How Heifer International’s digital workplace keeps employees engaged, connected and inspired

The nonprofit’s internal comms leader shares valuable insights into the org’s efforts to celebrate workers’ expertise in a session for Ragan Training.

How Heifer maximizes internal comms

Ending poverty and hunger around the world might seem like an impossible task.

But it starts with uniting like-minded heroes around the world through seamless, strategic communication.

Chelsey Louzeiro, internal communications officer and digital workplace manager for Heifer International, recently shared how her organization is overcoming substantial logistical hurdles to engage its 800 employees in 21 different countries in a session for Ragan Training.

Here are some of her key takeaways for building a digital workplace that establishes a thriving environment where employees feel connected and valued.

‘Corralling’ a global workforce

Geography presents significant communication challenges—not least of which is creating a genuine sense of belonging and teamwork when your workforce is widely dispersed, with employees steeped in different cultures. How can you create a culture that truly engages far-flung employees?

To overcome cross-cultural barriers, Heifer created an intranet called “The Corral.” The name, chosen by employees, dovetails nicely with the charity’s mission to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.

Heifer’s intranet software offers translation functionality, which helps drive engagement among staffers who primarily speak Spanish or French. Louzeiro says her primary content buckets are geared toward:

  • Daily news and announcements.
  • Top-down and bottom-up comms (including a section dedicated to leadership messaging and updates).
  • Employee and team recognition.

She sends out twice-per-year employee surveys to gather feedback on comms preferences. Among other questions, she asks:

  • “What are your go-to sources of information for what is happening at Heifer?”
  • “How often do you use The Corral during a typical work week?”

The employee responses—including how and when workers consume content—help Louzeiro and her team tweak tactics accordingly. Compared to the September 2020 baseline survey, about 6% more staff reported they are now using The Corral daily, according to Louzeiro—which reflects the intranet’s importance in forging meaningful connections during the pandemic.

She also says that over the past six months, sessions on The Corral have been the most frequent on Wednesdays, following the release of a weekly e-newsletter. Louzeiro also found that most users visit The Corral from 8 to 10 a.m. CST on weekdays.

Elevating employee voices

Heifer places a heavy emphasis on soliciting employee feedback. That priority is reflected in The Corral’s design, which features multiple opportunities to share thoughts, including through its microblogs, forums, and through open commenting. There’s also an org chart to show exactly where workers reside in the grand scheme of things.

Louzeiro says The Corral also has a “brand portal,” which answers FAQs, centralizes Heifer’s branding assets and “keeps everyone on the same page.”

The portal offers plenty of practical help for employees. There’s a guide to help employees stay on brand, along with a job-request form for Heifer’s lauded creative services team. All of this is available on a user-friendly mobile app powered by Igloo Software.

To better connect employees with each other, and to boost engagement, Heifer created an online “think tank” to cover specific niche topics. Giving employees space to share tips, articles, reminders and best practices from around the world is a great way to surface ideas and spark collaboration. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to identify, amplify and celebrate internal influencers.

Speaking of celebration, Heifer prioritizes internal recognition. The Corral offers multiple places for employees to share their achievements, praise colleagues and even connect with each other outside work with social events. Meaningful, genuine connection is the metaphoric bell cow of any employee engagement program.

Subscribe today to Ragan Training for Louzeiro’s full presentation—and to access a trove of other helpful guidance that will bolster your credentials and career.

Get more strategies on how to engage and inspire employees on July 29 at Ragan’s Employee Communications & Culture Virtual Conference.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.