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.

Asda’s Green Room

I’d heard great things about Asda’s Green Room, an online portal 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 excited me most about it was that anyone can join in. The whole shebang is exposed to Asda customers, shareholders, media – anyone with a passing interest in Asda can and is encouraged to take a look around.

Given that I’m hugely interested in what I see as the inevitable convergence of internal and external communications, driven primarily by growth of social media, I had huge expectations when I paid my first visit. First impressions were mint. It looks great and sounds great. So I scratched beneath the surface a little. I have to say, by the time I left I was feeling pretty disappointed.

OK, so it has only been going for about 5 months. Actually 5 months in social media is probably the equivalent in several years in real-time. There are some signs of genuine interaction with ‘colleagues’ (that’s what Asda call their staff) and customers who have commented on the stories posted by the Green Room team. However, many stories have attracted no comments at all.

When you consider that Asda employs over 150,000 people in the UK, 90,000 of whom who are part time (and therefore presumably have a bit more time for social networking) this does not feel like success.

Lifting the bonnet slightly, I then saw that the Green Room’s own Facebook site has only 200 fans and despite almost daily updates, 2 ‘like its’ were the only sign of interaction going back to November 2009. I didn’t see a single comment on any of the wall posts during this time. The Green Room’s Twitter channel only has 51 followers (52 now – hi Steve!).

Please don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love what Asda have done here, it is ground breaking stuff – truly. I’m just a tad disappointed that Asda colleagues do not appear to have embraced the portal with as much enthusiasm as the very capable Green Room Team clearly have.

Watch this space – I intend to find out why.