize your workforce here from 2pm today. Please keep refreshing the page for updates. 

A few technical hitches to start off.

14.13: Andy Piper from IBM is the first speaker (ahh, @andypiper, met him years ago at Twestival): I’ve been at IBM for ten years. First off, I’ll be giving you a little background on IBM; then talking about changing behaviours, my own personal journey within the company, and a few lessons learned.

This year significant year for IBM, celebrating 100 years (Andy shows some great former mastheads from last 100 yrs – sorry I can’t give you a pic right now but will get hold of slide). In 1993, IBM posted biggest corporate loss in history. Lou Gerstner took over and first piece of advice he took was to get a PC (his predecessor had been using email over a mainframe).

IBM is a bit of an invisible brand. 400 thousand employees worldwide. We’re probably best known for our consulting services. But if you have a look at our website, we’ve a list of 100 innovations over 100 years, eg: laser eye surgery – many things people don’t know about.

Diversity of culture, technology, expertise, background and interests causes some real problems for IBM. It’s a challenge to create a single corporate identity. Obviously diversity brings strengths as well.

14.20: Humans are social animals and we want to communicate. We’ve developed a mail system; telephones, email, instant messaging. Everything we do online is social (shows the conversation prism developed by Brian Solis and Jess3).

Historically I’ve always used online tools, bulletin boards and modems to connect with people. My first job was working at the Post Office (14 years ago). I was given a stack of paper – memos – and a screen linked to a mainframe computer which felt very restrictive and backward. We know that more cultural change is typically required.

My colleague Luis Suarez has been running an experiment for a couple of years – he wants to see what will happen if he doesn’t use email. Instead he uses other social technologies.

14.28: When Lou Gerstner arrived at IBM for example he saw it had traditional hierarchical structure (with ‘big cheese’ at top) but also many many little fiefdoms. Really IBM has a type of matrix management v typical of big businesses.

I lecture a bit and when I asked my group of students how they thought enterprises today communicated, Skype was the first tool they mentioned. They thought Skype and Facebook were the type of tools they’d like to use at work, or possibly a “Facebook-like” social network.

14.30: One particular day in 2005 I was working in a windowless bunker near Swindon thinking what am I doing here and I found that IBM had this tool for blogging. Workers at IBM are able to pilot new technologies (as part of an ‘expert network’) and I thought I’d see how it worked. I set up a weblog – blogging about what I was doing every day, partly as a diary and partly just to ease my frustration. I got bored with answering people on the phone or sending them emails on the same subject, so I’d just do a blog post.

Blue Pages is our own social network: you can put a photo, career information, job title etc in there. It’s a really rich environment, you can recommend documents, videos, stuff you’re interested in. Popular blog posts get ‘bubbled up’ to the front page. People suggested that I publish my blog externally. I found it interesting and kind of liberating to be able to blog externally. We get some interesting connections happening – like me being asked to speak at this event.

The product we now sell called Lotus Connections (includes social bookmarking, wikis, blogs etc) is based on the fact we’ve tried all this stuff internally for years (not that I’m trying to hard sell)!

We’ve also got a thing called SocialBlue, which is like Facebook.

When Twitter came out, we set up BlueTwit (we like to put ‘blue’ into everything). We’ve got something called Bluepedia. But we also use existing social tools: YouTube, Facebook etc.

Some colleagues of mine started a blog called eightbar (because there’s eight bars in the IBM logo).

14.40: I think I saw in Abi (Signorelli – from Media140)’s delicious bookmarks an article on the top ten sites that are blocked by employees: Facebook very high up there. Clearly worries about productivity etc.

IBM has an open internet policy: the idea is that employees are trusted.

By trusting individuals to be their own voices, we can empower people and let them relate what they do every day.

Adam Christensen, IBM’s head of social: “We have, I believe, the single largest number of employees using social networks anywhere in the world”.

For a period of time, we were asked not to use Slideshare in case confidential information came out, but again it was realised that employees should be, and could be, trusted.

In Spring 2005 when we realised that it should be ok for employees to blog externally, we wrote our first social computing guidelines. Rather than have someone from our legal department write this kind of legalese text, we got the employees who’d been blogging internally to write the guidelines themselves on a wiki – we then showed this to the legal dept and they said yes.

Here is the latest version of the guidelines.

I frequently describe these as light-touch: commonsense. There’s nothing earth-shattering in there. 

14.50: Education is ongoing. Tools are constantly changing. When I talked about Lou Gerstner and how he approached the ‘I’m going to start communicating with employees” issue…you need grassroots but you also need a little bit of top-down: you need executive buy-in, and you need executive championing. BlueIQ had a VP (Gina Poole) behind it.

Final rules:

(1) Consider transparency

(2) Be ready to blur the coundaries

(3) Trust a more social, tech-savvy workforce: stop blocking these tools, and encourage more engagement with them.

14.55: Q&A

Question: how do you deal with a crisis?

Andy: there was a time when it was rumoured IBM was going to buy another large tech co (which it didn’t go on to buy). There were a lot of tweets saying ‘wow – IBM is going to buy x’ – we just sent some internal messages round telling people to be very careful what they say. I haven’t lived personally through many examples. I think trust is very important.

One example, Quora has become massive because Robert Scoble said he was using it. But I need to put a disclaimer every time I answer a different topic. Think that’s going to be restrictive.   

Question: it’s easy for IBM as a tech company to promote social, but what would be the top ways to sell this model of working to a CEO somewhere else?

Andy: it’s not easily translatable between businesses. I remember hearing about a mining company which had problems with temporary workers posting bad things about the organisation. But I think you just need to focus on the success stories. Bear in mind that not every interaction is going to cause a problem. I find it difficult to think of other examples because I don’t know of many – I just think I’m lucky to be working at IBM which is why I’m still there.

15.00: thanks Andy!

I’m going to continue in a new blog post 🙂