Tag 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.

My 2014 predictions

I reviewed my predictions for 2013 and believe they are happening more as we move towards 2014.  So what has 2014 got in store for us?  Here are my five predictions:

Cloud

Organisations will more seriously consider what approach will best meet their requirements.  Factors that will need to be considered before a final decision is made are:

  • How much will it save compared with the costs of keeping it within the firewall?
  • Will you have better business resilience?  Will it remove the single point of failure problem?
  • What will be the levels of service?
  • Who do you trust with your data?
  • Will your content be secure?

Mobile

I know a lot has been said about mobile and how it is driving the transformation of intranets towards digital workplaces.  But how many employees still only use their smartphones for emails and texts?  Organisations need to get serious about realising the benefits and consider:

  • Increased productivity by people able to find information, complete tasks, share problems and knowledge when they need to without delay
  • Save accommodation costs and reduced dedicated workspace so people share as and when they need it
  • Support new ways of working with distributed teams and managers enabling and facilitating rather than controlling or limiting activity
  • Fear of the unknown is not a good business reason to stop employees using mobiles for their work
  • Bring your own device is a solvable problem when everyone wants to reach agreement over intellectual property, security and building trust and behaving sensibly

Collaboration

I am starting to see real examples of collaboration which showing through on business’ bottom line and getting the attention of senior manager.  This will bring benefits as it is taking more seriously and investment decisions are easier but the pressure to continue delivering larger savings will also increase.  Examples include:

  • Project teams sharing and creating online documentation without having to meet face to face or email each other
  • Solving problems more quickly using tools to find people with similar skills and experience
  • Sharing knowledge that helps others to solve problem and the organisation’s culture increasingly supporting this way of working

governance

Organisations are realising, especially if they are implementing SharePoint, that all the areas where content is published need to be managed.  The problems of gaps in information managed and risks it can create are being recognised more.  More robust frameworks are being developed and used.  Examples include:

  • Different types of content such as accredited e.g. policies, news articles, and collaborative e.g. comment in discussion group, blog post are being accepted
  • All the different areas for content are being joined up e.g. content management, document management, project spaces, and news.
  • A hierarchy which sets out roles and responsibilities help identify overlaps and gaps in managing information
  • Publishing standards are being applied in smarter ways taking less time and effort with digital workplace teams

Value

As intranets are transforming from their original purpose as communications tools towards digital workplaces that are critical business tools that people in that organisation increasingly need to rely on for their work, so their value is increasing and the need to measure that value.  Examples are:

  • Productivity savings are accepted in principle now even if the amount is not agreed by everyone
  • The impact on property usage and type is becoming more linked to new ways of working
  • The value an organisation places on a person’s digital assets e.g. knowledge in documents is starting to match that of any physical assets e.g. computer
  • Business resilience is critical to organisations and along with plans to use the cloud are plans to benefit from a more distributed workforce that no longer has to be in just one location

This is my last post of 2013.  I hope anyone reading this has had a great 2013, will have a relaxing break over the Christmas period, and be hoping for more success in 2014!

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?

8 ways SharePoint 2010 can help internal communications

I have covered in previous posts how internal communications can improve with collaboration tools.  I also believe SharePoint 2010 can help organisations’ intranets if applied well.  This post covers 8 ways that SP 2010 can help internal communications.

I’m not saying that SP 2010 is the only way to improve internal comms or intranets generally.  There are other technologies that can do this as well or better.  It is how you use the technology that is critical to it being a success.

These 8 ways can help SharePoint 2010 make a difference to internal communications by offering more agile and tailored solutions to meet the organisation’s needs:

  1. Polls: you can use polls to ask for feedback on a subject with a menu of answers for people to choose from.
  2. News: you can tailor a section of a page to show as many stories as you want.  You can give people the choice to see extra news and mandate how many news stories they must see and how many are optional.
  3. News stories: people can read these and show how they feel by using the SP 2010 features to like and rate the stories.
  4. Share news stories: people can also share a story with people who will be interested.  This is usually by email like with internet sites.
  5. Tag news stories: people can also tag a story with words or phrases that group it with other information or news they can find easily in future.  Tags can also be shared with other people and their tags can create a folksonomy.
  6. Discussion forums: people are able to extend their feedback on the news story by discussing it further with other people.  Internal communicators can also join the discussion and help explain any points that are unclear to people.
  7. Blogs: people (including internal communicators) can give a personal view on a news story.  Again it extends the original message if someone feels strongly about or offers an opinion to challenge another view.  This can help tease out small issues that can be quickly resolved before they can become major issues later that are more complex and harder to sort out.
  8. Podcasts: internal communicators can show and tell how to do something to help illustrate a message better than using words.  This is different from high quality corporate videos.  The quality may be lower but much cheaper and normally accepted by people.  It is the informal, personal, style that can make a positive difference to people’s perceptions.

The real benefits with SharePoint 2010 are when you use it on a major scale.  If you create the content to be communicated once, then be able to re-use it across many channels, you can focus on quality of the message.  You can communicate it as a news article, mobile text, video/podcast, etc. and get feedback from discussion forums, polls, rating, comments, shares and likes to it.

Have you found any of these have helped you?

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.