Social Intranets In The Workplace
Social intranets have taken the world of employee communication by storm. With flexible working arrangements, distributed workforces and mobile computing the new norm, it’s little wonder that a social intranet is the digital workplace epicenter of organizations. More importantly, the social features now found within the modernized intranet – such as instant messaging, tagging, forums, likes, emojis, comments and more – have been shown to enhance culture, boost morale and increase engagement.
It’s widely accepted that the popularity of social networking sites (for personal use) has caused this cross-over into the business world. According to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, a ten-fold increase in the last decade. Yet some businesses still question whether a social intranet will noticeably increase productivity, or will it encourage employees to waste time on futile activities? Is a social intranet right for every organization?
A Time-Waster or Productivity Catalyst?
Creating a “social” environment carries a negative connotation to some. Many managers think, “I want my employees to be more productive, not socialize more.” A common concern among managers is that employees will waste time posting photos and chatting about inconsequential matters via their social intranet. Many managers now realize that creating an environment where people can easily share opinions and ideas on a range of projects and subjects is far more beneficial. And so what if there’s some minor emoji distractions along the way. Research backs up the idea that social intranets increase productivity. The McKinsey Global Institute found that social engagement decreased costs and increased productivity.
Social intranets offer fertile ground for staff to instantly share ideas, receive updates on the status of projects and coordinate responsibilities on a single platform. Time-wasting tasks such as searching for old meeting notes, emailed status updates or written feedback is a thing of the past. The result is an environment where ideas spread and projects advance more quickly.
A social intranet network spurs collaboration. Having a centralized, accessible platform dedicated to communication empowers employees to contribute ideas and feel included. Unlike traditional settings where employees exist in information silos, a social environment levels the playing field. It encourages employees at all levels to contribute, increasing innovation and productivity while discouraging micromanaging. Empower your employees to get involved and gain greater access to the creative minds of your staff.
As for the worry that employees will waste time socializing, intranets do allow for monitoring of conversations. Often, simply making employees aware that their conversations could be monitored is enough of a deterrent. However, don’t discourage all personal sharing. Sharing some personal information is important to building trust and camaraderie. Forbes discussed a report that focused on the importance of socially engaged employees. Researchers found that 59 percent of engaged employees used social media to build relationships within the company. Those employees were more likely to feel proud about their workmates and the leadership of the company. They concluded, “Social media engagement contributes to a competitive advantage, with the most engaged companies prevailing in the never-ending battle to recruit and retain top talent.”
Social Interaction: With Your Blessing (Or Without)
The bottom line is social interaction is a good thing in the workplace. Building personal relationships will result in better collaboration and more loyalty. Think of it as a shift in communication style.Baby boomers built relationships around the water cooler. Millennials are building relationships through digital social media. Why not provide a secure, centralized platform for them to do so? “Employees Will Have A Social Intranet With or Without You” was the eye-opening title of an article from Bloomfire. If you’re on the fence about implementing a social intranet, consider this: “If you don’t provide the tools employees need through an official company social intranet that is functional, useful, and attractive, employees will find and use any of the many, many social tools available to them externally.”
The fact is your employees are probably already using multiple social platforms to make their jobs easier, such as WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Google+ or Zoom. Managing multiple platforms and logins will actually hinder productivity and decrease security. Keep control of company conversations by keeping them on your own monitored social network.
The Benefits of a Social Intranet Don’t Discriminate
The case to implement social intranets for large corporations makes sense, but do small businesses really need to invest in an intranet platform? Cloud-based social intranet solutions make implementation easy and affordable for many small business owners. Research firm Nielsen Norman Group answered the question of whether small businesses need an intranet like this, “Small organizations with a stable employee base, systemized storage of information and policies, and a workforce that communicates and collaborates easily may not need to invest in an intranet… yet. But even small organizations rapidly outgrow email, social feeds, and file sharing solutions.” So, even if your business is in perfect running order right now, as you grow, your needs will change. As a result, small businesses are turning to cloud solutions that can grow with them.
The benefits of social intranets go far beyond bringing large numbers of employees together. Even among a close-knit circle of small business employees, a social intranet provides a means to improve internal communication. It also alleviates challenges associated with file sharing, working remotely and clogged email inboxes. Small businesses that have multiple locations or are planning to expand should prepare now. A social intranet provides the perfect tool to link employees at multiple locations or to work remotely, regardless of the size of the company.
The benefits extend outside the office “white-collar” setting as well. Imagine “blue-collar” workers in the field that have a constant line of communication with the office. Think beyond reading the latest company news on their favorite employee’s wall. Consider a technician that is having difficulty with a particular job. He can easily ask for assistance from his fellow workers via the messenger function of the company intranet. Or, maybe he or she remembers someone having a similar problem and writing about a fix. The technician can use a smartphone or tablet to access the information they need to complete the job. According to the State of the Social Intranet, the most popular tools used on a social intranet are instant messaging, blogs, discussion forums and user commenting, all tools that can benefit companies of every size in any sector. In fact, the same report found utility companies and telecommunication equipment firms to be in the top 10 most represented sectors in its research. Both industries thrive by connecting offices with workers during manual tasks in the field.
Effective Social Intranets Can Simplify Processes
Small business is often hesitant to implement new technology. However, effective social intranets simplify processes. Think about this quote from Forbes, “The best social intranet is not the one providing the most social features, but the one which ties the most business processes and data to employee’s social behavior.” Don’t think of an intranet as providing a platform for your employees to interact socially. It provides a platform that streamlines your workflow. Instead of having multiple platforms for communication, file sharing and HR documentation, an intranet simplifies all these processes into one network with one login. Wherever employees are, they know exactly where to go to find the answers they need.
Remember, being social involves people, your biggest asset.
How To Engage Staff With Social Intranet
We live in a socially-connected world. Now, more than ever, workplaces acknowledge this trend and, acting accordingly, implementing social intranets rapidly.
Most workplaces rely on their younger staff to be the catalyst for engagement with workplace social platforms. The benefits are clear; increased staff engagement, internal communication and collaboration are just around the corner, but some businesses fall short, failing to ever get their intranet properly off the ground in their organizations.
Hello Millennials: A Generation Of Social Media Natives
For the first time in history, a generation has grown up living and breathing social media. Many millennials agree it’s perfectly normal for their relationships to be equally online as in person; for concerts to be seen through a lens rather than through their own eyes; and for an evening to be spent scrolling instead of chatting. Social media has become deeply integrated into young people’s lives, to the point where it’s an extension of everyday existence. And none more so than millennials.
It’s a natural choice then that millennials should be the ones who champion social intranet engagement in the workplace and help older, less digitally-inclined generations engage. This may seem true, but there’s one major issue, it’s not what millennials want.
Why Millennials Don’t Want To Be Your Friend
The big, underlying issue is that millennials have until now regarded social media as personal – and the workplace as professional.
Millennials have grown up using social media to communicate with family and friends, expressing themselves and their opinions. Social, informal, personal, friends… None of these are connotations that scream out professionalism or business! Making the transition into being a working professional means that millennials attempt to draw a distinct line between their personal and professional lives and unfortunately, all social media falls outside of the professional realm, into the personal world.
Organizations don’t help themselves with their communication around intranet. Inevitably, management tries to rally engagement by boiling down the platform to something trendy like ‘Facebook for the company’ or ‘Twitter at work’. Instantly, this connects Facebook behavior with a workplace setting, which is not desirable in the mind of a millennial. Thoughts rush back to the time their friend’s Mom tried to ‘friend’ them on Facebook and the immediate self-censorship that imposes. After all, millennials don’t necessarily want their bosses to know what they had for breakfast… Or where they partied on a Wednesday night.
The proof is in the numbers when it comes to intranet engagement. 85% of younger workers say they struggle with social tools at work, compared to 90% of older workers, who say they find the tools useful!
Recreating The Social Intranet Experience For All
It’s a matter of telling the right story to generate employee engagement. You can create this narrative by focusing on three key areas:
1. Establishing the rules of engagement
Clarity. Clear up the assumptions that staff may or may not have about social intranet at work, by clearly spelling out how it is to be used. Rather than let employees walk around on eggshells, or cut loose sharing pictures of their drunken antics on the weekend, articulate upfront what is and isn’t OK to be sharing on the platform.
Some of the main areas to clarify are around confidentiality, external regulations, and formality. The first two areas are relatively straightforward and usually quite industry and organization-specific, for example, you may not be allowed to disclose the details of upcoming tenders to other departments in your business, while they are still in an RFP process. Clarifying these expectations is as simple as pulling together a simple, readable guideline on what is confidential and what isn’t, and making sure this is common knowledge to staff.
Striking the right balance of formality and informality is one of those make or break areas for your intranet. Our advice: Err towards informal. There’s a time and a place for formal emails and staff memos. A social intranet is about letting down some of the more rigid structure and allowing communication to flow. Do this, and you’ll get the most creativity and engagement from your staff.
2. Defining the purpose
Remember the lens that staff are viewing intranet through. For example, Millennials won’t inherently know why they are supposed to be using social intranets. They may assume it is for the same purposes as the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and want to steer clear, or that it is for some other work-related purpose which they don’t quite understand, and as a result, don’t engage. Cast vision to your teams around the benefits and role of the social intranet and ensure that no one misunderstands why it exists in the first place.
A few staple benefits of a well-engaged social intranet are improved collaboration, knowledge-sharing, prevention of duplication, increased feeling of connection, greater innovation, and employee engagement. Decide which of these is most relevant to your organization and communicate it clearly as the purpose of your intranet. This creates paths for better employee engagement.
3. Leading By Example
People do what you do, not what you say. As leaders in your business, it’s particularly important to be engaging on your social intranet to create the right role model for your staff. Not only does this model appropriate behavior for your teams to follow, but it plays to the strengths of cohorts such as millennials. They love engaging with higher level leaders and feel a need to have the opportunity to interact personally with management.
By communicating in an informal, personal manner on the social intranet, managers both model behavior, and create an additional incentive to engage on your social intranet.
Setting an example can be as simple as leaders sharing stories from their own experiences, giving the wider staff an insight into their business at a different level. For example, imagine the effect on engagement if your CEO was to post a selfie with a client saying “Just received great feedback from our third biggest customer on our service. Well done everybody! What’s one win you’ve had today?” It’s safe to say that this would drive employees to engage with your businesses social intranet, and in a productive, appropriate manner.
A New Narrative
Social media is such a powerful influence on today’s society. Employees are the driving force behind this and, in particular, millennials are a generation that lives and breathes social media. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to harness this power, instead of alienating millennials from their social intranet by failing to communicate its real purpose and appropriate behavior, or leading by example. Recreate the social intranet experience for your younger staff by focusing on these areas, and you’ll enter a new world of staff engagement, communication and collaboration.
Here at MyHub, connecting teams through cloud intranets is our passion. If you’re keen to find out more about how to get a social intranet up and running, just get in touch.