The program is award worthy because it added value to employees’ experience at the Digest by providing face-to-face communications with online and electronic vehicles swiftly and with compassion. All the information employees needed to help them contribute to charities, share their feelings with other employees, access coping resources and receive news updates was housed in one centralized location – an Intranet site. This centralized location also helped productivity by reducing the need for employees to surf the Web or listen to the radio during work hours.
Time Period: September 2001 to November 2001
Need/Opportunity: The September 11 tragedy presented a sudden internal communications challenge. Like most companies with headquarters in the U.S., Reader’s Digest was faced with employees who were shocked and grief stricken. Employees in our New York offices felt an intense need to help the victims and rescue workers but didn’t know how. They also wanted to share their feelings and current news on the event. We received a great deal of feedback from our New York employees about their distress and their need to reach out to the victims.
Intended audience: Reader’s Digest employees with a special focus on employees in New York State, where the World Trade Center attack took place and where the feedback occurred immediately following the crisis.
Solution Overview: Internal Communications staff interacted with several departments at Reader’s Digest to provide a variety of resources to employees. The effort involved coordination with Human Resources, the Medical department, the Security department, Facilities, Travel, Information Technology, the Faith in Action inter-faith employee group, the RD Foundation, and QSP and World’s Finest Chocolate, our school and youth fund-raising branches. Internal Communications designed some new programs and leveraged existing programs to offer: face-to-face communications/special events such as prayer vigils and departmental coping sessions; mechanisms to facilitate employee donations to relief efforts such as matching grant programs and blood drives; an Intranet site housing all information about RD events, resources and donations as well as news updates
The strategy was to provide employees with news and outreach resources that would allow them to conveniently access what they needed to cope with the tragedy and stay informed about the aftermath. This strategy also involved helping employees maintain productivity by allowing them to find information in a central spot rather than searching the Web.
Allow employees to take part in programs for charitable giving and volunteerism.
The biggest challenge was putting a program together “on the fly.” There was no warning before the events of the day and our employees in New York reacted and expressed their concerns immediately
· CEO sent reassuring letters via e-mail to all employees around the world.
· Senior Vice President of Human Resources sent a letter via e-mail to all managers on how to help employees cope and what to expect from employees.
· Provided on-site counselors through coordination with the Facilities department’s RD Health Center in the days after the attack for individuals and groups.
· Provided meetings for employees to share their feelings and acquire tips for coping—including a session for employees who are parents (focusing on explaining the tragedy to children).
· Held inter-faith prayer vigils for employees.
· Launched RD Cares – an Intranet site accessible to all employees around the world that provides information on all the resources available to our employees including continuous news updates.
· Enhanced matching contributions – The RD Foundation provided immediate, double company match of employee contributions to the special disaster funds set up by the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and United Way. The matching grant was an existing RD Foundation program. Global Communications leveraged it for this special event and sped up processing and distribution of funds.
· QSP, the school fund-raising division of Reader’s Digest, matched contributions made by schools to charities for the victims’ families and raised a combined total of $1.4 million (through the RD Foundation’s grant program). The program was initiated by Global Communications staff as a way to leverage QSP’s relationships with schools and the RD Foundation’s grant program.
· Company store has raised more than $1,900 for The Red Cross by selling American Flag pins to employees. The effort was initiated by the Global Communications department, which purchased the pins for the store.
· QSP and World’s Finest Chocolate donated 5,000 candy bars to the rescue workers. Global Communications initiated this effort to leverage the Reader’s Digest affiliation with World’s Finest Chocolate.
· Conducted a blood drive during the first week of October to replenish blood supplies. This allowed employees to avoid long lines at blood banks or, worse yet, being turned away because donations were no longer needed at a particular location on a particular day. This was an existing program sponsored by the Facilities department, which was leveraged to make donating blood during the aftermath of the tragedy easier for employees.
· Providing employees with up-to-date information on traffic and travel advisories, including new transportation security measures on RD Cares site.
· Shared information about community events and volunteer opportunities on RD Cares site.
· Launched a special online forum on the RD Cares site for employees around the world to share their thoughts about the tragedy and the aftermath.
· Distributed American flag pins to employees.
· Provided access to coping resources and handouts through the Global Intranet RD Cares site including information about how to talk to children.
· Participated in US Pride day on September 14 by encouraging employees to wear red, white and blue to work.
· Decorated offices with American flags and played patriotic music from the RD music collection in the cafeteria.
· Offered office space to displaced workers.
· Offered vans for transporting families of firefighters and police officers to funerals.
We gathered statistics on activity on the RD Cares site between September 14 and October 8, when most of RD’s employee activities related to the tragedy took place. There were visits from 20 Reader’s Digest international locations. The site logged 3, 794 visits out of a population of less than 5,000 employees. The average length of each visit was 5 minutes and 19 seconds.
The company’s Interfaith Prayer Vigil in the Headquarters Auditorium was filled to capacity. The Blood Drive experienced a 20 percent increase in donations over the same period last year. Employees contributed $55,183 to the RD Foundation’s special matching gift program. The Foundation match was $110,366 making the total RD donation to relief funds $165,549. QSP and the RD Foundation’s matching grant efforts raised more than $1.4 million. Employees purchased American flag pins made available in the Company Store for a total of more than $1,900 that is going to the American Red Cross.
We received positive feedback of the events on our RD Cares site. Finally, we conducted a survey in October. Ninety percent of respondents said they felt the RD Cares site was relevant and useful. Around the world, employees are sharing their thoughts and encouragement through the RD Cares discussion forum.