Mears Group aimed to transform its distributed organization into a tight-knit community. How could it inspire employees to engage with their peers via its IBM® Connections™ Cloud platform?
To encourage its people to embrace digital communities, Mears Group enhanced IBM Connections Cloud with workplaceON—enabling employees to set up their profiles and view relevant content faster.
2,000%increase in employees signing up for the social business network
Up to 15xincrease in engagement with content published to IBM Connections Cloud
Strengthenscompany culture by helping distributed employees engage with their peers
Business challenge story
Keeping the business connected
Whether it’s helping make over a friend’s room with a fresh coat of paint, taking part in a bake sale for a local charity or simply carrying heavy bags for a neighbor, being part of a community feels good.
Matthew Packer, Group Lead for Digital Communications at Mears Group, says: “We provide social housing repairs and maintenance services across the UK. Our aim is to make a positive difference to the areas we serve by improving homes, communities and lives. To achieve our goals, partnerships are essential—both with our employees and external stakeholders such as clients, tenants and their families.
“Many of our employees are extremely active in their local communities, and team up with colleagues to raise money for charity and renovate public spaces. Employee-led initiatives like these are a core part of the Mears Group culture, and for our office-based population, it’s always been easy to hear about them via email or word of mouth. However, more than 16,000 of our employees work out in the field—and we wanted to help them join the conversation.”
To empower its employees to collaborate with their peers from any connected device, Mears Group embraced a business social network based on IBM Connections Cloud and IBM Verse®.
“We are always growing into new sectors, and a digital platform enables us to communicate news and updates with our remote employees more effectively,” continues Packer. “Crucially, it empowers our employees to build their own digital communities with peers they might not otherwise have met—either because they work in a different part of the country, or in a different part of the business.”
To maximize the value of its investment in digital collaboration, Mears Group aimed to bring thousands of employees onto the platform rapidly.
“Our digital approach to collaboration was nothing short of a transformation—and many of our employees were unfamiliar with social tools,” says Packer. “To encourage our people to embrace the new way of working, we looked to shape seamless user experiences for IBM Connections Cloud.”
Making employees feel at home
To help employees hit the ground running with IBM Connections Cloud, Mears Group augmented its platform with workplaceON—an intuitive user interface for IBM Connections developed by IBM Business Partner Opus Neo.
Packer comments: “Not only was workplaceON the most cost-effective of the solutions we considered, it also offered us the shortest time to market. We showed Opus Neo an example of the kind of user journey we wanted to create, and their team delivered a compelling demonstration environment in just two weeks.”
Working together with Opus Neo, Mears Group designed an enhanced user experience for its IBM Connections Cloud solution. Named MearsConnect, the new front-end is driven by an on-premises deployment of workplaceON running on IBM Domino®.
“One of the things we appreciate most about workplaceON is how easy it makes it for people to get started with IBM Connections,” says Packer. “Once a user logs into MearsConnect for the first time, they’re asked to enter their name, upload a picture of themselves and choose some of their interests from a list. In the background, workplaceON automatically creates their personal profile in IBM Connections, and subscribes them to leaders and digital communities that match their interests—ensuring that from the moment someone logs in, they’re seeing relevant, compelling content on their social feed.”
MearsConnect is fully integrated with the company’s systems for single-sign-on, work order management and absence reporting, enabling employees to access all the resources they need from a single point.
“Whether our people are working in the office or out in the field, MearsConnect makes it easy to access the tools they need to do their job effectively,” Packer continues. “For example, one of our remote employees might start her day by opening up the app on her mobile device and opening a link to one of our newsletters on her feed. After liking and sharing the newsletter with one of her digital communities in IBM Connections, she can switch seamlessly to our work order management system to receive her jobs for the day—all without leaving the app.”
He adds: “For office employees logging into the desktop version of MearsConnect, we use the additional screen space available to display rich content such as live updates, as well as a sidebar with links to frequently used resources such as company policies and forms.”
With a user experience that mirrors the familiar look and feel of social media, Mears Group is helping inexperienced users get started with minimal support.
“We want every employee to feel like they have a voice, and empowering them to engage with our leaders on MearsConnect has proven an extremely effective way to achieve that goal,” comments Packer. “At the touch of a button, people can upload photos, post blogs and engage in discussions with our decision-makers—all without any formal training.”
Helping communities flourish
With a seamless user experience for its MearsConnect platform, Mears Group is achieving its goal of attracting thousands of employees from all parts of the organization to embrace its business social network.
“In the first quarter we launched MearsConnect, more than 1,300 people signed up for new accounts every month,” says Packer. “That positive trend has continued, and after our first year we’ve successfully grown our user community by more than 2,000 percent—a testament to how easy MearsConnect is to use, and how valuable the platform is to our people. In fact, just under 50 percent of our entire business are logging into the platform every single day.”
By creating a space for distributed employees to engage with peers they might not otherwise meet in their day-to-day work, Mears Group is strengthening its tight-knit company culture.
“In the past, we could only reach out to around 20 percent of our workforce with our email newsletters—but thanks to our MearsConnect mobile app, that’s all changed,” comments Packer. “Today, our people are sharing the community work they do inside and outside the company in digital communities, blogs and photo albums, helping to inspire their peers to join in.
“For example, some of our employees recently organized a bake sale, and the hashtag for the event quickly started trending on MearsConnect. As well as encouraging friendly competition between different departments to raise money for a good cause, events like these really help build a strong sense of community across the business, which goes to the heart of everything we do.”
With relevant, personalized content on every employee’s social feed, Mears Group is encouraging greater interaction with company news and executive blogs.
“When you empower your audience to comment on content rather than just passively consuming it, you really start to capture their attention,” explains Packer. “We’ve already seen a 15-fold increase in the time people spend engaging with content published to IBM Connections Cloud, which is helping us to keep our people engaged and informed with the goals of the company.”
Looking ahead, Mears Group plans to build on its success with workplaceON by adding new capabilities.
“Initially, we intended to use workplaceON as a tactical solution to attract users to our IBM Connections Cloud platform—but it’s delivered so much more,” says Packer. “The front end is so easy to use that we’re encouraging even novice users to start using advanced social tools such as collaborative filesharing with IBM Connections Files on Cloud and virtual conferencing using IBM Connections Meetings Cloud.”
He continues: “We’re also very interested in exploring new use cases, particularly for our mobile app. For example, we’d ultimately like to enable on-site employees who want advice or guidance about a particular maintenance issue to be able to take a picture of the component using their mobile, post the question in a community, and receive an answer from another expert in the business in real time.
“We see that our mobile app is only going to grow in popularity as time goes on, and we’re preparing to release a new version with support for push notifications and fingerprint authentication—further streamlining the user experience.”
Packer concludes: “We see that engaged employees go the extra mile—both for their colleagues and their clients. Thanks to workplaceON, we’re building a thriving community in IBM Connections Cloud—helping every employee stay engaged wherever they’re working.”
About Mears Group
Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Gloucester, England, Mears Group is a leading social housing repairs and maintenance provider. Employing almost 20,000 people in every region of the UK, the company maintains, repairs and upgrades the homes of hundreds of thousands of people, and provides domiciliary care services to around 30,000 people a year.
- Connections Cloud (SaaS)
- ESS: Connections Files Cloud (SaaS)
- ESS: Connections Meetings Cloud (SaaS)
- ESS: IBM Verse (SaaS)
- ICS: Domino
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Connections Cloud, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/marketplace/enterprise-social-collaboration
Headquartered in Hørsholm, Denmark, Opus Neo offers enhancements for IBM collaboration solutions that help businesses drive user adoption, integrate with systems of engagement and maximize the value of their technology investments. To learn more about products and services from Opus Neo, please visit: opusneo.com