Stephen Robinson of Cargill

Every day, Stephen Robinson faces the challenge of how to transform the working environment for global food producer Cargill’s 150,000 employees.

As digital communications manager in Cargill’s corporate affairs department, Robinson is responsible for “evolving and honing” the organization’s internal digital strategy and intranet and heads the development of new digital workplace strategy. At Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill since 2009, Robinson also draws on his previous tenures at 3M and Xerox, where he led global online strategies.

Meeting Employees Where They Live

Cargill operates in over 70 countries, with employees who speak 65 languages. By using Bing machine translation, the organization is seeing a large uptick in the number of people consuming Cargill’s content.

“We’re meeting employees where they live with the language and devices they use,” Robinson said. “If you can provide content which employees find valuable, they will use it.”

Robinson will be speaking at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 19 through 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will give a session titled “Stakeholder Engagement & Business Alignment – Cargill’s DW Evolution” on June 20. 

We spoke with Robinson about his company’s new digital workplace strategy and the vital importance of aligning departments and business objectives when embarking on a digital workplace initiative.

More Personalization, Increased Mobility

CMSWire: What changes have you seen in the online and digital communications space over the course of your career?

Robinson: In terms of technologies, personalization — by which I mean adopting or tailoring user experience to individual employees — has been around for a while, but it’s getting better. Mobile is another factor, with cell phones and tablets resulting in employees wanting access to information anytime, anywhere.

On top of technology, employees have changed. Their attention span is much smaller, so you need to get things to them very quickly and in small information bites. Employee expectations are higher — what they see outside the enterprise, they expect to see inside. What’s also changed is that companies now want to reach all employees, not just digital natives.

The biggest disappointment for me is the social integration. Social tools like Facebook and Twitter have evolved over the last few years but the larger content management products have had a harder job integrating with these social tools. Employees are clamoring for that integration.

CMSWire: How would you describe the new digital workplace strategy at Cargill and how that strategy has evolved from previous initiatives?

Robinson: Our new strategy is much more personalized and focused on employee role, organization, location and language. By translating something into your own language, it improves engagement. We’re also pulling in an individual’s role to tailor content to that, versus a one-size-fits-all approach. The default experience is based on personalized elements.

We now have a real focus on mobility. It’s mobile designed for anywhere, anytime, any device and making it easier to access services. The drive is to make the digital workplace a tool that employees can’t live without.

Our new strategy is built on cloud, with SharePoint 2013 and some on-premises. Yammer remains our internal default social collaboration tool. We still struggle with integration which is funny since Microsoft owns them both.

CMSWire: Why is it so important to align HR, IT and corporate affairs when developing a digital workplace strategy?

Robinson: The reason we started with those three is that each function is a critical owner of part of the digital workplace. HR owns employee data: employee location, organization, role, start date. All that data is managed by HR and feeds into SharePoint to provide profile information. IT manages the technology infrastructure: servers, cloud, mobile device management, and is a critical partner to leverage new technology. In Corporate Affairs, we own the strategy, design and vision for where we want to move with our digital workplace.

Along with the leads of the departments, I also presented to their lieutenants, their direct reports. We not only had buy-in from all three departments, but they all had decision rights, so they’re participants.

CMSWire: What advice do you have for other organizations struggling with how best to align their digital workplace initiative to their business objectives?

Robinson: It’s critical to have that business alignment. Without business objectives, a project will either fail or not get off the ground. Intranet projects struggle for resources. Aligning with corporate or departmental objectives is critical. You can measure the time to task and speed to task to see if self-service is working.

It’s about the business drivers. The drive for HR is self-service and lower costs. The lowest cost channel for HR is the web, where you don’t need to make a phone call. For IT, it’s moving into less expensive technologies like cloud.

CMSWire: What’s next for Cargill’s digital workplace strategy?

Robinson: The challenge and key for us is personalization. We launched phase one in February and phase two now. It’s not like you build it and you’re done. We continue to evolve the design, content and tailoring.

We have a huge focus in phase two on search, which works pretty well but we wanted to make it more knowledge management-esque. For example, if you type in “food safety,” search will bring back who are experts in the field, different web sites and documents like white papers. We want to make search more relevant to terms and to location and stream results based on location and language.

Another big shift of phase two is back-end API integration for roles. For example, we use Salesforce, so it’s how we can pull sales information [from the CRM system] into our digital workplace panels.

CMSWire: What’s the favorite place you’ve visited in the world and why?

Robinson: St. John in the US Virgin Islands. I’d suggest visiting in March and I’d recommend renting a villa to look out at the bay and ocean. The views are endless. It’s a place where you can truly unwind and relax — and getting out of Minnesota winters is a huge plus!

Editor's note: Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience hereRegister today.