Wawanesa connects a distributed workforce with blu

One of Canada’s largest insurers, Wawanesa, launches a GO SharePoint intranet to support their workplace transformation.

The challenge

To connect a distributed, hybrid workforce, support evolving communication needs and give employees the information they need at their fingertips.

The outcome

An easy-to-use modern SharePoint intranet that anchors the digital workplace and promises to keep pace with the company’s needs.

Wawanesa is a mutual insurance company formed in 1896 by 20 farmers who pooled their money to insure each other when no one else would. Now, as one of Canada’s largest insurers, it has over 5,000 employees serving more than 2 million members.

Through its growth, the company has been guided by a deep commitment to its members and employees and a belief in looking after one another. They have continued to focus on employee wellbeing by introducing a distributed work experience. This new way of working allows employees to choose where they do their best work: from an office, from home or a hybrid mix of both.

A woman smiling at the camera, wearing a blue Wawanesa volunteer shirt.
A group of Wawanesa employees in front of a FedEx airplane, taking a group selfie.
A close-up photo of a dog wearing a blue Wawanesa bandana.

Wawanesa needed a platform with the capability to change and grow to meet the evolving needs of their employees and the digital workplace. The answer was blu, a GO Intranet for modern SharePoint.

“GO’s licensing model was a good match for us,” says Jessica Poitras, Wawanesa’s manager of communications. “Our communications needs have changed quite quickly over the last few years. We wanted to create something that would be easy to use, give our employees what they need at their fingertips and foster positive experiences.”

For Wawanesa, a human-centred design approach was paramount.

Jessica Poitras Manager of Communications Wawanesa

Habanero does a good job of balancing employee needs with our business and communication priorities. Throughout the process, they always brought us back to the empathetic employee research. It helped ensure we were focused on creating great employee experiences that align with the purpose and values of our company.

Connecting a distributed, hybrid workforce

As the cornerstone of their digital workplace, blu plays a key role. It was important for blu to reflect Wawanesa’s strong purpose and values, not only through its visual design but also in the intranet’s ability to surface the programs, stories and events that they care about.

As Jessica explains, “We want blu to clearly communicate to employees – particularly new employees – what the company is about and connect us all to what’s important.”

Mobile screenshot of Wawanesa's intranet home page.
Desktop screenshot of Wawanesa's intranet home page.

The home page surfaces events from across the organization and helps employees understand organizational priorities and what's going on across Wawanesa.

“Employees now encounter events on the home page that they wouldn't have known about before,” says Jessica. With events going virtual, people have greater options to participate in events that they previously didn’t have access to. Employees can explore events in greater detail, access past events and watch recordings.

The company has also been able to put their wellness activities front and centre, with positive results.

“Our wellness program is important work that we want to surface to our employees in different ways,” explains Jessica. “The events webpart increases awareness of supports that are available and integrates them into everyday communications.”

Mobile screenshot of Wawanesa's events web part on their intranet home page.
Desktop screenshot of Wawanesa's events web part on their intranet home page.

Delivering personalized experiences

The team wanted blu to provide employees with relevant regional information that’s easy for them to find and engage with.

“Employee expectations have evolved. People want the same features and functionality from their intranet they are used to getting from websites and apps. The increase in user sophistication has been one of the big drivers behind our need to move to a different platform.”

On their first visit to blu, users are prompted to set their area preferences, which personalizes some of their home page content. User preferences are accessible from the GO springboard, which is persistent across all pages of the intranet, so they can adjust their settings at any time.

Featured news showcases the most important, must-read news for employees, while a newsfeed surfaces the most recent relevant news, based on user preferences, and allows employees to explore articles they’re interested in. Within select news item, icons based on metadata tags align content to the company’s strategic pillars, an important communications objective.

The result is an experience that connects employees to the organization without information overwhelm.

“Not only do employees see the all-company news, but they can customize their home page to see news coming from wherever they’d like,” says Jessica, “so they get a holistic view of the organization.”

The team also built area pages where employees can find everything they need to know about the region or operation they serve – from news and events to office locations, local executive leadership and their own user-submitted photo gallery.

Desktop screenshot of Wawanesa's Alberta page on their intranet.

Publishing multilingual content

Multilingual capabilities in GO Intranet allow for an inclusive experience for French-speaking colleagues.

“With blu, we wanted to make sure that we were giving Wawanesa the best experience possible for both their English and their French employees,” says Habanero Digital Workplace Consultant Mike Dumka.

With GO Intranet, employees can toggle between French and English content easily. This ensures employees can access content that’s relevant to them in the language of their choice without having to change their language preferences each time.

Meeting employees where they’re at

As a modern SharePoint site, blu is integrated within Wawanesa’s Microsoft 365 digital workplace. Integration with Microsoft Teams means that employees can stay connected not only through their browser but also when collaborating in Teams or when remote through their mobile phones.

“We’ve tried to make blu as accessible as possible,” says Jessica. “It’s available on our Microsoft Teams rail as a pinned app.”

Integration with ServiceNow was also key. Employees can get to the app from the GO springboard and see any open tickets. For helpdesk agents, this means they can see open incidents assigned to them. All other employees see their open requests.

Easy content authoring

Wawanesa’s communications function, along with a team of distributed content authors, manage and update their intranet. GO makes content authoring in the new blu easy with user-friendly page templates that include help text to guide content creation.

“Modern SharePoint has made content authoring a lot easier than it was in the classic experience,” says Mike. “GO Intranet takes it to the next level. Authors can create and publish new pages right from the springboard instead of having to navigate the whole SharePoint menu. It’s made things a lot easier for everyone.”

Authors can choose a page template designed by Habanero that matches the objective of their content. Help text embedded within each page template guides authors to prioritize and optimize their content on the page, so they can produce great-looking, functional pages without having to be SharePoint experts.

"The templates have created a consistent, more intuitive experience for our content authors and end users,” says Jessica. "In classic, if we wanted unique layouts and designs, we'd have to incorporate code with content to get the desired result. “Now, it’s a lot easier to create content and to make it look good by simply using the web parts within GO.”

Desktop screenshot of Wawanesa's employee essentials page on their intranet.

Seeing the results

New blu has been well received, earning a four-star rating on Wawanesa’s post-launch survey. Analytics show that employees go to blu three to four times per day, which adds up to over 14,000 total daily visits.

“People really appreciate the new look and user experience,” says Jessica. “We’ve heard that it’s more welcoming, the navigation is cleaner, and information is easier to read and absorb.”

Wawanesa’s communications team has seen an increase in engagement. Employees have embraced the enhanced social functionality, and the ability to like and comment on stories and one another’s comments has provided a greater sense of two-way communication. By blu’s one-year anniversary, employees had liked news posts almost 23,000 times and left over 2,000 comments.

A user-submitted photo gallery on the home page offers another avenue for employee participation. This feature creates community, collaboration and connection by showcasing local culture and individual personalities across the company. A year after launch, employees shared over 200 photos to the home page gallery – photos ranging from team building events to how employees celebrated Earth Day.

“We took steps to generate engagement and people ran with it,” says Jessica. “We see people using the photo gallery to share team building activities and how they’re engaging and volunteering in their communities. Departments are now reaching out to learn how they can make the most of blu, so everyone in the organization is getting into it.”

The communications team also benefits from user-generated content. The photos that employees share to blu’s gallery can be repurposed for intranet stories and marketing content. It’s a way to authentically share the company’s culture with employees and a broader external audience.

Analytics and insight

GO for modern SharePoint provides analytics that are helping the team learn more about employees’ behaviour and needs for their intranet.

“The dashboard gives us a quick easy snapshot of where we're at, which has been really helpful,” says Jessica.

Helm Insights, Habanero’s intranet analytics platform promises to deliver rich actionable insights too. With support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Habanero developed Helm Insights to help communicators foster engagement with their content and deliver stronger employee experiences.

“Part of the appeal of GO Intranet is the advent of Helm's content engagement analytics,” says Jessica. “We’re excited to see how it can help us make even better-informed communication decisions.”

Ongoing support

Since the launch of blu, the communications team and content authors have continued to enhance and improve the site, but they’re not on their own.

Jessica Poitras Manager of Communications Wawanesa

Post-launch support has been excellent. Everyone is very responsive. During quarterly check-ins, we look at our analytics and the roadmap to see if there’s anything – positive or negative – that we want to understand or dig into more.

For Wawanesa, finding the right partner for this journey has helped propel them forward.

“Habanero has a lot of experience working with different organizations to continually improve their intranet and employee experience, and we reap the benefits of that,” says Jessica. “As Helm Insights evolves, we look forward to gaining additional insights, like industry comparisons, to help us continue to deliver great employee experiences at Wawanesa.”

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