As workplaces continue to transition to remote work environments, the challenge of connecting and informing dispersed employees has increased. So what can we learn from a healthcare organization that leverages their intranet to keep employees united during this critical time?
VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) is a not-for-profit charitable organization that offers 24/7 health care and support services to people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. With over 3,000 employees, their caring team of professionals includes nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, personal support workers, home support workers, cleaners, social workers, dieticians, and speech language pathologists. They deliver the highest quality client support at home, in the community and in long-term care facilities.
As a healthcare organization, how they communicate during the pandemic is critical to not only their employees, but to the people they care for everyday.
A familiar challenge
Like a lot of organizations today, VHA’s workforce is largely remote. But unlike many businesses who have employees working from home, VHA’s employees are often not in front of a computer screen. Because their employees are personal support workers, nurses, and rehab therapists, they were working in people’s homes and in the community. This made it more challenging to consistently share company wide information and updates with employees.
To address their communication challenges, the communications team at VHA began researching potential intranet solutions. They investigated various options and conducted a rigorous environmental scan of the technology landscape that looked into intranet solutions used by other organizations within the healthcare industry.
After trying out a few different intranet solutions, VHA decided on ThoughtFarmer. “We felt the user interface and user experience on ThoughtFarmer was the best fit for our needs at the time, and we also felt the administration and the support features would be beneficial,” said Tracey Turriff, Senior Communications & PR Manager for VHA Home HealthCare.
For many organizations, new technology, like intranet software, is an enormous risk. What if employees don’t like it? Or even worse, what if they don’t use it? For VHA, this risk was especially high. Much of the staff worked remotely, and their experience with technology varied between each employee. This concerned Tracey as she wanted to ensure the transition to the new intranet would be as seamless as possible.
Tracey initiated an extensive communication and training campaign to get the word out as widely as possible about the benefits of a new intranet. She also ensured that the new intranet was as easy as possible for every employee to access.
For Tracey, failure wasn’t an option. “Given the investment of time and resources to build out this intranet project and the extent of the information and resources for the organization that are housed on the platform, a failure would have had a significant impact on our efficiency and ability to effectively communicate with our staff. It also could have caused an erosion of trust with our workforce given the extensive communications about the benefits of this platform,” said Tracey.
Keeping employees in the loop
VHA’s intranet, called The Loop, has allowed the healthcare organization to efficiently communicate and provide employees with access to important information and resources. Additionally, it supports effective collaboration by enabling teams to host and share a variety of documents efficiently, and in a way that ensures strong version controls. Version control is important for documents that undergo frequent revisions, and is particularly important for electronic documents as they can easily be changed by a number of different users.
The Loop provides VHA with a central location that everyone can access for organizational updates, training programs, and HR resources. “It is really our primary collaboration space for sharing information and documents for projects and programs,” said Tracey.
A ‘form-ula’ for success
One of the most recent features in ThoughtFarmer is FormFlow, an online form builder. FormFlow enables ThoughtFarmer users to build and manage forms (vacation requests, business card orders, volunteer sign-ups, employee surveys, address changes, benefits enrollments, etc.) directly within their intranet. This is particularly useful for organizations like VHA, who have dispersed and remote employees.
VHA was one of the first ThoughtFarmer users to benefit from FormFlow. They use it to receive internal requests departmental and employee requests, including:
Communications request form
The communications department at VHA supports departments and projects across the entire organization. To help organize this work, employees are asked to complete a form on The Loop that provides all of the necessary information for completing their request. Notifications are enabled on this form, which means Tracey receives an alert whenever a form is submitted. She can then quickly review the request and assign it to another team member, right from within the form. This team member then receives a notification that an item is pending. These forms created a notable increase in the team's efficiency, significantly reducing the need for a lot of back and forth communications.
Education team eModule form
Like a lot of organizations, VHA is committed to ongoing employee learning and development. Their Best Practice Education Team oversees the majority of the clinical training for the VHA employees and service providers. All employee training requests are now managed through FormFlow. This allows the team to review the information received and make the appropriate determination in moving forward.
Employee stories are a powerful force in shaping and strengthening workplace culture. For the communications team, having the ability to easily build out and share stories and information on The Loop has been extremely effective.
“We have a section on The Loop where we house department projects, which is a great way for us to share information across the team, and is also very helpful to be able to easily refer back to previous projects,” said Tracey. VHA has also built out a media library section where they house all their important photos and videos. “These tools make our workflow much more efficient,” added Tracey.
Creating a culture of recognition
When employees are as dispersed as VHA’s, it can be difficult to recognize and appreciate their contributions to the workplace.
ThoughtFarmer’s built-in employee recognition feature, known as Shout-outs, enables anyone across the organization to recognize contributions and share appreciation for a colleague. These Shout-outs appear on the homepage of The Loop for any and all to see. “It’s a great tool for employee recognition and allows us to demonstrate the value of everyone’s contributions,” said Tracey.
Acknowledging employee excellence and hard work is important because it creates a culture that promotes achievements and dedication. In the case of VHA, it sent a message that VHA values loyalty, and publicly recognizes the people who have contributed to their success.
Connecting employees in a pandemic
The Loop has been especially effective during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to many organizations around the world, VHA needed a central way to consolidate critical and time sensitive information. For a healthcare provider, this information was particularly critical.
VHA built out a full COVID-19 hub on The Loop to centralize all pandemic related information.This hub continues to be updated on a weekly basis as information evolves. “It is critically important for us to share timely, essential information with our staff and service providers, regarding the latest guidance from public health, screening procedures, personal protective equipment and more. The Loop has been our ‘go to’ for capturing all of these resources,” said Tracey.
The COVID-19 Hub has enabled VHA to see the potential of a ThoughtFarmer intranet, and inspired them to make similar sections on their intranet. “At the moment we remain focused on COVID-related communications, but further exploring the functionality of ThoughtFarmer is definitely a goal of mine for the future,” said Tracey.