Harbeer Sahota, Trade Engineer from Citizen

Citizen, one of the UK’s leading social housing providers, has transformed engagement amongst its 1,000 colleagues by creating a vibrant, interactive intranet that’s being used for daily storytelling. The Oneplace intranet, built using the Engage platform from Sorce, is now unrecognisable from two years’ ago when it was neglected and unloved. The changes have doubled employee engagement within just 18 months.

Over the past two years, Citizen – which has more than 30,000 homes across the West Midlands – has undergone great change, including a rebrand, a new group structure and fundamental changes to its operations. It was key for colleagues, many of whom were from legacy businesses and felt disconnected to Citizen, to be brought onboard with the changes and to begin to feel part of a supportive and inclusive team.

“At a time of great flux, Citizen’s internal communications function was almost non-existent” says Steve Hayes, Director of Communications at Citizen. “It was clear that a strong communications team was needed to inform, engage and inspire, and so I was brought into the organisation in 2018, and together with a new communications team, we began our journey to unite 1000 colleagues, including 400 remote workers.”

The internal communications strategy concentrated on bringing the Engage platform to life, making it an energetic hub for news, camaraderie and inspiration. With it being easy to use and agile, it was clear that Engage was the right platform for transforming internal communications at Citizen, however it had been largely neglected for many years. Rebranded to Oneplace, the platform was to become the ‘go to’ for information and insight, while connecting colleagues to the company’s culture, values and each other.

Storytelling soon became a big focus with 2-3 stories posted every day rather than a couple of times each month, with colleagues invited to tell their stories and share their experiences.

Hayes says “Ensuring everyone feels a sense of belonging at Citizen has become a priority. We now invite colleagues to share personal stories including ones to coincide with awareness days and religious festivals such as Pride, International Women’s Day and Eid. It’s vital to empower people to tell their stories in a way that’s personal to them. This level of sharing and openness has helped to create a culture of unity, inclusivity and understanding.”

The introduction of the Oneplace app has also allowed remote workers to quickly and easily access the hub from their mobile devices. And focusing on making the intranet as accessible and user-friendly as possible for all colleagues has increased engagement levels.

“There’s no point having a great intranet if half of your workforce can’t access it” says Hayes. “As nearly 50 per cent of our colleagues are field staff, we had to ensure OnePlace could be easily accessed from their mobile phones, and it’s important that the content continues to be relevant and appealing to them.”

As well as storytelling, the internal communications team has introduced a ‘Citizen of the Month’ feature on Oneplace in which people can nominate a colleague for special recognition. This has grown in popularity and is now the most engaged with feature on the intranet.

The impact of creating a vibrant and interactive intranet with storytelling at its heart has been transformational for Citizen. Intranet page views increased from 58,000 to 120,000 in just 18 months. Colleagues also report feeling more informed than ever before and increasingly engaged with the success of the organisation, especially during the pandemic when Oneplace proved a vital touchpoint for keeping colleagues connected.

Hayes adds, “Over the past two years, Oneplace has evolved into a vibrant place that tells inspiring stories about Citizen and the people who work here. It’s been the lynch pin of our internal communications strategy and I shudder to think of the effects on employee engagement if we hadn’t invested in making it the success it now is.”

Citizen was awarded ‘Best Intranet’ in the 2021 Internal Communications and Engagement Awards in recognition of Oneplace’s role in transforming employee engagement.