From December 2007 to March 2008, AXA Australia relocated 2000 Melbourne based employees to a new headquarters in Docklands.
AXA’s employee communications team developed and implemented an internal communications campaign, Destination 750, to support employees with the move.
The move was a success. Results showed the objectives were achieved at the completion of the project and 93% of survey respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that communications were timely and effective.
AXA moved its corporate head office to 750 Collin Street, Docklands. bringing together all employees previously located at 120 and 447 Collins Street.
The move would take place over four weeks in December 2007. The project needed to relocate 2000 employees while maintaining business operations and ensuring the move was a positive experience for employees.
Public relations was required to ensure that a strategic and robust approach was taken to the move, utlising two way communication and maximising the opportunity it presented to further improve good employee engagement established within the organisation
- Interviews with key stakeholders
These interviews provided crucial background information about AXA’s culture and helped determine the overall tone, manner, look and feel of the project. Qualitative interviews were conducted with:
- Group Manager Strategic Communications
- Move Champions
- Executive Team Leader responsible for move
- Relocation Specialist Project Manager
Our research showed that our audience of 2000 employees had an even gender split and 50% were under the age of 35. Characteristics identified were:
- Computer literate
- Interested in environment sustainability
- A ‘Pull’ generation in terms of information retrieval
- Generally conservative, but a large call centre population could be considered younger and ‘edgier’ Technically oriented and interested in detail.
- Other organisations’ experience:
Our research of moves by other organisations demonstrated that clear communication was essential and if not carried out well could result in churn or absenteeism up to 25%.
- Employee survey:
Comments from the 2007 employee survey had shown they were excited about the move:
- “With the move to 750 Collins St brings hope of fresh new vision, new building and excitement of having the whole family together under one building.”
- “AXA is a nice place to work. Moving to the new building and have extra resources to carry out our jobs will prove motivational.”
- “We are aiming to go from player to leader – we need to do some big things if we are to achieve this objective. (i) moving to a new building is very positive…”
- Overall research showed the campaign needed to respond to:
- Potential impact on financial bottom line from increase in churn, absenteeism and subsequent disruption to services.
- Employees located in two different offices with distinct cultures
- Employees were being moved from the CBD to very different and unknown landscape of Docklands
- A need for flexibility in response to changing building milestones
- A need to familiarise employees with the building without being able to conduct site tours. Maintain current enthusiasm about the new building.
The main audiences were:
2000 employees based at 120 & 447 Collins Streets
- Interstate employees also had to be considered in communications to elevate potential sensitivities.
- Senior Management – this group were more likely to respond to visual communication rather than spend time online. They were updated at executive management meetings.
- Project team – this team required communication about how the relocation messages were being received at a grass roots level.
We had a number of specific approaches:
- ‘Little and often’
Our overall strategic approach was to communicate ‘little and often’ to avoid information overload. Most messages had an appealing ‘call to action’ incorporated, for example to participate in ‘Clean Up and ‘Archive’ days.
- ‘Homemade’ feel
The overall look, feel, tone and manner was specifically designed to encourage interaction and not feel intimidating. Bright, bold images, simple design and conversational language were key to encouraging a ‘welcoming’ campaign. We wanted employees to feel a part of the relocation journey and therefore where possible we featured their peers in stories to make it personable. (See Appendix A for examples).
- Mix of high level and detailed messages
- How the relocation supported the broader cultural change programme by increasing awareness around sustainability and teamwork.
- Fun, incentive based activities such as the treasure hunt and restaurant quizzes, were designed to encourage engagement and familiarise employees with their new location.
- The new work environment such as open plan workstations, locker allocation, phone instructions, and how to prepare for the move.
- Getting online
Knowing our audience, a calculated decision was made to use the Destination 750 website as the central repository of information where people could pull the information they wanted. Emails were kept to a minimum and generally used to promote higher-level messages. Existing tools like the weekly online newsletter were used for detailed messages. Keeping the information fresh and regularly changing was a deliberate strategy – the campaign needed to feel progressive and alive.
- Active engagement
Face to face interaction was also part of the approach particularly through:
- Move Champion meetings
- Treasure Hunt briefing and award ceremony
- Welcoming morning teas
- ‘Responding to our employees concerns’
The strategy took into account how such a large scale relocation impacted on the professional and personal effect of employee lives. For example, internal employee surveys showed a good work/ life balance was clearly an important issue for many staff, especially women. Therefore, extensive information was provided on amenities not just in the building (such as Lactation Rooms) but in the surrounding area of Docklands (such as Medicare, Post boxes, child care and more).
Once the communications strategy and budget was approved, the communications activities were implemented gradually raising awareness and building momentum. At least two communications activities, and up to six, occurred every week in the 26 weeks leading up to the days of the move.
A number of key tools were created:
- Destination 750 website - The information ‘hub’ contained
- instructions about the relocation
- Docklands services including cafes, parks and transport,
- Frequently asked questions
- Services and features of the building eg sustainability
- Maps, floor plans and instructions.
All other tools supported and drove traffic to the website. A homepage news story was supported by big bold buttons promoting different parts of the site. These rotated every time the page refreshed. In keeping with our strategy of a ‘homemade’ feel news stories were often about the people involved in the project such as Move Champions or the Treasure Hunters, reinforcing they were being communicated to by their peers.
- Dedicated mailbox -
keeping track of queries helped the team to be proactive and responsive in its communications to employees. This was a good ‘listening tool’, and employees would received contact, if not the answer, within 24 hours.
- Move Champions -
a group of 60 employees from the two buildings met monthly with the project team and provided two-way communication with employees on the ground.
- Restaurant quizzes -
every week employees answered a simple question about the relocation to enter a draw to win a $100 voucher to a Docklands’ restaurant. It raised awareness of the move, drove traffic to the website and provided employees with an opportunity to experience Docklands.
- Posters in the lifts and shared spaces -
visual communication promoted the website, Clean Up days, the treasure hunt and our countdown to move!
- AXA News stories -
regular columns featured in the hard copy newsletter, AXA News. Stories featured people involved in the move and provided updates on the status of construction of the building.
- Destination 750 Treasure Hunt -
over the course of a month, teams solved tasks based in Docklands, leading to enhanced awareness of the area and an opportunity to experience a team building exercise.
- Welcome kit -
included various set up instructions and a 40 page The AXA ‘My 750 Collins Street’ Guide, and placed on all workstations to greet and assist employees on their first day in the new office.
- Thank you cards -
Cards thanking employees for their help in making the relocation successful and containing vouchers for three free coffees at the cafe.
The move was a success. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the new office, employees were working as normal. We found they knew where to sit, could set up their voicemail, login into their computer, install their printer and have information to help them find their way around.
- In the words of our employees:
- “Overall move was done very well and the new building is fantastic.”
- “Great effort with little interruption to productivity!!! Well done to the whole Team.”
- “The relocation to 750 was smooth. The move was managed intelligently. We did not have any problem with the change.”
The website proved to be an excellent communication tool. Usage was high and ranged from 844 unique users in September to 1980 users during the move in December.
The mailbox allowed us to maintain good two way communication with our employees, share information in a timely manner and respond to, and resolve issues with the project team when they arose.
The Treasure Hunt achieved its aim of encouraging employees to find out about Docklands in an enjoyable way. Its design had two constraints:
- Employees (particularly those working in the call centre) could only participate outside work hours;and
- It had to be challenging to secure a clear winner
As a result a smaller number of people than we had hoped took up the opportunity. However they performed very well and gained extensive knowledge of the area which, along with their enthusiasm, passed on to the wider AXA audience.
The Move Champions proved their weight in gold. They supported the formal communication by cascading information in a less formal, but highly effective, way to their teams meaning they knew exactly what to do
Results matched with spend to calculate return on investment of each activity is available in Appendix A.
- Objective 1 - Employees felt comfortable and relaxed about moving to Docklands, prior to the actual move.
- Positive engagement of employees was evident with an average of 300 entries per week in the restaurant quiz and more than 360 participants in the Treasure Hunt. AXA APH CEO Andrew Penn said: “Good initiative in relation to engagement activity around the move, I look forward to seeing more. Well done.”
- Employee numbers and leave levels were maintained throughout the project. Human Resources metrics reported no increase in employee departures or absenteeism in the period leading up to and after the move.
- Objective 2 - Employees felt positive about their new work environment.
- During this time, our measured employee engagement score increased in the 2007 AXA employee engagement survey. Employees said in the survey the move to the new building provided ‘a fresh new vision’, ‘a transformational change’, ‘a positive move’ and was ‘motivational’.
- Objective 3 - Employees were aware of the logistics and their responsibilities around the move.
From the survey, they said:
- “Little bits of information here and there really helped rather than having it all at once. That way, I was able to take in a lot more of the information given. Good strategy.”
- 93.75 % of survey respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they had information in a timely fashion to prepare them for the move.
- 91.75 % of survey respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ the communication relating to the move was effective.
- Objective 4 - Employees knew where to direct their questions and were confident they had the information they needed.
93% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that communications were timely and effective.
The website received on average 1200 unique visitors per month demonstrating repeat use and the value they placed in it as a realiable and easy to use information source.
From the survey, they said:
- “Communications were good prior to the move - regular, coordinated, timely.”
- “Having a dedicated communication consultant was a real benefit to the project and to the engagement and efficient transitioning of employees to the new building.”
- Overall Evaluation.
The move was a success. Results showed the objectives were achieved at the completion of the project and our employees are enjoying their new home in Docklands.