The intranet is a cost center; and so too are employees.
It’s sad, but true that executives view it as such.
How many work for companies where the external website has a greater budget than the intranet? How many work for companies that spend more on customers than employees? Maybe not a bad thing, per se. But how many feel like merely a number when compared to the average customer?
You’re not alone. Most companies treat the intranet, and the greater digital workplace like a cost center. It’s the principal and chief reason the intranet sucks at so many organizations. Some of the other digital tools aren’t fairing much better (unless they’re externally focused or ERP, which has gobbled-up and wasted hundreds of millions in some companies).
One of the reasons for this is The Street – Wall Street. Wall Street loves cost-cutting; they love when employee and operations expenses are cut to the bone, and The Street responds by raising the price of stocks. It hates when employee and operations expenses rise, and The Street responds by punishing share prices.
Fortunately, there are exceptions to the rule. We see many fine examples at the annual Digital Workplace & Intranet Global Forum conference including Cisco, Coca-Cola, IBM, and many, many others. Other notable exceptions include Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway.
Jeff Bezos and William Buffett just announced they plan to develop ways to improve the health of their employees, with the goal of improving customer satisfaction and, hopefully, reduce costs. Investing in employees to improve their health wasn’t something The Street responded kindly to, and subsequently punished stocks and the Dow plunged 400 points.
The partnership, in conjunction with JP Morgan, also announced they will “pursue this objective through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.” Although few details about the company were revealed they did say that “the new, not-for-profit venture will initially focus on technology.”
So, where do employees intersect with technology? The intranet, as the gateway to the digital workplace.
There’s far more to the announcement, not to mention healthcare costs and insurance, but at the core of the Buffet-Bezos strategy is the application of technology to improve the health and welfare of employees. The digital workplace is where this will happen. Just think about health and wellness content, self-service applications, fitness incentives, etc.
Bezos and Buffett get it. Employees are as important – if not more so – than customers. And the digital workplace must be as rewarding and helpful as the analog workplace.
The buck stops in the c-suite. Too many executives still view the intranet as a cost center, not an opportunity to help employees and enhance the business. The intranet and digital workplace represents the present, and the future of work, and the future for employee relations; it’s an opportunity to invest in the business and to differentiate from the competition.
Until the c-suite bucks-up with the funding to ensure the intranet – and all the digital workplace – is on par with external facing digital properties (such as the website) then the dirty secret will continue to undermine employee welfare.
The founder and President of digital workplace and intranet consulting firm Prescient Digital Media, Toby is an internationally recognized and acclaimed expert in the areas of enterprise technology, intranets, digital workplace, and social media. He is the founder and chair of the Digital Workplace & Intranet Global Forum conferences.
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