Are intranets still viable?
In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, we talk to Nick Daggett who is Senior Sales Manager at Invotra and based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Invotra create and maintain the conditions for professionals to do their best work using technology. Prior to working at Invotra, Nick was Head of BD at Oak Engage. Nick has many years of experience of working with clients to develop digital workplaces for organisations that need to communicate with their workforce wherever they are.
Nick explains that Invotra were founded in 2014 and are used by organisations to help “enhance the employee experience”. While Invotra have a base in Newcastle, the head office is in Woking, Surrey and there is also an office in Ireland. The company is split between the intranet software side of things and consulting which covers intranet planning and strategy. They work primarily with public sector organisations, for example the Department of Work and Pensions which has 95,000 employees, the Home Office and more recently NHS Test and Trace which Nick says greatly interests him. Nick explains that 45% of government employees use Invotra for their intranet for communicating, collaborating and engaging with each other.
Why do we still need an intranet when we have applications such as Yammer, Twitter, Microsoft Teams?
While Nick agrees that there are plenty of applications and systems that could be used including CRMs, a service desk, survey tools, emails and text messages, this also means that there are potentially too many to choose from and this can cause confusion. Internal comms teams need to know which channel to choose to have the most impact with their messages. Integration over the past few years has been key to improving the use of the intranet, it can pull all the other different platforms in use together in one place.
Previously if you needed information you would refer to the company handbook which had all the information you required and ideally this is how the intranet should work. So, the intranet should sit as the digital workspace bringing all the other systems and applications together and allowing the employee to find the information they require quickly and easily. It’s secure, it’s efficient and it’s professional. You’re on your organisation’s intranet getting the right guidance and content and connecting people to each other.
How the intranet used to be perceived
Craig remembers the intranet from many years ago as being like a digital warehouse where people would store scanned files so they wouldn’t be lost. Nick agrees it did become a bit of a repository in the past and the word ‘intranet’ can strike fear and boredom in some people who still perceive it as it was 15 years ago. It used to be draconian and boring with the annoyance of lost passwords. It was a generic, one size fits all system with a lot of top-down broadcast communication.
But what should an intranet look like now? If it’s going to work it needs to be built with its purpose in mind, it’s a user led purpose and answers the question ‘what does the employee need?’.
Creating a modern, social intranet
The intranet needs to invite you in to use it, you need to have a desire to go on there and see what’s going on. It shouldn’t be a chore. Nick suggests that everyone’s an author at heart and everyone can collaborate. These days the intranet experience is personalised as it recognises who you are and sends you more relevant content. Typically, the modern intranet will be accessed by an app which has the organisation’s branding so it looks and feels like the organisation, there’s no logging on to a separate system anymore. While the intranet home page doesn’t need to be as good as Google it has to be familiar and intuitive if you want to keep engagement high. It needs to be user focussed and based on outcomes. But the important question is ‘what is the purpose?’, is it for brand focus or are you trying to reach the unconnected, deskless workers who aren’t sat at a computer? Nick thinks it is these workers who were previously unconnected that benefit most from the intranet.
Craig asks Nick about the sort of functionality you would suggest for an intranet and Nick explains that the ‘functionality is a by-product of achieving the outcome’. If an organisation comes to them with a lack of engagement, or disconnect with their employees, then they’re looking for something that’s going to increase engagement. This can be done through the use of a collaboration tool or widget to create a hub which is going to help build a sense of community. You could use this hub to share ideas and talk about all sorts of things, all of which help to create the culture of the organisation.
The benefit of the intranet for new starters
Using the intranet can help a new starter to recognise what the culture is like at an organisation. If everyone is commenting on new stories, including the CEO, then that shows it’s a collaborative, social environment. The intranet can also be a great way to help onboard new starters, they can even have access before they start their new role.
How do you get employees to trust the intranet?
It’s important that employees know the intranet is not just there as a tick-box exercise or for head office to keep an eye on them, it’s there as a tool for them to use. Generally, there is no need for moderation either as most people realise the intranet is there for their benefit and, as the younger generation know very well, anything you create digitally leaves a footprint which is going to be around for a long time. People understand that they need to take responsibility for what they are posting.
Increase engagement with an intranet relaunch
Nick explains that a relaunch of your intranet can help increase engagement and collaboration. This can be achieved quite easily by making sure it looks fresh, is user led and focusses on what employees want now. Ask your employees what they want from an intranet, put out a survey and get some feedback. Is it there for collaboration, critical communications or just for the news? Everyone will have a slightly different response but already you’re starting to engage with your audience.
Nick and Craig discuss whether it helps to have a name for the intranet, ‘The Hub’ seems to be very popular and also ‘The Water Cooler’ and ‘The Town Hall’. Nick suggests asking employees to come up with a name to help increase interest and awareness of the intranet.
Nick thinks that ideally the central comms team should take responsibility for the intranet but that each department should have a captain to help look after it. It could be that someone looks after the wellbeing page and another person is in charge of policies and governance. The more people involved the better so one person isn’t left trying to manage it on their own.
Your intranet should not be a soapbox
It’s important that your intranet has engagement, Nick tells a story about a company who had the most fantastic intranet, it was beautiful and had all sorts of videos etc, but nobody commented on anything. The blogs came from the CEO and no one felt comfortable commenting. Craig says this links nicely to his interview with Cai Kjaer (add link when published) where Cai explain it’s no good having all these collaboration tools if no one is engaged and we should be measuring the degree of interaction that is happening. The people who are posting on the intranet need to be asking questions and responding to comments to help to start to draw people in. You need to make sure the intranet is not used like a soapbox for management to shout out the corporate messages from.
In summary, intranets have moved on significantly in the last few years due to improvements in technology. To get the most of your intranet you need to be clear about its purpose, why have you got an intranet? If you can do that you can create a fantastic environment which integrates all the other different platforms in a one stop shop for employees. Really the purpose should always end up with more motivated, happier, productive staff.