How a Communications Specialist transformed two-way comms for everyone at Illumina

by Amy Brennan

By making it easy for company leaders to share content, Illumina’s Cassandra Calvani has helped build a culture of connected communication.

Workplace Pioneers are a group of the most sophisticated and forward-thinking Chief Workplace Officers in the world. They’re exceptional at connecting people, sharing information, spreading ideas, and promoting best practices through Workplace.

Here we meet Workplace Pioneer Cassandra Calvani - Employee Communications Specialist at Illumina - to hear how she and her team helped Illumina put Workplace first and why it’s transformed internal communications forever.

Illumina is a global leader in DNA sequencing with the goal of improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome. Its analysis tools and systems enable genetic studies that were previously unimaginable even just a few years ago.

In 2017, the organization was at an exciting crossroads. The founding CEO was taking a position on the board, and a new CEO was ready to assume the role. This presented an excellent opportunity to improve global communication across teams. In particular, the new CEO sought out a platform that could turbocharge two-way conversations. The question was, how could the organization connect 7,500 people in 20 locations and 8 countries?

Connected companies are closer

“We’d tried other tools for teams before,” says Cassandra, “we didn't have a lot of success with them. They didn’t have the features we needed, so there was of lack of executive buy-in.”

But when the new CEO suggested Workplace - and Illumina completed a successful pilot - that all soon changed.

“The pilot demonstrated how easy Workplace was to use,” Cassandra continues. “It also helped us secure a full endorsement from the leadership team. So after that, we built and fine-tuned the structure of our Workplace groups, and we were ready for a full launch in July 2017.”

Getting the right information to the right people at the right time

Building a suitable Workplace group structure was a key concern for Cassandra and her team.

“From the beginning, we had an intentional three-group structure,” Cassandra explains. “Then we ran an audit of all of our existing channels and decided we only wanted one clear, defined source of truth for our organizational information. So we intentionally embedded parts of Workplace into our Intranet.”

"So we intentionally embedded parts of Workplace into our intranet."

This structure enabled Cassandra and her team to ensure everyone has access to the information they need - even if they never joined another Workplace group.

Embedding Workplace in the Intranet yielded several benefits to internal communications. Cassandra’s team uses Workplace to deliver curated content to employees via the company Intranet. By syncing Workplace groups to employee distribution lists, Cassandra’s team can now feed location-specific news and other relevant posts to each employee’s homepage.

People log into the Intranet every day and find lots of useful - but static - content,” says Cassandra. “But when they click on it, they’re taken to the original post on Workplace. Here they can comment, share, engage, and interact with the content - and that wasn’t possible before.” This creates a better user experience while reinforcing the company vision. It also gives people a starting point to find the information they need in Workplace when they need it.

Creating conversations with leadership

“One of our key use cases was to provide a platform for the CEO to have a voice,” Cassandra says. “But it was also important to help drive the direction of the company through the transparent and two-way dialogue that Workplace provides.”

Cassandra uses the example of email to illustrate her point. “In many organizations, it’s normal only to receive an email from a business leader when there’s big, dramatic news like a reorg or an acquisition. And an email is impersonal and one-way. Few people are going to respond to an email from the CEO, and nobody is ever going to hit reply all!”

"Workplace gives us space to meet people in the middle. Leaders feel comfortable sharing more information on a broader range of topics."

Using Workplace overcomes those obstacles. “It gives us a space to meet people in the middle,” Cassandra says. “Leaders feel comfortable sharing more information and on a much broader range of topics. Things like quarterly earnings reports, a Live video stream from a town hall meeting, or a post from the CFO about the top 5 things on his mind. That was one of our top trending posts!”

This opens up the conversation between the C-suite and the rest of the business. It naturally encourages dialogue, and it makes people closer and more connected with the vision of the leadership team. More importantly, it’s working. A recent staff survey shows that 86% of people feel senior management is clearly communicating company direction.

How would you sell Workplace to another communications specialist?

“This one’s easy,” Cassandra says. “It’s simple to use and everyone gets it. You can create transparent, two-way communications across your organization quickly. And using Workplace will enable your communications function to join the dots between every other department so they can build closer partnerships and more connected communities. Go and deploy it!”

With huge thanks to Cassandra Calvani, Employee Communications Specialist at Illumina.

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