By Gloria Lombardi

“From the very beginning we positioned Wave as the employee social network (ESN) to work together, productively and faster. Stressing the idea of work was the reason why so many members came on board,” says Xavier Singy, Senior Digital Project Manager at Firmenich.

Two years ago, the second world’s largest Fragrance and Flavor House decided to experiment with the concept of an ESN to make their existing and rather static SharePoint intranet solution more social and effective.

Today, more than 4,000 employees out of 6,000 regularly use Firmenich Wave across 64 countries. The Jive-based internal collaboration platform has been transformative both in terms of innovation and employee engagement. But, how did that happen?

Building the case for a social enterprise

“It is about focusing on changing behaviours and building a collaborative organisation. That has to start with having the leadership on your side.”

It took almost one year to gather full support from the top. Singy’s team relentlessly worked on building a library of use cases to show senior management the value of an ESN. “Originally, we shared with them good stories from suppliers, customers and peers who were already successfully adopting the tool. We also used stories made available by Jive itself and that resonated the most with our company and needs.”

Once the platform took off and communities were forming, more stories could be collected inside Firmenich. A network of influencers was, and still is, instrumental in identifying internal use cases.

The company invites employees to share their personal stories through videos around the value of using Wave encouraging colleagues to give concrete examples from their daily work.

This has been invaluable in building trust. “It is not the usual IT guy telling the rest of the organisation why they should be using the social network. These narratives come from our peers who are recommending Wave because they really have experienced a better way of working.”

Innovation happens through the platform

Firmenich produces a variety of flavors and fragrances, which require sound expertise from many different people. The ability to bring all of them together on a social tool has made a mark.

For example, one of Wave’s main groups is dedicated to Hair Care for one of their key customers, created by a sales team to support the production and development of specific fragrances. “This team works on forty projects in parallel. These are activities that can run for years. Managing them through an email system was a nightmare; colleagues needed to spend an incredible amount of time just to find old emails for the right initiative.”

Now every time the business team receives a brief for a new product, they post it on Jive. They start to test the fragrance, build presentations for the clients, discuss any feedback received and continue working on improving the fragrance.

Jive for Office

To the marketing team distributed all across the globe, Jive for Office has offered an effective way of working on PowerPoint presentations. The feature enables colleagues to store documents in their marketing community and allows them to make edits simultaneously. Anyone in the group can incorporate changes into a presentation. Since the tool notifies them every time someone makes a new change or comments, everybody knows when to check for updates.

The same collaboration options apply when using Excel documents, which have become an essential communication tool for sharing budgeting information within specific teams.

Having a social DNA to bring engagement forward

Employees who are active on Wave are enthusiastic about the new opportunity of “feeling the pulse of the company.”

Although spread internationally, Firmenich is a family business that has always valued relationships and communication among each other. “We finally have the tool to treasure these connections throughout our global network,” says Singy.

The Rules of Engagement

The majority of employees exhibited the right social behaviours quite naturally from the start. “Many of them were comfortable with working out loud and sharing their projects on the platform. They understood that this level of collaboration, openness and transparency were bringing more value to their own performance as well as to the organisation’s.”

However, this was not obvious to everyone. To help the most conservative people embrace and familiarise with Wave, the company established The Rules of Engagement. The document gives staff guidance on how to work together on projects, connect with each other and share expertise. “For example, it recommends publishing relevant content on public groups so that anyone else can find the information or by @mentioning specific colleagues. The guidance also suggests being aware of any confidential information (e.g. sensitive data about clients) which needs to be discussed in private communities.”

Above all, the company makes it very clear “to have fun but use Wave for work!”

An ESN is not the Facebook for the enterprise

Wave is mainly used for core business activities and its communities are set up mostly around work processes rather interests. “Since the beginning, we made it clear that the platform was for working not chatting. If you want to discuss with colleagues about the latest movies, this is not probably the right place for you.”

Singy believes that this emphasis was also key to get senior buy-in at the beginning: “When we were building the case for the leadership team we never said that ‘an ESN is like the Facebook for the enterprise’ because for us it really wasn’t.”

Today, 280 community managers are looking after 600 groups. To create a community “you have to have a good business reason.” For example, solving a business problem in the company or dealing with an issue important to your team or the organisation.

Collaboration groups are like eggs

“As a community manager you have to invest your time to help people change behaviours. If you think that the challenge is technical, you are on the wrong path.”

Singy uses the metaphor of the ‘egg’ to suggest how to grow communities on an ESN:

“A collaboration group is like an egg: you cannot predict if it’s going to mature or die. That is why you need to invest on a larger number of eggs. As they grow and become more defined, be aware of which ones are developing well. Make sure to take good care of those. Eventually, they will crack.”


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate