Viewing its staffers as a power base, EDS keeps them engaged with a solid communications strategy
Over the past couple of years, EDS has survived Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, management churn, and the tech industry recession. And because EDS considers its people to be its product, employee communications have played a big part in the IT services and outsourcing company's rebound.
"If your employees aren't your allies, you have a fundamental problem in all of your external communications," says Jeff Baum, VP of global communications. "You want to make sure your employees are on your side. By doing that, you can really improve your external communications."
To keep EDS staffers informed and engaged, Baum says the communications team conducted research - including employee surveys - to determine the best way to get through to them.
"We found that people had the most trust in their direct managers," he says, adding that it caused the company to focus on a leader-led communications package.
EDS' approach to employee communications also focuses on actively involving the company's 117,000 employees in 60 countries. Last year, the company revived its storytelling tradition and aligned its mission and goals for the year with employee stories. Springfield Lewis, director of executive communications and online managing editor, was responsible for the "Storytellers" campaign and noted that while the original story became absorbed into the business direction for 2005, the company is still incorporating the idea of storytelling into the infoCentre section of its intranet. "It all goes back to having the employees tell the story of EDS," he notes.
While EDS has a nine-person team dedicated to employee communications, many of the ideas it develops are rooted in other communication areas of the company.
"One of [our] philosophies is to look at what works on the outside and pop culture, and bring that inside the company," says Nancy Voith, director of global employee and field communications. For example, because the employee communications team knew that staff viewed news reports as a credible information source, it applied that concept to an employee communications tool. Called The EDS Minute, the video broadcast on the intranet presents timely company information in a news-type format.
Voith says that the 90-second format has drawn positive feedback, too. "It's a very different approach," she says. "It's not a marketing-to-employees approach; it's truly a news approach." While The EDS Minute is a fairly recent addition, Voith notes that it will hopefully become a weekly feature.
And while repurposing broadcast content for the Web site and employee communications use has become increasingly popular in the industry, Voith notes that EDS is considering doing the opposite. The EDS Minute could be featured on EDS' public Web site in the near future, and the company is looking into producing VNRs and b-roll for distribution to news stations.
One of the reasons the team went ahead with The EDS Minute was that another broadcast option on its intranet had been well-received. Last year, the company began posting a broadcast of the global sales conference that had previously been available only to the 200 top salespeople in the nation. And the company's By Request broadcast features executives answering real-time unscripted questions from global employees.
"The better informed our employees are about the direction of the business, the better they can understand the value that EDS brings to them every day," Lewis says.
EDS is also looking into other communications tactics, including a news "widget" that will appear on the home page of the intranet, providing industry, company, and world news, and linking to relevant articles and broadcasts. A screensaver that builds on the widget idea, a Web site for EDS retirees, and a weekly newsletter are also being looked at.
But not all staff communication is Web- based. Baum notes that the company sends all employees a list of company goals that can be fastened to ID cards.
And one of the most popular employee reward programs is also a valuable communications tool. Whenever the company wins a big account, employees are allowed to participate in a casual dress Friday. "Our employees are aware that we're winning because they're active in it," says Voith.
And ultimately, for a company with a very small client base, employees become an important communications tool.
"Employee communications doing well is a real power base for the business," says Lewis. "If your employees are ambassadors for the business, you've got 117,000 people around the world promoting and selling and believing in your company. What else could you ask for?"
AT A GLANCE
Chairman and CEO:
Revenues and latest earnings:
$19.8 billion for calendar year 2005
Accenture, ACS, IBM
Key trade publications:
CIO, eWeek, InformationWeek, InfoWorld, VARBusiness
Global Communications Team:
VP of global comms, Jeff Baum
Director of global employee and field comms, Nancy Voith
Director of executive comms and online managing editor, Springfield Lewis
Director of corporate PR, Bob Brand
Director of business and industry PR, Kevin Lightfoot
Director of office of the COO comms, Betsey Hardman
Director of creative and online services, Rex Taylor
Manager of comms operations and
HR comms, Liz Bonet
Marketing Services Agencies:
PR: Fleishman-Hillard, Kekst & Co., Michael & Partners
Advertising: Bartle Bogle Hegarty