American Family Insurance: Win support for and create a powerful social intranet

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What You’ll Learn:: 

American Family Insurance used to be known as a stodgy, top-down company.

But company communicators decided to try a social intranet-driven new model: The intranet would allow comments, add an employee blog, start electronic shout-outs for a job well done, and even offer staffers a “dislike” button.

The results were improved morale, ideas flowing from the bottom up, and even one big blow-up over benefits that—surprisingly—had bigwigs praising the new voice-of-the-huddled-masses model.

In this Ragan Training video, “American Family Insurance: Win support for and create a powerful social intranet,” Miller walks you through everything from winning leaders’ approval to turning your blog into a must-read.

You'll learn how to:

  • Get stakeholders on board—from executives to coders
  • Meet legal and regulatory requirements
  • Address roadblocks with reasonable solutions
  • Achieve a unified user experience without a tech overhaul
  • Give employees a voice online to spur company-wide change
  • Overcome business hurdles
  • Use peer-to-peer "shout-outs" to boost recognition and create an unshakeable internal community
  • Use negative feedback to better your organization—American Family even has a “dislike” button

It took planning to build a good internal platform, particularly in a regulated industry. But Miller’s goal was to make the social network “as less Big Brotherish as possible.” Hear why she talked the bigwigs and the lawyers into letting comments go live instantly, without vetting. (They do have a profanity filter.)

Sometimes major successes are revealed in small ways. Learn about what Miller calls “our warm and fuzzy recognition tool.” The “Shout-Outs” page allows everybody to call out a good deed, mention a birthday, or compliment a colleague. “Shout-Outs” appears in a public feed, and the recipient gets an email.

It proved to be so successful, at the end of the year, people began including the attaboys in their performance reviews: “I received 48 shouts.”

Hear about setting up guidelines, and why allowing “dislikes” was important. If your bigwigs are skittish, let them know that you’re never going to get 100 percent approval outside of a Soviet Politburo.

Find out why an eruption of “dislikes” on a benefits story—439 of them—actually proved that allowing dissent was the right thing to do. Says Miller, “One of our executives actually said, ‘This is the example of why we did this.’”

October 2013

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Presenter bio: 

Pat Miller is corporate publications manager at American Family Insurance. She oversees online and print communications for 18,000 employees. Before American Family, Pat worked as director of corporate document management at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Appleton, Wis. and edited Correspondent, the national magazine of the Aid Association for Lutherans. She also worked as a reporter.