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Strategy Conversations: 10,000+ employees, 8 weeks, during the summer?

Here at the Services division of SAP, the world’s largest business software company, we are constantly committed to improving our employee engagement on Strategy. It’s about understanding the particular overall strategy, translating it into individuals’ context and helping them to take appropriate action. We measure that as part of our employee satisfaction survey – due every September.

This year, we wanted to do something different than we usually have done. The idea of a comprehensive campaign came up.  I wondered about it myself: one campaign, 10,000+ employees, 8 weeks, during the summer. How on earth could that possibly work out?

It did. Even considering the potential distraction of the FIFA world championship. But just what made our summer’s Strategy campaign a success?

Our intent was clear, the content (ie the strategy) at our hands, and we knew what we wanted as outcome. Our main objective for the campaign itself was to reach all of our Services employees (yes, there are more than ten-thousand of them), to actively and repeatedly engage with at least half of them, and to improve our scores in the September employee survey.

We called the campaign Summer of Strategy, and it was built around four powerful building blocks:

  • enable: We knew we needed to recruit and enable strategy multipliers. This was done by careful identification and selection of the multipliers. We equipped them with the necessary procedures and assets. To ensure one voice, we ran live broadcasts to all of them.
  • engage: We provided networking opportunities in small-sized settings to discuss the strategy directly with executives. This was done by holding regular, determined weekly sessions. Ours were each Friday – arranged for each time zone and no longer than 60 minutes.
  • learn: To provide outside-in views on what will disrupt the services landscape, we invited though leaders and analyst to talk to our people every Wednesday for 60 minutes
  • have fun: As a gamification element, we launched a video contest where we asked for employees to create and submit their personal take on our strategy. We combined a popular vote and judge’s decisions to award participants desirable prizes like 3D printers, Google glasses, and an iPhone6.

In addition, the campaign was supported by a rich library of assets (such as flyers, presentations, flip-books, videos), a solid infrastructure and some rigorous program management experts.

What impact did we get? A stunning level of participation. Our first Summer of Strategy drove tremendous traffic and conversations around our campaign, we had record downloads of the assets I described, and we successfully engaged even more than the 50% we had originally targeted.

Overall, the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive with superb Net Promoter Scores. Below is a dashboard we used (I only omitted the bits of internal proprietary information, so as to be able to share it with here you).


So, now, looking back at the summer: What were the keys to make our campaign work? I think there were some critical success factors.

  • A defined Campaign. We deployed higher density, richer content, more variety, for a defined duration of time. That made people curious which promoted interest.
  • Strong Branding. Everything about SAP Service’s Summer of Strategy was branded by a unique, visual identity. This greatly helped instantly identify the campaign separate from the information flood of everything else.
  • Applied Proximity: This means we purposefully ensured our employees were exposed to leaders and content that directly relate and to which they can easily refer. This makes the action relevant, not distant and disconnected.
  • Gamification: We humans like things that a fun! And this approach works remarkably well even across topics you might not necessarily expect like strategy.

And now looking ahead to the future: What did we learn? We learned a lot. Specifically, the most important take-away is that you have to give a campaign the proper time to develop momentum.

We observed this through the growth in traffic, attendance, and especially during our video contest. Wisely, we had put the learning-track at the beginning of the campaign – which catapulted our success by helping us fill the time the campaign needed to build awareness and interest.

Additional lessons learned included the need to create scalable platforms for audio and video feeds due to the large size of our target audience; improved ways to successfully schedule and promote sessions; ways to better manage the campaign websites and how to better engage by layering the campaign with social media.

Is this then, an experience to be repeated? Certainly yes. The format delivered and was run with minimal creation and execution costs. A yearly cadence seems best suited, and I would not opt for a faster vacancy, as the effect would wear out and participation likely would dip.

So, with the fine-tuning as I have described, I look forward to gearing up in 2015 for another engaging, innovative and successful Summer of Strategy.

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