A Master Class in Collaboration and Connectivity: Employee Engagement in a Remote World
One of the best ways to engage people is to tell them a story. Storytelling has become vital to companies as they refine messaging to reach their audience and help that audience see themselves as part of the brand’s story.
I joined Euroclear four years ago as a consultant. Today, I’m the Head of Internal and Change Communication. My role was largely to develop and share Euroclear’s brand story and identity using the traditional tools of a typical corporate communications department. The hope was that by doing so, we would unify our employees in different departments and regions and increase their sense of belonging.
But finding a way to connect with people and encourage them to feel pride in the organization wasn’t that simple and it was even more challenging as everyone moved to working from home.
The Search for Connection
Euroclear is a 50-year-old global financial market infrastructure company with headquarters in Belgium. We specialize in settling securities transactions, and the safekeeping and asset servicing of these securities. We hold assets of more than €30 trillion and settle transactions worth over €837 trillion per year. Our employees are spread across the world and many have been working in the Brussels head office for decades.
Having grown partly through the acquisition of local CSDs (Central Securities Depositories), Euroclear remained rather decentralised and internal communications struggled to create a collective identity and story. With so many locations, markets, and divisions, we were all on very different pages in terms of our day-to-day realities, and found ourselves disconnected at times.
We were also in very different places culturally. Traditionally, our employees were more comfortable with one-way communications, cascading information level by level. Email itself was the main modern method of communication, particularly amongst senior and executive leadership. There was a lack of transparent communication at the Group level, and fear of innovation. All of this had a direct impact on employee engagement and connection to the company.
Euroclear had grown and become successful pretty much under the radar, but a strong employer brand was becoming crucial and our communications needed to be overhauled. We needed to find our connection points to each other and to the business from a Group perspective to progress as one team.
Laying the Foundation for Secure and Robust Solutions
In the summer of 2019, Euroclear adopted for secure online meetings and Jabber for secure, multichannel collaboration. Working with more sophisticated digital tools was still new to many of our employees, so we decided to partner with the team at Cisco CX to help us address any adoption barriers and ensure successful implementation.
The adoption team communicated to our end users through emails, training sessions, and webinars. Using Cisco release notes, they made sure we knew of all relevant features or capabilities, and we also received assistance through our Webex CSM, who provided us with additional key information. The team used CH to monitor usage and they also hosted a monthly meeting, during which strategies were discussed with the technical and the adoption teams.
Apart from the enhanced collaboration tools Cisco offered, their security expertise is paramount to us. Euroclear deals with a lot of confidential data and we experience cyber threats each day. So it’s reassuring to know that Meetings complies with the highest security standards, and we can communicate company information internally while staying safe and secure.
When the global pandemic forced us to move everyone to a work-from-home model, we luckily already had the Cisco collaboration tools in place to help keep our company connected. If anything, the pandemic accelerated adoption of our new collaborative tools. People had no choice but to embrace them, and we started to see a change in the way people approached communication.
But in this new remote work world, connection wasn’t enough; we also needed to keep employees engaged. That’s when we decided to set up a virtual company town hall.
Transforming a Company Tradition
Every two years, we have a major meeting at the Expo Hall in Brussels. Typically, our 2,000 local employees gather in person, and the rest of our 4,000 employees from around the world connect via satellite to watch major company presentations. It’s one of the rare opportunities that our Management Committee addresses the entire company directly, which makes it a pretty major event. We were planning our June 2020 event when we went into lockdown.
Everything that we put in place for that event completely crumbled—but we were adamant that we should still do something to bring everybody together. We chose to keep the same date and run the event virtually instead.
In addition to Meetings and Jabber, we had also recently adopted Microsoft Office. We explored using Microsoft Events for the town hall, but didn’t have the right infrastructure in place yet. Then we realized that using Cisco solutions for our town hall made a lot of sense—Cisco guaranteed secure connections, we had the foundations in place, we had an existing relationship, and they already got the thumbs up from our IT team. At Euroclear we were all excited with the prospect of moving forward with the project, and Cisco CX took on the challenge to design and deliver our event with only a couple of months at their disposal.
We wanted to host the event from a television studio in Brussels. We needed 4,000 employees to connect remotely, and we also needed several simultaneous broadcast streams. Cisco CX was responsible for setting up those streams and testing them, making sure all of our employees could connect to the broadcast in a stable and safe environment.
The CX team provided incredible support. They were honest about the challenges of our situation—such as working within a TV studio as opposed to solely on a virtual platform—and offered suggestions to help us achieve the desired result. Communication was key; the CX team spoke to us openly and regularly, coming to us with solutions, not problems or concerns. They told us what we needed to know, when we needed to know it, so we all were aware of our respective responsibilities. Those weeks were stressful, but because of Cisco CX’s efficiency and communication strategy, we got to the finish line.
Engaging People a World Away
The town hall event was an amazing master class in collaboration and we got great feedback from our attendees. We utilized a mix of live and pre-recorded presentations hosted at the TV studio. We also incorporated interactive elements using Slido. The broadcast was so smooth that many people thought it was entirely pre-recorded until they were told they could participate in real time.
When we announced the event format, we all knew it wouldn’t be like a typical Meetings rooms where you can see and chat with everyone in attendance. But attendees loved it. It was as if they were in front of a television while simultaneously connecting with each other via Slido. They loved that interactive element, and the live results of voting and other Slido actions. The broadcast element worked in everyone’s favor; no one was bothered by anyone’s background noise and there was no need to go on mute. It enabled all of us to focus completely on the content and without any distractions.
About 2,200 employees joined our first town hall, and it was such a success that we hosted two more town halls, delivered to 2,600 attendees and 2,200 attendees, respectively. We’ve now created a distinct difference between an event and a communications push. A communication push is passive, and employees feel that information is being forced onto them; an event is active, and employees feel compelled to engage and interact with the company.
For future town halls, we plan to increase the interactive elements and gamify participation. Our last event featured a quiz, and participants could win prizes at the end. A leaderboard was on display throughout the event, and that held everyone’s attention and incentivized participation. It was a fun way to foster engagement, and again, people loved it.
Creating Connections Like Never Before
Connection has been our goal from the beginning. We have to bring everybody together, connecting them to the organization and to each other. We’ve made that happen by ensuring our employees are attending the same event at the same time, watching and reacting to the same thing, regardless of where they are.
The willingness and openness of the Cisco CX team has made this a dream partnership. They listened to us in order to truly understand our unique needs. With this foundation in place, we’re expanding the scope of our events. In addition to the large town halls, we want to develop a radio or TV channel that will create even more points of contact with our community.
To us, these new types of events reflect our new way of working. We’re not all going to go back to the office. Instead, we're going to work in a hybrid or activity-based format, only heading to the office for specific reasons, such as certain in-person meetings or conferences. That means we’ll have to maintain engagement when people are working remotely, in the office, and anywhere in between. We’re much better prepared to do that now.
Hybrid events have also become the norm for us. Once people return to offices, Euroclear still intends to propose a mix of virtual/physical events. To support this, we renewed our contract with Cisco for 36 months, with an increase of the Events license.
Making the Magic Happen with Cisco CX
With these digital meeting spaces and town halls, Euroclear has undergone a big shift. Today, we have an average of 74 meetings a month via Meetings, with an average of 291 meeting participants. We’ve seen a clear transformation in attitudes toward technology, and our employees now have a better sense of Euroclear’s purpose, goals, and how they fit into that narrative.
Cisco CX made magic happen for us. These digital broadcasts have become such an integral part of our engagement strategy that they're becoming our new normal and will accompany us in our new working world.
Working with Cisco CX has not only made it easier to communicate with our employees, but they’ve helped us truly demonstrate what it means to be connected to something bigger than yourself. That’s a company story we’re proud to tell.