BBVA Compass Champions Employee-Driven Communications in Banking

In his second guest post, William Tout talks us through BBVA Compass’ recent innovative social business initiatives which positions the bank as a champion of Employee-Driven communications in banking.

I am delighted to announce that next week we will celebrate the 5th anniversary of Visible Banking.  If you are a regular reader of the Visible Banking blog, you will know that if I have been the only contributor on this blog, last year I started to very occassionally invite a few hand-picked friends and trusted contacts to post insightful guest articles.

I am thrilled to publish a guest post from William Trout – SVP & Director Internal Communications at BBVA Compass.  William and I have been in contact for quite some time now.  Another social media advocate, a Visible Banking interviewee Jose Antonio Gallego – Head of Social Media at BBVAconnected us.  Muchas gracias JA.

For the last couple of months, me and my team have been extremely busy taking Visible Banking to the next level, hence the relatively low volume of content posted on the blog in December.  And in the next few weeks I will make some exciting announcements.  One of them will involve many visionaries and thought leaders from the worldwide financial services industry like William.Like BBVA in Spain, BBVA Compass in the US Believes in Social Media
In the last couple of years BBVA Compass has demonstrated its commitment to increase brand awareness and its market share in the US.  The bank has identified social media engagement as an efficient way to reach their business targets.BBVA Compass partnered with one of the most fun (and profitable) online finance companies around, Smartypig.  With this strategic partnership the bank leverages the pig’s goal oriented, social media enabled, online platform.  As I mentioned in an article about a year ago, the bank gives a lot of visibility to its social media presence, notably its facebook page.But now, I will invite you to read William’s excellent contribution on a topic he loves and masters, employee-driven Communications.

Guest Post – elevate: Using Internal Social Media to Spearhead Organizational Change
Several years ago, we at BBVA Compass decided to reinvent our organization as part of an ambitious, five-year strategic plan. We decided to start this process by transforming the way we communicate, and to use communication as a lever to upend what had been a top-down, traditionalist corporate culture.
Why the strategic role of our communications function? Because just as a company’s culture can determine the way it communicates, the way a company communicates can fundamentally shape its culture.

About elevate
Our instrument of change was a campaign-driven, internal social media platform called elevate. Built on proprietary software, elevate allows employees to submit questions (uncensored, on the topic of their choosing and if they wish, anonymously) directly to our CEO. During each two-week campaign, employees comment on these questions and vote for them based on their relevance. The CEO concludes the campaign by responding to the 10 questions that have received the most votes.

elevate is powerful because it gives employees a voice. Unlike a blog, which is a form of ‘one-to-many’ communication, elevate is ‘many-to-one’. As such, it represents an inversion of the top-down, unidirectional style of messaging still favored by many companies today. The voting function, which allows employees to “like” specific questions or comments, helps drive participation by engaging the “silent majority” of employees unwilling to question the CEO themselves. Underlining the appeal of this type of platform is its relevance to 21st century employees. Because it is real-time, social and collaborative, elevate speaks to employees seeking to access the kinds of social media tools they embrace in their private lives.

From an organizational perspective, elevate offers benefits as well. It serves as a mood barometer or early warning system for the company, alerting management to issues before they fester into problems. A simple tagging function facilitates the bundling of these issues. In the case of BBVA Compass, employee benefits (including health care, sick leave, etc.) emerged as a major issue for employees, accounting for nearly a quarter of all questions. Our Human Resources department—at the prompting of our CEO—has since made major adjustments to our benefits policies.

This sort of bottom-up, employee-driven change would have been unimaginable in the old BBVA Compass. For one thing, employees lacked a channel to make their concerns known in the first place. Now, however, employees have a place to voice their pent-up concerns and enthusiasm.

Stats & Achievements
elevate drew more than 150,000 page views over the course of the inaugural campaign, the most ever for a BBVA Compass campaign platform.  Nearly half of our 10,000 employees signed on, posting more than 1,000 questions and comments. Some of these were constructive; some were caustic. But the fact that 75 percent of users chose to use their real names instead of pseudonyms suggest that we have turned a corner in building an employee-driven corporate culture; one based on trust, not fear. Employees have assumed a major role in shaping the direction of our organization, a role that authentic and transparent dialogue (such as that embodied by the elevate platform) will continue to foster in the future.

I invite you to watch a video of William delivering a presentation on Employee-Driven Communication at the Senior Executive Forum in Houston.

Join the Discussion (Here or on Facebook)
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  In your opinion, which other financial institutions are innovating internally and smartly leveraging social media and social business technologies to engage their workforce?

The top comments and their contributors will be highlighted on the Visible Banking platform (blog, facebook page, twitter account).

What do you think?

Written by William Trout

As Director of Product and Segment Development for the Wealth Management unit of BBVA Compass, a top 20 U.S. bank, William is responsible for the creation of strategic business development plans to grow emerging and existing markets in coordination with the BBVA Group’s Global Private Banking unit. A graduate of Harvard University, William began his financial services career in 1999. William is the founder of the Houston Financial Services Communicators Group, a network of industry marketing and communications leaders, and his professional interests range from technology and innovation to leadership and stakeholder engagement.

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