Brands have slowed down advertising spend, some shifting almost entirely to web and digital channels. Employees are bound to their home office chairs. Sales reps are out of the field and locked up in their homes. Busy executives, used to frequent travel and rarely being in the office, can only travel as far as their fridge or maybe the grocery store. Administrative staff are having to quickly shift how they work to digital. Every group, every department and every service area, every employee and contractor are having to adapt to a fully remote, fully digital way of work.
Corporate life, as we know it, is entirely different now. You can’t simply walk over to someone and ask about a project or just chat and catch up. You can’t fly, take the train or even drive across town to visit another office and get some face time with colleagues. The need for employees to stay connected and feel part of a community is stronger than ever, both due to our current existence and having to adapt to this our new reality. How remote work is supported and enabled is becoming critical for companies to not only survive this pandemic but also to evolve, grow, and come out on the other side stronger and smarter.
Our current reality aside, the way we operate and communicate has been trending this way for a while. This notion is not new, per se, but it’s becoming a major priority for just about all organizations.
Recent remote working statistics clearly show trepidation and uncertainty among corporate employees. According to recent Glassdoor survey, 50% of employees believe they would be equally or more productive working from home as opposed to their normal work location. That’s only 50%! Lack of human interaction is a factor as well, as 22% of employees are concerned about going “stir crazy” being homebound for a prolonged period of time in the wake of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Employees need a common, safe place to unite, stay connected with their company and with each other, and continue to feel like they are part of a larger team. Modern communication tools are fantastic – Slack, Microsoft Teams and the like are the lifeblood to some companies, including ours. Going beyond one on one and small team communication, information portals and means for sharing with larger groups are incredibly important, and email is not enough. That’s where intranets come in. These company hubs are more important now than they have ever been. Yes, I’m referring to those dusty old forgotten SharePoint portals or those Jive intranets your HR points you to once in a while.
Companies that have doubled down and invested in their intranet portals are now reaping the rewards, providing their employees with a safe haven and a hub for important communication, integration with other tools, and simply staying connected. For example, one of our clients boasting a modern and functional intranet has seen huge traffic and engagement increases over the past month+ as its staff moved to being remote full time. The numbers are staggering – 138% increase in sessions and a 25% increase in average session duration. There’s no doubt that employees are in need of information and a sense of community.
Whether you’re on the office 365 stack and have some semblance of a company hub, use a platform like Jive, Jostle, Blink, Facebook places, or even have a more modern and evolved solution that has been kept up to date, there is no better time than now to look inward and examine how you can improve and enhance your internal communication platform.
In supporting and creating a variety of intranets throughout my career for small to Fortune 500 companies, I’ve identified key areas to focus on when assessing and updating employee communication platforms, as well as creating them from scratch (I also shared my thoughts recently on what its been like running my own agency).
Here are key focus areas I’ve observed that help identify general needs for investing in an intranet:
Assess the way information is shared internally. The way employees currently communicate and share information within your organization is the biggest indicator of a potential intranet need. It’s the easiest way to determine if an intranet is in fact a need, or if one already exists, what kind of enhancements and improvements it needs.
Key questions to ask:
- Are employees over-reliant on email and (gasp) email attachments?
- Are you still using shared servers and haven’t even moved to a cloud-based file solution?
- How are company announcements being made?
- Have employees found their own, sometimes rogue, means of connecting with one another?
- Is there an easy way, a place for employees to find files and information related to a service area like HR, Payroll, a specific department, or does this feel disjointed?
- Are departments and practice areas in need of their own hubs?
Review current tools and platforms. Ask yourself if employees are well equipped to do their day to day jobs. Do they have the tools they need, and can they access them easily, or are your HR and operational teams getting inundated with the same questions every day? Better yet, can employees easily access these tools with SSO (Single Sign On), whereby they login once and can access all company sites and platforms.
Consider collaboration and availability of information to employees – is it critical to your business? A bit of a rhetorical question, I admit. The answer to this question should always be yes. A follow up question to this one is more telling – is it becoming tougher to keep up with sharing, storing and cataloging business-critical information? If your answer is yes, look towards enhancing or creating an intranet to accommodate.
The unwieldy intranet sprawl. For large companies with existing legacy intranets, it’s not unusual for sprawling intranets to grow to a point of no return. Thousands of sites, pages, and lost portals are not out of the ordinary. Lack of governance usually accommodates this phenomenon as well. For smaller companies, endless directories and dark rabbit hole sub sites on top of sub sites are not unusual either. If any of this is true for your current intranet, it’s time to reassess.
The budget factor. A bit of a tricky question. Are companies spending less in areas they were focusing on pre-pandemic? Of course, simply because in some cases those areas have come to a crawl, or worse, a stand still. That doesn’t necessarily mean companies have extra dollars laying around. Most companies have to now be conservative, play the long game, and carefully allocate budget. Either way, employee communication platforms should be part of the budget conversation. ROI is harder to gage, but there’s no denying that an engaged and informed employee is a heck of a lot more motivated and productive than one who is not.
Employee sentiment regarding your intranet. In my experience, you can simply tell the value of an intranet at a company based on employee sentiment. Eye rolls, “I can never find anything”, “I didn’t even know we had an intranet” are common and telling signs you need to reassess things and evaulate your intranet experience. On the flip side, a great and functional intranet creates a sense of pride, a sense of community, and a unifying driver for employee behavior. Talk to employees (doesn’t have to be formal, but can’t hurt) and ask the right questions to better understand needs.
The best intranets are ever growing, evolving and accommodating to employee behaviors and means of communication. Some are even award winning, like our Rubius Therapeutics Intranet. They are a destination, not a pit stop or an after thought. Employees use them because they want to, not because they are force fed to do so. Consider the value and impact of investing in an intranet and what it could bring to your organization, especially during this critical time. Remember – the best intranet is most importantly one that works for your needs, not necessarily one that leverages a certain platform. If any of the above resonates, then its time to reassess, enhance, or in some cases create that destination for employees that gives your company a shot in the arm and empowers collaboration and communication. The investment will pay off immensely.