2013 Technology – Division 1

GOLD: Helen Zarba, Vice President of Organizational Development and Learning Services at Bright Horizons Family Solutions
Bright Horizons Family Solutions has experienced high growth in recent years. The child care company based in Watertown, Mass., now employs more than 23,000 people around the world. Despite its global presence, the organization prides itself on having a high-touch culture such as one found at a small company.

However, the increase in offices and employees made it difficult for executives to connect with their employees in meaningful ways. The organization’s president and CEO made a tradition of visiting different locations to talk with workers and answer questions directly. While this tradition continues, Helen Zarba, the firm’s vice president of organizational development and learning services, collaborated with the its internal communications department to develop a program called Ask the Expert to maintain the executives’ interactions with employees.

Ask the Expert was set up through Bright Horizons University, the company’s internal Web platform. Using the platform’s social functions, employees can publicly ask a question they’d like an executive to answer. Users then vote for their favorite questions, and those with the most votes are answered via video by company leaders. The videos allow Bright Horizons executives to quickly deliver high-quality answers to employees, which keeps the organization’s high-touch culture strong.

While this initiative was experimental, it’s become a valuable tool for training and communications. The success of Ask the Expert spurred the development of similar programs for questions on other business aspects such as benefits and recruiting.