Asda’s Green Room re-visited

This time last year I scribbled down a few thoughts on Asda’s Green Room, a website where Asda staff can get together to find out what’s happening around the company as well as share their own stories, pictures and videos.

What makes the Green Room so special is that whilst most companies do this kind of thing, very few do so in public. There’s no hiding behind the corporate firewall here.  Customers, shareholders, media, rivals – in fact anyone with a passing interest in Asda can visit the site and have their say.

So when I heard that the Green Room had a makeover last week I rushed back to pay a visit – and I must say it looks amazing.

The new homepage is very easy on the eye and packed with attractive hooks to draw you deeper into some great content.  Additional functionality has been added to make it easier to submit comments, upload and preview pictures, and receive progress information on both.

New design elements have enhanced navigation around the site as well as point you to other linked resources like the Green Room’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. I really really like what they have done.

I said some pretty negative things last time round about my disappointment at the lack of obvious staff interaction with the site. I’m pleased to say things have improved on that front.

There was a lovely news piece from early December where Asda President and CEO Andy Clarke thanked staff for their Herculean efforts in keeping the business going during the extreme weather conditions, in short informal video. This in turn attracted a bunch of comments from staff and customers, telling their own stories of braving the Arctic conditions.

If I were to be really picky (which obviously I am!) I’d have loved to have seen a follow-up comment from Andy Clarke in the thread acknowledging the stories, in particular the comment from an Asda customer who explains why the residents of Slack Head in Beetham are “very lucky to have one of your employees in our community”. This kind of content is priceless. But only if people are reading it.

There is still a lot of work to be done to make the Green Room the runaway success it deserves to be. Despite improvements, levels of engagement with staff are still patchy. Most of the news stories don’t seem to attract comments, including one where the company announced it had raised £4m last year for partner charity Tickled Pink. Another story about a member of staff who had just won £5.6m on the National Lottery attracted a single solitary comment.

The same lack of engagement is reflected on Facebook, where since the beginning of December, the 30-odd posts on the Green Room wall have attracted just 4 comments.

The next step for the Green Room team has to be off-line.

The on-line offering is more than fit for purpose. It is actually bloody good. What is needed now is awareness, education, and encouragement.  Staff need to be encouraged and empowered to get involved. The easy bit has been done – the hard bit starts now.

The key to success in my opinion will be getting the entire management community to lead by example. They need to demonstrate through their own actions that engaging with the Green Room is not just permitted, but genuinely encouraged.

4 thoughts on “Asda’s Green Room re-visited

  1. Well said Jon. Like you, I’m a huge huge fan of the Green Room and was excited to see the new look launched a few days ago. They’re a shining example of embracing online communication, engagement and collaboration “opportunities” with their people – and, with it being open to the world to see, it brilliantly reflects one of their core values of transparency.

    However, I too am a little disappointed – well, actually more like gutted for them – that the levels of engagement from employees is still very small. You’re right, a heap of offline activity needs to happen to improve that. Just build it…and they WON’T come. By fully integrating it with everything they do, getting the execs leading by example etc will definitely help. But it’s all too easy to assume the reasons why there’s relatively low engagement.

    I’d love to hear from one of the comms guys on why this may be…

    On saying all of that, I do still feel that the pros are outweighing the cons right now. It’s a brilliant first step – one for which they should be applauded. Here’s hoping the next stage is equally brilliant.

    • Thanks for the comments Abi. I’d be interested to know what success criteria/measurements the Green Roon Team are using. I assume they are in positive territory otherwise they would not have been able to invest in the makeover. I’d love to know how many of the 150,000 or so staff have visited the site!

  2. Hi Jon and Abi, thanks for the kind words. It’s always nice to hear that the changes we’re making are for the better.

    We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved with the Green Room so far, but we’re fully aware that we still have a lot of work to do before we get to where we want to be. The Green Room is most definitely work in progress, and we have some big ideas to try to once again move it to the next level. It might sound silly, but we still see ourselves as being at a very early stage with Social Media. There are areas we think we can improve on and we have plans in place to do just that.

    At Asda we always try to be an innovative company. We’d rather lead than follow and I like to think the Green Room is a perfect example of this. I said in a blog I wrote for Rachel Miller (http://www.rachallen.com/?p=653) “At Asda, we try to be as transparent as possible, the Green Room was created on this very premise.” And that’s something we really pride ourselves on. If our colleagues are doing something amazing, then why keep it behind the firewall?

    With Social Media I always think of it as similar to learning to swim. You can dip your toe in and lower yourself in slowly. Or you can shut your eyes, hold your breath and jump. With the Green Room, we took the decision to just jump in and work from there. We’ve learnt a lot along the way, but I think we’re now at a point where we can confidently keep ourselves afloat (we’ve progressed from doggy paddle).

    In terms of how we quantify success, we look at a number of different things. Like most people, we keep a close eye on visits and page views to the site. However, it would be short-sighted to measure success just by those factors alone (if we did I could sit clicking refresh all day!). We look at factors such as time on site, page views per visit and bounce rate. All these give a good indication of just how engaged our colleagues are with the site. If we had 2000 visits in a day but people were only staying for 10 seconds, then we wouldn’t call it a success.

    With the introduction of the new site we’ve been able to create a much easier navigational path for our colleagues. Content is now grouped in sensible sections so it’s easier for people to find what they need. We’ve also introduced, and this is my favourite new thing, store specific sections. Each and every store in Asda now has its own section which they can upload content to. Not only does it now mean we can see exactly which stores are the most engaged, but colleagues also know exactly where they need to go to see what’s happening in their stores. We aim to make sure colleagues see these pages as an extension of their store and are as proud of them as they are the place where they work.

    You both reference the point that engagement level in terms of interaction is not as high as you might expect. That’s a valid point, and something we realise we have to work on. I definitely feel we need to focus on the education piece around Social Media as a whole, but specifically the Green Room. We need to make sure that colleagues feel confident to go on the Green Room during work hours and it’s not seen as time-wasting. If colleagues want to get some ideas around how they can raise money for any of the charities we support then what better way than going on the Green Room and seeing what other stores have been doing..

    I don’t expect for us to suddenly get 170,000 comments to every story, but creating that online community where all colleagues can go to share ideas and give advice to other colleagues is an amazing opportunity and one which I really want to make real.

    Once again, thanks for the blog and kind words, I hope the next time you blog about the Green Room we’ll have moved on again. If anyone has any questions, then feel free to reply to this post or email me at steven.murgatroyd@asda.co.uk.

  3. Thanks for your comments Steve – I love the learning to swim analogy! I also loved the store specific sections and the functionality which accompanies it. Very nice. The other thing I forgot to mention was the Tell Andy section. There is evidence on there of real engagement, particularly where all comments submitted have been published rather than just the highlights (Aug & Sep 2010). You should rightly be very proud of what you are doing with the Green Room. It’s only a matter of time before others begin following your lead.

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