Employee engagement soars as Shell energizes internal communication with Office 365
Royal Dutch Shell is an international energy company that strives to deliver more and cleaner energy solutions for its customers around the world. To help engage and unite its 84,000 employees to achieve this goal, Shell deployed Microsoft Office 365 and used Microsoft Stream, Yammer, and SharePoint Online to communicate with employees in a more personalized and collaborative way, grow thriving internal communities, and revitalize its intranet. These changes empower staff to generate interactive, impactful communications that drive corporate allegiance, productivity, and innovation.
When Ben van Beurden assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at Royal Dutch Shell, Shell employees around the world were introduced to him through an informal video chat program called Table Talk. This popular Shell series provides a casual forum for discussion and lighthearted personal anecdotes that offer an authentic, relatable impression of high-level executives for employees. Table Talk epitomizes the corporate communication strategy at Shell where, according to David Harrington, Vice President of Internal Communications, the company is moving from mass communications to a more personal, conversational approach: “We want employees to be able to have conversations with their supervisors and with their peers in ways that are very intentional. We find that video is an extremely important and impactful medium.”
So, for example, once a year on Safety Day, Shell employees reflect on safety in their workplace by creating and watching videos that express Shell values and milestones in the field. In addition to using video to promote safety, employees regularly publish “how to” videos, such as “How to Create a Business Continuity Plan,” or use their smartphones to film best practices, such as using a new tool at a worksite, and upload them to Yammer. Employees also use Yammer to share a successes story and acknowledge colleagues.
Business case for engaging communications
Corporate conversations are flourishing among 84,000 Shell employees since the company deployed Microsoft Office 365 and began updating its digital communications platform. To modernize its communication channels, Shell uses three integrated Office 365 communication apps: Microsoft Stream, an enterprise video service; SharePoint Online, a content collaboration repository; and Yammer, a corporate social network. The result is a better informed, cohesive organization where employees feel more connected with their colleagues and with Shell business goals, strategies, and priorities.
“The more we use tools like Microsoft Stream, Yammer, and SharePoint Online, the better we can harness the collective power of our global talent,” says Harrington. “These communication channels help to drive engagement and productivity to improve customer service and help provide more and cleaner energy solutions. Our top priority is to ensure that all employees are aligned with our strategy and that they understand what their unique contribution is to that strategy.”
Shell deployed Microsoft Office 365 in July 2017 to introduce a modern workplace that’s more integrated, agile, and mobile. With business verticals that cover every aspect of the energy industry, Shell employees can be found working in more than 70 countries—in offices, on oil rigs, research centers, and retail stations. Deploying a standard suite of cloud productivity services to corporate and Firstline Workers everywhere creates a foundation for collaboration and productivity. “Office 365 provides a suite of integrated tools,” says Lainie Forde, IT Business Analyst at Shell. “The fact that Office 365 includes productivity tools like Stream and Yammer means we can provide solutions that the business needs in a more cost-effective and holistic way, without the need for customization.”
Cindy Vosselman, Internal Communications Advisor at Shell, includes among the company’s core communication channels: a corporate intranet, news publishing tool, content management system, and video platform. “Internal communications are crucial for supporting the delivery of Shell business goals, priorities, and strategies,” she says. “The more our communications engage our workforce, the more successful we will be as a company. Stream and Yammer present a great opportunity for us to further drive engagement.”
Accessible, integrated video solution
Shell chose Stream over other video platforms because it offered a more secure way to use video with an intuitive user interface and built-in intelligent capabilities that unlock video content for viewers. These capabilities include autogenerated speech-to-text audio transcriptions, deep search across transcripts, and closed captioning. Shell created a new intranet solution called the Hub, which takes advantage of the interoperability between Stream and other Office 365 apps such as Yammer and SharePoint Online, so employees can add video into the context of every conversation or digital workspace.
“It’s really great to see how all the Microsoft tools that we have work together,” says Vosselman. “On our new home page, we embedded Yammer and Stream. At one glance, people can see their Yammer feed and their videos, which is a great solution to improve our productivity.”
“It only takes a couple of clicks to embed Stream videos in SharePoint sites and Yammer conversations,” adds Forde. “And when people realized that you can easily publish recorded presentations and slides directly to Stream from Microsoft PowerPoint, they got really excited about how much faster and easier they can create ‘how to’ and best practice videos.”
Because closed captions are automatically generated and editable in Stream, Shell no longer has to send the work out or pay external agencies to create them. When Forde and Vosselman provided a Stream demo for a colleague who is hard of hearing, he was thrilled with the built-in audio transcription feature and closed captioning functionality. “Normally, we would have had to request the transcription service, but when we saw it in action right there on the screen, we knew this feature would be a win with employees—and help us meet accessibility guidelines,” says Forde.
For a global corporation where employees speak different languages and use a lot of corporate lingo, the ability to easily edit video captions saves the company time and money. Shell used to rely on a third-party provider to capture and edit captions, but now it can be handled within the Stream interface, minimizing the risk of error. “We are very particular about our corporate terminology, for example, the business area “Downstream” is always capitalized,” says Forde. “Our professional in-house Shell video team is very happy that they can write or edit the captions themselves. It’s important to get it right when you are producing content that represents the company.”
Employees also like the better performance they experience with Stream, along with the opportunity to use a variety of file formats. Today, everyone can upload files without worrying about size, speed rate, or quality. And thanks to the ability to easily navigate video content and set up custom groups or channels, employees can easily find videos that are most important to them.
Connecting to the messages that matter
Business stakeholders now have more control of the messaging from their business within Shell; however, the company also wanted a way for all employees to contribute in their authentic voice, without limiting the content they could share. Today, there are 11 corporate channels in Stream that correspond to Shell businesses and functional areas: Upstream, Downstream, Integrated Gas & New Energies, Human Resources, IT, and Finance are a few examples. Each channel is managed by Internal Communications Advisors, who create and disseminate videos across Stream and on the Shell Hub intranet—either to a central area on the home page or to an intranet page for each business area. “The upload function in Stream makes it easy to share videos internally using automatically updated metadata,” says Forde. “Now you can easily find videos by using the intelligent search capabilities for subjects or topics and it’s so fast.”
A twelfth channel, called the Shell Global Community Channel, is available for everyone in the company to upload their videos to Stream. From there it’s a simple process to select the Global Community Channel. “We added a quick reference that explains how to upload your video, but Stream is very intuitive,” says Vosselman. “The global community channel is a great venue for our employees to tell personal stories and build on our collegiate culture.”
Shell employees can share videos in several ways with Microsoft Stream. “We can share directly to Yammer, which is great because it means the conversation can continue on multiple platforms,” says Forde. “We can also embed a video onto our intranet pages, or SharePoint sites, which is a really popular feature.”
Shell posts hundreds of videos every month to the corporate and employee channels. It all adds up to a more pervasive video platform that’s generating a better connection to colleagues and corporate strategies. “I think the global ease of access to our videos today renders them more valuable as a tool in our communications strategy,” says Vosselman. “Thanks to the immersive nature of a video, we are well on our way to engaging more people with more content than ever before.”
Enriches corporate communities
Today, more than 79,000 Shell employees use the Yammer social network, with an average of 4,000 employees joining each month for the past year and a half. “We have seen a 470 percent increase in Yammer adoption since we launched the solution,” says Vosselman. “This organic growth of Yammer is really impacting collaboration and knowledge sharing across our business.”
Today, almost 5,000 Yammer groups have been created. Many corporate groups have formed Yammer communities where they curate global conversations and create sustained engagement. For example, one group called Fit for the Future fosters discussion about how employees can ensure that Shell drives efficiency and lower costs to stay “fit” to succeed in a rapidly evolving business climate. “For these corporate groups, we prompt the conversation through an editorial calendar whereby a senior leader will introduce new topics that keep everyone interested,” says Harrington. “Senior leaders use Yammer to amplify their voice, show leadership qualities, and introduce company dialogue at scale. It’s also a fantastic way for leaders to gain insight into what the organization is thinking about.”
Employees and Firstline Workers have taken to Yammer to break down geographical and hierarchical boundaries, share their stories, and brainstorm ideas through open conversations that drive spontaneous innovation across the company. For example, when a real estate manager within the Integrated Gas business division asked for help in understanding how he could use Shell’s portfolio for new energy pilots and opportunities, someone from the Solar Team responded. “This conversation resulted in Shell pursuing an exciting opportunity to install solar arrays on two acres of vacant land at the new technology center in Bengaluru, India,” says Vosselman. “At Shell, finding cleaner forms of energy is a top priority. This installation will contribute to the site achieving zero carbon emissions.”
Amplifies global connections
The combination of Stream, Yammer, and SharePoint Online helps to unify globally dispersed teams. Now that Firstline Workers can use the Yammer mobile app on their phones to create and post videos to conversations, there’s no impediment to real-time conversations. “It’s with these conversations that we generate new ideas,” says Vosselman.
Global knowledge sharing is particularly valuable for Firstline Workers who now have a new solution for connecting with the rest of the organization. “Shift workers at night on a rig off the coast of Australia can now reach out with problems or share successes,” says Harrington. “They use Yammer to document a problem and alert the next shift. They can say, ‘We struggled with this overnight, does anybody else somewhere in the world have a solution to this issue?’ It’s extremely powerful.”
Whether it’s someone in a refinery solving an issue or at a marine facility developing a more efficient workflow—with Stream and Yammer, Shell employees have the tools they need to share their knowledge with the broader organization. “If we can get 84,000 employees collectively pushing in the same direction through an environment where they can find answers and help solve problems, we’ll be more engaged and productive as we work toward a successful future for Shell,” concludes Harrington.
The views expressed in this case study and video are a testimonial based on current experience, and not an endorsement. Others may not have the same experience/results.