The More Things Change in Internal Communications…

In my days as content manager for an intranet, I blogged about tools and strategies used to communicate with employees. I looked back at one of those posts and I’ve found that for both positive and negative reasons my thoughts then remain relevant today. Here’s an excerpt:

I think an intranet is an immensely powerful tool for building camaraderie, morale, and a healthy, happy working environment. No, it won’t help an employee whose boss is a jerk. It certainly won’t help an employee who’s grossly underpaid. But if we start to see these sites as a benefit alongside vacation days and a 401k (though clearly not of that impact), if we start to see intranets as the primary vehicle for developing a corporate culture, a true organizational identity, a sense of shared mission, I think we’re getting closer to a real philosophy of an intranet.

I’ve talked to enough c-level execs to know most wouldn’t buy this if you gift wrapped it with $100 bills. But if there has to be a purpose behind an intranet – and I think there does – why force it to live only under the heading of money-saving? There’s more psychology in employee relations than I think execs understand, and you can do a lot more to make people happy with simple things than I think organizations realize. At the end of the day, you can use an intranet as effectively to keep employees feeling positive about the company and their work as you do to keep them efficient and financially sound.

Looking back on this now, I think in fact many companies have put more effort into using their intranet as a benefit. Certainly more companies are now offering their internal sites as a place to put tools employees need quickly at their fingertips. Paystubs are available, health care information, 401k management and many other tools. Companies are sharing stories, pushing out messages from executives and encouraging collaboration. (Which is a whole other conversation by itself.)

And yet…

I can’t help thinking that 10 years after I left full-time intranet work, things haven’t changed a whole lot. Yes, there’s lots of information out there. Yes, companies have begun to embrace mobile as part of their thinking. But the articles I see suggest that they’re still chasing after a strategy to make these sites something more than benefits repositories and unused team sites. So much of what ends up on these sites is pushed outward – in effect, the information the central offices want employees to know rather than a thoughtful exercise in communication.

One reason I’m such a fan of UGC – user-generated content – particularly around video is that it puts the creation in the hands of the employees themselves. It’s not without pitfalls, but it’s often more authentic than the selected information placed front and center on an intranet home page. That real estate is exceedingly valuable, and busy intranet teams are inundated with requests for a turn there. But is that building overall employee satisfaction and camaraderie or simply accommodating a specific group’s needs?

In short, are you pursuing your internal site for the employee’s needs or the company’s? Give me a call and let’s ask that vital question.