Best Practice

The role of employee champions in the launch of a new digital workplace

Employee champions or employee ambassadors are a team of employees who are brought together, usually motivated by a single goal or purpose, to help rally their teams around an issue.

Done well, a champions program offers the employee communications team multiple benefits. They can:

  • Help engage, motivate and inspire the people around them to act
  • Create an authentic, peer-to-peer experience for their colleagues 
  • Act as the connectors between different teams and departments 
  • Provide feedback to the project team with regards to what’s working, and what is not 

In return employee champions also enjoy several advantages. These are:

  • Visibility amongst senior leaders 
  • Be regarded as an influential and well-connected team member 
  • Become part of a community of like-minded peers 
  • Shape the communications program
  • Have exclusive access to platforms and content before anyone else 

When it comes to the digital workplace, from research available and published case studies, digital champions can really come into their own. They are the members of the team, on the ground who are there to actively promote it through interactions with their colleagues – encouraging usage, supporting people with any challenges and working closely with the internal communications team to help ensure its success. 

With internal communications support, they are also the people who will help to lead the charge on the ground, making it relevant and demonstrating the benefits which the platform will bring to people’s working lives. 

Whether you are seeking to recruit champions to support a roll-out, or if you’re planning to utilize an existing cohort for support, champions can undoubtedly propel digital transformation success.

However, such an initiative needs to be well thought through and managed closely to ensure people remain aligned and enthusiastic about their role. 

Before launch

Prior to launch, the project team must clearly define the role of the champions and set expectations. Thought needs to be given to who will manage the program, how will the champions remain in contact with the team and each other, what do you need them to deliver on, what do you need to have in place.

As with any new initiative you want to succeed, leadership buy-in and willingness for the program is also a critical success factor. 

As a minimum, prior to launch, you should consider the following activity:

  • An initial call for introductions and scene-setting 
  • A training session (ideally face-to-face over a day or two) where people can get to know each other, delve deeper into their role and be given the knowledge and skills they need to fulfill their role successfully 
  • Providing access to a demo/ preview/ prior access to the platform so they can play around with it and see how it works
  • Regular check-ins for your network to ask questions and seek any further support they may need 
  • Training packs and background information to support conversations they are likely to be having with their peers 

Providing clarity of purpose and sharing clear instruction of what’s required will help keep all colleagues focused.

Often champions are taking the role on as volunteers, so you need to make this supportive role as seamless as possible for them to feed into their day job. 

During launch

During the launch of your digital workplace, champions should be encouraged to support launch activities that are appropriate for their respective locations – but also take the lead on organizing a great event for their teams. 

I tend to suggest that champions are provided with a blueprint or toolbox for a great launch. This can include kiosk stands, digital files for any printed materials, videos, training materials, ideas for desk drops, etc. It is then up to them to really bring it to life. By taking this approach, the launch is authentic and relevant rather than deemed as something which is centralized and irrelevant.

Make sure on the day of launch your champion is on hand helping people, answering questions – and listening to what people are saying and feeding this back to you. They need to walk the walk and talk the talk! 

After launch

The days after the launch can be in equal measures chaotic and euphoric. Months of hard work have led up to it and it’s a great feeling seeing the result of your planning. Champions are likely to also share the same sentiment. To recognize their efforts, enlist the support of a senior leader to publicly thank the group for all their support.

Also arrange for a wrap-up, or retrospective review session to go through what worked, what didn’t, lessons learned and the areas which require focus next. If you want to continue with their support, co-design what the program will look like with them. You’ll be surprised and delighted with what they’ll come up with!

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