When intranet is not enough: Examining the Internal Communicator’s channel toolkit
— March 13th, 2019
I recently met with a leading tech player whose goals for Q1 2019 included the creation of an internal portal to bolster internal communications for its 3000 employees.
The organization’s desire to engage its workforce came as no surprise to me, as research continuously proves that companies with engaged employees realize higher profitability and earnings per share growth, superior customer engagement, greater productivity, fewer accidents, and better retention.
I was, however, mystified by this organization’s investment in intranet as its preferred choice of communication channel. Today’s digital playing field is completely transformed by mobile usage eclipsing computers.
As such, cutting edge solutions on the market are customizable to an organization’s size and culture. Given this shift, communications strategists ought to consider what value an organizational intranet adds, and its impact as part of an internal communicator’s toolkit.
Is intranet still worth the hassle?
Intranet sites are the digital glue that binds together all of an organization’s business units. First created in 1994 at Sun Microsystems, 25 years later intranet sites utilize advanced categorizing and searchability features, and remain a treasure trove of valuable organizational information.
My first experience as an intranet user was at Check Point Software Technologies, back in 1999, where our browser was set to point to the internal portal. One main challenge of every intranet site is to how to create an anchor that employees keep coming back to.
Check Point hooked us in daily to view lunch menus and place our orders. Featuring documentation such as HR policies and forms, departmental sections etc. reinforces engagement.
Whether you’re buying intranet software or building your own from scratch, both will require a significant investment of resources. Reuma Sharvit Rivlin and Orit Keren, Senior Organizational Consultants and IC Experts and Managing Partners at CoMotion, advise clients to utilize intranet for internal communications as follows:
The key is to create a virtual work environment for employees, where they can easily and intuitively find the most important tools, knowledge, and information, emphasizing personalization, so that each employee can create their own personal work desk. It's not enough to create an accessible front gate to processes, systems, and tools. It's as important to simplify information, processes, reports, etc.
Organizations with employees in a young demographic should incorporate dialogue enabling, crowdsourcing and community features in their intranet sites, so they can implement their virtual habits and behaviors into the organizational arena.
Once employees find the internal site useful, efficient, fun and tailored to their needs – it will become a great platform to convey organizational messages, news, and information that IC professionals would like them to be exposed to.
Visibility into how the intranet benefits the organization is crucial in order to justify investment in it. Linking intranet to your organization’s KPIs, measuring relevance of content and user engagement are good ways of doing this. According to CoMotion’s Rivlin and Keren, the best ways to measure an intranet site's success is by monitoring traffic, measuring unique users, time spent on each section and page, and responses to interactive CTAs.
Proactively asking employees to provide feedback using dialogue tools embedded in the site is another great way to gain valuable feedback.
Why a multichannel approach is the way to go
Having established that intranet sites add value, they should not be used as the single channel for inter-organizational communication. In most cases, intranet does not fit in with the way today’s internet users consume information. Large employee portals can be tedious and slow to update.
Their clunky nature means they are typically difficult to “mobilize”, forcing employers to make hard decisions about which applications should be mobile supported, and raising security concerns surrounding accessibility.
Now that mobile usage has eclipsed desktops, it’s critical to incorporate additional channels to your IC toolkit beyond the intranet. As the gig economy and remote workers gain traction, the necessity for internal communications to bolster employee engagement has become increasingly important. Our goal is to engage as many employees as possible, in the most intuitive way.
The large variety of team communication tools on the market makes selecting the right one overwhelming. A common thread between today’s solutions is that they engage with the employee where they already are.
Winning B2B solutions focus on usability and measurability, equipping business leaders with analytics of who is reading and what is being read. Relevant content produces a well-informed employee that enjoys a superior employee experience, which translates into productivity and overall improved company performance.
Of course, any comms expert would agree that there is no replacement for personal or face to face interaction. Joanne Frankel, Internal Communications Manager at Amdocs, a global employer of 26,000+ employees, shares with us multiple channels with which her organization has found success.
“In addition to the Intranet portal, other effective channels include: Quarterly Town Halls, where General Managers of business units present the company performance, industry insights, successes, internal updates and divisional updates; the Doxshow – a quarterly late-night talk show style format where the host (our CMO) presents his (often humorous!) industry insights and panel interviews with key employees, streamed to all employees worldwide.
The Monday Mail – a highly consumed newsletter arriving in employees’ mailbox every Monday morning with local regional information (6 versions) about what’s going on in their site– activities, lectures, parties, volunteering opportunities, job openings, special offers etc. The opening rates are way above industry benchmarks, with an average opening rates of 75% (benchmark: 65%) and average clickthroughs of 43% (benchmark: 10%). We account this to the content being highly relevant and timely to the audience.”
The rise of disruptive communications tools
As part of your internal communications strategy, you have created a vision for your organization, brainstormed tactical plans to support your objectives and now must determine how to communicate and activate your target audiences using different types of channels. With so many unique tools cropping up in a market of already proven solutions, how do you pick the right platform for you?
Yotvat Aviram, WW Communications Manager at HP, Graphics Printing shares insights from her organization’s experience:
“The conversation should always start with the desired goal and no comms vehicle should exist because it is “nice”. Only by attaching business focus to employee engagement, can you aim to build an organizational community with a shared vision, goals, and values.
Make sure that communications are not focused on buzz-words, but on leading a business in a manner that empowers employees and makes them the hero of the story. Platforms should be used with focused balance and related to a specific audience, making the organizational gears run smoothly, collaborations work effectively and boost employee engagement.”
Thoroughly analyzing your audience profile will help map them to preferred vehicles. One tool can work wonders for one organization but fail to garner support at yours, so whatever communication channel you select, make sure it matches your organizational structure.
Software trials are a great free way to assess if a specific tool works well for your organization. Effective communications might be best achieved using more than one solution, so be prepared to spend on the best tools to support your organization’s needs.
U.S. companies lose between $483 billion and $605 billion each year in lost productivity of actively disengaged employees (Gallup, 2017). How do we select the right tool to promote engagement? Aviram of HP urges internal communications professionals to consider the following:
“Successful tools are the ones that are targeted at empowering employees to reach business goals in alignment with the values of the company. The right communications vehicles can promote a harmonized workforce that in global companies, such as HP, translates to connectivity across businesses and geographies.
This means that each platform should be finely honed on the soul of the organization while approaching the right target audience. People are far more likely to be passionate and proactive if they understand their position in the corporate culture, and what the company stands for. For this, we must make sure that our platforms are for the audience, not to the audience.”
Whichever strategies or tools you choose, in order to appeal to all your workforce—the Millenials and Gen Zs, the Baby Boomers, the office workers, and the remote ones—you’ll likely find greater success in communicating with employees on multiple channels, investing in more than just an intranet site.