How does a growing nonprofit organization with 52 sites across greater Vancouver engage and support employees? And how can this nonprofit prove without a doubt that a new intranet would improve efforts to share information and support staff in their roles?
About Coast Mental Health
Coast Mental Health (CMH) is a Vancouver, BC based non-profit that supports people living with mental health challenges by providing housing, support services, education, and employment.
Coast Mental Health has grown rapidly over the last five years (In 2018 alone, they recruited approximately 200 employees). Of their 779 employees, Only 50 employees work in the head office, while 729 are distributed across 52 different facilities. The majority of CMH’s front-line employees are deskless and remote. Many employees are also part-time, or casual workers, who work various shifts and require access to company information 24/7.
CMH needed a new and successful way of increasing communication and collaboration across locations (they previously relied on email and shared network drives to collaborate and communicate with employees). CMH also required a way to connect all employees—office and remote—to critical organizational policies and procedures.
As a nonprofit, CMH was very diligent about any technology they would choose to move their organization forward.
An audit of inefficiencies
Before embarking on any technology enhancements for the organization, CMH had to first identify any operational inefficiencies across the organization. They needed to know if employees were spending too much time searching for information or subject matter experts, or if there were any areas where efficiencies could be made to better support employees.
To help with this, CMH engaged the services of Tangowork, a digital consulting firm that specializes in intranets, AI assistants, and systems for policies and procedures.
Tangowork began their research by interviewing CMH employees to understand their daily tasks. Tangowork then created detailed personas, and journey maps based on real people that displayed typical events happening in an employee’s day. While the amount of detail that went into this may appear excessive, it helped map out the exact solution CMH needed.
The next step involved a stakeholders meeting. Stakeholders examined the journey maps, reviewed business priorities, and determined the exact criteria they wanted in a potential new digital platform. They agreed any potential solution would need to provide:
- A community space where employees can access tools and resources to support their role/ function within the organization.
- A knowledge hub and storage for corporate intelligence.
- A centralized information repository to avoid work duplication.
- The ability to keep staff informed on a daily basis.
- An opportunity to empower employees to transfer knowledge across the organization.
- A two-way interactive space for real-time conversations.
A new intranet also needed to tie into CMH’s corporate strategic plan which includes two major focuses. An external focus of transforming lives in the mental health community, and an internal focus of creating and sustaining a culture of excellence.
ThoughtFarmer: A winning solution
After a thorough search of intranet software solutions, a team of power users tested out a couple of intranet vendors in a technology shoot-out. The team performed tasks using two software platforms over the span of a month. The power users then came together and voted 93% in favor of using ThoughtFarmer.
The CMH team was also impressed by the elegant user interface of the ThoughtFarmer platform. “Both the viewing and editing interface are truly simple and beautiful. Tremendous attention to the details is noticeable throughout the interface, from the typography to the iconography to the imagery,” said Susan Hancock Senior Manager, Communications & Community Development.
Tangowork assisted Coast Mental Health with setting up their new ThoughtFarmer intranet, which they named Coast Connect. Tangowork helped CMH migrate current information to the intranet, create new content, and create areas to inspire future user contributions.
To ensure employee buy-in was high, CMH invited 15 employees to participate in a superuser program. Identifying internal champions across the organization is useful for helping build momentum and driving acceptance. The superusers agreed to be champions of the platform, offering training to staff, or by creating and managing department pages.
Satisfying regulatory requirements
As a healthcare organization, employees are required to follow many regulations and healthcare industry standards. This means Coast Mental Health’s most up-to-date SOPs (standard operating policies) had to be readily accessible to employees at all locations. SOPs are critical at Coast Mental Health not only because of the delicate nature of their work but also because they are a prerequisite for health accreditation.
Over 200 SOPs are now managed on Coast Connect. Employees can access all policies through the search option of the site, or by creating quick links to policies that relate to specific employee business activities. Although most employees cannot edit an SOP, they can all add comments with questions or suggested changes.
A hub for COVID-19 information
On March 17, 2020, CMH executed its emergency pandemic plan company wide, forcing them to truly put their intranet to the test. “We used Coast Connect to create easy to access daily updates, Q&A forums, protocols, and resources to stay in touch with employees and clients in a very challenging situation. The functionality of the ThoughtFarmer platform made it easy to create content and distribute information to staff in a timely manner,” said Susan.
When anxieties are high and information is frequently changing, staff are put at ease knowing their employer is providing them with tools and resources to keep them safe. “Sometimes it’s as simple as regular touchpoints that allow leadership to keep everyone up-to-date, or an opportunity to show their appreciation for all the extra efforts staff are making to keep everyone safe,” added Susan. “In a pandemic it’s not easy to have these conversations in person, but with the ThoughtFarmer platform, we were able to ramp up quickly to support clients and staff.”
CMH uses a ThoughtFarmer feature called FormFlow. FormFlow allows organizations to create custom forms that easily capture data with an approval process.
By using FormFlow CMH can specify the data fields to support ongoing safety standards and auditing processes across the organization, thereby building new operational efficiencies.
Prior to Coast Connect, CMH relied on a generic and extensive four-page Word document for incidents and near-misses. It was a catch-all form that covered a number of safety requirements, but was not effective in capturing specific data for analysis.
Coast Connect is owned and governed by employees, not the communications department. Guidance and feedback is provided, but employees are encouraged to be accountable for the pages/content created.
This approach has led to excellent and unexpected intranet content. For example, one team created an e-learning safety module. Another employee assembled an e-learning module on violence prevention. Employee created content has emerged as some of the heaviest trafficked pages on their intranet.
While measuring success and obtaining an ROI is critical for every organization, it’s particularly important to nonprofits, who must have a tangible output to any technology acquired. For Coast Mental Health, it wasn’t an option to just launch an intranet and see what happens; it had to provide immediate and measurable value.
One way to ensure success of an intranet is to establish clear benchmarks prior to launching an intranet. CMH created clear benchmarks by conducting an employee survey. Questions asked revolved around employee communication, culture, and the challenge of locating information. Six months after deploying Coast Connect, these questions were asked again—this time with much different results with some metrics doubling.
“Coast Connect has been instrumental in keeping staff connected and informed, which is just one of the many characteristics that make up our employee engagement ratio,” said Susan.
The survey also helped CMH develop action items for further improvements to employee engagement. Without their intranet, it would have been challenging to identify these issues.
Another way CMH has measured success is through ThoughtFarmer Analytics, a built-in analytics feature that allows administrators to measure engagement from day one. Administrators can measure views vs users, as well as how many employees have read a particular post.
Fewer PDF and Word documents
Coast Connect has helped CMH reduce the quantity of PDF and Word documents. All documents, including frequently used SOPs, are now located on Coast Connect.They are now easier to read (especially on mobile), easier to search, easier to edit, and automatically version-controlled.
An exceptional org chart
CMH’s interactive org chart is now beautiful and functional, making it quick and easy to understand the organization and reporting structure. The staff directory is the most visited page on Coast Connect, receiving five times more views than any other page. Assisting with this engagement is a Staff Spotlight section on the homepage that introduces employees to each other by highlighting a different person every time a user visits the homepage.
CEO Darrell Burnham now connects frequently with staff by sending shout-outs on the intranet that recognize employees in a public forum. He also connects with employees through an annual New Year’s message and an article encouraging employees to use Coast Connect regularly.
A healthy future
Thanks to ThoughtFarmer, CMH employees are now connected to the information (including COVID-19 information) and people they need to do their jobs. Meanwhile, success stories and shout-outs have helped build a stronger community and culture. Lastly, accessible standard operating procedures ensure that CMH is meeting critical health and safety accreditation standards.
Thoughtfarmer has been instrumental in helping CMH build operational efficiencies for the growing non-profit. This ultimately allows the CMH employees to focus on their most important objective: client care.