How Focusing on Content Increased Employee Engagement at Ryder
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
That idea struck home with Timothy Paulison when Ryder launched an internal platform – R World – to improve internal communication with its global workforce of 40,000 employees. Following the February 2017 rollout, the primary goal understandably was getting as many employees as possible onboarded and actively using the platform.
But with so much attention on adoption, there wasn’t as much emphasis on something else important:
“We had a number of senior managers say, ‘It’s a great tool, and there’s good information. But there’s not enough for employees who aren’t in our headquarters or another major office setting. For the guy who’s working in a maintenance shop in Pittsburgh, why does he care?’” said Paulison, the Senior Writer of Corporate Communications. “Managers told us that they couldn’t push this on employees if there’s not enough there for them.”
So, Ryder made a strategy pivot. The communications teams made the No. 1 objective to stock R World with a robust mix of need-to-know and want-to-know information that would keep employees coming back for more. The focus became:
- Thinking less about adoption and more about the employee experience once people do visit
- Spending more time on creating exciting content, such as stories and videos about employees themselves
- Cultivating a “local” approach, so employees see company-wide information and content specifically relevant to them, their teams, and their regions
“We saw an increase not only in engagement but also people adopting the app,” Paulison said. “Content is what generates buzz and gets people talking. We want people saying, ‘Oh, have you seen this on R World?’ Then their colleagues follow.”
Miami-based Ryder System, Inc., as it’s formally called, is the well-known transportation and logistics company with nearly 300,000 trucks on the road and 50 million square feet of warehouse space. Employees work across 1,200 locations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Two-thirds of Ryder employees don’t have a corporate email address (like the 9,500 drivers and 6,300 maintenance technicians) because they don’t sit at desks.
So, connecting with the dispersed workforce is challenging. It’s why Ryder had relied on old-school communication methods such as a quarterly magazine.
Ryder launched R World – powered by Dynamic Signal – as a modern way to reach all employees in real-time. But the company faced a dilemma. How do you alert employees to a new communication platform when you don’t already have a way to communicate with those non-wired employees?
Employees received home mailers and notices attached to their paystubs about R World. What proved most effective, though, was when leadership – from senior executives down to frontline managers – talked up the benefits of using the platform.
That brings us to the feedback about not enough fresh content on R World to engage employees.
“If you are so focused on onboarding, you can neglect the content,” Paulison said. “What happens then is when you get a person to visit, they might think: ‘There’s nothing here that really interests me.’ How much harder is it to get that person to return a second time?”
Content became king at Ryder in late 2018 under the direction of Vice President of Corporate Communications Amy Federman. The idea was straightforward. If you build a place where employees can find interesting content, they will come. And onboarding numbers will grow organically over time.
“The first order of business was to change the narrative around the company to showcase the dynamic, innovative, and technology-driven company Ryder is today,” Federman said. “By declaring content is king, I challenged the marketing and communications teams to tell our story in new and different ways with engaging content designed to foster closer connections between Ryder employees and leadership, customers, and the communities we serve.”
The critical metric for the team became measuring employee engagement.
A new video series featuring Ryder Chairman and CEO Robert Sanchez is an example. Previously, Ryder videos featured him in his office (next to a potted plant), often talking about topics such as quarterly earnings. Important, for sure. However, they could also be dry.
Ryder has created a documentary-style series called “On Location” that features Sanchez out in the field, asking employees about their jobs and contributions. When Paulison compared engagement data of the premiere episode to the CEO videos from 2018, “We saw a 160 percent increase in the number of people who watched 100 percent of the video.”
There’s also a concerted effort to make R World about employees themselves. More stories are aimed at drivers and technicians – highlighting the company’s everyday heroes. There’s also a greater emphasis on localized content by recruiting regional managers. Once Paulison trains them, they manage a local feed focused solely on information that’s timely and relevant to that specific area.
It can be content that helps them do their jobs better. Or can be a photo featuring a Ryder truck with a stunning rainbow in the background.
“That’s not something I would have ever seen, and nobody was going to send it to me,” Paulison said. “But the regional content manager saw the value and posted it. As soon as I saw it, I handed it off to our social media team to share externally as part of our #RyderTruckSighting series. It allows us access to inspirational content from out in the field.”
He added that it’s now a different conversation when managers tell their teams at shift meetings: You should go on to R World and check this out.
Once they do visit, there’s something there to catch their eye.
“The whole point of improving the content is you hope that it’s good enough that when people see it on the platform, they’ll talk about it off the platform,” Paulison added. “Creating that word of mouth is what drives success. And it all starts with content.”
- Take a multimedia approach. Paulison said that as Ryder has “upped our game” on video, engagement has grown. Especially popular are the CEO videos. “I’m a writer, but there’s so much more you can convey effectively in a video than with the printed word.”
- Think about the audience. Communicators, marketers, and HR professionals know this, Paulison said. But it bears repeating. “Ask yourself, ‘Why does your employee care? Why are they going to click?’”
- Make employees the story. “Instead of always telling the company story, give employees an opportunity to tell their story.”
- Highlight local content. When information is just about the corporate headquarters, employees in the field tune out. It’s why Paulison continues to build out his network of regional managers who serve as correspondents. “The spotlight needs to be on all of our employees,” he said.
- Measure what’s important to your business. “The Dynamic Signal platform gives you so many metrics, so you have to decide how you want to define and measure success.”
- Have a sense of fun. For R World, the tone is professional. But Paulison said they also find ways to be personal, casual, and entertaining. (Like the rainbow photo.)