“I no longer support the idea of home page news and features,” says Shel Holtz, Principal, Holtz Communications + Technology. “My opinion has changed 180 degrees in the past two years. Activity streams is where we are moving.”
At Pitney Bowes, Corporate Communications was able to increase readership to intranet news articles by 300% by promoting individual articles in Yammer newsfeeds. Although, news articles still appear on the Pitney Bowes intranet home page, social media activity streams via Yammer are driving users to the news.
“Email is no longer an efficient channel for communications,” says Holtz. “Social software is becoming more efficient than the traditional tools such as email. Email, like the intranet, and so many tools, was introduced with a focus on deployment, not adoption.”
“We need to deploy channels that employees care about and then pull them in. Organizations need to rethink their policies and what their intranet is as mobile becomes the primary means of access for most employees. If we don’t think about it, employees will think of ways themselves (citing examples of employees using whatsApp and Instagram).”
Although few organizations are rushing to do-away with home page intranet news, intranet social media represents a revolutionary shift in corporate communications and collaboration, and an opportunity for organizations to increase employee engagement by raising emotional capital.
MIT’s Sloan School of Management believes that intranet social media (ISM) initiatives must first focus on development of emotional capital, a dimension of social capital.
“Our finding is that to be successful, internal social media initiatives must focus first and foremost on the development of emotional capital, which we define as the aggregate feelings of goodwill toward a company and the way it operates,” say Quy Huy and Andrew Shipilov. Professors at INSEAD (See The Key To Social Media Success, MIT Sloan Management). “A company’s emotional capital with its employees can be built by the actions of executives; it represents the emotion-based assets that the organization has developed over time with its employees.”
Sloan’s Four Pillars of emotional capital:
- Authenticity (employees perceive that what their company and its leaders say and what they do are aligned)
- Pride (employees perceive that the company values and publicly recognizes their achievements, supporting desire for intrinsic rewards (includes peer recognition)
- Attachment (employees perceive that they belong to a community with shared values and interests (includes non-work-related discussions, which forge bonds and lead to work-related exchanges)
- Fun (The feeling of playfulness employees experience when experimenting with new things at work).
Holtz cites Jochen Specht, Manager of Web Strategy at Siemens, writes an internal blog on the intranet, and every fifth blog post is on soccer (football). “And management doesn’t care (about the occasional personal or social post) as long as he is getting his work done,” adds Holtz.
“If we’re expecting employees to change behavior at work, then employees need to see executives are changing their behavior,” says Shel.
Holtz cites three phases to securing executive support:
- Buy in – rationale and ROI, investment, culture change.
- Accountability – Subordinates’ behavior, reward and recognition.
- Participation – Not optional; adoption depends on developing emotional capital.
When executives use internal social media to build emotional capital, according to Sloan, the benefits can be impressive:
- Workflows and collaboration improve
- Turnover drops
- Employees are more motivated
- Communication improves
Holtz suggests a number of engaging tactics for enlisting the active support of executives:
- Identify leaders who are authentic and whom employees trust
- Help them develop social media skills
- Ask them to (and help them) join and build communities where they can grow emotional capital
- Deploy social media tools sequentially
- Prepare leaders to see benefits only after emotional capital has been built
Conversations are also paramount to success: technology is just an enabler, while the conversation between people is key. Conversation is paramount to good communications. Holtz cites the Harvard Business Review (Leadership is a Conversation, June 2013), that the best leadership communications flows from conversation.
“Smart leaders today, we have found, engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high. Furthermore, they initiate practices and foster cultural norms that instill a conversational sensibility throughout their organizations. Chief among the benefits of this approach is that it allows a large or growing company to function like a small one. By talking with employees, rather than simply issuing orders, leaders can retain or recapture some of the qualities—operational flexibility, high levels of employee engagement, tight strategic alignment—that enable start-ups to outperform better-established rivals.”
However, the new social media, particularly the integration and use of multimedia (video and sound), represents a unique opportunity to further engage employees at all levels in innovative, conversational ways. NatWest uses six second Vine videos to resolve customer service issues:
“We know there are about ten or 20 frequently asked questions we get on Twitter. So we looked at those and thought about how we could give a reply that wasn’t boring text only,” says “Joseph Sikorsky, head of digital media at NatWest.
“Quite a lot of the questions we get are about using online banking. That might take two or three traditional Tweets to explain the online banking journey, but with Vine we can give a really clear and simplified journey of what customers need to do,” NatWest plans to use the Vine posts, which answer questions on topics ranging from trouble accessing online banking, how to order a paperless statement, phishing emails and the bank’s cheque clearing process, as soon as its customer service team receives the relevant enquiry.”
Innovative or not, social or not, most organizations need to find a balance between the push and pull of home page content on the intranet. Employees want content and tools that are relevant to them; a pull of information based on their profile and/or preferences. Most organizations, and executive management do require a ‘push’ of information in addition to the pull; executives have key messages, strategic initiatives, and mission-critical imperatives that frontline employees may or may not care about, but need to be front-and-center in the communications mix, and the intranet home page.
Finding a balance between push and pull is important, and not easily attained without explicit research and understanding of employee and management needs and concerns. Remember: most organizations are not a democracy, but most employees understand this and don’t expect the home page to be exactly what they want, when they want.
For most, home page news is not disappearing, but will be further enhanced by both push and pull information flows and tools.
Also read: Intranet content curation
Read the Great Intranets series: Great Intranets Part I: Unisys