Heembouw uses Plek to bring innovation to its construction sites

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by Niki

Heembouw uses Plek to bring innovation to its construction sites

According to Heembouw, the entire organization should be involved in innovation. That is why we are currently developing an innovation module in close collaboration with the construction company. It involves everyone in innovation - also the carpenters on the construction site. How can you make colleagues cross departmental boundaries? And how can we maximize all employees' innovative strength?

Heembouw innoveert, ook op de bouwplaats

Innovation is not a department. Everyone, from management to carpenter, can have an amazing idea. Or an insight that can save costs or yield more money. This is what construction company Heembouw believes. But how can they bring innovation to their construction sites? A good tool can help, especially if it is part of the intranet. Online Marketing and Communication Specialist Björn Bouwmeester leads both projects at Heembouw.

Bouwmeester acknowledges that he's a fan of new technologies. In 2011, management told him to do 'something' with social media. Winning the Industrial Social Media Award in 2013 was the crowning glory.

Bouwmeester: “From that moment on I started to involve the internal organization. We shared the award story in an internal road show. We asked colleagues: we want to help you become more social too – what do you need?”

“We asked colleagues: we want to help you become more social too – what do you need?”

Björn Bouwmeester, Online Marketing- and Communicatiespecialist at Heembouw

A great match

Meanwhile the organization's need for an effective intranet was growing. Heembouw needed to share news and knowledge, and they needed people profiles. The existing intranet did not suffice - for example, it wasn't possible to share videos. A social intranet seemed to be the solution. Bouwmeester: "I asked around in my online network: which party do you think of when you think of a social intranet? That is how Plek ended up on the longlist. Plek and Heembouw turned out to be a great match. Besides, we are a Dutch organization; we like using a Dutch product. One of the great advantages of Plek is that everyone understands it. It's so simple!"

“The construction industry may be quite a traditional sector, but we didn't notice any of that at Heembouw", says Rik Mulder, CEO of Plek. The companies were introduced a little over a year ago. "Together we started to focus on the 'front runners' in the organization, the employees who clearly show how they use social media and inspire others." These ambassadors are important in the company, Mulder emphasizes. "They drive the enthusiasm to share things with each other and they form the glue that holds the social intranet together.”

Over the fence

Mulder: “At many organizations, we notice that employees are still working within their own silos too much. Organizations are trying to break existing patterns by means of a social tool such as Plek, often with the aim of establishing long-term connections between divisions and departments. They hope to stimulate knowledge sharing, and that colleagues will start looking over the fence to help each other.”

uitvoerder Heembouw met Plek op iPad

But that doesn't happen automatically. "Employees often already get an overload of information from their immediate environment. Additionally, there is a human tendency to connect with people we already know. You usually just don't randomly take out the staff list in search of someone to make contact with. That is why we try to stimulate connections within Plek. We apply that already in, for example, the onboarding; if you connect new employees on the platform with the first contacts from their introductory round, you create a small new network right away.”

Smartphones at construction sites

It's quite a challenge to get everyone in the organization to use all the possibilities of the social intranet; Bouwmeester agrees that it does not happen automatically. The carpenters on the construction sites, who could not access the old intranet, had to be connected literally and figuratively. They can now also use Plek, anywhere and anytime, on their smartphone.

“We did a tour of all the construction sites with our innovation coaches”, says Bouwmeester. “You really have to show it to the carpenters. People have to experience how easy it is to use Plek to share ideas. It was really cold last winter and we had a hot chocolate truck from Radio 538 at one of our construction sites. One of the carpenters immediately shared a picture of it on Plek. This made others realize how easy it is to share, and to use Plek.”

“You really have to show it to the carpenters. People have to experience how easy it is to use Plek to share ideas.”

Björn Bouwmeester, Online Marketing and Communication Specialist at Heembouw


All of Heembouw's employees have something in common: they are proud of their work. Heembouw uses this pride by means of the channel 'By Us', where employees can follow all that Heembouw creates. "We can easily share results on Plek. This makes others think: 'Hey, I have a cool project too!'"

Almost all types of roles are active on Plek, from management to carpenter. About half of them have posted something on Plek. Heembouw wants to increase that number. Bouwmeester: "The people at Plek really think along about which people we are still missing in the conversation. We recently had a brainstorm about this. It would be nice if management would become more active on the social intranet. They are the ones who worked hard to get Plek going, but the next step is to really get involved in the discussion."

Bouwmeester mentions an example: "We recently carried out a survey among employees. We got a lot of input, but why not ask a few questions on Plek? I see that a few board members are responding on Plek, but it would be even better if they dared to be vulnerable: they could ask a question themselves. We are now discussing this with management, with the aim of providing them with insights into the possibilities and results it can bring."

de Heembouw-app

Innovation module

The idea of an innovation module was already discussed in the first meeting between Heembouw and Plek. "We were already working with Professor Niels van der Weerdt of the Erasmus University to come up with a theoretical model to stimulate and shape innovation", says Bouwmeester. "We developed a kind of innovation reactor in which we distinguish different phases: the nutrient medium, the development of ideas, and the phases of germination, cultivation and flowering. We filled that 'reactor' with ideas that were already there; it contains about 140 ideas on average."


"We believe that innovation can be an way to bring different people and departments together on a social intranet," says Mulder of Plek. "Under that theme, you can invite everyone to think along freely and form working groups. Heembouw already worked with a specific innovation tool. When we proposed to do that on Plek they were very open to it. They were extremely open-minded. They dared to ask themselves: why do we do things this way, and can we do it better?"

Logical combination

Heembouw gives innovation a central place in the organization by creating an open communication channel for employees. Even carpenters at construction sites can contribute ideas, large and small, and respond to ideas submitted by others. According to Bouwmeester, the logical combination of a social intranet and an innovation module greatly contributes to this: "It offers a low-threshold way to bring people together and start conversations. Plek has also helped us to think about the ways in which we can actively involve employees in innovation and make the process more flexible. Now we can really work on efficient innovation in all layers of the organization. We're currently building the innovation module. We will start using it in September.”

“Now we can really work on efficient innovation in all layers of the organization. We're currently building the innovation module - to be continued!”

Björn Bouwmeester, Online Marketing and Communication Specialist at Heembouw

Tips from Björn Bouwmeester to involve everyone in social intranet:

  • Ambassadors in different departments and locations are very important
  • IT-links are always difficult, so get started with these in an early stage
  • Launch with a big bang
  • Make logging in as easy as possible
  • Keep promoting and listen to users' complaints