Before Sharonview Federal Credit Union, a $1.4 billion institution headquartered in South Carolina, the number one employee complaint was the inability to quickly find policy, procedure, and product information. Siloed departmental information led to inefficiency and inconsistency. The goal of fixing this chronic problem drove the decision to purchase SilverCloud, and to centralize and make searchable the credit union’s policy, product, and procedure information
- Would content have to be perfect before uploading it into the new system?
- Would employees buy into the new way of doing things?
- What steps should we take to ensure a successful transition?
Keys to Success:
- Relinquish the urge to have perfect content before launching a new database.
Gather up existing content and determine what to focus on now and what could be improved upon over time. For Sharonview, this meant ensuring all essential forms were included at kick-off, as well as answers to the top 20 most frequently asked employee questions.
- Leverage the central database to increase employee accountability.
A central database creates a single source of truth to which all employees are accountable. When it came to lengthy, complicated procedures, Sharonview was able to reduce errors and inconsistency by referencing AskSharon!. When exceptions did occur, employees were immediately sent an email, with their manager copied, that included a link to review the correct procedure in AskSharon!. This decreased exception reports and created a culture of accountability
- Brainstorm creative campaigns to encourage usage of the new database.
Take time to brainstorm fun ways to familiarize employees with the new system. Sharonview hosted an internal contest to get people acquainted with the new search tool and to inject humor into the difficulty of change.
- Gradually sunset other sources of information then “pull the plug.”
For roughly five weeks, the Sharonview team kept content in old locations and legacy systems at the same time they trained on Ask Sharon!. Then, when the time was right, they made the change. This made it clear to employees there was now one source for information and employee questions.
- Encourage feedback on content and reward people for speaking up.
After launch, Sharonview took feedback seriously and acted promptly on all suggestions. The result was employees who felt ownership over making the system better.
- 1000 questions per day answered by SilverCloud instead of employees asking other employees.
- Successful adoption of a single source of information across all departments.
- Reduced exception reports.
- A culture of accountability and ownership.
“I’m honestly ecstatic about how it’s working. It has accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish. And it works.”
– ROSALYN HUDSON, AVP OF MEMBER SERVICES
The Full Story:
Before Sharonview Federal Credit Union, a $1.4 billion institution headquartered in South Carolina, purchased SilverCloud in July 2017, the number one employee complaint was the inability to quickly find policy, procedure, and product information. Rosalyn Hudson, AVP of Member Services, saw the need first hand:
“There wasn’t a whole lot of information sharing between departments before. We had a lot of siloed departmental information. Plus, there was a lot of inefficiency in the form of ‘Go ask Sally. She’s been here the longest. She knows how to do this’.”
The goal of fixing this chronic problem drove the decision to purchase SilverCloud, and to centralize and make searchable the credit union’s policy, product, and procedure information.
As a leader, Hudson was both excited and nervous about the realities of implementation. Though her senior team was very much bought in, questions remained about how best to encourage and train employees to use and adopt the new intranet database, aptly named “Ask Sharon!”: Would our content have to be perfect before uploading it into the new system? Would employees buy into the new way of doing things? What steps should we take to ensure a successful transition?
Hudson and her team thought through these issues and, in collaboration with departments across the organization, developed a plan to transform the internal culture into one that not only adopted Ask Sharon! but also took pride in contributing to its success. Step one of the strategy was to relinquish the urge to have perfect content before going live with SilverCloud. Instead, the team at Sharonview gathered up their existing content, and determined what was essential to focus on now and what could be improved upon as time went on. As Hudson recalled:
“We put a lot of work into our content, between when we got SilverCloud in mid-February, and when we went live with it in March. But if we were waiting for it to be perfect, we never would have rolled it out. You have to have the big things right. We had to have the forms easily available and searchable. We had to have the top 20 things they needed to know complete. All of that had to be right. But the rest of it, we could add and change.”
Each department had a “liaison” whose job was to gather departmental documentation of processes and procedures. These liaisons, along with the core team that included IT and Project Management, helped create and define how Ask Sharon! would work.
“We put a lot of work into our content…but if we were waiting for it to be perfect we never would have rolled it out.”
Hudson and her team recognized that getting buy in would be a process. So they dedicated time to thinking through how best to ensure a successful rollout and adoption period. This included a series of intentional actions to encourage usage. Among them, Sharonview hosted an internal contest to get people acquainted with the new search database and to inject humor into the difficulty of change. The team posted creative and silly content to Ask Sharon! and encouraged employees to log in and search for it:
“That got a lot of people searching for stuff. We’ve got one of our managers who can actually walk on his hands. We had a picture of that in the system and all sorts of crazy stuff just to get people using it.”
Another critical part of the rollout strategy was to gradually sunset other sources of information before finally “pulling the plug.” For roughly five weeks, the team kept content in old locations and legacy systems at the same time they trained on Ask Sharon!. Then, when the time was right, they made the change. Hudson recalls:
“We gave them five weeks to get used to it…then we made it so that all other places they were going to find information didn’t work anymore. And that’s when it got real.”
“One weekend we came in and took all of the other sources away. I have a few scars from that, but we knew that I would. We also knew that if we told people we were going to take it away that they would hide stuff as a safety blanket. So we gave them five weeks to get used to it, reiterating again and again that Ask Sharon! was their single source for everything. Then we made it so that all other places they were going to find information didn’t work anymore. And that’s when it got real.”
The firm decision to turn off older systems lead to more feedback and buy in from other departments, who were now forced to take a harder look at what information was present or missing in the new system.
As Hudson states, “That’s when we started getting other departments saying, ‘Oh, we don’t have this in here,’ or ‘We need to make sure this is in there.’ That’s when they realized they really needed to get it going.”
After pulling the plug on legacy sources of information, Hudson and her team held another round of trainings to further ensure all employees knew where to access information in the new system:
“We then held another training with the entire staff. We did a phone conference with them, and really did the exact same thing we did in the beginning, which was demonstrating here’s how you search, here’s how you filter, here’s how you really find what you need, and this is how you go to your department page. We did it all again with the exact same training, and all of sudden people went ‘Oh, this is wonderful! I wish we had this before!’”
Meanwhile, the Sharonview team made certain the new culture they were creating was one that encouraged feedback on the system and its content, and rewarded people for speaking up. The team took this feedback seriously and acted promptly on the suggestions. The result was employees who felt ownership over making the system better:
“The thing that worked for us was a combination of the fun stuff, training, good (but not perfect) content, and also really encouraging people to put in cases and give us feedback. Then, being as quick as possible to get that feedback updated so that people could see it happening and changing in real time. If people use the feedback buttons but don’t see the change, then they’re going to stop doing it. We made people feel ‘you can make this better if this is not what you want it to be.’ So that has been really helpful for us.”
Since implementing SilverCloud, the impacts on productivity, efficiency, and employee morale have been significant. Employees are happier because they can find what they need, and have a way of contributing feedback when something is missing or in need of improvement. As Hudson states:
“They love it. The feedback that we’re getting from employees is that they’re very excited about it. They love the fact that they can ask a question and then get the answer. And they love that if they can’t find the answer, they can be part of the process of making it better.”
The move to SilverCloud has also led to stronger accountability measures within the credit union:
“Before SilverCloud we had a certain old master guide which we were holding people to from an accountability standpoint. It got to be where it was just so difficult to use that it was really hard to hold people accountable. Now, branch managers can say to their teams, ‘Here’s Ask Sharon!. If you provide inaccurate information or do not correctly follow a process at this point and it’s something that was readily available on Ask Sharon!, you’re going to be held accountable for that.’ And we’ve noticed for certain complex procedures, our exception reports have gone way down.”
It has also meant more transparency between departments, particularly as it relates to the contact center:
“They love the fact that they can ask a question and then get the answer. And… they can be part of the process of making it better.”
“One interesting thing we did is we intentionally made the contact center content searchable for everybody. In doing so, I’ve had multiple departments come in and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s out there when I search this within the contact center and it’s not right.’ And that enables us to go fix that within the contact center.”
And whereas before, front line employees were peppering subject matter experts with redundant questions, now staff can find instant answers to their questions in Ask Sharon!. This has increased efficiency and freed up time for SME’s to focus on more nuanced problems:
“Before, the branch hot phone would ring, and we would end up answering the same question 20 times. And now, if they call, the first thing out of their mouth is ‘I’ve already Asked Sharon and I couldn’t find what I needed, this is why I’m calling’. We’re now dealing with the unicorns that we should be dealing with rather than the common questions that they can find through the system.”
“Before…we would end up answering the same question 20 times. And now…we’re dealing with unicorns that we should be dealing with rather than the common questions.”
Looking back on what factors contributed most to her success in changing culture and driving adoption of the new system, Hudson emphasizes that expecting perfection at the start is a recipe for failure:
“If we were waiting for it to be perfect, we wouldn’t have launched this yet. Until people are using it, they don’t know what needs to happen. They don’t know how they’re going to use it, because they don’t know what else is out there. But I think that’s true for anything, if you wait for it to be perfect you’ll never do it.”
And like anything, Hudson reiterates that although the initial adoption phase is over and the team is now seeing roughly 1000 questions answered by SilverCloud each day, it’s all part of an ongoing process:
“It’s a continuous learning system. We’re putting new content into it, we’re making changes, and we’re updating it. It’s a living breathing thing. Getting people involved and excited about making it better creates buy in and pride.”
“I’m honestly ecstatic about how it’s working. It has accomplished what we wanted it to accomplish at this point. And it works.”
“It’s a continuous learning system. We’re putting new content into it, we’re making changes, and we’re updating it. It’s a living, breathing thing.”
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