Inc. Magazine recognized Movement Mortgage as the fastest-growing mortgage bank in the country. Founded amid the 2008 financial crisis with a vision of ethical and affordable home financing, it has grown to more than 3,500 employees in 650 locations across 49 states.
Document sharing: employees access and update product guides, policies, employee benefits and HR forms from a single centralized location. The public corporate blog is also posted on the intranet.
Search: employees use keywords to find documents, people, and information.
Social: employees share thoughts, photos, and videos through wall posts, comments and chat.
Secured top-down communication: management shares confidential content with employees—like the monthly video-address from the CEO—and receives feedback.
Spaces: Communications organizes corporate content and instantly notifies employees of news and updates in their area of interest.
Badges: Communications created a surprise “Reader of the Day” badge to spotlight employees and increase intranet traffic. Employees give each other badges to recognize good work.
Activity Ticker: Communications monitors employee activity every day to answer questions, collect news, recognize the “Reader of the Day,” and, occasionally, to remove inappropriate comments.
Engagement: Communications actively and creatively uses the intranet to get employees to know each other, use resources, and to keep employees involved in the company’s life.
Movement Mortgage intranet has a name and a face. No, I don’t mean a corporate brand and a logo. I mean there’s a living breathing soul behind it.
In 2016, the company hired Liz Foster to upgrade its intranet. The old system, informally known as Frankennet, was a static site pieced together from several platforms and updated manually once a month. As for the user experience, it was a little like naked mud wrestling: most people knew just enough about it to stay away.
Part of the problem with Frankennet was no search capability. You had to know the exact location of the file to see what’s in it. So, unless you posted them yourself, your odds of receiving timely updates were stacked against you.
That’s where Communifire came in. Corporate Communications was looking for an intuitive, easy to maintain interactive platform with a robust search function that fit the budget. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.
Signing up with Communifire was an easy choice. Making it part of Movement Mortgage’s daily routine was anything but. Not only did busy loan officers have a healthy aversion to new office software, but Frankennet’s example was fresh in everyone’s mind. It didn’t help that management kept the old name, “The Hub.”
“Let’s see how much we can improve it,” they said, “so people really notice the difference.”
Then the powers that be had a stroke of genius to hire a new person to run the new system. And, because pressing the buttons would now be a piece of cake, they chose someone who focused all her energies on people. That’s how a former journalist became Movement’s Lead Communication Coordinator and the anointed queen of The Hub.
To start off, Liz had no illusions about her new job. “No one wants to read corporate communications,” she said. Getting the employees the information they needed and wanted was her only shot at success. She sat down with all the department heads to decide what that was and what it would look like in the new system.
The first thing the department heads did was lobby for their own “space” on The Hub. With forty-five departments on board, Liz quickly realized that trying to please everyone was a fast track back to Frankennet. Instead, she put each department to a simple test: will you be making frequent updates to your site? If yes, you get your own space, and you name a moderator to work on it with Liz. If no, you get to share. Fair is fair. Marketing and Product Development got their own spaces. Underwriting did not. And Coaching got a special “splash” page on the Training department’s space.
The hard work of building and populating the site done, the new Hub was ready for its first visitor. Liz and her team of moderators picked sixty employees to participate in the pilot launch. And…
The pilot users were as thrilled about the new intranet as they had been about the old one, cool new features and minimalist spaces notwithstanding. Liz couldn’t just sit and wait for her coworkers to come to The Hub. The Hub was coming to them!
Movement Mortgage doesn’t believe in invading employee inboxes, but Liz had to show employees what they were missing by ignoring her creation. That’s how The Daily Digest was born, an opt-in newsletter highlighting the past day’s happenings on The Hub.
Liz’s journalistic talents shined in the new publication. It had the bells and whistles of a local newspaper: exclusive content, like the monthly video-recorded message from the CEO, up-to-the-minute news and events, calls to action, carefully curated industry news, human interest and humor. Above all, The Daily Digest was personal, down to Liz’s surprise picks for the Reader of the Day.
Although management resisted rebranding The Hub, it was clear that the intranet needed a public image makeover. The light hearted Daily Digest became the new face of The Hub. “We took a risk,” says Liz. And the people responded. Eight months into the full launch, The Hub got one million page views.
The Daily Digest’s hard-won reputation for being “super-relevant and super-helpful” is what finally made The Hub worthy of its name. To keep it up, Liz makes a million decisions every day about what stays out of the newsletter and what goes in. Her highest priority is always serving the users and anticipating their needs. The majority of the Digest readers are salespeople: loan officers, their assistants and marketing staff. Anything important to them is front-page news. Calls to action get priority over nice-to-knows and general industry news.
All work and no play makes The Hub a dull and lonely place, and Liz’s job is to keep it buzzing. “You can’t force funny,” she says, but she can give it a gentle nudge. As the supreme ruler of The Hub, she gets to insert obscure pop culture references and other coded messages. One of The Daily Digests had a veiled reference to the movie Heathers, a Broadway musical, and a Shakespeare play. An employee replied that he got all three—and won the Reader of the Day badge! A mention of Jem and the Holograms struck a chord with another fan. The next day there was a picture on The Hub of an employee dressed up as Jem. The employee who took the picture won the Reader of the Day—only because the one who dressed up was a recent winner.
Liz’s main concern about The Hub was not improper use, but no use at all. So, it makes sense that she didn’t make any official rules that would scare employees away from the intranet. She figured employees understood that The Hub was part of the company, and the same rules applied. That said …
When she scans The Hub activity for The Daily Digest, she keeps an eye out for misplaced comments. (“I am the creepy Big Brother.”) Her goal is to break up any fights before they start. And she only had to do this twice in the past three years. She says both times the employees were grateful she took down their knee-jerk responses and emailed them privately to explain why.
“Love the bookmark function. Personal set of bookmarks is a game changer for me.”
“The Hub is a lifesaver for me as a Marketing Coordinator. I use links to The Hub to train my employees.”
“In the 70s, I would call it my encyclopedia. Today it’s my Google.”
“It makes a big company feel smaller.”
“When I am in the office all by myself, The Hub keeps me going.”
“You have to make me the Reader of the Day!”
“I think of The Hub as the paper of record for the company: if it’s not on The Hub it’s not true.”
“I am here for people to feel connected and find the information they need.”
Liz reports to Adam O’Daniel, the Assistant VP of Communications who reports to Jake Fehling, the VP of Marketing. It was Adam who first noticed when The Hub got one million page views. Now The Hub gets more views than the public website, movement.com. A remarkable achievement for a company of only 3,500 employees. Of these, today nearly a half subscribe to The Daily Digest, and ninety percent log on to The Hub regularly.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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