Case Study: Exploratorium

Chris Axley
Pingboard has really enhanced our community...it really adds to the connective tissue in our organization. Chris Axley | Director of IT

Chris Axley, The Exploratorium’s Director of IT, found his perfect fit when he joined the organization over 20 years ago: a workplace that valued both curiosity and community as much as he did. In the past, he prided himself on knowing all of his co-workers by name.

But as the organization continued to grow, Chris found it increasingly difficult to keep track of all the new names and faces, and wondered how the organization would maintain their strong sense of community

“Working in IT, I get to meet and interact with a large proportion of our employee base, but not everyone in the company gets to have that same amount of exposure,” explains Chris Axley, Director of IT.

A Sea of Faces

When The Exploratorium hired a new executive director, Chris knew it was time to find a solution—and the clock was ticking.

“We needed a way for our new director to put names to faces. He really wanted to be able to learn who people were and feel like he knew a little bit about them,” he recalls.

Chris began hunting for a tool that would not only ease the onboarding of the new director, but also restore the sense of community among the staff as a whole.

“The museum is a pretty big place, and not everybody knows each other. It’s difficult sometimes to put names to faces,” explains Chris. “We needed to restore the sense of community, not only for our new director but for each and every employee.”

We needed to restore the sense of community, not only for our new director but for each and every employee.

Beyond an Org Chart

Chris’ wishlist was simple—a quick and easy-to-use tool employees could access to acquaint themselves with their co-workers across roles and departments.

But despite this seemingly simple ask, finding a tool that fit the bill proved challenging.

“We came across a few options that were less than perfect,” recalls Chris. “It was either going to be a laborious process or the images were going to be smaller than we wanted, or it wasn’t going to be easily searchable; there was always an issue.”

When Exploratorium’s HR Director introduced Chris to Pingboard, he knew he’d found his match.

“At first glance it looked very similar to what we were looking for,” recalls Chris. “I began poking at it more seriously and I discovered it was going to solve our very specific problem of getting our new director onboarded and was also going to be very helpful for all of out staff.”

With in-depth employee profiles, an easily adaptable org chart and completely searchable platform, Pingboard checked all Chris’ boxes and then some.

Add Pingboard’s ability to seamlessly integrate with Google Apps, and Chris was sold.

“The onboarding process was very quick, we basically exported users from our HR system and gave Pingboard the relevant data,” he says, adding, “We use Google Apps and it slots in very easily. It’s easy for us to add people into Pingboard based on their organizational unit. Pingboard requires very little involvement from our IT team.”

Pingboard’s support during the implementation process ensured Chris and the team had a complete system roll-out before the director’s first day in the office—a huge feat given the tight timeline.

“Once they received our data, we had a fully populated Pingboard account. It had all the profile photos, everybody’s basic information – name, phone number, who they reported to, division and the like, all before our director started,” Chris beams.

The onboarding process was very quick, we basically exported users from our HR system and gave Pingboard the relevant data...Pingboard requires very little involvement from our IT team.

A Close-Knit, Connected Community

With roll-out complete and Exploratorium’s initial needs met, Chris was thrilled to discover how Pingboard’s other features added even more value on a daily basis.

In particular, Pingboard’s mobile app proved to be a lifeline during the director’s first days.

“Pingboard has a great app that makes it really easy to pull up employees and pinpoint them within the organization,” explains Chris. “During his first two months, our director was wandering around with the Pingboard app constantly open. He could just look at it and see who people were and where they worked within the organization.”

And as an unexpected development, employees fell in love with Pingboard’s “Who's Who” game, creating a completely new way for staff to get to know each other.

“Pingboard has a game that you can use to see who’s who. You get a grid of four people and if you get the name right, the game continues,” explains Chris. “You can play the game and use it to improve your memory for people’s names. People love that game, they really love it.”

The result has been a more connected staff that feel more like a big team.

Improved Efficiency, Confidence and Community

Pingboard’s impact was evident throughout the organization almost immediately.

“Pingboard has saved us from hiring at least one full-time employee. That’s equivalent to about $50,000 a year,” explains Chris. “I’d say it saves many of our employees around 5 minutes a day. It might not seem like much, but it adds up to a huge impact.”

Pingboard’s implementation also created a meaningful shift in Exploratorium’s culture.

“It’s hard to accurately quantify just how important Pingboard has become to us because they are doing things for us that we weren’t doing before,” Chris muses. “Now that we have Pingboard, we can’t imagine being without it; we truly see the value in Pingboard.”

What has perhaps impressed Chris the most is the way Pingboard has become an asset for everyone from the executive director to brand new hires.

“It used to be that you didn’t get to know who people were until you had been here for a couple of years,” Chris laughs. “With Pingboard, new employees can be brought up to speed on the organization pretty much immediately. This tool really adds to the connective tissue in our organization.”

They’ve saved us from hiring at least one full time employee, that’s equivalent to about $50,000 a year.

Not your typical museum, San Francisco’s Exploratorium promotes an audience-driven, hands-on learning approach, encouraging interaction and exploration through hundreds of self-guided exhibits that span everything from history to science, technology to the arts. A ‘public learning laboratory’, The Exploratorium delivers thought-provoking experiences both in person and through online engagement.