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How Trane Technologies Gets Employees the Resources They Need During A Crisis

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On this episode of Culture, Comms, and Cocktails, we have Susan Cleveland, Director of Executive and Employee Communications at Trane Technologies.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails is internal comms served straight up, so settle in, drink in the knowledge. Some shaken, some stirred, and maybe even some with a twist, and enjoy the top shelf guest I have lined up for you. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. On this episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, we have Susan Cleveland, Director of Executive and Employee Communications at Trane Technologies.

Trane Technologies, formerly known as Ingersoll-Rand, is an industrial manufacturing company focused on climate innovation and sustainability. The company creates comfortable, energy efficient indoor environments for commercial and residential applications. In addition, they provide climate-controlled solutions to move refrigerated food, medicines and other perishables around the world.

“Before our platform ClimateZone, I would have had to do a fairly Herculean effort to build a manual tracking mechanism [to share data]. So the initiatives reporting came out just in the nick of time and we quickly switched that gear to make sure we were tracking everything in the [Crisis Communications] space. This has really taken the front seat, but it’s been very powerful.” —Susan Cleveland

We feature communications leaders every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Don’t miss an episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, brought to you by SocialChorus. Subscribe now wherever you listen to podcasts (Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.)

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode #30 Transcript

Chuck Gose: All right, so let’s get to business. My name is Chuck Gose, host of Culture Comms & Cocktails and Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. And I recognize it in this new world we’re in podcast listenership has dropped a little bit. So we’re going to do a little double duty and do an experiment here with this episode or you can keep listening where you’re subscribed. So if you’re hearing this on Apple podcast, Google play, Spotify, you’re all good. You can also watch this interview on SocialChorus with social channels or at so make sure you check it out there. I also know you want to hear directly from communicators on how they’re managing Crisis Comms efforts and what’s next. So I’ve invited a communicator from Trane Technologies to join me today. So to bring our guests on, your name is?

Susan Cleveland: Hi, I am Susan Cleveland.

Chuck Gose: And your job is?

Susan Cleveland: I lead enterprise employee communications for Trane Technologies.

Chuck Gose: And your favorite cocktail is?

Susan Cleveland: It is a little bit of a tough question. I have a very mood based preference, so if I’m in the mood for a good old beer I tend to go kind of toward an IPA, but have also kind of recently discovered Peanut Butter Whiskey. For hardcore whiskey drinkers they’re probably like you got to be kidding. But for me it’s good just on the rocks, a nice little sipping cocktail.

Chuck Gose: A little sweetness there. I have not heard of Peanut Butter Whiskey, so we’ll add that to the list. Certainly add that to the list. But thank you for taking time in this crazy world we’re all in now. So what I want to just level set for everybody who’s listening, Trane Technologies is a brand new company, but also yet isn’t a brand new company and what a weird time to be doing that transition. So explain this for those listening and watching.

Susan Cleveland: Yeah. And there are very few people in their career that will say they’ve gone through a Reverse Morris Trust or RMT. I don’t know whether to call this a boast or a never do this again statement, but this will be my second RMT and as much as I have a couple of employers. So, that’s basically what we did was a pretty complex transaction. Ingersoll Rand is a 140 plus year old company. We’ve got brands from Ingersoll-Rand to Trane and Thermo King. That’s some of the brands that people would be familiar with. We decided about a year ago to spin off our industrial business, which is the business that goes to market as Ingersoll-Rand and merge that business with another industrial company called Gardner Denver.

Susan Cleveland: Those two companies would combine to be a standalone company and would also take the name Ingersoll Rand. So what that meant is it left the climate business that included Trane and Thermo King as a standalone business. Still, a pretty healthy size business of around 16 million in revenue and just north of 30,000 employees. It left us working through our own transformation of who we are going to be as a standalone company focused on climate innovation as well as needing a name. So we went through a fairly significant branding exercise. Did this to announce late last year we were going to be called Trane Technologies and then the deal or the transaction officially closed on February 28th so our day one as Trane Technologies was officially March 2nd a Monday, not that long ago.

Chuck Gose: Well, in March 2nd now I think a time seems like two years ago based on all the news and what we’ve gone through and on this day, which is obviously very well timed, I’m sure not coincidental, you went live with a brand new internal Comms platform called ClimateZone, so what has it meant to have ClimateZone in place or putting it I guess in place during this health crisis?

Susan Cleveland: I mean it’s really not an over exaggeration to say it’s been a bit of a game changer for us as we were working through the business case for the investment, Crisis Communications was a big part of that. Obviously connecting with our employees, modernizing our platform, enabling effective leadership communication was a big chunk too. But in the past, as you think about hurricanes, right? That’s been kind of the crisis that we’ve dealt with over the last few years, even on internationally, Facebook pages have been kind of the best option for reaching employees in the moment. Get connecting them with resources and with our operations.

Susan Cleveland: So this was a big step in that direction. It just caught us a moment where we weren’t really 100% fully adopted. Like any company when you begin working with SocialChorus and you have a growth plan, we had done a pilot with one of our larger operations in Texas, one of our larger plants to see what we could learn, right? And then replicate and start putting ourselves on a growth plan, but we’ve accelerated that considerably.

Chuck Gose: And so how did leadership in the Comms team there respond to this? Like where was that enthusiasm or excitement or energy put in and perhaps even more importantly, what feedback have you gotten from employees about having ClimateZone in place?

Susan Cleveland: The feedback’s been very positive. On the first week we were at around the third adoption across our employee population. Again, that was more heavily weighted, it was about 50% of our salary population that was included in that. Since that was kind of our tech ready population which includes a combination of the app as well as the web experience. We did integrate with our homepage, so for our internet so that’s still continues to be a critical delivery mechanism for us. But since then we are nearing 50%, we’re just a little south of 50% total adoption. So I think that alone is an expression of there was an appetite for this type of platform and tool because we’ve accelerated our operations in the last week and a half, our team has trained 15 of our site leaders in our operations in the Americas on setting up a local channel for their plants.

Susan Cleveland: We’ve streamlined kind of what their capability is to try to meet a very immediate needs and get them rapidly on-boarded but it’s been incredibly easy, the feedback from those leaders even who their day job is not communications, it’s HR or plant operations have been just amazed at how easy it really is. So we’re anticipating that we’re going to see a fairly good spike kind of out of necessity in our hourly population coming on board here in the coming days as we bring those 15 sites on pretty quickly.

Chuck Gose: And if you had to think back, what channels or how would the company respond in this time if ClimateZone hadn’t been available? It’s hard to go back and maybe anticipate that but what would that response have looked like?

Susan Cleveland: It’s a little scary to even think about quite honestly. One of the reasons we moved so fast with the plants again was they were starting to think about bringing old private Facebook pages back. And for us, while that’s a great tool and certainly accessible for people, it makes it challenging for us to know kind of how the message is being controlled. We don’t have access to those local channels. So, that was one way for us to really streamline and kind of focus our efforts in one place.

Susan Cleveland: It’s hard to express even just how much time it took us to get simple things out the door. Videos, here we are doing a video versus a podcast, kind of a traditional audio podcast. Our leaders have been embracing homemade self-made videos because they’re at home without us. So it’s been a great steep learning curve for everybody on the technology front. But I mean at the tip of my fingers is the capability for either them to upload it directly or for me to upload it very very quickly and do the simple fine tuning that’s needed and getting it out the door cause speed over perfection is kind of where we are.

Chuck Gose: That’s a great point Susan, I had not thought of that around where for a long time communicators have been encouraging leaders to do more communication themselves and then leaders have defaulted to relying on the communicators to do it for them. And we are in this world now where there is no elaborate video setup to be done in someone’s office or to get the lighting perfect for them. For those leaders that thought that was important, they are now having to embrace this new world in their own communication efforts and a platform like ClimateZone facilitates that perfectly for them.

Susan Cleveland: Yeah. I think our employees are sort of really appreciating sort of being invited to our leaders homes. It hasn’t become a thing yet, but I’m anticipating as our CEO puts more videos from home and he moves about different locations. It’s going to be like where is Mike next as he comes to you from home.

Chuck Gose: So now that this world of COVID-19 is sadly becoming a bit more normal for us, everybody was in very much in reaction mode, getting information out. Now it’s reinforcing information and giving people updates. I know you guys entered launching ClimateZone at a very fortuitous time, but also very odd time. How much of the communication in there is COVID-19 and Coronavirus related theme versus kind of the stuff that’s business as usual or is that still a transition that’s happening?

Susan Cleveland: Business as usual does not look like business as usual right now because I mean we rolled right out of our day one messaging about new brand, new purpose or kind of refresh purpose around sustainability right into kind of the ramp-up on Crisis Communications and so we’ve really had to do a balance and figure out what’s sensitive to the kind of world we’re in right now. One example is where again, as a company we’ve made a very strong commitment to sustainability and Earth Day is coming up here next week. So normally that’d be a time where we’re really kind of putting together a pretty robust set of content and trying to think about using a tool like ClimateZone to really engage employees both in social advocates and storytellers and doers.

Susan Cleveland: And we’re kind of having to take a different look at that. So we’re really looking through the lens right now of what is important and or to be thinking about as you’re sitting in a work-from-home environment, what are the things that you can do for the climate that are things you can do right there in the space that we’re all operating in. So a little different versus kind of cutting down on your commute time doesn’t make a lot of sense as a message goes right now, so we’re not scrapping it, we’re really rethinking it a little bit. We are scaling it back I will say. Definitely too much would be too much. I ran a report last night letting our executives know kind of where we are on crisis communications. And we’ve been tagging our Coronavirus communications as an initiative, so that’s easy for us to run a report on our initiative contents. We can very clearly see everything that’s within that space and it’s well over 50% of our content right now.

Chuck Gose: And how would you have even been able to run reports like that in the past? Like what is this having this data, what does this mean to you as communicators and what does it mean to your leaders that you can now share this kind of data?

Susan Cleveland: Yeah. Again, we’re literally at the tip of the iceberg as users, I mean we’re just a little over 30 days in with really utilizing and kind of being fully up and running with the tool and the platform. So we’re still even kind of playing around with the reporting capabilities. But absolutely not. Before I would have had to, we would have had to do a fairly Herculean effort to kind of build a manual tracking mechanism. So the initiatives reporting came out just in the nick of time and we quickly switched that gear to make sure we were tracking everything in that initiative space because we really hadn’t outlined kind of if our initiatives were going to be more tied to our strategic themes. This has really taken the front seat, but it’s been very powerful. I’m excited to kind of dig into the next level of analytics quite honestly.

Susan Cleveland: And look at what content is performing best? Why is it more engaging? Is it because it often our CEO messages are our most engaged. That is kind of always been the case but we’re starting to see things and pushing ourselves on was it the visual? Was it the headline? Is it the piece of content itself that drove a lot more commenting? We’re still working through kind of the sharing aspect with social especially again, because we’ve kind of scaled back a little bit on kind of what’s appropriate to be kind of pushing out in our social advocacy space. But it’s a powerful tool and we definitely, we could have gotten there in the past. It would have taken a pretty major effort

Chuck Gose: And thinking about it that’s kind of a good segue to my next question. Thinking back to you said you had to, of all like your Earth Day plans and I’m sure there is all kinds of other over company or community related things that that organization communicators I’ve had to respond to probably your thoughts around what ClimateZone was going to be when you were going through the planning stages. Probably ended up being very different than what it was in March. So have there been any surprises that you’ve seen from either how employees are using or benefiting from ClimateZone that you maybe didn’t expect from early on?

Susan Cleveland: Honestly, I think we knew this was going to connect people and by connecting people, I think we were thinking about that maybe even a little shallow on like, Oh, they’re going to get information they never did get before. They’re going to be digitally connected. I think the depth of this is that now they’re emotionally connected. At a time where that that sort of empathetic kind of community is needed more than ever. We had created a channel for day one called the uplift channel. The team from SocialChorus gave us great guidance and examples of other clients and companies that have had open channels with very much recognition, kind of ‘bravo’ based content for us. Uplift is actually a visual and kind of essence symbol in our new brand identity where our name is the shape of an, kind of a pointing up Uplift.

Susan Cleveland: So it’s meant to reflect kind of what we’re capable of as we uplift each other and uplift the world and really take on some pretty major challenges around sustainability. So we asked everyone to use the Uplift channel right out of the gate to share their photos of Uplift, whether it was an architectural look at an uplift that they see in the world sometimes they occur in nature. Sometimes it was people doing things or just things that were uplifting to them. We had over 1,400 posts coming out of that channel. So talk about employee source content there was a lot and it was great. But then it has shifted, right? It has shifted into people uplifting each other, talking about what they’re doing to stay positive in this pretty difficult time. And it hasn’t really kind of fully formed yet, but I can tell there’s this little kind of community being built there.

Susan Cleveland: And then there’s, we’ve had some even posting some recipes and you’re a little bit like hmm, is that really kind of core? But it’s what is important to them and people are reacting to it and that’s a personality that we don’t want to suppress. So I think that’s maybe been a little bit of surprise and kind of take the communications control freaks. We all know we are, have to kind of step back a little bit and let that happen organically because that’s where really I think the power is.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. I think that can be a little scary sometimes when we see or we find out what’s important to other people that as communicators we thought we knew what was important to them and maybe in that case it is that employee who’s sharing a recipe or that family photo because then what I see as other employees rallying around that and responding to it. And it’s giving them permission to be themselves where often and people that listen to this all the time hear me say it, all of our employees are used to just receiving communications. They’ve never had the opportunity to participate in it and some still take a back seat, but others take advantage of that and want to share because in their personal lives they’re used to sharing what matters to them. Now we’ve talked about that from an employee standpoint, what about as a communicator being the one meeting that control freak that you talked about. How has having ClimateZone in place meant to you?

Susan Cleveland: Our team was suffering, not even silently. I would say we were pretty vocal about kind of the lack of really powerful and efficient and effective tools. I came from a previous role where I had done digital technology and digital communication. So I’ve had the benefit of seeing kind of where investments can take you with having really the right tools available. We as a team are also trying to think more like content marketers and the data and the analytics are so important when it comes to kind of what’s working if you’re really thinking like a marketer. So there was a lot of kind of angst I would say in the last year in particular as people were kind of raising up that like this technology is unsustainable. It is just difficult to work with, posting and something as simple as a video just took miles of time.

Susan Cleveland: And so our transformation as Trane Technologies was a great opportunity for us to say now or never. Repack technology and our name, we need to get out there and kind of like be ahead of this. So we are fortunate to kind of get that nod and be able to put that in place and just last night I pushed out a video from our CEO, run an analytics report and then we pushed out an e-newsletter, kind of recapping the most important news of the week including that video from our CEO and did it in just, I won’t say instantaneously cause we still have to sit and think about good positioning and good content for all of these things but really fast, really easily. So I’m hearing great things from our team as communicators we still have ways to go to learn kind of how to think and behave and treat communications differently both in format, in campaigns, right?

Susan Cleveland: We don’t normally think about kind of technology and digital campaigns cause we didn’t really have that sort of capability. Whenever the kind of most immediate crisis piece ends, I think we’ll regroup, see what we learn, see what we really liked, what we want to do more of and really do some deeper analysis. Probably work with our workforce analytics team as well as the SocialChorus team to get back into metrics and measurement and set some goals for ourselves so that we are tracking toward a trajectory that we’ve set.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, I loved hearing you mention that you’re looking at it from a marketer’s standpoint because with all the various channels and endpoints and metrics you can see what’s working or not. And I’ve seen people start to think, okay, how can we write better headlines? How can we write better stories? How can we, not from a clickbait standpoint, but get people excited about the content that’s going in there. So, that’s great to hear that you and your team have embraced that.

Susan Cleveland: Yeah, I think it’s going to be important and even in the social advocacy space and like what is it that employees want to tell about who they are at this company? It’s not what will you want them to tell. So that’s going to be really interesting as we work through kind of our social content and determining kind of what speaks to them to speak on our behalf. And I’m not sure it’s going to be what we would think necessarily. So there’s going to be some good evaluation opportunity there.

Chuck Gose: And the great part about that is the data and metrics will also not just tell you the what they liked sharing, but you will find surprising audiences of the who, the people that you never thought before would be big content shares, in fact are content shares.

Susan Cleveland: I think that’s great.

Chuck Gose: Well, Susan thank you for taking the time during this very busy area of our lives, but I did want to take it back personal to you. I want to find out how are you and the people you care about doing during this crisis?

Susan Cleveland: I appreciate that Chuck. It’s hard to sit kind of on the day-to-day front lines. I posted to the Uplift Channel today a piece of content that was just for pure levity. That was basically nobody knows what day of the week it is. You don’t know how many days are in the month. I mean not even sure quite what year it is. So it’s hard to kind of stay grounded but also in tune and sensitive to everything that’s going on. So I’m very fortunate. I have two boys who are age six and ten, who are in a way blissfully unaware of kind of the full reality of this. For them their reality is, I’m not going to school every day. Mom and dad are tried to teach me stuff, what’s that all about?

Susan Cleveland: We’re not pros there. We will not be homeschooling. We will not be that family, but they’re doing great. We live in Charlotte, North Carolina. So spring has been here for a while along with the pollen. But it’s allowed us to be out. We’re in a neighborhood where we’re able to be sort of separated in distance that’s still out without a lot of DIY work that we’ve like kind of tossed ourselves in. I need like good hardcore labor sometimes just to kind of get my mind off of the work piece. So we’re doing really well. Everybody’s healthy. My family’s done Zoom meetings like this now. We’ve had three birthdays already in this phase with my immediate family, we’ll have another, my own, soon. So, we’re kind of working through it.

Susan Cleveland: I think for me personally, the hardest thing is that I’m a kind of run to the fire, run to the rescue type of personality. And so not being able to kind of help people very directly is difficult. So just trying to think about the little ways that I can contribute certainly helping our employees understand the resources that are available to them as they’re dealing with this as a part of that. But I’m just used to being out kind of on the front lines and I’m not able to do that.

Chuck Gose: Well. It’s been great to hear your story, hear the success of ClimateZone. Thank you for all the work you’ve done getting it here. I don’t know that probably you’ll ever hear the true appreciation from employees of what it’s meant to have this available to them, either to receive updates from the business or to share what’s on their mind. So again, thank you for taking the time and enjoy that glass of Peanut Butter Whiskey.

Susan Cleveland: Yeah, I’ll have to live with that, it’s called Skrewball.

Chuck Gose: Good name. Thank you, Susan.

Susan Cleveland: Thank you, Chuck.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture Comms & Cocktails on Apple podcast, Google play, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen, and when you do, hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss any future episodes. This has been Culture Comms & Cocktails, internal Comms served straight up. Thanks for listening.


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Chuck Gose

Chuck Gose

I am a self-proclaimed Skyline Chili connoisseur and Duran Duran fan with nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, corporate communications, and internal communications. My passion and enthusiasm for the communications profession began early in my career at General Motors and Rolls-Royce, Since then, I have focused on weaving internal communications and technology in creative ways. I'm also the co-creator of The Periodic Table of Internal Communications and The Very Hungry Communicator. But most importantly, I got to fly in a blimp once.

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