Category Archives: blog

Strengthen employee engagement while working remotely

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a relaxing break and have recharged your batteries for 2014.

I was recently asked by Simply Communicate to follow up my 2014 predictions with one for internal communications.  Here it is:

Organisations increasingly face the challenge of how to strengthen employee engagement while their workforce increasingly work from remote locations or while mobile. There is a great opportunity for internal communications to take a leading role with developing a plan that addresses these challenges with greater use of communications channels.

What is different now from previous years is the range of tools and know-how which can be used to successfully have engaged and mobile employees. The key to this will be the rich experience employees will have online as they are able to read communications when they need to, where they need to, and be able to share, feedback, rate the value of the messages with other people who share a similar interest.

An example of this could be combining collaboration tools with traditional online communication channels will help provide that rich experience so a key company announcement video, CEO blog post and detailed background information available is strengthened by a discussion forum managed by internal comms to continue the conversation with quick polls on the awareness and understanding of key messages.

It is how it is implemented and how it is managed within a wider governance framework will help decide how successful it will be. Good luck with whatever you do in 2014!

Read about more 2014 internal communication predictions from simple communicate.

Valuing information tip 3: how to manage collaborative content

In this series of posts ‘Showing the value of your information’ I help you with tips and advice.  In my last post I covered  how to make sure your accredited content is up to date so people using it can rely on its value.  I now want to cover collaborative content in this post.

collaborative content

Collaborative content can be owned by everyone, an individual or community.  It can be an opinion expressed in a discussion forum or blog post.  It offers a personal view which may be right or wrong and may change frequently.  Other people can support and build on that view or challenge and change it.

Collaborative content is less stringently managed because it needs lower levels of trust.  Many of your publishing standards are optional for collaborative content e.g. no review date or security classification normally needed. However what you do need to see is the:

  • Name of contributor to a discussion thread
  • Name of blog owner
  • Name of person making a comment on blog post
  • Date (and time) when comments were made on discussion thread
  • Feedback link to raise issues with discussion forum owner e.g. report abuse

how to show its value

This is not so easy to manage!  Normally comments made in discussion threads or to blog posts on the internet are managed by the amount of continuing interest shown by the large number of people updating it.  The content remains on the internet but if fewer people use it, it won’t appear in the top search results or be prominent in discussion forums, unless you dig deep enough to find it.

When a comment in a discussion thread on your intranet is made that type of behaviour can’t be replicated.  Even the largest intranets only have a fraction of the number of users compared with the internet.  A different approach is needed which creates the dilemma I mentioned earlier.

You can remove discussion groups and blog posts if there has been no activity with them after a period of time.  An advance warning of what is planned if no one adds to the discussions can prompt it re-energising.  But if it doesn’t do this what should you do?

If the content can no longer be found then people don’t get distracted by out of date information when trying to share their views or solve a problem raised by someone else.  However it may be that nugget of wisdom is buried within a discussion thread and lost forever because it can’t be found.

A strong governance framework can help you to decide what content to keep, remove, or delete and who is responsible for making those decisions.

Showing the value of your information

I want to help you to show to people using your information how valuable it is.  Information should be something that can be used to help you with your work and be useful to you.

What is it you can do for people to realise your content is of value, it is useful, reliable, and authoritative?  What pitfalls should you avoid so people avoid your information!

It always surprises me when I see other intranets and digital workplaces how poor the management of their information is shown to people who need to use it.  Most of this is down to poor governance but there are other factors that come into play and show people the content is not valued.

There are also good examples of best practice shown with other intranets and digital workplaces which should be shared and adopted more widely.

As people use an increasing variety of ways to find and use information e.g. laptop, tables, smartphone, and the type of information grows e.g  company policy, news article, blog post or discussion thread comment they still need answers to some basic questions:

  1. Why should I use this information?
  2. How can I rely on it for my work?
  3. Who can help me further?
  4. Can it help others?
  5. Will it change in future?

In future posts I will give you tips on what to do/not to do to help you to show how valuable your information is to people who want to use it.  A lot of these will be very simple and obvious steps you should take.

Please leave me a comment with any good examples or gripes you have over problems you experience with information.  I am not the font of all knowledge on this subject and would love to help you to help others. :)

 

Intranet Pioneer: more mobile and collaborative

Welcome to the new Intranet Pioneer site.  I hope it helps you even more than before.  As well as my regular blog posts remaining centre stage I have added two areas that I can help you with.

Collaboration

A good collaboration strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.  Using my knowledge gained from first-hand experience I can also help you choose the right tools to help you improve customer service, problem solving and idea creation.

Mobile

Using my first-hand experience and knowledge gained from helping clients implement mobile solutions I can walk you safely through the minefield of security, bring your own device, and creating apps and content that are right for each mobile device.  A good strategy to set the right direction with a solid governance framework to sustain you on your journey are key ingredients to a successful outcome.

Whether you need help with strategic advice, developing a governance framework, project planning or practical implementation, or detailed guidance and support, please contact me to find out how I can support you.

Who should own the Digital Workplace?

I read with interest Jane McConnell’s blog posts on governance in the digital workplace.  Jane’s Digital Workplace Trends 2012 survey showed how a strategic decision-making body can increase the chances of creating an effective digital workplace.

Now, before I go any further I have a confession to make.  I was the BT Intranet manager for nine years.  During that time I helped transform BT’s intranet into one benchmarked independently and accepted as one of the best globally.  I also was heavily involved in developing the wider digital workplace which I define as ‘work is what you do, not where you go to’ to support BT’s ambitions.

My intranet role was in Group Communications as part of a team focused on intranet, internet, web publishing, design and development.  Being in Group Communications felt naturally the best place to be to improve the intranet.  It was seen by other parts of the business as right too and our authority was accepted and not challenged for managing information online and to work directly with our IT partners on business needs.

However as more tools were used for online processes and activities – room bookings, training, performance management – so the difficulties of managing these became more apparent.  To brand these tools with a BT mark was very involved and conflicted with an ‘out of the box’ and ‘no customising’ approaches taken by IT.

Combine that with a defensive reaction to introducing wikis to share knowledge, podcasts to show and tell how to do things and most importantly blogs which made every employee potentially a communicator across the BT and you can see the landscape is changing for communicators.

I believe despite the success of the previous years where most successful intranets have been managed by communications that it is time to think differently as digital workplaces expand that role and function.

The digital workplace is more than a news channel or document store.  It can become the natural way of working so everyone is more productive and your organisation more efficient with:

  • People working from any location as well as their normal place of work
  • Everyone able to collaborate, search and complete tasks
  • Individuals choosing tools – RSS, mobile, etc. – that help them
  • IT infrastructure giving the same or similar experience
  • Physical workplaces to meet future needs and ways of working
  • Organisations measuring benefits and encouraging the digital workplace

This expands the role beyond information management traditionally championed by communicators who own the intranet.  It also needs more than one person and it needs people who represent other key functions within the organisation.

Who do you think should own the digital workplace?

How blogs can improve internal communications

In my last post ‘How to improve communications using collaborative tools‘ I gave my view on the corporate environment needed to encourage internal communications professionals to welcome collaboration tools being used by employees.  I also gave examples of collaboration tools that can help improve internal communications.  This post covers how blogs can help improve internal communications.

A corporate blogging tool can help employees share ideas and opinions.  It’s not just used to comment upon internal communications.  Blog posts can also help employees doing similar work or having a similar interest in different business units to save time and effort.  Employees can find someone else’s views who they do not know to help them solve a problem or speed up a task.

And blogs are something employees are becoming more familiar with on the internet and expect to see on their intranet.  For example in the UK many of the BBC reporters blog what they report on TV and radio.  There are also many bloggers who post on subjects of interest to employees, whether work-related or of personal interest.

The main point for internal communicators to understand is blogs are established, accepted, and understood on the internet by the same people, employees, who are the audience within an organisation who receive news.  So, I recommend a few points internal communicators consider:

  1. Be accepting of this changing environment and welcome it as some progressive internal communicators have done successfully.
  2. Don’t feel threatened and react negatively by asking for posts with different views to be removed.
  3. Widen your scope to include blogs in your communications planning.
  4. You communicate the corporate message but it is not the only message that can be communicated.
  5. Treat employees as people with opinions and views they have a right to express, be listened and responded to constructively.
  6. Take a wider, more strategic view, of all communications and communicators.
  7. Engage with bloggers and comment on their posts and explain your point of view.
  8. Posts on blogs can act as an early warning device of a small problem to be resolved before it becomes a much larger and difficult problem to resolve later.
  9. Posting and commenting on blogs increases employees’ engagement.  If they didn’t care, why would they blog?
  10. Blog posts should help shape corporate values and future direction.

Contact me to find out how I can help you:

  • implement a blogging tool
  • have the right terms and conditions of use
  • communicate better using collaborative tools
  • improve engagement of employees
  • measure the benefits to be gained

If you want further help from me please contact me or find out more about me and what I can offer.

My next post in this series will be on discussion forums.

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Should collaboration tools redefine internal communications’ role?

In my last post ‘Is your culture right for collaboration tools to improve internal communications?‘ I gave my view on the corporate environment needed to encourage internal communications professionals to welcome collaboration tools being used by employees.  Internal communications need to realise they are not the sole people who can communicate using the intranet.  Neither are their official channels the only route to communicate with other employees.

To embrace these challenges I suggest redefining the role of internal communications.  It is set in a model that is fast changing and risks becoming irrelevant.  The days when only managers or CEOs communicated business news and changes to their employees using internal communications will become extinct like dinsoaurs.  They need to adapt to the changes and recognise, like some progressive comms people have already done, the need to evolve and move forward and not resist until the bitter end.

I see the role for internal communications changing in this new world where employees want to communicate and collaborate with other employees as liberating and giving greater influence to the organisation.  Why?

1. Strategic

Take a step back from the day to day activity of preparing communications, checking channels are operating OK, and which day to send out a corporate message.  Think more about the value communications can have on the organisation, how employees perform, the direction it sets.

Encouraging employees to give their views on communications, even setting the agenda and starting communications on the organisation’s performance, ways of working can help encourage employee engagement.

Get more involved in the organisation’s strategy by influencing how communications in general, not just corporate messages, show the pulse of the employee’s attitude and engagement.  Work with HR and the intranet team to use the information on blogs, discussion forums and online polls to identify hot spots that are important to employees – what is working well, what could be improved – and help communicate through channels that employees choose to use with helpful information.

This will show the organisation is listening rather than just talking all the time to employees.  It also means employees use their time for more productive activities if their concerns have been accepted and acted upon more quickly.

2. Influential

Having a wider view of what is happening across the organisation brings a better insight to how its aims can be achieved from an internal communications perspective.  A more accurate and complete picture given will mean other senior leaders taking notice and seriously considering any points or issues raised by internal comms.

It will mean more major business projects and change programmes will want to involve internal communications professionals at the start so the right priority and consideration is given to their views.  It enables internal communications to start setting more of the agenda that will improve the organisation and employees’ engagement with it by its understanding of how employees communicate and collaborate to maximum effect.

3. Liberating

The main focus has been on the content of the communication being word-perfect and grammatically correct with the channels working fine for delivering it to the audiences on time.  The focus shouldn’t be on just that, important though it is to avoid badly worded, confusing, messages.  Instead it should widen to cover the wider impact of any communications.

So if you threw a stone into a pond it wouldn’t just be the size of the splash the stone made but the ripple effect that went as far as the edges of the pond.  Instead of success being the perfect execution of the stone being thrown, it is also the number and size of the ripples and how far they spread across the pond.

This can be achieved by starting online polls to ask for employees’ views, raising new topics in a discussion forums, responding with contructive comments to blog posts giving different views.  The aim is to explain and educate employees to understand better what has been communicated.  It is not to tell them they are wrong and only the internal comms sponsored message is right.

4. How to do this?

All of this is easier to read about than to do.  Don’t worry, I have first hand experience for several years of achieving this as well as helping other organisations with advice and detailed information.  If you want further help from me please contact me or find out more about me and what I can offer.

My next blog will give more practical examples of how collaboration tools can help improve internal communications.

Is your culture right for collaboration tools to improve internal communications?

I believe many internal communications professionals are not appreciating the benefits that collaboration tools can bring.  Instead they are seen as a threat to traditional channels used for communicating corporate messages to employees.  In my previous post ‘Can collaboration tools improve internal communications?‘ I disagreed with this attitude.

Changing this approach is not a simple task.  Before you can consider using any collaboration tools you need to have the right culture within your organisation.  I’m afraid the approach of “I’ll start a blog to change the culture” is doomed to failure.  You need to have an environment where employees are:

  1. comfortable using collaborative tools
  2. encouraged to share information with other employees
  3. maybe even incentivised to share knowledge online
  4. able and willing to offer critical comments
  5. relaxed about constructive feedback on their own views

To achieve this environment you need to have in place the following:

  1. company values that should cover openness, honesty, and trust
  2. endorsement and sponsorship by senior managers of the values
  3. guidance on how employees should behave online
  4. HR policies that support employee engagement

That means internal communications realising they are not the only people who can communicate using the intranet.  Neither are ‘official’ channels the only route to communicate with other employees.  To embrace these challenges could mean a redefining of the role of internal communications.  How this can be done will be covered in my next post.

If you want to use my experience or help about this post please contact me.

Can collaboration tools improve internal communications?

Intranets have developed over recent years from mainly being a channel for a few people to publish news to becoming places where any employee can collaborate and share knowledge with other employees.  I find it ironic that it is internal communications who are hesitant, even resistant, to embrace these changes.  Ironic because many intranet teams are located within internal communications.  Doubly ironic as it is normally intranet teams who are involved with how collaboration tools are used.

Instead of embracing this chance to engage with employees using these new tools and integrate them into an enhanced communications framework, internal communications reaction is more often a knee-jerk one that results in more and more ‘official’ news to try to drown out other voices.

I think that’s very sad when it happens.  It’s a bit like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.  It has to face reality at some stage.  The later internal comms leave it, the bigger the challenge it faces to use these tools to the overall benefit of the organisation, employees and internal communications.

Over the next few posts I want to cover how tools like blogs, video, rating and RSS can be used more effectively.  I will also show how I can help you if you need more information and support.

Is this scenario something you are familiar with in your own organisation?

What is a digital workplace?

Last week at the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen (Twitter #IEC12) there were many discussions about the digital workplace and what exactly is a digital workplace.

I thought it would be good to start a debate on what we mean when we say the digital workplace. Many intranet professionals want to find out more about the digital workplace.  Here is my view for you to consider and comment upon.

What exactly is a digital workplace?

I define the digital workplace as “Work is what you do, not where you go to.”

In a digital workplace you are able to:

  • Work in any location.  This may be at home, in your own or anyone else’s office, on the train, or ideally anywhere that suits you at the time you need to.
  • Do your work.  This may making a room booking, checking a person’s contacts details, searching for information you need, or reading the latest news.
  • Use any device.  This maybe your laptop, a shared PC, a smartphone (iPhone), or tablet (iPad).
  • Share information.  This means being able to use collaboration tools to help other people.
  • Search across all places where information is and you have permission to use.

What is the difference between a digital workplace and an intranet?

An intranet has a more limited role.  An intranet typically has corporate news and documents e.g. policies. Publishing will probably use content and document management systems.  A digital workplace will also have:

  • Collaboration tools e.g. blogs, wikis, podcasts
  • Micro blogging tools e.g. Yammer, Twitter
  • Knowledge sharing/building e.g. team wikis and share workspaces
  • Applications/tools e.g. HR tools, online training, sales performance
  • Processes e.g. approving decisions, compliance checks

It will help me and other intranet professionals if you can comment to agree, disagree, amend, etc, to create a shared understanding on the digital workplace.  Thanks in advance.