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The 830 employees at Cummins Western Canada (CWC) sell, service and support the massive diesel engines that Cummins is famous for. With 14 branches from British Columbia to Ontario, CWC employees can be found performing maintenance on hospital back-up generators; replacing parts on massive earth-movers at remote mining sites; or calibrating the engines that power off-shore oil rigs.

Like most companies, CWC would like to capture and codify the wealth of knowledge that exists in their employees’ heads. But unlike most companies, CWC has chosen a surprisingly pragmatic way of doing so: stories. Get employees to tell their stories.

“We wanted to go beyond the one-way communication. We wanted employees to share their own stories.” —Wendy Kubota

“In the past, the Communications department had to find and tell the stories,” says Wendy Kubota, the Communications Lead who managed the initial ThoughtFarmer implementation. “We acted like the reporter. But we wanted to go beyond the one-way communication. We wanted employees to share their own stories, and then really start discussing them. How did an employee help support a strategy? How did they delight a customer?”

Kubota began a search for a technical platform that would support storytelling across all CWC locations. She focused on features like blogs, wikis, forums and comments. SharePoint looked like a strong candidate, but she was surprised when she couldn’t find any way to tailor SharePoint to her needs within her $200,000 budget. “And then my budget got halved!” says Kubota. “I spent a Saturday frantically Googling for an out-of-the-box intranet solution that would fall within my budget. And that’s when I found ThoughtFarmer.”

Cummins intranet home
Cummins’ ThoughtFarmer-powered intranet

Results with ThoughtFarmer exceed expectations

ThoughtFarmer provided CWC with an out-of-the-box storytelling platform, along with a Professional Services team for installation, configuration and training.

CWC’s ThoughtFarmer intranet launched in October 2012 and was an instant hit. Within hours they had received their first employee story.  It was submitted by the Customer Assistance Center in honor of their one-year anniversary, and it was the first of many.  “We were hoping for 2 real stories a month. Now we’re averaging 3 a week!” says Kubota.

Cummins intranet blog
Cummins’ intranet – first employee blog post!

Romana Osborne, CWC’s Communications Coordinator and self-described “guardian” of ThoughtFarmer, is careful to preserve the original tone of stories that are published. “If somebody submits a blog post in their voice, I might check it for mistakes, but I won’t change it or rewrite it, or try to make it sound more eloquent. I leave it the way it is, because I want it to sound like what it is: stories from real people.”

The “Our Voice” section of the intranet, which includes Employee Blogs and Community Forums, is one of the most frequently accessed sections of the site. Stories receive dozens of comments from employees.

Cummins intranet forum
Forum topics receive lots of comments

Using ThoughtFarmer to get stuff done

CWC’s ThoughtFarmer intranet, named “PowerZone,” goes beyond storytelling. Their team knew that for successful adoption they needed to draw people in by adding essential tools. “People are using ThoughtFarmer to do their job,” Osborne says.

“People are using ThoughtFarmer to do their job,” Osborne says.

For example, all policies and forms are now on their intranet. A section on employee health and safety is used by employees to complete mandatory safety tasks. As a result, over 70% of employees are accessing ThoughtFarmer daily, compared to 29% for the old one-way intranet it replaced.

Cummins intranet policies
Putting necessary procedures and forms in the intranet helps with adoption

The high adoption is especially impressive for an organization where many employees are working on shop floors and not in front of computers all day. Osborne’s efforts to educate users and to make ThoughtFarmer a safe and welcoming environment for participation have paid off. As users see that their opinions and voice are respected, they become more active on the site.

Cummins intranet page
Cummins employees use ThoughtFarmer to do their jobs

Using ThoughtFarmer to increase awareness

Jessica Nuttall, Cummins’ Health and Safety Coordinator, manages the extensive content in the health and safety section of their intranet. For North American Occupational Safety and Health week, she used ThoughtFarmer to generate awareness of the vital work they do.

“Employees’ kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews were invited to submit drawings of why their relatives should be safe at work,” says Nuttall. “We used ThoughtFarmer to organize the submissions by age, then we used its polling feature to vote for the favorite picture in each category.”

Cummins intranet contest
Health and Safety contest brought awareness and traffic to the department

The initiative had the highest participation rates of anything they’ve ever done on the intranet. At the end, they made a calendar out of the submissions and awarded prizes to all of the kids. But the biggest payoff was in awareness and recognition, both for the safety department and the important work they do, and of how content and community can come together in a single spot on the intranet.

Using ThoughtFarmer to boost employee engagement

Cummins is focusing 2014 on Employee Engagement and “Building the Right Environment.” Their ThoughtFarmer intranet plays a key role in that initiative.

“People are seeing what’s going on in other branches, what they’re doing, what they’re celebrating. They’re getting to know their coworkers better.” —Romana Osborne

“People are seeing what’s going on in other branches, what they’re doing, what they’re celebrating,” says Osborne. “They’re getting to know their coworkers better, even though we’re spread across several provinces.” Osborne provides an example. “Today I was introduced to a woman I’ve never met before, but I recognized instantly because she has a photo on her intranet profile. I could place her right off the bat. To me, that makes a huge difference.”

Cummins intranet engagement
Building the Right Environment and employee engagement are important to Cummins

ThoughtFarmer has provided CWC with an effective channel to share stories, spark conversations and recognize coworkers. It’s no surprise that CWC’s Net Promoter Score has gone up. “We’re creating a place people want to work at,” says Osborne. “And ThoughtFarmer is central to it all.”

“We’re creating a place people want to work at,” says Osborne. “And ThoughtFarmer is central to it all.”

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