Connected Company Stories: Chevron

by Mike Sharkey

Creating conversations and promoting executive visibility at the iconic oil company

When the Pacific Coast Oil Company was founded in 1879, it was only three years since Alexander Graham Bell had been granted a patent for the telephone. One hundred and forty years later, a lot of things have changed - technology, working habits, even the company’s name - but communication is still very much the issue for Chevron.

The buck stops with Rachel Setton, Chevron’s Manager of Employee Engagement & Communications. It’s her job to make sure that 70,000 people in 40 countries all have access to the information they need to stay connected to the company’s mission, strategy and values. In 2018 she decided that Workplace was just the tool she needed.

“We started out with Workplace really hoping to connect everyone, to provide a platform where people all over the world could come together, share ideas, innovate, collaborate and be inspired to do their very best,” she explains. “And we learned that they were hungry for it.” Twelve months later, 77% of the company is on the platform “doing all the things we hoped they would do.”

“We started out with Workplace really hoping to connect everyone, to provide a platform where people all over the world could come together.”

- Rachel Setton, Employee Engagement & Communications Manager, Chevron.

Rachel is clear about why the first year has been such a success. “We were very lucky to have support from the top,” she says. “This was a decision that Mike Wirth, our Chairman and CEO, made. So even though people all around us were concerned that the sky was going to fall in, we were able to say, ‘Look, this is a directive. We’re going to move forward. We need to transform the way we work, we need to reimagine how we all collaborate with one another.’"

"Through that support we were able to have a successful launch, but he’s the one who’s helped leaders within Chevron role model his behavioral changes.”

Making it easier for business leaders to talk directly to employees

Key to those changes was the way in which the CEO used Workplace to communicate more directly with employees, making himself more visible to people in the organization. “Most of the people at Chevron have never been to our headquarters,” explains Rachel - meaning they’ll never even set eyes on their CEO. “Earlier today I saw him post a selfie with 15 people in an elevator as they were on their way to do some community work. That helps us humanize a company that is 70,000 strong.”

But it doesn’t stop there. “One of my favorite stories was right before launch, Mike wanted to have a different name [on Workplace]. Not ‘CEO Mike Wirth’ but just... Mike. So he messaged one of my guys. This guy looks at me and says, ‘Rachel…?’ I’m, like, ‘Yeah?’ ‘The Chairman just texted me on Workplace Chat. What do I do?’ And I was like, ‘Text him back!’"

"So they had this awesome conversation, and he got really clear information about what the Chairman needed from him. The ability to just speak with the Chairman one-on-one through technology was something really, really new for him and also made him feel super recognized and important.”

“The one thing I didn’t anticipate was that this would be a platform that would help people bring their authentic selves to work.”

While Rachel saw the immediate impact of Workplace on employee communications, it didn’t take long to realize there were other benefits, too. “We’d all talked about collaborating together, innovating together, being more connected,” she explains. “But the one thing I didn’t anticipate was that this would be a platform that would help people bring their authentic selves to work. People felt empowered to be able to state their opinion on the platform and feel like they were heard. Workplace gave each employee a voice to the very center of the corporation and to other business units as well.”

She’s quick to point to examples. “We had one employee say on Workplace, ‘Hey, I’m noticing my co-workers who are expecting are having a really difficult time getting into the office. We’ve got a really big campus. Can you do something about it?’ Within 48 hours we set up special parking for those who are expecting, as well as for those who might have some mobility challenges.

“I thought of Workplace as an engagement tool – I never imagined it would have such a big cultural impact for this company.”

“It’s really giving folks permission to do things differently,” Rachel continues. “There was a woman who posted herself watching our last town hall at home with her baby. I think about what used to be a predominantly male organization with not enough women in leadership, and this woman was able to post what working looks like today, which is very different from the leadership and working ways they’ve had before.

“I thought of Workplace as an engagement tool – I never imagined it would have such a big cultural impact for this company.”

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