How to engage a remote workforce with technology

People and Culture

On this episode of TELUS International Studios, we're joined by Gideon Pridor, chief marketing officer at Workvivo, a comprehensive digital employee engagement platform that has the feel of a social networking site. TELUS International uses Workvivo internally to keep our team members connected. In fact, there are nearly 50,000 active users on the platform daily.

Tune in to hear about Workvivo, their mission and how TELUS International has used the tool to keep its global workforce engaged, even while remote.

To learn more about TELUS International and our digital CX solutions, contact us today.


Intro: TELUS International Studios where customer experience meets digital transformation.

Patrick Haughey (PH): TELUS International takes great pride in company culture. At the start of the pandemic when global workforces had to be mobilized, it posed the question for companies all over the world: how can we make sure we're staying connected and looking after our team members? Workvivo is a comprehensive digital employee engagement platform that has the look and feel of a social networking site. Now, usually on the podcast we talk to companies about their customer experience approach. Well, today we're switching things up and becoming the customer. At TELUS International, we have a uniquely branded Workvivo site called Cosmos that we use internally. If you can imagine: it sees nearly fifty thousand daily active users. We will get more into how TELUS International champions company culture with the help of Workvivo at around 17 minutes, but first let's hear from Gideon Pridor, chief marketing officer at Workvivo about the platform. Gideon Pridor, you are very welcome to TELUS International Studios, how are you doing today?

Gideon Pridor (GP): I'm doing excellent. Thank you.

PH: Good, good. Now my first question for you. Traditionally have intranets, are these sort of internal communications platforms, have they been difficult to get people to engage with, to get your workforce to really buy into in the past?

GP: I think that is probably the biggest understatement of this chapter Patrick. Intranets have been, you know, something that people don't like to use. The difference is that people used to sort of use stuff like that because they had to. But we're undergoing such a huge shift, especially driven by younger, you know, generations on what people use or don't use at work. And today, employees, the modern employee, they use things because they want to use it, not because they have to use it. So, you know, the research shows that intranets are being adopted, used - actually used - less than 10 percent, and sometimes they take like two years to implement or build them yourself. But people don't use them. They use them when they have to, because they have to. For this announcement or reaching that, this or that thing, they are not, almost ever, becoming that glue, that thing in the middle that people actually go to in order to get informed and connect. So that model didn't work, became slightly better with newer consumer-like social intranets. But as we'll talk about going forward, even with TELUS International, greater change of the paradigm of internal comms was definitely needed, and that's what we're seeing today.

PH: So would you describe Workvivo as. Is it a type of intranet or is it something totally different?

GP: We don't like calling ourselves an intranet at all, but they're for the vast majority of our customers, let's say the vast majority of our customers end up decommissioning their intranet, using us as their intranet. But what we're seeing today, especially since 2020 and us living what used to be the future of the workplace and is currently the present of the workplace, you know, we're going through the greatest, most extreme transformation in the modern history of the workplace right now, and we don't even know what, know what to expect a year from now. We're learning new terms, you know, fatigue, anxiety, you know, for video conferencing and stuff like that. Next year will be 10 new things that we sort of like, you know, learn. We think that the biggest thing that will happen, technologically speaking, is the shift from what we used to call an intranet, which I think will eventually die in the upcoming few years and be replaced with a new concept - an employee experience app. Something that every employee gets as soon as they get onboarded. You can call it a platform, an app. We like to call it an employee experience app, and it has a sort of - gives you sort of the entire company in your pocket. At the heart of it, there is communication. Other stuff like accessing documents, sharing files, even integrations to stuff will come on top of it.

GP: But the core, the heart is meaningful communication. And that would be something that would be mobile first, that people could carry on in their pocket, use it at home, in the office or in the front line. But at core, this would be the terminology and in two or three years, if you ask me, the question would be if you have an employee experience app, it would be which one you have and it'll be communication and community led. It will be designed in order to foster culture digitally, not necessarily in an office. And bring people together, get that emotional commitment, that social glue that we kind of lost in the absence of the office footprint in a way that is actually far greater than before because it lives on digitally at one place and gives people that never used to be that connected in the front line the field an opportunity to really be a part. And I think that would mark the end of the era of the traditional intranets and it'll have intranet functionality. So that was a long answer to say yes, we replaced the intranet. But I think that we give much something that is way greater than that, and it's much more than accessing information. It's community first, and it's based on creating that emotional connection between people in the company, people in each other wherever they work from.

PH: Ok, very good. No, lovely answer. So then in your own words, maybe describe Workvivo. What is the company and what have you guys set out to do?

GP: So I call it an employee experience app, before some customers call it like in different names. But the important thing is what it is. So Workvivo is a tool designed in order to foster meaningful bonds, meaningful communication, connection between people and their organizations, making it much easier, simpler and more engaging to find, reach and communicate with each other. Either with your peers, with people reporting to you, feeling your leaders, your managers, people that in the absence of the office, you might feel that you're completely disconnected from them. It's designed from that. It's based on a community structure, so it pushes you to actually include people and give them a voice. Not saying it needs to be chaotic. You need permissions and you need definitions. You know, an employee usually can't reply all to an email in a big company for a good reason. But putting this aside, it's designed to give people in the company a lot more freedom and choice in how they consume information, giving them a lot of options like not only posts on your timeline, but the comments and likes and kudos and podcasts like this and live streams in order to really, really communicate and engage not in a single stream top down, but in a much more democratised, bi-directional way, engaging people for real. And in this sense, it's a communication platform. It's an employee engagement platform. And it acts as your employee app. It acts as your intranet streamlines all of your communication in one central place and integrates to anything else that it needs to be integrated to, acting as that central communication hub. This is what we do.

PH: The way you describe it, it sounds like - it sounds familiar, it sounds like you've taken some of the things that we love most about the traditional social media platforms that we use every day Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and bring them together in a sort of a new context. So am I right? Have you tried to make it feel familiar to people?

GP: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for the question. Absolutely. It's eh. I told you before in your question about intranets Patrick. We don't believe that the modern employees use tools because they have to. They need to want to. And in order to do that, we wanted to provide a familiar consumer level experience that works on any device that is delighting, that is well designed that you go to and use because you want to. You don't need long training setups and rollouts and onboarding. You could just go out and do it even if it's not the most polished in the world. And that's exactly what we achieved with this. And yes, it does resemble a lot to consumer community platform social media platforms because in a sense, this works. It's much less rigid, it's much more fluid, and every company has different structures as well. You implement this thing and through the way that it develops, you discover social, you know, carriers, advocates, ambassadors, people with opinions that you didn't even know. So these things develop and teach you things about your own company. So we definitely learned a lot from that playbook and married that with a lot of like enterprise features that are necessary in order to govern it, to control it, to give you data, to give you analytics, integrations to other tools that you're using. How do you use it alongside, you know, Slack or Microsoft Teams or Zoom and create less noise and less distraction and not necessarily like just another tool? So we took that playbook and mirrored it with the business requirements and companies like you need.

PH: Yeah. And actually, you've raised an interesting point, which is this is not just another tool that you have to decide between Slack or whatever you integrate, however you integrate Workvivo into your company. So maybe give us an example of how does it integrate with things like Slack, which I would have thought may have been a competitor as opposed to a partner.

GP: So there is an overlap, but they're not a competitor. We're actually a lot of our customers are using Slack or Microsoft Teams. The problem with these tools, for example, it's actually very good that you raise this since the pandemic, since we're, you know, experienced that thing that I call the new present of work. You know, then these tools that are amazing tools, they make you use less emails and find people. But they're also very, very disruptive and noisy, and we are overusing them in a big, big way that creates fatigue. It creates a fear of missing out, you know, do not miss out something important. You need to be in these channels all day long. Waiting, waiting, you know, it's not natural. I could answer Slack's from dusk till dawn and not do any work. And it creates anxiety. People are, we're not using it as it was, as we're supposed to. It's an instant messaging tool. It's not what it was designed to do. So with our people, you have the whole concept that used to exist in an office environment of asynchronous communication, meaning I could like I'm the CEO and I could post something.

GP: You could prefer to read it on your way back from work on the subway. You could do it in real time. You could do it like over lunch, but you lose that fear of missing out. It creates a more relaxed, more quiet environment. I could find you in our beautifully designed people directory and read about you, Patrick, and see your skills. Say which spaces you participate in, what your team office. And then I could click a button and Slack you as well and use Slack as my channel for instant messaging with you. Same goes when we talk inside a space inside like a group what we call a space and Workvivo So you integrate, you use Slack for instant messaging, or you could start a video call on Zoom. We're not doing that, but they weren't designed to be the heart of the company. They were designed to have an instant meeting or instant chat, and we sort of become the heartbeat of your company where all of that happens. Leveraging these tools in order to do exactly what they were supposed to do.

PH: Very interesting. And of course, you mentioned a couple of minutes ago the data and the analytics that comes with this, so I guess, you know, at the at the heart of this as well. Running alongside the desire to bring everyone together and make communication better and more fluid is being able to measure and tap into the heartbeat of your workforce to see how engaged are they? What are they doing? So maybe talk a little bit about the analytics and and the employee engagement measurement that Workvivo facilitates.

GP: Sure, sure thing. So yeah, data is very important. It gives us the confidence to know that we are on track. I think that today this transformation that I talked about from office to whatever it is. Wherever it is, we're going from here. Hybrid, flexible. We're still, I think, exploring this like sort of like worldwide, we we need to also know what we're pursuing. What are the right North Star metrics? As I started to talk about before, we believe in a change of paradigm in not only informing you as an employee about stuff, sending you an endless newsletter or this broadcast on your boring intranet. We believe in engagement. We really believe in engagement. We believe that the only way actually for communications to work in the world of today internally and we adopted is if people are included, are engaged and feel a strong emotional connection to the company, its culture and its purpose, even if they're not working in the same office space. So it means that it's crucial. It's not even like a nice to have to measure things like engagement. You know, we have data about the amount of likes or shares a lot of stuff that you use to form a social network. Comments discussions that are taking place and we could give you. An engagement score that you could actually measure in order to see improvement, understanding that that's correlated to how much people actually feel that they belong.

GP: We measure adoption in order to see in a meaningful way how many people are actually using this thing. And it's not the 10 percent of an intranet you should try to get to 80 to 90. You know? Adoption, engagement. And then you get to the interesting part, which is the more qualitative part, meaning we have polls and, you know, surveys inside the platform. And you could ask your people stuff and you could ask them even the same questions, the same polls or surveys, like every now and then and then you could develop your own scores to things like sense of belonging, emotional connection, purpose, you know? And people answer that in a meaningful way, compare it to the last quarter, and suddenly you have your own index for measuring what your leadership, your CEO cares about, and you see it by people anonymously or not anonymously answering stuff. So combining the power of polls and surveys, the data that you see on adoption, on engagement and on what people see with the platform already gives you a lot of insight into how participative people actually are. And you could see that improving and improving and improving as you put more content, more stuff like this amazing podcast that you guys are doing and measure the impact. This is the new way to measure employee communication and see that it actually works.

PH: Yeah. And what - I guess there's still, there's people, there's still plenty of people, probably obviously a minority of the world's population who don't really go on to social media too much or they're not the type of person who goes in and devours everything and clicks like or engages. They might read through it as an employee, but they're not engaging. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad for the company or the type of content. It's just that they're not that type of person. Is that something that needs to be factored in in the measurements? Because that essentially it could be seen that kind of lack of engagement, albeit just a natural part of that person, might bring the average score down, whereas it shouldn't, because it doesn't mean that the company is doing anything wrong or the communication is wrong. Is that a factor that should be kept in mind?

GP: Actually, it's a very it's a very interesting point that you're making. You're right, and there are a lot of people that are even reluctant to engage in all that. We're not trying to change, you know, the core behaviour of people. We're actually trying to do the opposite. Our mantra is all about giving more flexibility and freedom. This is what I talked about when we talked. I talked about Slack being so disruptive and hyperactive, right? So we want people to have the flexibility, the freedom to not only communicate with the consume information in the way and cadence that they please. And that means that in the analytics, for example, we don't only check engagement. We also check how much you're using the tool, how much you're reading like stuff during your day and if you're actually consuming the information. If you're not engaging and you're not consuming any information, we're doing something wrong because we do think that people want, or a lot of people increasingly, want to be in the know, want to be at least informed and involved as much as they would. So we could check it, check the passive indicators and the more active indicators and get a good picture. If we have an account and people don't really adopt it, they signed in once and that's it. We know something is wrong and then we try to help them with our customer experience team to understand. Maybe it's a matter of content, you know, building some creative modules like, I don't know, ask the CEO questions once a week or whatever. Maybe it's a matter of implementation and maybe it's something else, but people need to at least adopt it and consume the information, know what they need to know, and you'll see the general the average engagement rates going up because you have a lot of people that have this need and never had the opportunity.

PH: Interesting. In a couple of moments time, I'm going to play you a little vox pop that sort of encapsulates how some people use it, use Workvivo and like it. But before I do, I guess it's important to mention that it's not always the case that a company will have a Workvivo, you know, you log on to your Workvivo there's actually a white label element to this, isn't there? You can brand it in terms of however you want to brand the Workvivo platform for your own company.

GP: Yeah, for sure. Just like you guys did. So there are different sizes and different types of companies and we give a lot of branding flexibility. So if you want to use it as is, you use it as is. And if you want to build your own brand internal brand inside Workvivo, we give you the opportunity to do that. Anything that will make that would fit into your culture and your internal communications strategy in the least disruptive way. You guys have an amazing internal comms strategy at TELUS International and I have a lot of comparison points. It's really world class. And so we could like fit in with your Workvivo white label brand in order to let you use it exactly as you would have imagined with less constraints. Other companies want to take it as is and just like implement it, but it's part of that whole mantra of flexibility and fitting into what you need on the content side of the brand side on the technology and integration side. You know, we don't make you choose by between teams or slack or having nothing at all. So it's part of the same thing, a lot of freedom, a lot of flexibility. And yes, you can have your own brand.

PH: Very good. Look, in TELUS International it's called Cosmos, and we did a little poll of TELUS International team members of all levels to see how they use Cosmos and what they think of it. So let's take a listen.

Speaker 1: All of our global and local announcements are posted in Cosmos, which is how we branded Workvivo within TELUS International. As many of our team members continue to work from home this is where we do and promote a lot of engagement and recognition activities. For example, our team in the Philippines had a drag queens contest during Pride month in June and the winner of the Miss Congeniality award was selected via a poll on Cosmos.

Speaker 2: It's very familiar to users as it really kind of mirrors a lot of social platforms. The things that you'd expect to see.

Speaker 3: Recognition and appreciation, of course, is very important in any workplace. We're no different. Every day you'll see people posting their kudos for team members and Cosmos. This is a simple thing, but it has a real, high impact on the culture of our team to see people being called out on a daily basis for the great work they're doing or for some support they gave to a colleague. It really feeds into the positive workplace culture that we've created. Our senior leadership team interact with these posts as well. So I suppose it helps to break down the barriers that can form between the different levels or departments.

Speaker 4: The platform also helps connect our team with our leaders. As an example, our president and CEO Jeff Puritt posts a weekly update. Typically, articles that he finds interesting, but he also shares jokes. It's also great seeing how quickly we can on board team members who joined TELUS International. They can learn more about the company in Cosmos from day one.

Speaker 5: I've been a mental health first aider for the past three years. In our team, we use Cosmos to sign posts to helpful links on the left hand side. Here we keep our mental health first aid website and contact form so that the resources are easily accessible to all of our team members.

Speaker 6: Workvivo has been so great to help keep everyone really connected while working from home. Our internal teams have done such a great job to keep the platform fully stocked with things like regional social responsibility activities, wellness related content, engagement activities like contests, baking contests, dancing contests. All of these things really help us cultivate the culture that we love, at TELUS International, even when working remotely.

Speaker 7: Overall work, we've had so many advantages and it's really just a pleasure to use.

GP: Well, I'm quitting, I'm quitting while I'm ahead. I'm dropping the mic and I'm leaving the podcast that was that was amazing. Like, it made me emotional to hear all that for real. It's amazing. First of all, it's so obvious that you guys at TELUS International have an amazing culture, really. It's amazing. And yet so many examples there that I know from other customers as well, but it was really well phrased of how you bring that culture to life, the CEO getting involved with many people at once and getting feedback, feeling the pulse of the organization, giving shout outs and kudos to people, you know, in a year that people got almost no recognition when suddenly there was no office. It is instrumental. It's so important and this and you completely had me at Miss Congeniality. It's amazing. So thanks for sharing that.

PH: Well, I think, as they say, in the world of customer experience, you've just heard directly the voice of the customer. And you know, that's important. And I guess that's part of your job and your team's job is to always keep the channels of communication open with your customers, with the people who use Workvivo.

GP: Yeah, yeah. That's the only way to do that, I think, is a give them enough options because you said it before we're talking about humans. You know, when you talk about intranet, you don't think human. This is the tool designed for like, you know, processes and workflows and whatever. This is a tool and beyond that, it's an approach that we have with the tool. Based on that, it's based on humans and meaningful connections between people. And for that, we need to have you have different types of people and they need to have different types of vehicles to communicate through channels to communicate through, like the podcast and the live stream and the comments or the engagement options. So the ones that want to engage and so forth and so forth. So you need to give a lot of options. You need the experience to look to be consumer level, consumer grade and delighting. And I'll talk about that in a bit. You need to make sure that you are bold enough, in order to make that leap from corporate top down communications to community based open communications open comms, meaning a more democratised structure that actually gives people a voice that invites people to be included if they want to, if they want to. To comment, to say what they think, to answer polls, to communicate with each other, to give you a shout out for a job well done to connect something to the company goal, purpose or value. If that happens digitally, then you hit the jackpot, then you're in a far greater place than before. And that is already a matter of like mantra, philosophy, approach, whatever you want to call it. It's like our manifesto. So you could use a tool like us. You could use as another one. You could do your own thing. But as an approach, I think that this is the only thing that's going to work in terms of internal communications going forward. And people that just expect hybrid to work without making any change like that, are in for a big surprise. I think a lot of them are going to fail miserably and lose a lot of their people, their culture, their essence. In a way, it's that strategic. I think it's even the most important work related challenge of leaders at our time. And you have to cross that chasm towards open, democratised, community based. It's far greater than just our tool.

PH: Yeah, that's actually - You bring me straight - You've basically answered my next question is, and you've made a really good point, is that I guess there can be a danger in the same way of sometimes we talk about on the series that a company might feel that a big investment into chat bots, a plug and play scenario is just going to suddenly solve a lot of the internal issues are just going to sort of bring something onto a whole new level in terms of customer experience. In the same way, I guess you don't want to be thinking that bringing in the platform and the tech of Workvivo and because you've certainly made the user experience good, it doesn't necessarily mean that everybody is going to start piling in. That actually, it's almost 50 percent platform, 50 percent content and clever content and trying things.

GP: I couldn't agree more. I even I would even be more bullish and give content that 60/70 percent, because at the end of the day, we believe in what we do, but we're just an enabler. If you don't have a good culture and you don't have the willingness to hear out your people, you just want them to do it, to do their work, you know, and you don't want, if you don't want people to interact and participate. If you're not interested in engagement, we can't help you. You can go and get like an intranet, the at least the least bad intranet that you could find. But the internal comms strategy, the content, the activities, even ongoing ones that help people connect with their leaders, with their peers. That's what's important. And once you have that, our CX team excels at that, they help you either initiate that or build these like activities or podcasts or whatever and make them successful and measure them. But you need to have that content. You need to have that internal comms and know how or at least willingness and strategy in order to make it count. In this sense, we're just a vehicle. It's not just, it's a lot, right? But you have to have the essence of it. So if your CEO tells jokes and people can actually feel his personality, that's about, that's a big kudos to him as a CEO and enter your internal comms team that facilitates that and that fits perfectly into the way that we architected like our tool. But these do work in tandem.

PH: Well, you obviously, as a company walked the walk as well because LinkedIn recently did a poll and asked people what you know, the startup that you most want to work for. There was like a top 10 of startups that Irish startups that people want most want to work for and Workvivo came in fourth. So what is it about Workvivo that makes people want to work for you guys?

GP: I think that we yeah, in this sense, we do walk the walk. I mean, we have a very special culture internally and work people. It's very it's very open and democratized using the words that I used before. It starts from John and Joe, the founders, and everybody is allowed to have an opinion. Anybody can make an impact. You could initiate, you know, a product, a project and almost see it through. So everybody feels that they're involved and they have an impact. There is a lot of like, you know, this culture that combines being humble but also having a lot of hustle as we're like a startup. And this Can-Do approach, and the best example is a week at Workvivo meeting every week the John or Joe. They don't run the meeting. The meeting is being run by the employees, and everybody that has updates just goes on and shares stuff that they did from the CX team to the marketing team to the product team, and it just organically runs itself for an hour. It's spectacular. So that, like flat structure creates an environment of very little ego and a lot of togetherness and a lot of Can-Do and a lot of great things come out of that. So culture is instrumental. It's probably the most important thing. And we really, really that's what we're really careful with hiring people as well. So we make sure that anybody that we do hire is a great cultural fit.

PH: Well, look. Final question. And this pertains to the room I'm now - not everyone is going to see this on video. So what I'm looking at is Gideon in his office and to the right, he's got a wall and it's covered in little green post-its. And before we started this interview, I was like, Oh, you're very organized. You've got a beautiful sort of workflow and process system worked out there with all your little green post-its. But Gideon, that's not the case. What is it all about?

GP: I admitted to you before Patrick, that I could be blamed for a lot of things, but organized is not one of them. Luckily, I have some very organized people in the marketing team that are helping me do some good work. I just like we have a lot of stuff going and this is my little success wall. I like putting a little post-it when something has been achieved and every now and then I replace it. But an updated but it's nice to go in and look at it and see all the good stuff that we actually did. We tend to forget these things and only concentrate and give ourselves a hard time about the stuff that are that are not good that we haven't achieved. And this is a little reminder it could be from something little like a new version of the company presentation until something bigger, like, you know, you know, I don't know, share the new go to market strategy for twenty twenty two. I put it there, and it makes me feel good, and it's working well for me.

PH: Well, there's a lot of green post-its there, so obviously you'd be doing a lot, right, Gideon? And you can add one more from today, and that's a great interview and a really good conversation on our podcast series here TELUS International Studios. It's been a real pleasure speaking with you, Gideon. And I wish you so much more success with Workvivo into the future.

GP: Thanks, Patrick. I really, really enjoyed it. And you really made my week listening to these testimonials from your own employees. This is what we get up in the morning, and it's really amazing. I wish us a lot more years doing some awesome things like this together. So thank you.

PH: Brilliant. Thanks, Gideon. And speaking of testimonials we have, we're going to play out the episode with a few more voices from TELUS International Studios team members of all levels to play out the episode. And in the meantime, Gideon again, thank you very much. Gideon Pridor, CMO of Workvivo. Thanks to you for listening to this episode of TELUS International Studios. Check out our back catalog for more great interviews with people like Gideon from fascinating companies like Workvivo, and we will be back soon with another episode of the podcast series. And until then, take care and hope to catch you soon.

Speaker 8: My teams now use Cosmos all of the time, particular since we're all working remotely. It's a fantastic tool for engaging with interacting with all of our team members. For one off announcement we sometimes use the livestream feature. Our team members are super engaged with these types of announcements. There's always high attendance and you can see people constantly liking and commenting throughout these videos. It's great to see. Most recently, we use this feature to announce the winners of our engagement awards, and it went down really well.

Speaker 9: It allows us to manage our communications region by region and then even within that team by team. So it's really great solution for trying to segment your audience and making sure people are getting information that's relevant to them.

Speaker 10: Given that we've been working from home since March 2020 on Cosmos, we share pictures and challenges to bring us together from updates on our Fantasy Football League to roping our managers into challenges. It's a really nice place for us to look back on some old memories.

Speaker 11: Cosmos has also helped spark innovation. Now we're producing podcasts. We're live streaming panel discussions and creating more people oriented content.

Speaker 12: You can upload video and posts and articles. You can have them as resources for people to go back to if it's something to do with something like training.

Speaker 13: People can choose which updates are most important for them. For this reason, our interactions now feel more personal. We're essentially eliminating the noise, and that removes some frustration for team members.

Speaker 14: And the really cool thing is that all this content goes out to a global community, and any of our team members anywhere in the world can join in on the conversation in the comments. Having a single platform makes a huge difference for an organization our size, and we didn't have that capability before.

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