TORONTO – A Quebec-based manufacturer of building products for the construction industry is using a successful Facebook pilot project at the company’s leadership conference to make the business case for revamping its corporate intranet and creating a more collaborative culture among employees.
Canam Group, which is based in St. Georges in the Beauce region of Quebec and employs some 3,000 staff, was among the case studies featured Wednesday at Webcom Toronto, a conference focused on social enterprise solutions and so-called Enterprise 2.0. According to Canam’s manager of electronic communications, Nathalie Pilon, the company first started looking at building a better intranet in 2007, right around the time social networking sites were starting to gain the attention of major businesses. After working within an internal pilot committee that benchmarked against other companies in their field and three months’ worth of employee surveys, she said the problems were clear. Staff said information on the current intranet was too difficult to find, the user experience wasn’t personalized and the content was limited to text – there were no options for photographs or videos.
The team came up with four main objectives for the new intranet, Pilon said. They wanted to promote usage, to allow more content, facilitate collaboration and increase access.
“This includes retirees,” she said. “We wanted to welcome them back into the company again.”
The original project plan presented to the senior management team at Canam outlined three years’ worth of work and 45 different recommendations. The result? Pilon’s PowerPoint presentation suddenly switched to a picture of a giant block of ice; the whole thing stalled.
“We had a budget – there was probably $1.5 million, but we were using Lotus Notes and there was nobody dedicated to it,” Pilon said. “We wanted to hire IT and HP people. But at that point the economy was slowing down and the demand for products was slowing as well.”
Pilon couldn’t simply walk away from the need for better internal electronic communications, however. Every three years Canam Group gathers senior managers – about 200 people with an average age of 50 -- from five different countries for a leadership conference. The theme in 2008 was, “Canam Community – People to Discover.” The intranet was deemed unusable for conference attendees, but Pilon had another idea: Facebook.
“This was before Facebook become more acceptable,” she told the Webcom audience. “People said, ‘We’re listed on the stock exchange. Are you crazy?’ There were a lot of concerns.”
In the end, however, Pilon and her team set up a secret Facebook Group for use at the conference, and created a guide for all attendees on how to set up their Facebook profiles. The firm’s CEO was a big supporter, she added, driving other managers to fill out surveys and contribute other information to the group. Over the course of the conference, there was a 99 per cent participation rate on the Facebook Group, she said.