Each day we receive around 65 messages via WhatsApp. Needless to say that it doesn’t come as a surprise that we sometimes get distracted by a new message. But more and more companies are also seeing it as an opportunity. For example, my colleagues and I were looking for a solution to create a good amicable atmosphere in a company where employees almost all work at the premises of external clients.
Collegiality & solidarity
As a company where colleagues sometimes only see each other twice a year, how can we ensure that everyone knows each other? We found the perfect solution in WhatsApp and over the course of one weekend, we brought colleagues closer together.
Each year we organise an off-site event, in which all colleagues and their partners can get to know each other better during a weekend on location. During this type of get-together, we offer two parallel programmes, one for employees and one for their partners. With the ‘Connect’ theme and a few speed dating sessions between colleagues, we focused on collegiality and solidarity. But what really speeded up the ‘connection’ was WhatsApp.
WhatsApp for colleagues & partners
If there’s one thing we’re good at within our company when it comes to internal activities, it’s being late. We looked for a way to gather people together on time for the meetings and activities, and at the same time involve their partners in the programme. We had the idea to create a WhatsApp group. The employees and their partners could share their photos of the weekend to show what they were doing and to whom they were talking.
Groups & mailing lists
Almost everyone has a smartphone and most people are familiar with WhatsApp. There was only one condition: it couldn’t become a discussion group. Within WhatsApp there are two options: you can create a group where you can communicate with each other and share photos and films, or the other option is the mailing list. The latter allows you to send messages and photos to this list and only the administrator will see them. The administrator can then share these messages with the rest of the group.
We put together a mailing list and chose an administrator to filter the photos and messages. In the end this was definitely necessary: the influx of photos was unprecedented. In total 108 of the 124 participants signed up and the moderator received over 500 photos. In order to maintain momentum, we constantly checked the messages and shared them directly with the rest of the group. This enables you to get a direct response in the form of photos. In the end, 275 photos and a few anecdotes were shared. The photos ensured that it was one single off-site event, despite the different programmes.
During the business workshops employees ‘stayed in contact’ because they got to see photos of their partners having fun with a graffiti course. This made a great contribution to the atmosphere. The selfies with people who didn’t know each other beforehand showed that we succeeded in our objective.
Participants were full of praise for the event and we laid a solid and amicable foundation. Combined with the speed dating, we believe that this made the off-site event the ideal team building exercise.
What can we learn from this? It will help you to start using WhatsApp with your colleagues yourself.
Encourage people to sign up for the mailing list and give them a reason. Because no one knew beforehand where we were going for the off-site event, the teasers with the location worked like a magnet. A few hours after the announcement of the WhatsApp group via email, we already had 32 telephone numbers. After we sent out the first teaser, this number doubled.
Use another phone
In order to set up the mailing list, we needed 124 telephone numbers. You have to save all of them and you receive lots of messages. If you do this on your personal phone, it gets very difficult to manage it all.
Keep the group alive and provide enough updates. The ideal moment to share photos was when the group was split up and everyone could see what his or her colleague or partner was doing.
You receive a massive amount of photos and comments. If you share all of them, it’s no fun anymore because of the information overload. So make sure you select the best photos and comments.
Keeping the group
You can also keep the group after the off-site event. Sharing a photo every now and then brings the great memories back to life.
Try to use Wi-Fi as much as possible in order to keep costs down. Data usage was huge.
What other purposes can we think of?
Now that this experience was positive, we can examine how we can use WhatsApp for other purposes in our company. We’re looking at the options for both internal purposes (introducing new colleagues, group news, announcements from the management committee, national news) and external purposes. For example, shouldn’t you be able to apply for a job via WhatsApp?
Marijn van Unen
Marijn is an experienced project manager at Projective with a focus on pension and life insurance.