The Top 7 Reasons Traditional Intranets Fail to Engage Employees

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HR and employee engagement professionals across the world today are engaged in a global war to attract the best talent to their companies.

Engage employees

However, the process of hiring, nurturing, and retaining talented employees has been made more complex due to factors such as changing demographics, cultural diversity and geographical dispersion of employees.  Add to this the widening gap between five different generations in the workforce: traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen 2020.  According to a recent Gallup survey in the US, baby boomers and Gen Xers have the lowest levels of engagement and they constitute 88% of the workforce, while the traditionalists and Millennials have the highest level of engagement and they constitute 12% of the US workforce.

Under these circumstances, driving sustainable employee engagement across the enterprise becomes a huge challenge for HR and employee engagement professionals alike.  According to a 2015 Hay Group New Rules of Employee Engagement Report,

  • More than 80% of the Heads of Engagement surveyed agree that their company needs to find new ways to engage its workforce in light of the changing environment
  • Only a quarter have personally started to drive change

A more critical change has been the rapid growth of digital technologies, apps, and devices over the last 15 years.  The Millennial generation in particular has grown up using social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. and it is a generation that is “always on” “anytime, anywhere.”   These digital natives expect a similar digital environment in the workplace.  However, most enterprises have not kept up with the expectations of the Millennial generation of employees.  In particular, intranets and collaboration tools are mostly inward-looking, are not user friendly and do not ‘engage’ employees in the real sense of the word. The comparison below summarizes the disconnect between employees and employers when it comes to the intranet.

Employees’ Expectations What Employers insist on
• Show me what I want to see Need to show more than just what you want
Make me want to get to the site You should get to the site, no matter what
I need to have my own connections The entire organization is connected
Keep it simple There’s a lot that we need to show
Keep it intuitive You need to know where to look

Why do traditional intranets fail to engage employees?

1. Weak Search – Powerful search capabilities are what defines a true blue intranet. This allows employees to find information and knowledge in seconds rather than hours. In the absence of this critical factor, value from content discovery and subsequent employee engagement can go down real quick.

2. Outdated Information – In a traditional setting, only a handful of employees are entrusted with posting organization-wide information. This makes timely updates challenging. As a result, the intranet can quickly become a repository of stale information. Employees are forced to spend substantial amounts of time to get the information they need.

3. Poor Branding – Your organization’s intranet is a de-facto extension of your company’s brand. Employees or clients who visit the site need to immediately relate it to the company culture rather than see it as a disjointed extension – a factor often associated with traditional intranet.

4. Poor Communication Tools – An intranet’s success is dependent on how quickly and easily it allows employees to reach others for their knowledge purpose. Traditional intranets often lack effective communication tools such as chats, group forums, blogs, private messages, or comments.

5. Troublesome Content Publishing – The number of steps involved in publishing content is inversely proportional to employee motivation to do so. Many traditional forms of intranet are designed such that an employee has to approach the IT department after getting his/ her own department approval to publish content.

6. Overcrowding – Traditional intranet fails to scale up according to company staff strength. As the number of departments and people increases, the chances of confusion creeping in are higher. Traditional intranets cannot effectively segregate into meaningful smaller communities or control overlap of information. This way, traditional intranets lose their employee engagement and collaboration advantage.

7. Boring – A good social intranet needs to have a corner for fun activities (think trivia, puzzles, games etc.). Traditional intranets rarely factor in this aspect and hence lose on keeping attention span high. The drive for employees to keep coming back to the intranet for their relaxation time (and thus improve adoption of the system) goes down drastically.

Harvard Business Review states four essential features that define an efficient corporate machine. These are agility, innovation, honesty, and collaboration. A meaningful social intranet platform, adopted successfully across the company, can be just the solution needed to inculcate these values.

Here are the top four features that a successful intranet platform must have:

Team Collaboration Spaces: Employees in a company are normally segregated into different teams either across functions or within a particular function.  These teams can also be geographically spread out, but they still need to communicate and collaborate on a daily basis just like teams that are co-located.  They need an ecosystem where they can not just share files but also communicate frequently through means such as blogs, posts, chat groups etc.  They also need to have a customized environment where they can get regular feeds with content that is relevant to the team and which is also popular within the organization.  From an operational perspective, the team members need to keep track of current and pending tasks.  Accessing a different application just to keep track of tasks creates redundancy.  Employees need to have tasks from other apps integrated into the intranet to improve employee productivity.

Personalization:  Every employee has his/her own preferences when it comes to accessing and consuming content on the intranet.  It could start by providing an enterprise social networking platform that allows employees to connect with other employees in the organization and to maintain a personalized profile page that reflects the personality, thoughts, and opinions of the employee which his/her connections can access, comment, and ‘like.’  Keeping the digital preferences of today’s workforce in mind, they would also need a single sign on mechanism where they could login to the intranet using their Facebook/LinkedIn/Google credentials as desired.  In addition to this, employees should also be able to share content from popular social networks outside company firewalls to further improve employee engagement.

Engagement Analytics: The tell-tale signs of employee disengagement can actually be tracked with engagement analytics that are built into the social intranet platform.  There are certain engagement parameters that can be defined and customized to meet the needs of any organization to determine attrition rates as well as predict certain employee outcomes based on correlation of historical data and current employee behaviour on the intranet.  Employee sentiment analysis could be used in a big way to determine the overall employee sentiment and track it over time which can serve as warning beacons should the sentiment increasingly become negative.  An auto computed engagement score can quantify engagement levels within the organization and KPIs can further be defined by department, location, or role.

Socialization:  Organizations can drive greater employee engagement and improve intranet adoption by “socializing” the intranet.  This means that intranets should take a leaf out of the books of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp to provide features like activity streams and notifications, micro-blogging, and the ability to form social chat groups and interact with peers.  Designing the intranet for the mobile device and offering it as an app is another important feature that could revolutionize intranets.

There are a lot of different intranet options out there, including ones that are open source.  These tools can help companies create amazing collaborative experiences that enhance productivity and employee efficiency – keys to running a successful business venture in the digital age.

How has your own company intranet worked to engage employees?  We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

Image by Rachel Wille

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Vikram Samant

Vikram brings over 24 years of experience in devising Enterprise grade technology solutions that have addressed enterprise social collaboration needs across industry verticals. With several years of experience across Technology and Consulting, Vikram’s expertise is in building impactful solutions that address ever evolving enterprise needs. At CIGNEX Datamatics, Vikram holds global responsibility for conceptualizing and building Systems of Insight and Systems of Engagement including next generation enterprise social engagement platforms and collaboration tools leveraging Open Source technologies.

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