Transforming Employee Communications without Reinventing the Wheel


How do you create a great customer experience? You start by keeping your frontline workers happy, enthusiastic, and engaged with your brand. After all, they’re the people who deal directly with your customers. But how do you build excitement and loyalty within your organization?

The answer might surprise you: Effective communication is the foundation of an energized workforce that provides outstanding service to your customers. 

I’m the COO of Elkjøp Nordic, a leading electronic and mobile communications services retailer that employs over 12,000 people at more than 400 locations in seven countries and are owned by Curry UK. I’ve been with the company since 2005, starting at our customer care center and moving through retail sales, store management, our Norwegian back office, and finally, our corporate headquarters. My time and many roles within the company have given me direct insight into our multifaceted operations and the needs of employees serving various functions within the company. 

Changing Our Static Communication Approach

When I moved to our corporate headquarters in 2017, employee communicvations were static and flowed from the top down. We sent out newsletters and posted content to our company intranet, but there was no formalized system for hearing from our employees. Our senior managers and corporate executives were invisible to our frontline staff, apart from when we made store visits. There were no mechanisms to engage retail employees or gather feedback about how we ran the business. 

That lack of engagement was very noticeable. When we sent an email blast or post a blog entry, we’d notice that 22 people read it—meaning that 3,920 Norwegian employees didn’t read it. A failure to communicate with everyone was a failure of leadership, and we needed a way to reach every member of our organization. 

Instead of reinventing the wheel, we looked at what already worked. Nearly 70% of our employees are 20–40 years old, and they all frequently consume social media content. Since our corporate intranet wasn’t reaching them, we decided to communicate with them on their terms. That’s why we chose Workplace, Meta’s communication tool that looks and feels like the popular social media platform they’re already using. 

Launching Workplace is one of the smartest things we have done when it comes to getting feedback and engagement from colleagues.

Although Workplace mirrors Facebook’s functionality, it’s a proper corporate communications platform where management creates an effective environment for all employees. We didn’t want to overload people with information, so we had conversations around which groups were open to everyone, which were open to people across teams, and which were restricted to specific users within the workforce. We struggled with these questions at first, but through trial, error, and experience over the last five years, we refined our Workplace community. 

Creating Transparency and an Open Dialogue

Our primary goal in rolling out Workplace was to create an interactive forum that gave Elkjøp Nordic’s frontline workers a voice within the larger company and allowed them to offer feedback and engage with our leaders. Once we rolled out the initial groups, we started experimenting with different types of content. 

A few weeks after we deployed Workplace, I was in the United States and experienced a remote Q&A for the first time. I was so impressed with the experience I immediately emailed our communication manager and asked if we could do something similar in Workplace. 

I wanted to invite everyone in the company and allow them to ask me questions. I also decided to host guests from the back office and our retail stores to discuss their everyday work lives. The final format was one or two topics of interest, like a store employee talking about frontline customer service or an IT staffer updating employees on a new login procedure. These sessions were followed by 15 minutes when anyone could ask me anything. 

I was surprised by the frankness of some of the questions. Most were business related, but some were very personal: How do you spend your weekends? Would you quit tomorrow if you were offered a job with a lot more money? Sharing my answers showed frontline workers that I wasn’t just another faceless executive, strengthening their bond with the company. 

When frontline workers feel they know management well, it’s easier to approach them with feedback.

I also started posting about my workdays or sharing videos of my activities once or twice a week. Everyone in the company could follow what I was doing, whether I was speaking at a conference, visiting a store, or handling administrative duties at our headquarters. Again, my openness helped our frontline workers see that Elkjøp Nordic managers aren’t invisible and what our responsibilities are. 

Evolving Our Groups and Our Culture

Over time, our Workplace groups evolved. We have 13,000 employees using the platforms. There’s a national group for every country, a store group for every location, a customer center group, and the global group for everyone. We also have special groups that focus on specific functions within the company and building a stronger corporate culture. 

Our Elkjøp Proud group is one such example. It’s a place where frontline workers can cheer each other on while sharing positive stories about colleagues and customers. Another group, Elkjøp Ideas, invites frontline employees to submit suggestions to improve their workdays and the customer experience. We take the best of these ideas, evaluate them, provide feedback, run trials, and incorporate the successful ones into our workflows. The Ideas group gives all our people a stake in the company. 

While employee feedback is mostly positive, I’ve also learned to embrace negative comments and criticism. Although we curate content in our company-wide and national groups, we don’t moderate comments. At the same time, regional and store groups are free to set their own rules and invite whomever they want to join. As a result, people feel free to speak their minds, and sometimes they bring up unpleasant issues we must confront—we take those comments to evaluate and assess just as we do with the positive feedback. 

Frontline workers use Workplace frequently, and we’ve seen them engage in ways we never expected. It used to be that if a retail employee didn’t know an answer to a customer question, they’d have to tell the customer, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” Now, many of them will quickly post the question in the relevant group on Workplace, and their colleagues will respond within a few minutes. We’ve empowered our employees to get answers faster and easier, which means our customers get the answers faster and easier. 

We also see better cooperation between retail stores and the customer centers, because now they also have their own groups. So when we have big launches, we can inform those groups, which offers context for those customer center workers.

We use Workplace for non-work-related communication, too. We recently used Workplace to fundraise for children’s cancer research in Norway. We asked our employees to share pictures dressed in their favorite football club jerseys, wear their team colors to work, and solicit donations from colleagues and customers. Thousands of frontline workers answered the call, and Elkjøp Nordic collected much-needed funds for the cause by celebrating the beautiful game. 

A Space to Have Difficult Conversations

We’ve used Workplace to improve engagement, highlight positive communication, and encourage upfront feedback, and in doing so, we created a space where we could have tough conversations as well. We expect a high level of honesty in Workplace, and that honesty helped Elkjøp Nordic navigate the COVID-19 crisis. 

At the height of Norway’s government-mandated lockdown, we had to close 50 stores and temporarily lay off 1,000 employees. Rather than send a mass email to notify our employees, I chose to have this conversation during a live Q&A. Facing employees, even remotely, reassured them that Elkjøp Nordic had their best interests in mind and their jobs would be returning. People want honesty, even when the truth is hard to hear. People messaged me privately, thanking me for being so upfront about the decision—even if they didn’t like it. 

Our willingness to have a face-to-face conversation with our frontline workers created a bond between our head office and employees when pandemic measures kept us apart. 

Giving Everyone a Voice

Workplace has given our frontline workers a voice. They feel a greater connection to the company, reflected by increased scores on our annual employee engagement survey. They are also engaging with each other to answer customer questions, ask for tech support, and discuss best practices. The result is an empowered workforce and an improved in-store experience for Elkjøp Nordic customers.

Frontline workers are the most important people in a company. You need to take good care of them and listen to what they actually have in their hearts.

Workplace has also given Elkjøp Nordic a voice as a customer. We were an early adopter of the platform and passed on feedback from our users about missing features. They listened and reacted to our input and have added many of the requested functionalities over the last five years. 

They say that honesty is the best policy. Workplace has shown me that this is true. If you open up to your frontline workers and give them the freedom to share their thoughts about your company, you can have conversations that will move your business forward.