Honeycomb Group decided to rebuild its internal communications hub from the ground up, with a vision to not only align with its new brand and values but to also truly meet the needs of its diverse, dispersed staff.

There’s just something about it [The Hive] now. It has a personality, and it really encompasses our brands and culture. It feels like us! – Honeycomb staff feedback, following launch of The Hive

Honeycomb Group is about more than providing houses. This progressive, socially-focused collective of brands has a defined mission:

            Breaking barriers, building people, bettering homes

This ethos of breaking down social and physical barriers and elevating people is at the heart of what the Group does. Made up of five different brands – Staffs Housing, Revival, Glow, Concrete, and the collective brand Honeycomb Group – the Group provides a variety of services and support to help people across Staffordshire and surrounding areas to feel secure, connected, and confident.

To deliver services that impact thousands throughout the region, Honeycomb Group staff need quick and easy access to the right information. However, its existing intranet system was failing to deliver.

“Our intranet CAKE [Connect and Keep Engaging] had no clear purpose. Information was out-of-date, rarely reviewed and spread across multiple sections, and the site’s branding didn’t bear any resemblance to our organization or identity,” explains Ben Lowe, Senior Communications and Marketing Officer for the Group.

“The document section was also bursting at the seams with un-needed content, and intuitive user experience and navigation was a foreign concept. All in all, a recipe for disaster.”

When the organization decided to rebrand, changing everything from how the Group looked to the things it said and its priorities and values, it signaled the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. Honeycomb Group needed a new internal home: and its intranet project began.

Back to the beginning: figuring out where to start

The Honeycomb team decided early on that a simple refresh wouldn’t do the job. This project called for a real understanding of what would make the new intranet a success, the challenges users faced using the existing intranet, and the diverse needs of staff throughout the group.

“Our new intranet needed to meet our business objectives, the objectives of our new brand, and the needs of our staff,” Ben observes.

“To help set the direction we should take, we asked staff to complete a survey.”

The most common challenges identified included:

Among some of the staff comments and feedback included:

“When I’m searching for a policy or procedure and type in a search word, it very rarely produces the document I want.”

“Documents are hard to find. Sections appear to be out of date and areas not used.”

“It lacks humor & debate…there is so much experience in the group, it is a shame not to share views.”

The only redeeming feature of the existing intranet was the colleague directory, which was well-used. The team quickly came to appreciate the need to overhaul its content and navigation, to improve search and findability, and find a way to pull together the cultures of five distinct brands.

An employee-first approach

“We knew from the outset that if the ‘CAKE rebake’ was to be a success, we would need to engage with staff throughout the process,” says Ben.

To keep the new intranet user-focused, each team was asked for a member of staff to become an intranet champion and input on the project. The communications team were overwhelmed with responses: showing that engagement of staff was high. All were vested in making the new intranet a success.

A champion workshop allowed staff to put forward their ideas. Over the course of six months, the intranet team worked alongside the champions to address a list of suggested improvements and priorities:

  • The intranet being the ‘one-stop-shop’ for all current and up-to-date information
  • A functioning search
  • A design that wasn’t dull and boring
  • More social elements
  • Decluttering unused information, pages, and sections
  • An easy to navigate site
  • Easy to find documents
  • Information about our new brands
  • A page for each department

Thanks to champion feedback, Interact’s intranet health-check, a survey to all staff, and a communications team backing it, we knew exactly how we would make our new intranet a success. – Ben Lowe, Senior Communications and Marketing Officer

With clearly defined objectives, the team had a solid foundation for success.


Building a brand

With new Honeycomb Group brand guidelines as part of the organization’s rebrand, the team had a great starting point when it came to deciding on the look and feel for the new intranet. The clear objective to bring the different cultures and brands together and ensure everyone felt a part of the Honeycomb family meant both internal and external brands would be aligned: creating a common identity.

The team also decided the new intranet deserved a new name.

“After becoming the Honeycomb group, there was only one way we could go with our new intranet name,” says Ben.

“So, we chose The Hive.”

After applying the brand fonts, colors and logo, the team also added a background, customer branded buttons, a branded broadcast feature, and icons to identify different document types. They also created customer buttons for areas, taking inspiration from the honeycomb design of the external brand.

Streamlining and updating

With search, content, and user experience all ranking in the top challenges for staff when using CAKE, an overhaul of the structure and content was a clear priority.

“CAKE had, at the time of rebranding, 14 top menu items which were a mix of pages, individual teams, resources, documents and policies, and more,” Ben explains.

“This was all about to change.”

After engaging with the champions and mapping out the new structure, the team streamlined it to just five items:

  • Home
  • The Beehive (colleague directory)
  • Brands and teams
  • Documents
  • Who we are

The remaining nine menu items were merged into one of the above or removed entirely.

The team also re-evaluated how to organize documents. Like many organizations, they had previously opted for a team-based structure: arranging content into siloes by department. However, with a family of 270 staff across more than 20 teams, several offices, and two counties, this was creating unnecessary barriers. Not all staff were aware of the work of other teams, and as the organization continued to grow, it was clear this approach wasn’t robust in the long-term.

After talking with champions, the team opted for a purpose-led structure. Staff were coming to the document section with a defined purpose or need: wanting to find a particular document or policy and then get out. This new approached offer a user-focused but centralized system for organizing all information.

In addition to organization, the team needed to reconsider the quality and value of the content hosted on CAKE.

After asking document authors to review more than 950 pages and analyzing the usage and review data, the team managed to reduce the total to just 212 pages. Each page was rebranded with keywords and ‘Best Bets’ added to improve search experience. The team also looked at the language they used for content: changing titles to plain English (such as ‘sales ledger’ or ‘purchase ledger’ to ‘paying money’ and ‘requesting money’) and adding descriptions to ensure pages were as easy to find as possible.

Launching and living with The Hive

The Honeycomb Group launched its internal and external brands together in September 2019, with The Hive playing a central role.

To build a buzz ahead of launch day, the team undertook a poster and email campaign to create excitement and update staff. On launch day, the team centrally updated the old CAKE shortcut on staff desktops to push them to The Hive, and used the broadcast feature to explain key changes.

The communications team also held information sessions throughout the week, inviting staff to pop along and get answers or advice they need on The Hive.

As part of the ongoing success plan for the intranet, the team also visits new starters during their induction to give an introduction to The Hive and how they can use it.

The figures from the first 60 days speak for themselves:

  • 7,533 visits from 250 users, meaning 90% of users are active (an increase of 8%). Given that some users are relief staff and can go for months without working with the Group, this is fantastic adoption.
  • Since then, daily visits average 126, an increase of 10%
  • 5,311 visits to the document section
  • 1,264 visits to the ‘who we are’ section
  • 17,880 page views

The team doesn’t plan to stop there.

“Too many organizations, us included, make the mistake of launching a new digital platform, whether it’s a website or intranet, and thinking their work is done,” explains Ben.

“We aim to be different. We’ve already started on phase two, and we won’t stop there. We’ll continue to develop and improve The Hive.”

Priorities for the next phase include a dedicated welcome area for new starters, a news section, and an area to shout about staff benefits and opportunities. However, The Hive is off to a fantastic start.

“The way it looks, the way it feels, how it brings our staff together in a fun and creative way – The Hive is us, through and through. It builds on our group branding and connects staff from our brands under the Honeycomb family,” says Ben.

“It wasn’t a quick or easy challenge, but we knew what staff expected of our intranet, and we worked hard to meet their needs, to help make sure The Hive helped our busy bees to help others.”