Is your intranet a dinosaur?

Is your intranet languishing without fulfilling its potential? Are you frustrated that it is under used, lacks support and people would rather find information elsewhere? If so you are certainly not alone.  Many businesses have discovered the hard way that creating an intranet is the easy part – the real challenge is to keep it relevant, current and engaging in an ever changing business environment.

Try asking yourself these questions about your intranet:

  1. Does it serve real business needs?   Your intranet strategy must be aligned to the business’ strategic objectives and be regularly reviewed to make sure it stays that way.  Intranet objectives should be clearly defined and measurable.  The aim ‘to improve communication’ is held by intranets across the land but is worthless.   On the other hand, ‘to improve communication with frontline employees by providing access to policy and procedural information via intranet kiosks’ is specific and results can be demonstrated through usage statistics and reduced printing costs.
  2. Does it make life easier?  Whether finding a telephone number, compiling a bid document or checking the canteen menu, simplifying and speeding up everyday tasks saves time, improves efficiency and helps employee morale.  Every intranet should have at least one ‘killer application’ that keeps people coming back day after day until a habit is formed.
  3. Is it actively managed? Like a road network without the highway code, an intranet without rules will soon descend into chaos.  And yes you will need ‘enforcement officers’ to apply the rules.  While many intranets have a policy for content ownership and responsibilities few actively apply them and remove out of date and under-used material.
  4. Has it evolved?  Is your intranet a ‘living breathing organism’ or a dinosaur heading towards extinction? Too many intranets are launched with a big bang then don’t change until it’s time for a redesign 3 years later. Great intranets evolve through continuous improvement; they have a clear roadmap for new features and content that reflects changing business needs and improvements in technology.  
  5. Is it easy to find what you are looking for? Intranets usually start life being easy to use but as more content is added the navigation often becomes muddled and useful information is buried. If the search function is ineffective as well finding information becomes time consuming and frustrating. So why not apply the 80/20 rule?  If 80% of intranet traffic is generated by 20% of your pages, remove the other 80% of content.  Not only will it be quicker for users to find the most useful stuff but it will be easier to keep up to date.  Have you ever heard of an intranet fail for having too little information?
  6. Does it encourage people to get involved? How can people engage with the site? Whether it is rating content, taking part in a forum, commenting on the CEO’s blog or submitting a story, people do expect to ‘have a voice’ and be able to interact.  And while of course we know people aren’t at work to enjoy themselves (heaven forbid!) a touch of fun can lighten the day. An informal section with social news and competitions  can help build a sense of community  and keep lunchtime  traffic on the intranet rather than on YouTube.

These questions will help you identify the priority areas to tackle to revitalise your intranet and prevent it heading the way of the dinosaurs – in to extinction.

We’d love to hear how you keep your intranet alive and essential to the business –use the comments box below to share your thoughts.

When internal communications go external

In yet another case of an internal memo being made public, a major law firm last weekend found its stance on short skirts and high heels analysed in some detail in the newspapers. While their policy might be considered appropriate for a professional practice, the communication of it was not; the media coverage was unhelpful and damaging to the company’s image and employer brand.

In an age where private becomes public at the click of a ‘forward’ button, how can companies balance open communication with damage limitation? By having a robust internal communication policy you can:

1. Minimise the risk of your internal communications being leaked:

  • Use an appropriate channel – sensitive communication is always better handled face to face.
  • Target your audience – avoid general messages if you can specifically address those concerned.
  • Adopt the correct tone and language – patronising, indignant or emotive messages are more likely to be leaked by aggrieved employees.
  • Ensure that employees have a voice – if they can make their opinions heard within the business employees are less likely to feel they need to go outside to make their point.

2. Minimise the damage that can be done if they are leaked:

  • Expect the worst – assume that anything published internally could be released externally and write accordingly.
  • Make sure that managers understand communication policy:
    • what should be communicated and the best channel to do so
    • responsibilities for checking and approval of large scale communication
    • language – the importance of appropriate tone and vocabulary
    • where to get advice and help

The fact is the majority of internal communication remains just that. Where leaked items are reported this is normally where the company is already the subject of media interest or where the content can be sensationalised when taken out of context.

A well written, empathetic message could actually show your business in a very positive light if published externally – however by its very nature this would be un-newsworthy!

It’s good to talk – 10 tips for great team briefings

In this age of technology regular face to face communication sometimes gets overlooked. Worse still it can be seen as a chore – a special effort to communicate with ‘hard to reach’ field, factory or shop based employees.

Yet regular team briefings give managers a means to engage their teams and to strengthen their role as leaders. Briefings are as beneficial for ‘connected’ teams as those without access to technology – providing the opportunity for sharing information, gathering feedback and building team spirit. In our experience we have seen teams that have regular, well-managed briefings outperform those who don’t.

So how can you make your team talks as effective as possible?

1. Commit – schedule them in to make sure they happen regularly.

2. Prepare – be clear on what you want people to DO differently as a result of your team talk.

3. Be natural – a fairly informal basis approach works best – try to avoid death by PowerPoint.

4. Give context – talk about the overall business strategy but remember to translate it in to ‘so what does this mean for me’. Customer satisfaction, team performance and key competitor information can all provide the context for understanding ‘how my work contributes to company performance’.

5. Focus – what are the 3 key messages you want them to take away? Sign post to other sources of information if necessary – don’t overwhelm your people in the team talk.

6. Clarify – round up any procedural or policy changes that have taken place since the last meeting to ensure employees understand if and how they are affected.

7. Listen – listening is as important as talking. If  you are not getting  feedback or queries are not forthcoming ask some questions to build dialog and gauge understanding

8. Be honest – don’t be afraid of not having all the answers. It’s ok to say “I don’t know the answer to that but I’ll get back to you by X”. Just make sure that you do!

9. Connect – think about how your team talk can build team spirit eg welcoming new members of the team; how can we improve performance together etc. Celebrate success – individual or team – and don’t use the briefing for telling off.

10. Follow up – each team talk should flow from the previous one (“last time, we said we needed to do better on xyz – well done! Now we need to…”)

What are your top tips for effective team briefings? You can tell us using the comments box below.

Social media – just another fad?

You may not have spotted that this week is International Social Media Week and across the globe events are being organised to explore and dissect every aspect of social media. While this event may well have escaped your attention it is hard to ignore how tools such as Twitter and Facebook have become integrated in to almost every aspect of society.

Radio 4’s Today programme tweets updates; Marks and Spencer want me to befriend them on Facebook; my colleagues all network via LinkedIn; even my local library send me Facebook messages. Like it or loath it you can’t deny that social media has changed the way we interact with each other in business as well as leisure.

I must confess to coming late to this brave new world. I was a social media cynic and dipped my toe in the water only when I realised I was in danger of being left behind. But unlike wearing drainpipes when everyone else has moved on to flares this is not a fad to be quickly overtaken by the Next Great Thing.

With customers and employees alike businesses are realising that social media has a real role to play in connecting with a younger generation as well as those of us who appreciate the immediacy, simplicity and autonomy these tools provide. It offers businesses two great advantages:

  • providing people with a voice – the opportunity to join in, comment, share information and opinion. This is the opportunity for people to be heard and for you to listen – there has never been an easier way to keep your finger on the pulse of what customers and employees are thinking.
  • the opportunity to engage – people opt in to these media so inevitably are more receptive to your message and open to building a relationship through two-way communication.

The best advice, whether for personal or business use,  is to start small and use social media selectively – the flexibility allows you to learn as you go along. Don’t jump in and sign up to everything only to find yourself overwhelmed and unable to sustain relationships. Within your business, try piloting a new tool on a particular project or user group; what you learn from this will make a wider roll out much more successful.

If you’d like to learn more about social media and its value in employee communication, read our new briefing on our website.