November Customer Of The Month Andy Hedges On Leadership And Community

With bold steps like launching Westfield Labs to drive social and mobile innovation across its global stores, the Westfield Group is innovating to stay relevant with customers, employees and partners.

One of the company’s digital pioneers is Andy Hedges, the Director of Shopping Center Management at Westfield Australia. Andy is the person ultimately responsible for making sure that all of the Westfield centers create the best experiences for their retailers and ultimately shoppers. Andy is also a huge advocate of social media, a Yammer champion at Westfield, and Yammer’s Customer of the Month in November!

At Westfield, Andy is in charge of aligning and energizing store leadership across Australia. Before Yammer, he ran a physical forum, an in-person gathering of about 80 people to help translate strategy into action, surface issues, exchange best practices and energize store leadership. A lot of the conversations that were previously limited to in-person events now happen on Yammer, all year round.

Leadership 2.0

When talking about leadership development, Andy gets visibly excited. He believes that leadership is undergoing significant change. Leadership 2.0 is all about openness, transparency and accountability; it’s about enabling employees to do their best, instead of blocking them. As a result, leaders are approachable and organizations are flatter. Yammer helps him put this worldview in practice; he has conversations on Yammer that would be difficult to have otherwise. Without Yammer, he may visit some centers once a year, walk the floor for a few hours and hear presentations — it’s not enough time to uncover real issues and dig deeply.

As an executive, Andy is aware that his behavior on Yammer helps others model their behaviors. Because employees may be nervous posting on Yammer in front of executives, adopting a conversational and collaborative style becomes important. Andy passes all of his communication through the “Clint Eastwood test of writing,” which means that he only uses the words that he needs. “By ditching fancy jargon in favor of simple communication, you can relate to your audience easier. It’s not about using fancy words to feel smart; it’s about helping others not feel intimidated,” says Andy. For an executive communicator, what to post is just as important as how to post. On Yammer, Andy often posts relevant news, articles, and longer-style communication that sits somewhere between a blogpost and a tweet. This allows for a deeper conversation and a longer line of vision into the world of the executive. Andy says that posting personal information, such as photos of kids, makes him more approachable and thus able to collaborate deeper.

Learn more about Andy Hedges:

Working together to solve problems

Yammer started at Westfield Australia because of a need to connect people – across shopping centers and the Support Office (Andy calls HQ a Support Office to signal its purpose to the organization). As a result of working together, employees on the ground are able to identify problems, come up with and implement solutions, and involve the Support Office to solve the problem in a programmatic way.

To give an example, several stores identified a problem with a Westfield Gift Card through customer feedback and came together on Yammer to solve it. There was a communication issue around redemption codes, and a physical issue that placed the code too close to the magnetic stripe, preventing the stripe from working. By working together, store managers created a revised communications package for retailers and consumers, and looped in the Support Office quickly to physically relocate codes. “If I hadn’t seen it on Yammer, it would have been a bigger issue. Because I saw it there, I could take care of it quickly (dragged GM into office right away!) and get it resolved much faster for the people on the ground. Without Yammer, I may not have even seen this issue; it saved at least 6 weeks of pain,” shared Andy.

A networked world

With its strategic investments in mobile and social, Westfield intends to create an environment where the Support Office, the store manager and the retailer can work together towards the same goal – a better shopper experience. This takes purposeful communication, for which trust is necessary. “Back in the day, retailers knew each other; it was a community,” says Andy. “Now, things are more transient, there are more chain stores and each employee stays around for 6-12 months.” Operating under the belief that if people knew each other better, they’d work better together, Andy is driving the community efforts through Yammer, inside and across shopping centers.

These communities are driving tangible business results. Store managers and retailers share best practices, solve problems, celebrate achievements and even share security tips. By working together, a few of the retailers even helped police apprehend users of fraudulent credit cards. A mobile communication channel becomes critical in times of emergency; using Yammer as a mobile lifeline, a shopping center manager effectively informed the center’s retailers of a delay in trading hours caused by a power plant failure.

Please join us in congratulating Andy and his team on bringing the vision of mobile and social a little closer to reality and learn more about Yammer at Westfield: