Tag Archives: intranet

Employee Engagement: Important Yet Elusive

recent article in Fast Company has once again shown how important employee engagement is to any organization. The more engaged the employees, the lower the turnover, the lower the shrinkage, the higher the customer service, and the higher the profits.

And yet, despite the preponderance of engagement surveys, software, and programs, true employee engagement remains an elusive goal for many companies. While there are several key drivers of employee engagement (corporate image, leadership, job function, work/life balance, managers) that require significant operational changes to move the engagement needle, below I present some tips that can be easily implemented and drive engagement results.

Better Internal Communications 
Treat your employees like your best customers or shareholders. Customers get fancy newsletters, interactive websites, personalized emails. Investors get elaborate annual reports. What communications do your employees get? Often it’s a simple newsletter with employee anniversaries, “articles” that are little more than press releases, and the latest information about open enrollment. Worse, they live forever on dull, decade-old intranets that are bare-bones, black and white, and boring – the 3 B’s of awful web experience. How can employees get excited about their workplace when the workplace doesn’t seem excited about them?

Internally, your employees are your audience, and you should treat them the way you treat your most valued customers. That means creating internal communications that are interesting and entertaining.

Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility
Some organizations have established CSR programs, allowing employees to select their own cause, which is a wonderful means to truly engage. Employees feel empowerment and camaraderie as they stay involved and seek volunteers for their own “social good.” They also feel a greater sense of purpose. Meanwhile, your organization gets great press and a big tax write-off. It’s a win/win/win/win!

Sure, this seems obvious, but one of the most frequent complaints I hear in
client focus groups, is “Management doesn’t listen to us.” Just as
social media allows a dialogue with your customers, you must find some
mechanism(s) to create a conversation with your employees. Instead of a
yearly survey, do it quarterly. Or monthly. Have an hour of “open door”
meetings every week, where any employee can approach any manager in any
area with any idea or concern. Use your intranet or enterprise software
to let your employee collaborate and ask each other questions. Today,
everything is crowd-sourced, from American Idol to Wikipedia to presidential debate questions. What can your employees teach you?

Little Things

There are many free or low-cost methods of employee engagement. Casual
Fridays are just the beginning. Be sure to acknowledge employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries, whether it’s an email, an announcement at a weekly meeting, or an actual gift (I’m a fan of Starbucks gift cards). Bringing in treats every week or month is always nice – try cupcakes, pizza, gourmet coffee, or flavored popcorn. If you can’t afford to send employees to conferences, encourage them to attend free local seminars or online webinars. Give them a small “education budget” to learn software, read books, or subscribe to industry publications.

As you can see, there are all kinds of small ways to engage employees. There are big ways too – gamification, employee referral programs (ask me about this one), social engagement strategies. How to know what’s right for you? When looking at your engagement strategy budget, remember that, according to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement can mean a 22% increase in profitability.

Want to learn more about these or other HR initiatives, including training videos, benefit communications, or wellness programs? Email me with your questions and I’ll help you out.

How IBM’s Intranet Improves Employee Development and Retention

At  HR/NY’s fabulous social media recruiting panel (which I moderated,) the audience and I were wowed as Nabeel Ahmad, Learning Developer at IBM, rocked the New York Times Building. 

He showed how IBM, the conservative corporate giant, has been letting its hair down and opening its intranet to new ideas. The results have been greater collaboration, better retention, and more advancement opportunities. Here’s how IBM did it, and how you can too:

Employees Thank Each Other
Instead of a top-down rewards program, IBM allows its employees to recognize each other with “Blue Thx.” These can be sent to any colleague anywhere in the world. And it’s not a private interaction; a leaderboard shows who’s received the most “Thx” in the last 30 days. Kind, simple gestures like these help unite IBM’s global workforce of 400,000. 

Employees Shadow Each OtheIBM’s ShadowMe program connects employees with senior executives based on department and location. A search for “social learning,” for example, brings up more than 800 IBMers across the entire company. Employees can physically shadow their mentors at the same office, or virtually follow mentors anywhere in the world. An employee never has to miss a learning or development opportunity because the expert in their field is in a different building, city, or country.

Employees Learn From Each Other
IBMers have access to a crowdsourcing resource, allowing them to ask their colleagues questions about any topic. An HR question posted here, for example, yields much faster results than an email submitted to HR…and it cuts down on HR’s workload. While there’s a danger that employees might give each other wrong answers, I’ve found that, like Yelp restaurant reviews, the truth usually rises the top. 


Employees Don’t Have to Email Each Other
Nabeel asked us if we agreed with the statement “I live in my email.” That attitude is a problem at IBM, so senior leaders look for any way to keep employees’ inboxes clean. When new CEO Ginni Rometty took over in January, she didn’t send an email announcement; she put her speech on video and made it available only on internal channels. This showed everyone at IBM how serious she was about cultivating the intranet.

IBM’s collaborative spirit even extends to live events. Before a recent technology panel, employees were asked to submit questions ahead of time. But instead of picking his favorites, the moderator made all the submissions public and allowed employees to vote for the best ones. This ensured that the panel addressed the issues most pressing to the largest group of people. If you’ve been to an event where someone asks a question that’s relevant only to them, you know how important this is.

Nabeel showed us that IBM’s conservative image doesn’t really reflect the true nature of its employees’ creativity, resourcefulness, or satisfaction. If your business is large enough for an intranet, we’d love to put the lessons of IBM and other corporate superstars to work for you. Contact me for more details

5 Secrets of a Great Intranet

What’s an intranet? A site where employees can read their about their benefits? A list of departmental phone numbers? A place where press releases go to die?

You’ve got it all wrong. A good intranet allows a company not just to inform and educate employees, but also to engage and inspire them. In a large enterprise, it might be the only way that employees connect with each other and the senior leaders. If you’re not using your intranet to build brand equity, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance.

As the internet has evolved, the important characteristics of an intranet have changed. In fact, intranets don’t have to be accessible only on office computers – how about an intranet app that employees can access on their mobile phones?

To insure that you have an engaging and compelling intranet, make sure it has these five important elements:

Intranets should allow communication from employees, not just to them. A weekly poll on the front page is a an easy, no-pressure way to get insights from your staff. A simple question like “How can we best improve our sales channel?” can lead to all sorts of interesting ideas.

It’s almost 2012 – is your intranet still just text? Employees can only look at copy for so long. You should include photos of the senior leadership team, audio of the CEO’s speeches, and videos of company events. You might even allow employees to post their own photos and videos of company parties or field trips. Facebook’s own bloggers have said that sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities on the social network.

Effective intranets engage employees.

Nothing turns employees off like old news. No matter what exciting content the site has, if an employee sees “Get ready for Election Day 2008!” they won’t take the intranet seriously. Update the site at least once a month; once a week would be preferable. “Breaking news,” such as an employee getting a major reward through the recognition program, can keep employees checking the site frequently.

You’re going to archive a lot of information on an intranet: benefits information, press releases, company directory, HR documents. But if the employees can’t find the information, the intranet is useless. Have a robust search system that lets users quickly get what they need. Place navigation at both the top and the bottom, with clear and simple drop-down menus. Use the front-page poll to ask employees what information they’re having trouble finding and rearrange the navigation accordingly.

All our favorite sites are personalized, from Yahoo homepages that show local weather to sports sites that feature our favorite teams. Make sure that one section of your intranet home screen has a section that employees can personalize with their preferred links. Someone may want to see the company’s stock price while another might want to see how many sick days they have left. A “quick links” section not only saves the employees time; it also gives them a sense of ownership for the page.

Time to "reconstruct" your intranet?

At BRANDEMiX, we apply the principles of branding to employer branding, which covers the entire experience. If you’d like to learn how we can create or improve your intranet, visit our website or call 212-947-1001.

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Intranet 3.0

Below from IBF’s Intranet Life blog and Globally Local, by Jane McConnell, author of Global Intranet Trends for 2010.
The changing demographics in the workplace (brain drain) and heighted focus on worker efficiency is bringing the corporate intranet into the spotlight.
From my trusted sources comes a few tales of how companies are breaking down the borders between internal and external communications, along with attaching the ROI to such. Lastly, trends to look out for.

Sun: Realizing the intranet of the future

Known as Project 90/10, Sun is turning over ownership of the intranet to employees (that’s the 90 percent) instead of corporate communications (which will become the 10 percent). The intranet, they say, will become an aggregation point like a Netvibes or iGoogle page on the Web. The borders between internal and external are coming down too: Employees will be able to aggregate external content such as Facebook alongside internal content such as corporate news.

For Sun, it’s all about orienting the intranet toward the employee of the future. “The type of employee we’ll be seeing in five years, and are already seeing a lot of today, will be very familiar with social tools. They will want to get corporate news but also to share and play, to have fun and connect,” says McKenzie. Social media are at the heart of this vision, but where most companies struggle to come up with meaningful measures of ROI, Sun is introducing the Community Equity tool. This tracks both the level of participation and the value of contributions by employees. “It will be a powerful tool for us,” he adds. “For example, as a manager deciding who to promote, I can see who is contributing and participating.

Nissan: Democratizing communication

At Nissan, the intranet is a central hub providing employees with access to the information and tools to do their jobs-from workflow and processes to project management and virtual meetings. The vision for Nissan’s intranet is straightforward: to enable employees to connect and engage in a dialogue. “I think that without the intranet it would be almost impossible to run the organization,” says Simon Sproule, corporate vice president of global communication.

Nissan’s internal social network, N-Square, is bringing fundamental changes to the way of working at Nissan by breaking down hierarchical, functional and regional barriers. Interactions that would not have happened previously-such as dialogue between senior executives and employees, or across functions–are now happening in a way that employees are comfortable with and find convenient.

“In the same way that you may watch the inauguration of Obama on CNN and then go and visit other news sites and blogs to get a different perspective, so internal communications needs to become a trusted brand within the company,” says Sproule. He sees the internal communication brand, N-Com, not as being in competition with the democratized dissemination of information via employee blogs and profiles, but as adding value by providing a timely, relevant and trusted news service.

The Global Intranet Trends for 2010 report is subtitled ‘Towards the workplace web’. This phrase reflects what is happening today in intranets around the world as organizations are positioning the intranet as the entry point into the organization’s ensemble of information, applications, collaboration and communication tools.

More key stakeholders getting involved

The intranet is starting to be “business as usual” and thereby involving more high-level stakeholders in the organization. The ownership model is slowly moving away from the single owner model (usually communication). Forty percent of the organizations do still have this model but another 30 percent have a co-owner model where two or three functions share ownership.

The third model, which is cross-organizational with all major functions and divisions represented, exists in 15 percent. Although used less than the first two models, it is more often found in organizations with mature intranets

Senior management increasing involvement

Approximately one third of the organizations have a high-level intranet Steering Committee. The senior level presence on this body has increased over the last year reaching 60 percent, with middle management and operational management decreasing slightly. This trend has continued since 2007 when the senior level presence was around 35 percent.

The individual voice emerging

There are a number of indicators showing that the employee voice is being given some room in the intranet. Two examples:

“Commenting on official content” such as letting employees publish comments and questions about articles written by management is “in general use” in 20 percent of the organizations. Another 20 percent are testing it or have it “in some parts” of their organization.

Internal social network applications (similar to Facebook or Linkedin) are not often found to be “in general use throughout the organization”. However they are likely to increase as 30 percent of the organizations are currently testing or “using in some parts”.

Social media benefits appearing

Twenty-five to 30 percent of organizations that have already implemented some form of social media have experienced 3 general benefits: increased employee engagement, more effective knowledge sharing, and better-informed employees. Stories “from the front lines” are shared in the report.

Some measurement

A few organizations have begun to measure the impact of social media and although the examples are rare in number, they provide insight on how the pioneers are making social media part of business as usual.

Social media concerns shifting

Concerns are changing as organizations gain experience. Doubts are considerably lower about the relevance of social media to business needs, senior management hesitancy and employees wasting their time. At the same time there is a higher degree of concern about two things: the difficulty of finding information and potential user resistance.

Hype and risks of disillusionment

Organizations in the planning stages for social media usage have very high expectations for benefits. Their expectations are far greater than what the “implementers” have seen so far. There seems to be a potential risk of disappointment.

Intranets in real-time

Technologies such as presence indicators, instant messaging and web conferencing are found more frequently the more mature intranets. Some organizations feel they have reached a level of “optimization” for certain real-time technologies.

Intranets being extended to where the people are

Intranets are leaving the workplace, or rather the workplace is being extended to where the people are. People do not need to be in the office in front of a computer to be able to use the intranet. Home access is possible in over one third of the organizations and smart phone access is just starting.

Some intranets have services for smart phones today, but the vast majority do not. However, twenty-five percent of the organizations in the survey say they are in the planning stages of making the intranet accessible through smart phones and PDAs.

BRANDING your Intranet with BRANDEMiX
All signs are pointing to the intranet as being a critical hub in the dialogue, as opposed to a repository of dated information and downloadable forms. The opportunity for branding and alignment of business strategy with human capital presents a myriad of ways we can make an sustainable impact in 2010.

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