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The Internal Communications Challenge

With over 170,000 employees across 38 global markets, Unilever is committed to developing technical solutions to improve virtual collaboration. But can this technology ever have the same motivational impact as face to face engagement? This was the challenge faced by Unilever’s Global Customer Service Excellence (Group CSE) team. Group CSE are a global Centre of Excellence in Unilever’s Supply Chain. This team of 120 Customer Service and Planning experts work remotely, based in over twenty locations across the world.

In 2013, a new Group CSE strategy and organizational restructure was announced meaning a period of significant transition. The Leadership Team were clear that there was a need to bring the team together with clear objectives:

  • Improve morale - overcome locational and hierarchical barriers to improve the ‘One Team’ ethos and the visibility of the leadership team
  • Focus on purpose – demonstrate to Group CSEs the growth of Unilever through the lens of Supply Chain, Unilever, customers and consumers
  • Inspire and motivate - explore opportunities for personal and professional development

A physical event was considered but had major drawbacks; being cost prohibitive, disruptive to employees having to travel and not in line with Unilever’s sustainable business vision. The virtual solution, although cost effective, also presented challenges. How do we overcome the time zone differences to engage our global team? How do we replicate the ‘immersive’ experience of a physical conference? How do we avoid the event becoming just a series of online presentations?

The Unilever and WorkCast Solution

After looking at a number of solutions the team decided on a 4 day event designed around the same principles as a physical conference - delivered 100% online through the WorkCast Platform. A Virtual JAM Lobby was created as a digital hub where the entire event would take place. The ‘Virtual JAM’ brand was chosen to reflect the collaborative and inclusive nature of the event, complemented by an energetic jazz-style JAM theme tune. This theme was used consistently throughout the event; from the teaser campaign and registration process to the presentations and design of the virtual lobby.

The event was designed around three key elements:

  • Live presentations delivered by live web streaming with interactive Q & A
  • On Demand sessions that were pre-recorded for people to watch at a time that suits them
  • Social media element – using Chatter to discuss and share output from the JAM

Every live session was also recorded and made available within the On Demand section the following day – meaning no one had to miss out on any of the presentations. Crucially, none of the sessions were mandatory. Three weeks before the event the team launched a teaser campaign using email, Chatter and the team intranet to drum up excitement. Employees were then sent a JAM branded invitation with a link to a registration page where they could see the full agenda of live presentations and register their details for the ones they wanted to attend. After registering their details the live sessions would appear in their Unilever Outlook calendar as a meeting request to make it as slick and user friendly as possible. During the 4 days of the event a daily JAM reminder was emailed to the team with the link to the virtual lobby to make sure the event stayed at the top of people’s minds.

The Result

Virtual Jam Fast Facts

4

Days of Presentations & Debate

13

Hours of Live events

101

Delegates from 25 countries

651

Hours of Combined Learning

74%

Rated the JAM 'Very good' or 'Excellent'

What's next for Unilever's Online Events?

News of the Virtual JAM success travelled fast thanks to the conversations happening on Unilever’s Salesforce Chatter. Other teams within Unilever expressed an interest in the technology and process used for the JAM and have since used the same template to deliver their own events; including a Supply Chain Learning Day involving over 5000 attendees. The Virtual JAM brand is now well established, and in June 2014 the Group CSE delivered their second JAM event which was equally successful.

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