The company intranet is kind of like the middle child in a family. We care about it, but its siblings usually get more attention. In this scenario, the siblings are external websites and social media channels. Websites always seem to get the makeover and the budget allocations when push comes to shove. Since social media is the last born, it’s the pride and joy of the company and leaders are focusing on this fun and energizing medium.
What many companies and leaders do not understand is that the intranet connects employees with the company and is an important engagement tool. Engagement equals happy employees, less turnover, increased innovation and savings on the bottom line. These things matter.
Before we dive into ways to engage employees through your online space, let’s talk about the ever-popular intranet makeover. We often expect employees to be more engaged just by giving an intranet a little polish and a name change. Delivering a shiny new intranet without first listening to find out what employees need will not deliver real engagement. So as you move forward with changes in your approach and tactics, remember: Listen first, then react.
The following sections represent the basics of the latest intranet trends and aim to get you thinking about ways to make your intranet more engaging.
Organization of your content is so important. If you do a great job here, finding information and resources will be easy and will make sense to most employees. First, organize your content into categories. I’ve listed a few general categories below to get you started. Be flexible with your categories and make changes that resonate with your company’s content. For example:
- Information about the employee: benefits, perks, payroll information, etc.
- Resources for employees to get their jobs done: forms, policies, procedures, self-service, etc.
- Career advancement: learning resources, jobs, career management tools, etc.
- Information about the company: leadership bios, top-level company information, department structures, etc.
As you shuffle your content around, here are a few tips to remember:
- Minimize the number of clicks it takes to navigate to content. Employees are only willing to click once or twice to get to the information they want.
- Highlight the most important resources as prominently as you can.
- Use common language that most employees will understand. Department names can be deceiving. For example, instead of making “Payroll Department” the link for entering time worked or to view a paycheck, name the link “Enter Time and View Pay.”
Experiences on your intranet should be similar to what your employees experience on the Web as consumers. Your employees use Google, Amazon, Facebook, PayPal, etc., everyday. There’s no reason to reinvent common experiences. Use Internet best practices and blend them into your intranet. For example, most employees are familiar with the icon that looks like a thumbs-up. At a glance, they know it means “I like this content.” Using familiar experiences removes the need to train employees on your most powerful communication tool, the company intranet.
Meaningful content (tools, resources, information)
We all know content is king. But, when it comes to an intranet, the right content is king. It’s plain and simple: Employees want easy access to tools and resources to get their jobs done. Communicators often fill the intranet with news and announcements. We’re communicators, it’s what we do. But we need to remember to know our audience. Truthfully, news is usually secondary for most employees. Instead, they need an employee directory, organizational charts, learning plans, forms, policies, etc. It’s all about resources. When something big is going on within your company, employees will be on the hunt for specific news. So when you have a crisis or a large change, then news becomes the resource.
Getting social: It’s more than turning on a service
Social media isn’t new anymore. Many of us have dabbled in it or even launched a full-scale social media program with our employees. If you have, then you may have noticed that these new resources didn’t solve all of your communication problems. Successfully blending these tools inside the enterprise is still tough for many communicators. Just like with any other program or resource, you’ll need to find the value sweet spot. Ask yourself: How will each of these tools help employees and the company? How will employees become more productive and bring new ideas to the company, and how will the company gain insight into its employees?
Here are a few must-follow points to keep in mind when rolling out or re-energizing your social media tools:
- Determine what your employees need to accomplish regularly. Can social tools help?
- Start with champions. Grassroots efforts are great, but executive champions and participation will set the tone that it’s OK to be social.
- Decide what business outcome you wish to deliver with your social tools.
- Change employees’ habits. Define why employees will use these tools and remove any obstacles.
- Make a plan for sustaining and growing participation. Invest in community managers and support based on a minimum two-year social plan.
You already know that an intranet is more than just company news. It can, and should, be full of resources and social connections. Also, employees increasingly work on the road, have temporary offices in coffee shops or work from a shop floor. Many of us live by mobile devices that are not laptops. The need for mobile access to key resources and a way to connect with other employees is vital. If employees can use an app to check in for a flight, buy stocks and update their family about the latest news, why not harness the same power to enable them to access and use the intranet? A few large intranet and enterprise social media companies now offer out-of-the-box mobile access. IBM, Microsoft, Jive and Yammer are just a few.
Another option gaining momentum is to bring employee and manager self-service to the mobile game. Imagine entering time worked, approving expense reports or viewing your paycheck all from your smartphone. Employees become more productive and enjoy a greater sense of connection.
Christopher Swan is the senior manager of digital corporate communication and social media at Avery Dennison, where he strategizes about social media efforts and mobile communication, develops video communication and pioneers digital resources including the company portal and editorial and web strategies. He is also the owner of Accidental Information, a forthcoming communication company that shares insights with a focus on entertainment. Connect with him on Twitter: @mechristopher or through christopherswan.net.
The views and comments expressed in this article belong to Christopher Swan and do not represent Avery Dennison.