The Intranet: An Essential (But Sometimes Overlooked) Component of Employee Engagement

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Employees are not only the face of a company, they are the company. Employees can be trusted brand ambassadors, and it’s vital that a company’s employees are included in and given avenues to be involved in company communications. However… with so many competing priorities, active internal communication efforts often get pushed to the wayside, and they shouldn’t! Companies must remember that when employees love their job, it shows, and the ripple effect of that honest and organic company adoration can be greater than any pre-planned marketing campaign.

An Intranet is a great place to start! It’s a venue built to provide staff with news and upcoming events as well as allow for employee interaction. While a company Intranet can be an amazing employee engagement tool, unfortunately, many companies allow their Intranet to be an afterthought to external communication efforts. From the employee perspective, we all have experienced an ineffective Intranet. Not only does it not engage you, but it can also be a labor intensive, jargon-laden, top-down static-content filled monster. But when built and used correctly, a company Intranet can be an important venue for employee collaboration and communication.

Does your company need to take another look at its Intranet strategy? If so… keep reading, this post is for you!

Get started by listening to employees. It is important for companies to periodically do a “pulse check” with employees to help select and then effectively use the most appropriate communications channels– be it the Intranet, face-to-face meetings, newsletters, or social networks. Employers must pay attention to what works effectively within their own organization. As communicators, the phrases, “know what the audience wants” or “know where the audience is” are used when building any outreach strategy. The same questions apply for any Intranet manager, except in this case; the “audience” is the employee. In order for an Intranet to be successful, it is essential that companies understand the needs and wants of employees.

Then develop a team. Along the lines of being an afterthought, a pitfall for many companies is having only ne person in HR, Marketing or Communications manage the Intranet alone. Much like anything else in IMC, building an effective Intranet takes resources. The Intranet team should be comprised of a cross-section of employees from nearly every department. In fact, in 2014, the average intranet team size was 16 members!

Work on an Intranet is never truly finished, and too often, companies build an effective Intranet and then it dies due to lack of updated content and technology. Like with any social media channel, it is essential to continue to add and update content on a regular basis in order to keep people engaged. Companies can also engage employees in publishing content, which even further expands the Intranet team and helps to build employee ownership.

Incorporate new tools and think “CONTENT”. The goal of an Intranet is to make engagement and participation easy for employees. Some key Intranet tools include:

Creative Content: Follow the rules of external communications! Intranets should be filled with short and easy-to-read text along with multi-media videos and photos. Compelling content can include everything from training materials and resource links to bullet points, interactive company manifestos and storytelling. Homepages must be dynamic, engaging and ever changing. The Intranet should showcase information that is relevant to topics being discussed across the company, as well as tailored to the individual.

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Personalization and Customization: Move beyond the dreaded list of employee photos and instead, allow employees to connect with one another, upload profile information and add interests and skills. Connective features that link the Intranet to social media networks like LinkedIn can make it easier for employees to participate.

Communications and Feedback: Allow readers to react to and interact with the content, either through feedback, comments or liking a page. Top Intranets, allow employees to provide feedback instantly via comments or like/rating systems. This can help companies learn what types of content are most important to their users as well as allow for employee engagement and ownership.

Quality Search: Ineffective search is one of the biggest criticisms users have of any poorly designed website or Intranet. Having a powerful, intelligent search allows employees to access what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition: With a peer-to-peer recognition tool, the ability to thank those who go the extra mile is put in the hands of colleagues rather than just supervisors. Small thanks can often be a stimulus to keep employees working hard. Allowing employees to thank one another also encourages interaction.

Reflect Company Culture: While the intranet is primarily a ‘tool’ for getting work done, it should also be used to express the company culture, mission and values. The Intranet can help everyone in the company understand the company brand and how they fit into it.

Then put it together and what have you got? A great Intranet!

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If you are looking for inspiration, one fantastic example comes from National Geographic who, in 2014, was named the creator of one of the world’s 10 best Intranets. Their rebuilt Intranet allowed National Geographic’s 2,000 employees to interact with one another using real-time information exchanges and social collaboration tools.

The new National Geographic Intranet is highly visual, social and content-relevant. It has made employee collaboration easy and exciting. The new Intranet design opens information-sharing and content ownership to the entire user population at National Geographic. The site also effectively conveys the culture and history of the company through stunning photography and storytelling.

Since the redesign at National Geographic, about 70 percent of the staff uses the intranet at least twice a day to catch up on news or use resources such as the company directory. More than two thirds of the employees have updated their directory profiles and the venue has become a great tool for skill sharing within the organization and helping employees to connect.

Think of a new Intranet as “paying it forward” – it’s a worthwhile investment in the future of a company. It’s a tool that unites employees and opens information-sharing. Additionally, by allowing for employees to take ownership of content and personal profiles, employees will be more likely to visit and use the site more often as well has have a deeper investment in the organization, its mission and each other.

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3 Responses to “The Intranet: An Essential (But Sometimes Overlooked) Component of Employee Engagement”

  1. Mike Kohler Says:

    What a tremendous post! Are you willing to let it be shared as part of a lesson in IMC 637?

  2. LISA SANDS Says:

    Employees are one of the most overlooked groups. I can’t imagine leaving your closest allies and advocates out of the comunication mix. When you engage with them and include them it is like increasing the size of your marketing team! There is nothing worse than being an employee and hearing company news “on the street.” It happens all the time!

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