Built tough: how Ford innovated to deliver a transformational employee experience

The Ford Motor Company has impressively built a truly family-based culture in a business with around 186,000 employees across the globe.  Tahni Morrison finds how this engagement has benefited the business

The Ford Motor Company is a truly inspiring organisation in many ways, constantly evolving to changing market forces it’s a business that has adapted and evolved over its 118 year history. 

For its size, impressively it has built a truly family-based culture in a business with around 186,000 employees across the globe. It’s a monumental achievement, and goes with some recognition as Ford’s internal communications team recently was awarded the Grand Prize at Ragan’s 2021 Employee Communications of the Year Awards.  

I recently joined one of our webinars where we talked to the internal communications team at Ford – to find out more about how they are nurturing an environment for employees that offer significant levels of engagement, and ensure employees gain real value from all their digital communications. As well as taking a retrospective look at what the last 18 months has been like for the team, during an incredibly difficult period in the company’s history.

Of course, internal communications teams within large organisations across the globe were dealt a huge challenge in the last 18 months – but as we rode into the pandemic, this impressive team pivoted rapidly to put into place strategies that enabled it to quickly roll out channels of communication to its employees to ensure crucial updates were communicated, and lines of communication were open for employees to voice their concerns. 

With a mix of both front-line workers in manufacturing plants, office-based workers and those based remotely (which invariably increased noticeably in the first few months of 2020) – real time information, delivered across a multi-channel approach was a key strategy to keep building on the trust developed over time with employees.  

This digital transformation strategy, although a huge challenge at a time when the organisation was also introducing new leadership in the form of a new CEO, and while also battling the daily challenges of the pandemic – was pivotal to the organisations success in maintaining a status quo for employees across the globe.

Key elements that stood out to me include:

  • Delivering consistent communication – with an employee-first attitude. This has been the cornerstone of this successful strategy.  Delivering information via a variety of channels, to ensure employees could access information in the way they wanted it on the device that was important to them has been a resounding success. In fact, the company is now seeing around a million weekly visits to its internet hub, and 25,000 employees signing up to their live global Town Hall events – a live streamed, interactive event led by the senior team to give insights into important business news. This is an astounding achievement, and is testament to the work that has gone into a rounded communications programme that puts the employee first.  
  • We know that in today’s communications-led world we’re constantly fed information across all the devices we use, be that mobile phone, laptop or tablet – but offering choice, by allowing employees a choice of what they subscribe to and what they don’t is incredibly important part of communicating, along with analysis of what worked and what didn’t – the learning process helps the communications tactics evolve over time. At Ford that’s been an important element to maintain engagement.
  • Working across internal teams holistically has meant more joined up delivery of information, with HR teams across the globe working together with Internal Communications to deliver relevant information in a consistent manner. Coming together as people that impact the overall employee experience is important to help garner happy employees.
  • Storytelling to create engagement and community spirit. Using video to tell the story of Project Apollo – the internal codename for the company’s recent effort to design and manufacture PPE, respirators, face shields and medical gowns during the early part of the pandemic. Building a bridge to their workforce, at a time when most felt disconnected from the business, due to being home based – this film gave Ford employees a real connection to how as an organisation they contributed to their country in its time of real need.  Bringing people together when they most needed it and making them proud of the Ford family. It’s an emotive story that was captured by award-winning director Peter Berg.  It’s available here and is a must view.
  • Building employee brand advocacy in changing times, as advertising becomes less of a medium to convey a message – ensuring Ford employees have the information they need to be valuable advocates of the business will be important moving forward. Ford work to develop early access on new product information that is shared with employees, as ways to communicate with their target audience evolves.

There’s so much to learn from this innovative team at Ford, I urge you to watch the webinar. It’s insightful and offers a very honest view of how this large business is succeeding at not only communicating but ensuring all its employees both present and past get real value from working within such an innovative organisation.

Tahni Morrison is Senior Customer Engagement Manager at Firstup

Tahni Morrison is Senior Customer Engagement Manager at Firstup

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