How a webcast inspired the workforce at Northwestern Mutual

The Milwaukee company celebrated its new headquarters with a town hall that united its nationwide employees—and the buttoned-up firm learned how to loosen up and have fun.

Is your organization stuck in a rut when it comes to employee events and live video?

Imagine how set in your ways your culture might be if your company had been around for 160 years, like Northwestern Mutual, a Milwaukee financial services firm.

In “Hello, Future: Transforming culture through video,” Olivia Hare, assistant director of corporate strategic communications, tells how a creative approach to a webcast town hall shook up Northwestern Mutual.

Metrics showed people were highly engaged by the town hall that organizers crafted to be a fun reawakening of the country. More than 70 percent of the staff participated, and 66 percent of respondents reported they felt energized about the company’s future.

Northwestern Mutual hosted the webcast and other events to celebrate the opening of its snazzy new headquarters in downtown Milwaukee. Although the firm has three other campuses, its chief executive didn’t want the events to be exclusive to Milwaukee, Hare says.

“We were envisioning this to be like a New Year’s Eve-type experience,” The goal, she adds, was to “highlight and celebrate how our new workspaces enable new ways of working—to work where and how people work best.”

Hare explains how Northwest Mutual pulled off these feats:

  • It produced a four-campus town hall broadcast through MediaPlatform technology. Some 4,000 employees at all four sites could see and wave to each other on screen.
  • It helped loosen up a buttoned-up company culture with an employee-emceed town hall, a guest speaker and the first onsite happy hour in the company’s history.
  • It sounded out its workforce and tested sentiment in advance through a survey that helped the company anticipate questions. Afterward, 86 percent of the 2,100 webcast viewers said they would be likely to view a webcast in the future.
  • It produced daily 30- to 60-second videos with short lessons. The series earned a thumbs-up from staffers, who listed it as the third-best part of the events, behind the town hall itself and the onsite happy hour that followed.
  • It held a series of outdoor games that got employees away from their desks and thinking creatively.
  • It hosted an open house for friends, family and former employees, drawing 10,000 people through the new building in a high-return event. Little cost was involved, other than refreshments for visitors.

“This was going to be brand-new technology, in a brand-new building, doing a brand-new all employee, all-campuses event,” Hare says. She adds with a laugh, “This was the kind of thing where if it didn’t go off well, I was going to be looking for a new job.”

Luckily, it was a hit.

Watch this free video to glean ideas that will make your webcast an inspiring and memorable event.

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