Youi prides itself on being different; but earlier this year it found itself in the same boat as everyone else.
Like the rest of Australia, Youi needed to find a way for staff to work remotely and safely while preserving customer experience and ensuring regulatory compliance.
An insurance company with operations in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, Youi employs almost 1,600 people, serving more than 680,000 customers who between them have more than a million insurance policies with Youi.
Predominantly an online business with a lot of interaction via its website and app, Youi also operates a highly regarded contact centre with staff trained through the company’s Learning and Development program – Youiversity, delivered through a combination of SharePoint Online and Teams.
Youi recently launched its new intranet, YourWorld, built using SharePoint Online. YourWorld is a cloud-based repository for all the learning content of Youiversity, supporting the company in ensuring materials are up to date and compliant with industry standards. It also provides a central place for news, procedures and other vital company information.
Chris Harding, knowledge and information specialist, says; “A deep desire to deliver awesome service, great products, coupled with our regulated industry are big drivers for us to make sure that our quality is high and we’re compliant with all of the regulations that we need to be compliant with. Part of that is making sure that our people have got access to the right information at the right time when they need it. Can they give quality service to the customer? Are they giving accurate information? Are they conducting themselves in a compliant manner? Also core to our values is ensuring our people are well supported and connected”.
SharePoint Online, which replaced a much older on-premise SharePoint system, was deployed just a fortnight before COVID-19 prompted the Government to recommend that people work from home whenever possible.
While Youi’s contact centre personnel have traditionally worked on site, they were able to use Youi’s Microsoft 365 platform to support them as they transitioned to a new way of working. Youi set up what it called “zones” of working which comprised a mix of people working on site and people working from home.
People were assigned to a zone and a way of working, then connected to each other using Microsoft Teams. By April, 28 per cent of call centre workers were in the office, 72 per cent at home – but the engagement across the team remained as solid as if they had all been physically co-located says Harding.
The company had worked with Microsoft partner Adopt & Embrace on the transformation in order to maximise productivity and engagement. Harding says that during workshops with the company it became clear how Teams would shore up communications and connections across Youi.
Adopt & Embrace founder Paul Woods says; “It’s been a really great engagement with a customer, because we’ve been able to act as a coach or an advisor as opposed to having to come in and do all the work,” which has ensured that Youi got the solution it needed and also built up its internal skills by working closely with Adopt & Embrace.
Dynamic and responsive
Youi worked with Adopt & Embrace to workshop what it needed now as well as to create a blueprint for the future. That, for example, meant that when Teams was first rolled out, individual Teams were set up centrally rather than risk sprawl and poor governance by allowing a free for all.
As people grow more familiar with Teams Youi plans to offer a Teams self-service option, using AvePoint to ensure proper governance.
Getting the governance right is important for an organisation such as Youi as its quality and regulatory requirements are stringent, as is its desire to keep things effective and easy for staff. –
Harding adds; “While our IT, Facilities, HR and other teams worked hard to get our people able to do their regular job from home, it became apparent that the only thing our people couldn’t do from home, was chat with their colleagues. My primary aim became keeping people connected, while keeping the change load low.”
Teams Chat helped to reduce the sense of isolation among people who were working remotely.
It was Teams Chat, says Harding, that catalysed people’s adoption of the technology. “It gave us an easy entry point where everybody knew how to chat to each other. It’s like riding a bike, everyone knows how to chat and send an instant message to people. So, it gave people that confidence, it gave them that connectivity.”
Harding adds that team managers have a number of things they need to be able to do such as daily one-on-one’s, coaching and to be able to manually override their personnel’s devices when needed.
When people started to work from home it was all facilitated by ‘zone’ Teams with people in a particular zone assigned to that zone’s Team. Channels and Tabs were used to deliver consistent engagement and messages.
Managers could see who was where, chat to team members and continue to manage the contact centre even though they may be physically separated.
To further support people working from home Youi created a COVID resources and news site on SharePoint Online that provided all the technical and operational support that people needed to get up and working from home.
“We structured it in such a way that we had a really basic landing page that delivered all of the information that was required. We put that in a tab, in a Team, and we repeated that in every zone Team, instead of reinventing the wheel each time” says Harding, adding that a special training channel was also set up.
She adds; “We took the same approach of ‘create and store once, publish in many places’, for our other key programs too.” Mindful of the need to ensure all staff were fully supported and engaged, Youi also delivered its award- winning employee engagement program, YourLife, in SharePoint, and delivered via Teams channels. People could use that to connect to yoga classes, mindfulness sessions or on one memorable day, to share photos of their odd socks.
Reinforcing the importance of engaged employees Youi has long embraced gamification which provides points and prizes to encourage specific staff behaviours that range from completing training to using the stairs instead of lifts. Promotions and prizes included kids’ colouring-in competitions, dress-up days, vouchers for home office makeovers and more, all delivered via Teams.
By using this combination of SharePoint sites in the Intranet and injecting them into multiple Teams using channels and tabs, the business was able to deliver news, resources, activities, engagement and fun with minimal maintenance and maximum results. To round out the communications approach, intranet news digests were emailed to all staff as well.
To date around 80 Teams have been provisioned across Youi to support different groups and functions. After the successful take up of Teams, Youi decided to retire Slack which has been well received.
In the first three months after deployment Teams was used for 2.4 million chats, 18,200 meetings, 23,700 channels messages, 94,900 one on one calls, 10,000 group calls and 13 CEO live updates.
Powering our people to remain ‘customer first’
Transitioning hundreds and hundreds of people to home based working over just a fortnight is no mean feat. One of the challenges for Youi was ensuring people had access to the equipment they needed to do their jobs. It had a shipping container in the car park set up as an equipment library with people allocated a time to come and collect what they needed to be able to work from home.
The company used Power Automate to create Power Apps that managed that process, and also keep track of who has what equipment on loan. Harding adds that Power Apps have also been used to automate other company processes such as medical declarations, travel declarations, as well as resource movement and resource allocation.
She adds; “We’re doing a resource reallocation, now that we’re re-entering the office again. All of our movements are managed through Power Apps. So, you’re allocated to a zone that then allocates your workstation location, and you’ll be moved Teams as well, because we run all of our Teams on Dynamic Lists out of Active Directory.“
Automating that process, instead of having people manually sending out emails to each and every person has saved more than 10 weeks of work, says Harding.
“It’s pretty awesome, you receive a welcome back to work email, this is what you need to do, this is where you need to go to collect your new lanyard, this is the entry you can use, these are the rules you need to follow, this is the desk number you’re in – that’s all through automation, that was really, cool. It’s a huge manual burden that’s been removed”
Youi’s CEO Hugo Schreuder has also embraced the change, running company updates using Teams Livestream. “Once he dialled in from the loading dock congratulating all the team down there for doing such a great job in Facilities, and just walking around showing us what the loading dock looked like and what was going on in the midst of it all. It’s been really great to be able to do that and keep people connected, and because they’re recorded too, you can go back and watch them, you don’t have to do it in real time,” says Harding.
It’s still far from clear what the future holds, or the form that businesses will assume when the virus abates. The workplace experiment forced by COVID-19 has however proven that flexible and remote working does not damage productivity or efficiency as long as there are effective tools in place to support workers and keep them connected.
Harding notes that people are social animals and she believes that there will be a return to more face to face engagement over time, even though people have proven that technically, physically and emotionally they are more than capable of performing well wherever they work.
The technology can support them whatever the next normal resembles.
She says that Youi’s digital transformation continues apace; it is preparing for more self-service Teams opportunities with AvePoint deployed to ensure proper governance; the company will continue to review security and governance across the enterprise; and also has plans to roll out Yammer as the platform for company-wide informal communications.
The low to no-code development opportunity offered by Power Automate is something that Youi also wants to continue exploiting – democratising innovation, but guided by a Youi Citizen Developer Strategy.
The principles for that have been tested successfully over the last few months – namely that to succeed transformation needs to be fast, to focus on keeping people connected, to ensure that the change load is low and manageable; and always with the user front and centre.