If there was a highlight for me from last week’s Forward conference in Denver, it was probably the opening session run by David Levin, the CEO of Four Winds Interactive, which put the event on.
I’d tend to think of these kick-off sessions as welcomes and walk-throughs of what to expect, and not a bunch more. Talking to Levin prior to his session, I jokingly lamented how I should have brought a book.
But this was quite different, in a number of ways. I even took notes!
First, Levin made his time more about what his own company was doing with digital signage, immediately putting the chat in some useful context.
Second, he was very open about company shortcomings and how he and his team tried to address them.
Third, what was done was pretty impressive, and worth passing on here.
When the company started almost a decade ago, headcount was small, and keeping everyone updated on what was going was easy. But then the company got some real traction in the marketplace, sales took off, people got stupid-busy and communications took a dive as FWI moved into new space.
Levin said at one point staff turnover was at 30%. The place was a revolving door. And reviews on Glassdoor – a website that lets people anonymously rate and comment on their workplaces – were less than favorable.
So the company started using its own content management software to start communicating with, supporting, celebrating and motivating staff. Obviously, screens alone were not going to resolve all staffing and morale challenges, but they were a big piece in the puzzle.
The company started with Wellness Watch screens that integrated with FitBits fitness wearables – showing on screens how staffers were competing on fitness efforts.
They started using screens around the facility to welcome staff when they walked in, tied to card readers at the door. They added digital staff directories and locators. They integrated with Salesforce, showing key performance indicators for things like sales, but also things like employee recognition badges. So when a staffer did a great job, another staffer could highlight that and it would pop up on screens, so everyone knew about it.
HR records with things like birthdays were flagged, so that messaging just popped up when a staffer’s big day came along.
“We all got a lot smarter,” Levin told the crowd, “about our business, our customers and our staff. The level of communications advanced. And screens became the preferred way of getting communications out there.”
The revolving door slowed way down, reviews got better, and different metrics showed the effort worked. The research firm Gallup has a metric for employee engagement in the workplace. The national average is 31.5% in the US, Levin said, and Four Winds has upped its Gallup-measured rating to 74%.
By 2014, the company had seriously outgrown its old brick and beam warehouse space on the fringes of downtown Denver, with 260 in a space that could maybe fit 200 comfortably. So Four Winds started planning a move last year, and that was finished a couple of weeks ago.
Levin said the company and executive team was at a point that he could actually spend the time to guide what happened in the new, more modern space. What all got planned and plugged in now stitches corporate communications into every element of the new workspace.
There are internal comms screens in portrait mode on vertical columns, with amped-up employee recognition. There are KPI screens in landscape mode by windows. There are 35 meeting rooms with iPads at each door, running room booking capabilities. There are interactive floor directories.
There are even LEDs embedded in the carpet – new technology from Philips – that are tied into the communications system, welcoming visitors and guiding them to the third-floor customer experience center.
The company has also tied a lot of its communications into an iOS mobile app, with Android to follow.
It’s impressive to see in person, but it’s the little things I particularly like.
There is a style guide for all digital communications – detailing things like font usage, color palette and layout. They also got a proper photographer and took quality shots of all staff – ones that don’t look like they were done by a high school yearbook firm.
I also liked that rather than having to build all this functionality around the office, most or all of it already existed in the company’s app store – which has functionality apps that are largely pre-configured and just drop on to the base Four Winds CMS platform.
Corporate communications is – from what I know directly and what I hear from industry contacts – a big growth area right now. It makes soooo much sense to have a living lab for this stuff, not only to learn what works, but also to show potential customers when they walk in the door.
Impressive stuff, and worth a look if you get to Denver.
Disclosure: I provided some advice to Four Winds in the initial concept and planning stages of the conference, based on my own experiences with DSrupted.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.