The Financial Brand interviewed Mary Olson, VP of Marketing, Delta Community, and talked about the credit union’s creative — and branded – employee intranet, affectionately named “Simon.” Simon is the portal for all employee communications — the guy who knows what’s going on inside the credit union. But Simon is more than just an intranet. He is a full-fledged internal spokesman and mascot, complete with a costume and foam head.
How many employees does Delta Community have?
Mary Olson (MO): 550.
Why did you feel it was important to have a branded intranet like Simon?
MO: We wanted to make the service easier for employees to embrace by creating a personality — a trusted buddy, co-worker — there for work and play.
“He’s your guide through Delta Community Credit Union’s intranet portal. Simon is friendly and knowledgeable. He’s fun and has a lot to say. His favorite movie is ‘Revenge of the Nerds,’ and his claim to fame is filling out Sunday’s New York Times crossword in about 30 minutes with no help.”
What can employees do or find at the Simon website?
MO: It’s more like what can’t they find on Simon?
Employees can access a calendar of events, employee birthdays, HR suggestion box, training information, games, project fact sheets, timesheets, updates on charitable fundraising activities, HR policies and procedures, and more.
What kind of intranet was in place prior to Simon?
MO: We utilized Delta Air Lines intranet so it was wrapped-up under their branding and structure to fit their business model. We created Simon to help create a more organized portal for the credit union.
The previous one really just housed a bunch of our emails and poster artwork for campaigns—not very functional and not as widely used.
[Note: Delta Community Credit Union is closely linked to Delta Airlines, the historical source of the credit union’s membership.]
Where did the name ‘Simon’ come from?
MO: We were inspired by the “Simon Says” game. It’s something many people remember from childhood. We then gave the name to our agency partner, Third Degree Adverting, and asked them to come up with a character image to represent Simon.
MO: Passageways is the name of the product, which comes from Purdue University Credit Union. We customized some of the functionality to fit our credit union’s needs.
Is Simon a public spokesman as well?
MO: He’s purely for employees—serving as an internal mascot and voice of the credit union. We have a Simon mascot who visits employee birthday and holiday parties. One time, he was even kidnapped by our CEO Rick Foley and held for ransom to benefit Children’s Miracle Network.
Many financial institutions complain that staff doesn’t use their intranets. How do you get Delta Community’s employees to use Simon?
MO: We push them to Simon by emailing messages directing them to go to Simon to get the full story. Plus, they have to go to Simon to learn about the latest fun events such as upcoming jean days and parties.
How active are employees on the Simon website?
MO: They have to be on it every day if they want to find out the latest news. It’s also our default home page on employee computers.
What’s the biggest impact Simon has had on your organization?
MO: Simon has increased our level of communications with employees. With one central location to send people, it’s so much easier to keep people “in the know.”
Also, it has increased efficiency from an HR function. For example, when updates our made to our employee manual, each individual is required to read and approve the updates. We can now do this much easier through the intranet site.
And, with 22 branches in four states, Simon also serves as an online “water cooler” where employees can share photos and even support peers in need, such as battling cancer.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer another financial institution considering an employee intranet?
MO: It took twice as long as we thought it would with marketing, HR and IT working together to make it happen. And, it’s always a work in process. Be prepared to take baby steps.
How much time does it take to keep Simon up and running? Who is responsible?
MO: Marketing, IT and HR probably update and/or monitor Simon on a daily basis. Also, work group managers are responsible for providing updates to, and about, their teams on Simon. …One great functionality about Simon is that you can choose who receives updates on Simon based on the message content. For example, if there’s a bake sale going on at one branch, the whole credit union doesn’t need to receive and read the message. So, the message sharing is scalable.
What do you think Simon is missing?
MO: Right now, we can’t host video on Simon because it holds up our server. We’re working with our IT department to find a way around this challenge, which also fits our IT security standards.
Is Simon single? Perhaps a ‘Simone’ in his life?
MO: Simon is single and focused on his career. He only parties at the office.