IoIC Live '16: Delegates get happy
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How do you follow an award-winning video of your staff dancing along to Pharrell Williams’ Happy? Well, you get your employees to write and record their own song.


IoIC’s Communicator of the Year, Jane Lawrence, was at IoIC Live 2016 to offer insights into how her team at Northumbrian Water Group inspired its 3,000 employees with a home-made video.

But, never one to stand still, she – and colleague Jenny Abel - revealed that the next step at NWG is for employees with musical ability to record their own version of Uptown Funk – with Northumbrian Water-related lyrics of course!

Starting with Happy, Jane recalled how her team was faced with the challenge of finding a way to celebrate people’s achievements in a fun way, and with no budget. They turned to current external influences for inspiration to create a simple digital solution.

Taking a catchy song and developing an idea that got hundreds of their people involved proved to be an award winner, with 86% of employees saying it made them feel proud.

She screened a short version of the upbeat six-minute film - Because I’m Happy To Work For NWG - which won the Gold for Best Digital entry at the IoIC Awards 2015.

“The idea of the film was to send everybody out from our annual roadshow with the feeling this is a good company to work for,” explains Jane. “What we didn’t expect was the response. They loved it, were laughing along and there was spontaneous applause at the end of each screening. It became a phenomenon.”

Updates are given to all 3,000 employees at the company’s annual two-hour roadshow and they usually get a takeaway to remind them of achievements and future targets.

“In the past we’ve produced DVDs of highlights, which have been fun but a bit corporate in style,” says Jane. “For 2014, we decided to do something different.”

The comms team asked every department at NWG, which provides water services in Essex and Suffolk as well as Northumbria, to think of things they were proud of during 2014.

“We then created the film with Pharrell Williams’ Happy as the soundtrack,” she adds. “We kept it really simple, we just sent someone with an iPad around all departments filming each team talking about what they were happy about.

“It varied from people achieving zero pollution in sewage treatment to others talking about how many customer calls they’d taken and the number of people they’d made happy.”

A post-roadshow survey showed that ‘happy’ was not an exaggeration:

  • I feel proud to work for this organisation: 82%
  • I love working for this organisation: 85%
  • I feel like a valued member of the team: 72%

But for Jenny, she said: “The best feedback we received was watching people’s faces light up when they saw their colleagues dancing around. The spontaneous applause at the end showed we had hit the mark.”

The NWG version of Uptown Funk has a lot to live up to but looks – and sounds – like another brilliant and engaging idea.
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