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Freedom’s change program, brought to life on Workplace

Freedom was founded in 1981 with a vision to help all Australians create a home that they love coming home to. With 46 locations in Australia and 10 stores in New Zealand, they are proud to employ over 900 people. To stay ahead in the highly competitive furniture industry, Freedom CEO Blaine Callard embarked on a large scale transformation program across the business. He turned to Workplace as the communication platform to bring the Freedom team on the journey. 

Freedom’s change program, brought to life on Workplace

Freedom was founded in 1981 with a vision to help all Australians create a home that they love coming home to. With 46 locations in Australia and 10 stores in New Zealand, they are proud to employ over 900 people.

Change, the ‘always on’ agenda in retail

Retail is a highly competitive industry where organisations need a way to stand out. Clearly defining your brand and position in the market is critical, as well as creating a customer experience that breeds customer loyalty and drives sales. 

“If retailers aren’t reinventing themselves constantly, they are unlikely to succeed,” says CEO Blaine Callard. 

“When I started at Freedom in 2019, I could see that this positioning and reinvention had not been done well over the past decade. We needed to transform very quickly.”

To drive this transformation forward, Freedom needed to achieve strategic alignment across the entire company, this was going to be difficult in such a fragmented industry like retail, with people across multiple, distributed sites. 

“For our transformation to work, we needed a radical new way to talk to employees and engage with them to bring them along on the change journey. We needed a platform where we could bring everyone together. One that was easy to use, easy to access and always on, where we could say – here’s where we are, here’s what we know, here’s what we think and here’s what we’re doing and then talk everyone through it as we were doing it,” Blaine explains.

Since his introduction to Workplace at a ‘Great Places to Work’ conference in Europe in 2016, Blaine had been excited by the transformational impact that the platform could have on an organisation, particularly one going through a great deal of change. He knew this was the platform Freedom needed. 

Change, the ‘always on’ agenda in retail

Retail is a highly competitive industry where organisations need a way to stand out. Clearly defining your brand and position in the market is critical, as well as creating a customer experience that breeds customer loyalty and drives sales. 

“If retailers aren’t reinventing themselves constantly, they are unlikely to succeed,” says CEO Blaine Callard. 

“When I started at Freedom in 2019, I could see that this positioning and reinvention had not been done well over the past decade. We needed to transform very quickly.”

To drive this transformation forward, Freedom needed to achieve strategic alignment across the entire company, this was going to be difficult in such a fragmented industry like retail, with people across multiple, distributed sites. 

“For our transformation to work, we needed a radical new way to talk to employees and engage with them to bring them along on the change journey. We needed a platform where we could bring everyone together. One that was easy to use, easy to access and always on, where we could say – here’s where we are, here’s what we know, here’s what we think and here’s what we’re doing and then talk everyone through it as we were doing it,” Blaine explains.

Since his introduction to Workplace at a ‘Great Places to Work’ conference in Europe in 2016, Blaine had been excited by the transformational impact that the platform could have on an organisation, particularly one going through a great deal of change. He knew this was the platform Freedom needed. 

“Workplace has helped us to build a culture of trust so that we can continue to drive positive change.

Having technology that enables you to not only talk to your organisation, but actually hear them talk back, that is incredibly powerful. And that is what we have achieved with Workplace.”

– Blaine Callard CEO, Freedom
“Workplace has helped us to build a culture of trust so that we can continue to drive positive change.
Having technology that enables you to not only talk to your organisation, but actually hear them talk back, that is incredibly powerful. And that is what we have achieved with Workplace.”
– Blaine Callard CEO, Freedom

Delivering a best-in-class employee experience

Alongside the change agenda, Freedom could see the benefits that Workplace could bring to their culture. As a customer-focused organisation striving to deliver the best in-store experience, Workplace could help to engage and inspire their people and support them to be passionate ambassadors for their brand. 

“In retail, we understand that our competitive advantage comes less from the decisions being made at a corporate level, and more from the five minutes a store member and customer interact. Workplace is an incredibly powerful tool to engage employees around your vision and purpose and build passion in the brand so they can bring that to life in their interactions with their customer,” says Blaine. 

Natalia Trapl, Freedom’s Program Manager for Turnaround, adds, “By launching Workplace, we saw an opportunity to better connect our people, to give them the best-in-class employee experience and to allow them to be celebrated, empowered and recognised, no matter where they are.”

“We wanted to energise and humanise our leadership team and break down hierarchies. This way our  frontline would feel seen and heard and able to share their voice and opinion in a more direct and more meaningful way,” Natalia says. 

Delivering a best-in-class employee experience

Alongside the change agenda, Freedom could see the benefits that Workplace could bring to their culture. As a customer-focused organisation striving to deliver the best in-store experience, Workplace could help to engage and inspire their people and support them to be passionate ambassadors for their brand. 

“In retail, we understand that our competitive advantage comes less from the decisions being made at a corporate level, and more from the five minutes a store member and customer interact. Workplace is an incredibly powerful tool to engage employees around your vision and purpose and build passion in the brand so they can bring that to life in their interactions with their customer,” says Blaine. 

Natalia Trapl, Freedom’s Program Manager for Turnaround, adds, “By launching Workplace, we saw an opportunity to better connect our people, to give them the best-in-class employee experience and to allow them to be celebrated, empowered and recognised, no matter where they are.”

“We wanted to energise and humanise our leadership team and break down hierarchies. This way our  frontline would feel seen and heard and able to share their voice and opinion in a more direct and more meaningful way,” Natalia says. 

Launching with a bang

In October 2020, Freedom worked with Enablo, a leader in Employee Experience and a Workplace partner, to roll out the platform in just four short weeks.  

Natalia worked closely with the Enablo team on the rollout and says, “Throughout the pre-launch phase we worked closely with Enablo to engage our leadership team, as well as our Area Leaders and nominated Workplace Champions through early onboarding and a week of content-creation.” 

“We also had a competition for the Area Leader who onboarded the highest number of people within their state, which was a great success. All Area Leaders exceeded our expectations with most achieving over 90% on board within the first few days of launch!”

%

adoption across Freedom in the first week after launch

%

of Workplace users currently active

Within their first week on Workplace, Freedom had onboarded 93% of their people and they now have more than 95% active on the platform.  

A day after Freedom launched Workplace, CEO Blaine used Workplace Live video to stream the opening of a newly rebranded Freedom store. Alongside General Manager of Marketing Jason Piggott,  GM of Retail Stuart Cole, NSW Area Leader, David Bowen, and his store team members, Blaine did a full walkthrough of the flagship store to showcase the new branding and visual merchandising. He also talked about Freedom’s latest triumphs and upcoming changes.  

Over a third of Freedom’s employees tuned into the live event with hundreds of comments and reactions, especially from frontline staff, coming through in real-time. It has since been viewed over 1,300 times, which is a testament to the power of Workplace as both a synchronous and asynchronous communications platform. 

Launching with a bang

In October 2020, Freedom worked with Enablo, a leader in Employee Experience and a Workplace partner, to roll out the platform in just four short weeks.  

Natalia worked closely with the Enablo team on the rollout and says, “Throughout the pre-launch phase we worked closely with Enablo to engage our leadership team, as well as our Area Leaders and nominated Workplace Champions through early onboarding and a week of content-creation.” 

“We also had a competition for the Area Leader who onboarded the highest number of people within their state, which was a great success. All Area Leaders exceeded our expectations with most achieving over 90% on board within the first few days of launch!”

%

adoption across Freedom in the first week after launch

%

of Workplace users currently active

Within their first week on Workplace, Freedom had onboarded 93% of their people and they now have more than 95% active on the platform.  

A day after Freedom launched Workplace, CEO Blaine used Workplace Live video to stream the opening of a newly rebranded Freedom store. Alongside General Manager of Marketing Jason Piggott,  GM of Retail Stuart Cole, NSW Area Leader, David Bowen, and his store team members, Blaine did a full walkthrough of the flagship store to showcase the new branding and visual merchandising. He also talked about Freedom’s latest triumphs and upcoming changes.  

Over a third of Freedom’s employees tuned into the live event with hundreds of comments and reactions, especially from frontline staff, coming through in real-time. It has since been viewed over 1,300 times, which is a testament to the power of Workplace as both a synchronous and asynchronous communications platform. 

More than just a communication platform

Workplace for Innovation

Since the launch, Blaine says one of his favourite moments on Workplace was when he was able to help a colleague use Workplace to crowdsource product development feedback, receiving 40 pieces of feedback within the space of an hour.

“Workplace is definitely more than a communication tool, we’re using it to drive our business forward. We can use it to receive direct feedback from our frontline who deal directly with our customers day-in-day-out and who, in many cases, are our customers. This feedback on product development and market research in real-time is invaluable,” Blaine says. 

“We use [Workplace] to receive direct feedback from our frontline who deal directly with our customers day-in-day out…This feedback on product development and market research in real-time is invaluable.”

Blaine Callard CEO, Freedom.

In order to drive innovation, Natalia and team created a ‘Fresh Eyes’ group on Workplace. This is a place where they ask all new starters to the business what’s working, what could be improved and why Freedom was their employer of choice. So far a number of new ideas and changes have been implemented off the back of these raw insights and the team are excited for the new ideas to come. 

The group is a testament to the level of trust that the Freedom leadership team have in their frontline team members and immediately gives newcomers a voice in shaping the change agenda at Freedom.

More than just a communication platform

Workplace for Innovation

In order to drive innovation, Natalia and team created a ‘Fresh Eyes’ group on Workplace. This is a place where they ask all new starters to the business what’s working, what could be improved and why Freedom was their employer of choice. So far a number of new ideas and changes have been implemented off the back of these raw insights and the team are excited for the new ideas to come. 

The group is a testament to the level of trust that the Freedom leadership team have in their frontline team members and immediately gives newcomers a voice in shaping the change agenda at Freedom.

Workplace for driving culture and connection

Launching during the COVID-19 pandemic, Freedom has been able to leverage Workplace, not only to communicate through store closures and lockdowns, but also to drive connection during a time when many felt isolated. 

During lockdowns in South Australia, Freedom wanted leaders in Support Office to check in on employees in South Australia one-on-one and on a regular basis and needed a way of facilitating these connections. Knowing that Enablo had expertise in solving these types of challenges through building automated experiences on Workplace, Freedom asked for their help. 

Natalia says, “Enablo developed an automation which paired people together and notified them via Workplace chat, encouraging them to check in on each other. 

“Our South Australian team had the opportunity to ask for the support they needed and it also gave our leaders valuable insight into how people were feeling on the ground. Not to mention the ongoing connections that have been built as a result.”

In April, the Freedom team held their annual leadership conference. Whilst the majority of the Sydney-based Support Office team were able to attend in person, Freedom needed a way to bring in more than 200 Store and Assistant Store  Managers and Franchisees from across stores, states and geographies. Hiring movie theatres across Australia and New Zealand, Freedom broadcast the conference from Sydney to the remote sites and then set up a dedicated Workplace group to engage leaders via live videos, polls, posts, comments and reactions throughout the event. During the event, Freedom also held their annual Awards which were live streamed on Workplace so everyone could join in the celebration and congratulate the winners. 

“The ability to bring our distributed workforce together for an event and use Workplace to create engagement and two-way dialogue is incredibly powerful. It was a really exciting experience for everyone and the feedback we got from our people was that they felt like we were all together in the room,” says Natalia. 

After the event, content was shared directly from the event group on Workplace out to all employees across Freedom. 

“It was incredibly impactful to be able to share the content directly after the event, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In past years, this information has been cascaded via store managers – some do this in more engaging ways than others and, in many cases, people miss out on the information – for example if they have their day off when the store manager gives the update. By sharing the content directly on Workplace, everyone has a consistent experience and can engage with the content when it suits them,” says Natalia.

Workplace for driving culture and connection

Launching during the COVID-19 pandemic, Freedom has been able to leverage Workplace, not only to communicate through store closures and lockdowns, but also to drive connection during a time when many felt isolated. 

During lockdowns in South Australia, Freedom wanted leaders in Support Office to check in on employees in South Australia one-on-one and on a regular basis and needed a way of facilitating these connections. Knowing that Enablo had expertise in solving these types of challenges through building automated experiences on Workplace, Freedom asked for their help. 

Natalia says, “Enablo developed an automation which paired people together and notified them via Workplace chat, encouraging them to check in on each other. 

“Our South Australian team had the opportunity to ask for the support they needed and it also gave our leaders valuable insight into how people were feeling on the ground. Not to mention the ongoing connections that have been built as a result.”

In April, the Freedom team held their annual leadership conference. Whilst the majority of the Sydney-based Support Office team were able to attend in person, Freedom needed a way to bring in more than 200 Store and Assistant Store  Managers and Franchisees from across stores, states and geographies. Hiring movie theatres across Australia and New Zealand, Freedom broadcast the conference from Sydney to the remote sites and then set up a dedicated Workplace group to engage leaders via live videos, polls, posts, comments and reactions throughout the event. During the event, Freedom also held their annual Awards which were live streamed on Workplace so everyone could join in the celebration and congratulate the winners. 

“The ability to bring our distributed workforce together for an event and use Workplace to create engagement and two-way dialogue is incredibly powerful. It was a really exciting experience for everyone and the feedback we got from our people was that they felt like we were all together in the room,” says Natalia. 

After the event, content was shared directly from the event group on Workplace out to all employees across Freedom. 

“It was incredibly impactful to be able to share the content directly after the event, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In past years, this information has been cascaded via store managers – some do this in more engaging ways than others and, in many cases, people miss out on the information – for example if they have their day off when the store manager gives the update. By sharing the content directly on Workplace, everyone has a consistent experience and can engage with the content when it suits them,” says Natalia.

Looking to the future

While Freedom has achieved a significant turnaround over the past eighteen months, constant reinvention is the key to meeting consumer needs and maintaining their position in the market. Workplace is a critical part of their strategy. 

“Workplace has helped us to build a culture of trust so that we can continue to drive positive change. Having technology that enables you to not only talk to your organisation, but actually hear them talk back, that is incredibly powerful. And that is what we have achieved with Workplace,” says Blaine.

Already well on their way, Blaine, Natalia and the rest of the team at Freedom are making plans for Workplace to be the one-stop-shop for their employees. 

“We want to make our people’s working life seamless so we are looking at how we can automate as much of our end user-experience as possible through Workplace,” explains Natalia. 

“First cab off the rank, is the use of Enablo’s automated campaign manager to drive communication to specific groups of employees, such as new starters. The tool allows us to send centrally managed, messaging campaigns via Workplace chat and from these messages we’ll drive employees to the relevant information in our Knowledge Library in Workplace,” she says

Looking to the future

While Freedom has achieved a significant turnaround over the past eighteen months, constant reinvention is the key to meeting consumer needs and maintaining their position in the market. Workplace is a critical part of their strategy. 

“Workplace has helped us to build a culture of trust so that we can continue to drive positive change. Having technology that enables you to not only talk to your organisation, but actually hear them talk back, that is incredibly powerful. And that is what we have achieved with Workplace,” says Blaine.

Already well on their way, Blaine, Natalia and the rest of the team at Freedom are making plans for Workplace to be the one-stop-shop for their employees. 

“We want to make our people’s working life seamless so we are looking at how we can automate as much of our end user-experience as possible through Workplace,” explains Natalia. 

“First cab off the rank, is the use of Enablo’s automated campaign manager to drive communication to specific groups of employees, such as new starters. The tool allows us to send centrally managed, messaging campaigns via Workplace chat and from these messages we’ll drive employees to the relevant information in our Knowledge Library in Workplace,” she says.

Keen to connect your frontline and drive change like Freedom? Take a look at our COVID support page or drop us a line, we’re on standby ready to help!

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