Welcome to the OnSemble Coffee Hour – a series that brings to you the experience and the knowledge of successful intranet teams.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Laura Hale, VP of Marketing at Texas Medical Liability Trust who recently launched their new OnSemble Employee Portal. Laura is a results-driven communication professional with more than 16 years of progressive communication and management experience. She shares with us their journey of selecting and implementing the right intranet for their organization while ensuring adoption and long-term success. The following is our conversation with her.
Q. What tools did your organization use before OnSemble?
Laura: Prior to OnSemble, we had a homegrown intranet on WordPress which we used as a content management tool. However, we had a shared drive where we had all the documents. The intranet wasn’t being used in the last few years either because it was difficult to use or information was just not published in a timely manner. That led to a lack of participation from our employees, who wouldn’t go into the portal at all. This led to our decision to purchase an intranet platform that would ideally be easy and efficient to use for everyone. We wanted a tool that would be more than just a website to use. We needed a platform that was user-friendly.
Q. Once you identified the need for a new platform, who was involved in evaluating and selecting the right fit for Texas Medical?
Laura: Our team works closely with the IT department, they helped us evaluate intranets and eventually implementation. Our VP of IT was able to look at all the tools and narrow the selection. He arranged for the specific tools and demonstrations, for the entire team to see where we saw what OnSemble could do, after which our VP of IT recommended the use of OnSemble.
The marketing team helped IT with the selection process and then the marketing team worked in tandem with HR to structure the portal.
Q. Why is OnSemble the best fit for your organization?
Laura: What we liked was that it was effortless to use as far as training and populating content on there. We planned to have everyone in the organization – not just marketing and IT – use the intranet, and we wanted something that would be easy for everybody to be able to use. We wanted to ensure increased participation.
Q: How did the implementation of the OnSemble portal play out?
Laura: During the onset, it was mainly Marketing, HR, and IT who were jointly invested in the project. We then involved members from various departments in setting up a cross-functional team of intranet coordinators. This included one person from each department who would come together and talk about the tool, what they wanted to do with it and were basically in charge of developing content for their respective department. The coordinators also set up their own department pages within the intranet portal.
Q: Can you shed some light on your decision to form a cross-functional team?
Laura: We put together a cross-functional team so that each department could create and manage their respective pages – to ensure the portal addressed pressing issues for each team within the organization and to get an early buy-in. For example, someone in HR or Marketing wouldn’t know anything about the intricacies and day to day operations of the Claims Department, so to make it easier, we would assign that project to someone from the Claims department. We believe in effective communication and so interacting with employees from every department is the best way to start! Our OnSemble implementation manager at Passageways, Courtney also came down to Austin for onsite training to enable everyone to dive into the new portal.
Q. What role did the OnSemble implementation manager play?
Laura: We had a great working relationship with Courtney. She was supportive, helpful, and often went out of her way to help us make our portal great. For the technical questions, she was always prompt in connecting us with tech support, and so our problems were solved quickly. Courtney was very helpful in that she often made suggestions for us, as we got everyone involved in the process. The on-site training with everybody helped to get everybody on board and teach them tools so they could start creating their own pages and go from there. That was probably the most significant “aha moment” – just getting everybody in the room together to work together and get the pages done and have them there show us “hey we want to do this, and this is how you do it.” She definitely helped make us successful with the intranet.
Q. What parts of the portal do your employees most frequently us and how does OnSemble help you accomplish organizational goals?
Laura: Our top two tools would be the Employee Directory and Conversations. As for business value, our primary goal was to have the intranet be a communication tool for employees, kind of the one place where people can go and get everything they need. So, it’s got the latest news, all of our documents – and more importantly, its got the latest versions of those documents.
So, in addition to the communication feature, we also wanted to build a community and make it more of a social intranet, where people can interact and build community; that was a meaningful goal for the intranet. We wanted a tool that would allow people to self-serve and not be a burden on individual departments or teams.
Q. How would you say the employees have reacted to the new intranet? What was the feedback like after launch?
Laura: There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction around the portal. Everyone likes it and is talking about how it’s much easier to use than other intranets. They also seem to be enjoying the interactive features. They like being able to comment and post things on the portal.
Q. Having launched a successful intranet what would your advice be to other organizations looking for a successful rollout.
Laura: Think about how you want to structure everything. Do an outline. If you need to draw it out, think about what you wish the intranet to do firstly, who does it serve and what do your audience need. The next thing I would say is if you can try and involve someone from each department – that was really helpful. So definitely having a cross-functional team involved is essential. The third thing I would say is having an onsite training where our OnSemble Implementation Manager trained everybody, where we all sat together in a room for an entire day and worked together and shared ideas that was especially helpful. I think the training coupled with all the pre-planning helped to make the project a success and the involving people from lots of departments cross-functionally helps with adoption.
Q. What would you say to others who might possibly be considering OnSemble?
Laura: I think they should select OnSemble because it’s easy for everyone to use whether or not you have experience with intranet software or with website software, and you were able to teach people to use OnSemble. It is very very easy to get everyone kind of up to speed and I think that’s important for intranet because you want people to be able to post content and to interact in the comment so the easier the tool, the easier it’s going to be for your audience to use. And then also kind of the support that we received from passageways and their experience and everything else in helping us set up was also really really valuable and helpful. The willingness said to come down and train us and everything else and get us onboard and get us what we needed, the problem solving was also very very helpful.
Q. Lastly, did you have anything else to say to the Passageways team?
Laura: Nothing other than to say thank you! We really appreciated the team helping us and being patient with us throughout the entire process. We love our intranet. All in all, we’re very pleased with the service.