By Gloria Lombardi

The goal at GE DGS – a global Business Unit of GE Healthcare – was clear: to engage all the 1,700 plus employees across 30 countries on their new organisational values. These were necessary following a series of acquisitions, and the company needed to ensure that staff understood these principles and put them into practice.

They were looking for an impactful, powerful and business-connected tool that would link workers across the world, allow them to share best practices, and engage in meaningful conversations. Challengera, a social platform provider built them a customised platform to help turn these values into real behaviours.

What is different between Challengera’s approach and that of say Yammer, is that their product, a social platform, is specifically designed for campaigning: anything that is important and hence needs to be communicated internally – be it a new strategy, a sales campaign, a new KPI roll-out, a change management initiative or any message that requires action from employees.

The challenge on the social platform

It is very difficult to move people from words to actual behaviours. GE DGS were aware that just telling their employees to change would not help the organisation to achieve any positive results. Instead they invited staff to join the social platform and challenged them to share their stories around what those new values meant for them. “What the tool allowed employees to do was to make those new principles personal, and to share their own perceptions and experiences with colleagues around the world,” says Arnaud Henneville, a co-founder of Challengera.

In four months a hundred stories were shared, leading to discussions that generated new ways to drive innovation and reduce costs within the organisation.

As an example Henneville tells the story shared by an Indian employee in the context of Customer Focus, one of the new GE DGS’ core values.

“It was December 2012. The majority of GE staff in the US were on Christmas holidays. A client of the company had a big issue, which needed to be resolved rapidly. It was a technical problem with a medical scanner; the company could not delay with fixing it. Some IT workers in India got aware of the difficult situation. Immediately some cross-border collaboration happened between the two countries, and between Christmas and New Year they managed not only to address the problem but to fix it and ship a new version of the software to the client.

“Our client had a problem, we went the extra mile, we created cross-border collaboration, we fixed the problem together and fast – now that’s a true exemplification of what it means to be customer driven.”

Catherine Buthaud-brioude, Head of Employee Engagement GE Healthcare DGS at the time of the initiative, describes another story relating to the core value Simplification. “An employee shared how, due to the need for internal process effectiveness and that of actionable plans, she had locally designed a database to support the sharing of plans and activity-tracking amongst teams. Such database did align with the company-wide process simplification goals. This was a very good example of a team having found a successful recipe to an existing problem. Recipe that, once shared, became best practice for others globally – and a potential for important cost-savings across the organization.”

According to Henneville, in large companies there are plenty of these stories every day; the problem is that nobody shares them: “This campaign allowed those narratives to emerge, and create new best practices inside GE Healthcare DGS.”

Rewards and the power of self-actualisation

To engage employees with the change initiative and trigger their interest, gamification played a key role. Rewards were crucial, both extrinsic and in particular intrinsic.

Originally, employees were rewarded for their contributions on the social platform with iPads, iPhones and team building vouchers. However, something unexpected happened. The employee who won the very first prize of the initial challenge said that he did not want any of the available prizes. Instead he wanted to give back to his local community. GE DGS took notice of the feedback, and decided to provide a budget for donations within the reward package for the next challenges.

“It was OK for people to receive material prizes. However, the real reason why employees joined the social tool was because of recognition and self-actualisation,” stresses Henneville. “Employees felt good because they were doing something that was relevant to them, while also contributing to the team, to the company and society. By sharing their content they had the opportunity to shine, and the chance to be seen and recognised by colleagues and bosses. Everyone could finally see that they were contributors.”

This may also explain the success of points and tokens within the campaign. GE created specific medals aligned with the new core values.

“For example, there was a medal for Customer Focus, a medal for Speed, etc. Each value (each challenge) had its own medal. Winning a medal was something employees felt proud of. It was a reward that drove people to action.”

But Henneville also emphases that it was not the badge itself that drives people to act: “It was the content, the user’s interest and the connectedness originated within the overall context.”

A self-regulating system

Who decided which contributions were the most valuable? “This is one of the most important things. It was a self-regulating system, self-regulating by staff.”

Employees rewarded their colleagues by a system of ‘likes’ – a good indicator whether people understood the company’s values. The likes also helped to push adoption, with workers starting to invite other members of the staff to take part in the initiative, which soon became viral.

“The system was completely open and there was no influence exercised by the top on who got rewarded. The ‘winners’ became so because they shared something that was extremely relevant to their colleagues. They were very good at contributing, influencing people and creating business-relevant content.”

The results

The success rate was set at actively engaging at least 20% of the staff, which is the average benchmark when leaders try to move the needle in their companies , according to Henneville.

The GE DGS engagement campaign moved 51% of the global staff – from leaders to first line workers. And 75% of the logins resulted in an interaction and activities – a score far beyond the original KPIs.

Beyond numbers and percentages, the real value of the initiative was the level of engagement and understanding achieved around the new company’s culture.

“As DGS is a global business, the benefit was to be able to touch all the employee’s population at the same time and actively involve all people together,” emphasises Buthaud-brioude.

“The knowledge of the values, and the same understanding at a global level – all of that in a very cost-effective and truly employee-centric manner were the major results.”