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Sometimes the best ideas come from humble beginnings. Faced with the challenge of finding a way to celebrate people’s achievements in a fun way, and with no budget, the IoIC team of the year from Northumbrian Water Group used 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.

Internal communication manager and IoIC’s Internal Communicator of the Year, Jane Lawrence (pictured right), will be at IoIC Live 2016 in Birmingham from May 5-6 to outline how their idea is a simple, easily transferable concept that will leave you feeling happy and inspired to give it a go yourself.

Here’s what Jane told InsideOut – the free monthly magazine for IoIC members – after winning gold last year…

Happy…and they know it

Employees at Northumbrian Water Group danced as they told the world how happy they are at work – and they had a bit of help from Pharrell Williams.

The American singer’s song, Happy, was the upbeat soundtrack to a 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 Lawrence, group internal communication manager at NWG, which also won the Best in-house team award.

“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.”

The judges said the film was “inspiring, fun and really hit the spot” and Jane says it came about as an attempt to try “something different”.

NWG’s vision is to be the national leader in the provision of water and waste water services, and continually measures its performance against the other water companies.

Updates are given to all 3,000 employees at the 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.”

About 50 people were filmed and Jane says: “Lots of them came up with their own dance routines – we had a 65-year-old from a sewage treatment plant dancing with his 18-year-old counterpart.

“Some people had a more ‘tougher’ image and just tapped their feet – but that was great because everyone showed their character. We didn’t ask anybody to do anything except put their message across.”

As well as a great reception at the roadshow, Because I’m Happy To Work For NWG went across the world.

“Our CEO Heidi Mottram joined in the filming, thanking everyone and then dancing along to Happy,” she says. “She then showed the board at our parent company, Cheung Kong Infrastructure, and they loved it and asked for our help in setting up something similar in Hong Kong.

“It’s really impactful, it involved lots of people not just in the film but also writing the messages and coming up with things they were proud of.

“And because we filmed it in-house on an iPad and edited using iMovies, it cost very little but it feels very much us and who we are.”

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%

Jane Lawrence will give the full story behind the ‘Happy’ campaign at IoIC Live 2016 in Birmingham on Friday May 6
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