Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

If You Want Employees on the Intranet, Skip the Spin

For intranet content that truly engages employees, think more like a newspaper editor than a PR exec. In public relations, you try to push the messages and information that you want the readers to know. As a journalist, you look for the stories your readers want to know.

A PR perspective* can result in the rose-colored glasses version of company news.Employees are sophisticated consumers of media, and they’ll see right through that rosy lens. A perpetual and obvious spin can erode trust rather quickly.

Taking a journalistic approach to content will mean thinking through the questions employees will want answered. Telling the whole story, without sidestepping the bits that might not be such good news, results in the sort of authentic content that employees crave.

That doesn’t mean you can’t promote company messaging on the intranet. Among other topics, it can and should contain content that helps employees align with the company vision; educates them on company accomplishments and the achievements of those in other functional silos; and connects employees across geography to remind them they’re part of something larger than their immediate work team.

The intranet is also an excellent place to tell the company’s side of any unsettling event or major change. It offers an opportunity to counteract the rumor mill by sharing the reasons behind a change or the company’s response to an unfortunate event. It can reduce employee stress by giving them the information they need to feel confident in the way management is moving forward. If you want employees to consider the intranet their go-to source for company information, give them an honest appraisal of what’s happening now, what will happen next, and how, and when and to whom.

Remember that an intranet is a pull medium. Employees have to want to see what’s posted, or you’ll never get them to go there. To make your intranet a must-read for employees, offer the news they want, delivered in a way that gives them credit for being intelligent human beings.

Interested in making your intranet the go-to source for employees? Tribe can help.

*This post is not intended to disparage the fine work of public relations professionals, many of whom we respect and admire to the nth degree.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Intranets, Magazines and Emails are Only Envelopes

The medium, in fact, is not the message. (Apologies to Marshall McLuhan, the man who coined that phrase back in the 1960s.) Although we now have more possible internal communications channels than ever before, each channel is nothing more than an envelope in which we deliver content. Is your content fresh and relevant? Is the design appealing so people want to see what’s inside that envelope?

If a channel hasn’t worked before, maybe it just needs to be done better. Occasionally when Tribe recommends a new approach to an existing channel, a client will say nope, we’ve already tried that and it didn’t work. Maybe a bad magazine didn’t work, but one that’s beautifully designed with engaging articles just might.

For instance, it’s not the intranet’s fault if nobody goes there. Compare your content and design with what employees see online every day, from news sites to social media to retailers. Does your site seem pretty bleak in comparison? Even when you’re stuck with an existing platform, you can re-skin the graphic design and rethink your content.

Often the issue is not quality of content but quantity. If employees aren’t reading internal communications emails, could it be because they’re ridiculously long? Cutting the word count from 500 to 50 and adding some visual interest might make that channel highly effective. If you’re afraid a short email can’t possibly give employees all the information they might need, direct them to the intranet for more details.

Same goes for corporate videos. It takes discipline to keep them short, but when a video drags on and on, few people will watch all the way to the end. We once worked with a client on a collection of videos that was were one person talking about one topic for one minute. Employees loved them.

So don’t discard an old envelope just because it hasn’t been effective in the past. It’s what goes in that envelope that makes all the difference.

Interested in refreshing an existing channel? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Three easy ways to improve your intranet

Your company’s intranet should be a reflection of its culture. Culture is not only about your mission, vision, values, logo and formal rituals, but it also includes employee beliefs about the company, myths and ancillary symbols that develop over time. Reviewing your intranet should shed some light on the intangible areas of your company’s culture. Analyzing your site doesn’t need to be a formal process, but by taking some time and reviewing a few basic elements, you will also gain a better understanding of your culture.

1. Site design should be reflective of your external brand and your desired internal culture.  Look at the design element of your internet and intranet.  Are they of the same quality? Do they look similar?  Does it appear that the company invested in both? Does your intranet reflect your desired culture in terms of being fun or potentially a more formal culture? If the answer to some of these questions is no, it may be a good time to improve the design.

2. If work/life balance is something your company values, give employees the opportunity to share information about their personality on the site. Rich employee profiles are a great way for employees to connect on a more personal level and improve their working relationships with co-workers. The underlying message that employees will receive is that the company cares about them as individuals, not just for the skill set they bring to the company.

3. Review your values, culture attributes and other brand elements to see if they are reflected in the site. Your intranet is a great tool to communicate and sustain elements of your brand, which in turn help develop your culture.  Look for interactive ways such as spotlighting employees that live your values or promoting events on the site that help build camaraderie.

Do you have other ideas of how to analyze your intranet for insights on your culture?  Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

3 Tips For an Engaging Intranet Homepage

illustrationCorporate intranets can be a company’s most valuable tool if properly implemented, but they are often a drain on resources and manpower because of a poorly thought out design that results in little return on investment. A layout that is going to keep your employees coming back requires many things, but the most important of all is a proper homepage design. The homepage is the gateway for all of your employees’ needs, but it should also be the keystone in your internal brand communications, and for these reasons it needs to be both engaging and practical. Here are three tips to get the most out of your homepage design:

 

  1. There is no need to scroll down. Scrolling is so in right now. The popularity of never-ending feeds on widely used sites like Facebook and Twitter inspire some employers to design an intranet that scrolls for days, but this is the most detrimental design element when founding or renovating your homepage. When an employee visits the corporate intranet, it is generally because they are driven by the completion of a task, not because they are there to browse. Help them achieve that goal by giving them what they need at the get-go. There are proven psychological effects behind the design of a webpage, and studies show that users feel overwhelmed when they visit a site that overloads them with information from the start. By designing a homepage without housing information “below the fold”, you are rewarding your readers two-fold. Firstly, they will immediately feel the successes of processing all of the information on the page quickly, and secondly, they will complete their task without the stresses of filtering through an overload of content. This tip is especially applicable to mobile functionality, since a homepage that does not scroll is likely to transition to mobile more fluidly.
  1. Make sure the first thing the eye is drawn to is constantly fresh. If your employees are expected to visit the company intranet everyday, give them a reason to come back. Design your homepage to feature some sort of company news, imagery or video that is updated frequently. Since employees are visiting the intranet on a task-driven initiative and will generally only glance at the homepage, call the content out by making it larger than the rest or more brightly colored. Take advantage of this brand touchpoint by communicating vision and values. Try to use photos of actual employees instead of stock photography (they can always tell!). Make sure that content is written for internal readers as opposed to repurposing language intended for customers. Make it fun!

This is especially important when it comes to launching a new intranet. You can avoid overwhelming your employees by periodically rolling out new functionalities. The homepage should be where these features are announced and explained.

  1. Design your layout to be tool-centric. Always prioritize business needs over creative impulse. Sure that carousel looks nice, but if it takes away from the practicality of the intranet, you are threatening your ROI. Like we’ve already discussed, it’s all about helping your employees do their jobs more efficiently, so give them the tools to do so. Provide an effective search bar, easy to locate policies and links that are both strategically grouped and start with the most relevant keyword. Don’t over format, exclude icons if they aren’t necessary, and let your employees Google search the weather and sports scores on their own. Usability is key, and by not focusing your intranet on the tools that make it an assistive asset, you are defeating the entire purpose.

Looking for more advice on how to build or manage your intranet? Tribe can help.

Nick Miller

TRIBE TRIVIA: Intranet Benefits by Generation

A younger employee shwowing an older employee the way forward

True or False: Millennials are more likely to find benefits in a company intranet than their senior coworkers.

False: According to Tribe’s national research with employees of large companies, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials equally find benefits in an intranet, such as news tickers, corporate blogs, collaboration spaces and content management/archival. The only disparity among generations is the benefit of a social media application, with Millennials finding it up to 26 percent more beneficial than their older counterparts. Gen X and Baby Boomers, however, find benefits in two-way communication and a space to share innovative ideas, so their lack of interest in “social media” may be due to negative associations with the term itself.

 

For more information on this study, see Tribe’s white papers and other resources on the expertise page of tribeinc.com, or shoot me an email.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

In an increasingly digital workplace, use print to get attention

It seems obvious. If employees are sitting in front of computers all day long, then digital communications must be the best way to reach them. Not necessarily.

Nobody likes getting more email. Some statistics suggest that people delete almost half the emails they get. And we all know people who have hundreds of emails sitting in their inbox, waiting to be acted upon — or deleted.

Although the intranet is a great pull communicator, it also has its limitations. A strong social intranet can become the hub of your internal communications, but you have to entice employees to go there. To get serious traffic, the intranet needs to make peoples’ jobs easier and provide continuous fresh and engaging content to reward them for going there.

To get attention in a digital workplace, try print. Even better, use print in unexpected places, beyond the typical break room posters and tri-fold brochures.

At Tribe, we’ve been working with the software division of a Fortune 10 company. Our job is to help align employees with the vision and to make them more comfortable with the change inherent in a high-growth company with very short time-to-market expectations.

Programmers make up a huge percentage of this employee population. They spend their days in intense concentration at their computers. When they take a quick break from their work, they get up. They walk down the hall for a cup of coffee or a vitamin water or a ping pong game.

Just like we do with non-desk workers, we look for ways to reach these employees in their physical environments. Like printed wraps for their coffee cups; window clings on the glass doors of the beverage coolers; projected quotes on hallway walls; digital signage; and racks of artsy postcards featuring cool designs of each of their values.

Also, a vision book. A beautifully designed booklet articulating the company vision and values can become a keepsake item for employees. Putting those messages in print emphasizes the permanence, or at least the long shelf life, of these cultural underpinnings.

The trick, as always, is to think beyond the obvious. For example, just because Millennial employees seem to use technology like air, doesn’t mean email is the best way to get their attention. In fact, Millennials are way past email. They text, they post to Instagram, they may occasionally check in on Facebook, but email is not their channel of choice. Reaching them takes a little more thought.

Interested in new ways to reach employees in a digital workplace? Tribe can help.

Stephen Burns

New apps from Jive Software

At Tribe, we’ve been fans of the enterprise social network, Jive for a while now. So we were very excited to hear that they announced a few new products to further drive employee engagement and communication. Going with the trend, these apps are increasingly focused on mobile capabilities. All in all, these seem like really useful resources and channels for employees to communicate with colleagues and management.

Jive Daily

Called “the app that gets the word out, sparks conversation and measures the impact”, Jive Daily aims to be a responsive, singular channel for sending out company announcements. The benefits of using Jive Daily over a more traditional announcement channel like email are immediately apparent. The app is ready to go right out of the box, it offers collaborative posting, targeted group messaging, live feedback and real time metrics, so you know you’re being heard.

Daily also allows employees to comment directly to specific correspondence, so it gets the dialogue going. It allows announcements to be sent to people on the go or in the office, and employees can customize their notifications, so they can get information in the way that works best for them.

Jive Chime

Chime brings chat functionality to the corporate world. By linking to the company directory, the app allows employees to have one-on-one or group chats with anyone in the organization without having to collect contact information. These conversations can be held on your computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, and can be transferred between your devices without losing information.

As with Jive Daily, employees can fine-tune how they’re notified, so they aren’t bombarded with alerts in group settings. This added flexibility is a great feature for this generation of mobile apps.

Jive People

This app hasn’t hit the market yet, but when it does, we think it will be a real hit. Employee directories have really been left out in terms of new tech and upgrades. Jive People is out to right this injustice. With this app, employees will be able to access the company directory on the go, they can organize it into teams and favorites and it allows them to easily call, email or chat (presumably through Chime) people directly from the app.

Again, the biggest upgrade to the traditional directory is the ability to take it mobile. This increased interconnectivity and on-the-go capability will be crucial to the way your company works in the future, we can almost guarantee that.

Keep an eye out for these awesome new apps. We here at Tribe will certainly be keeping tabs on them and seeing how they perform once they’ve had a chance to be used out in the field. These are sleek, intuitive answers to a lot of issues we’ve been seeing lately, and we can’t wait to see how they change the market.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

White Paper Insight Six: Employees See The Intranet As The Way Out Of Their Silos

Don’t blame employees for being isolated in silos. They have a strong desire to interact and collaborate with colleagues in other divisions and locations, and they want their intranets to help them do that.

The solutions include things as simple as an employee directory. In Tribe’s recent study “Employee Preferences in Internal Communications,” 81 percent selected an employee directory as one of the features they’d most like to see in a company intranet.

They also would like intranet features that help them collaborate. Almost half, at 46 percent, indicated that they would find it beneficial for the intranet to have a collaboration space to work on projects with others and share work in progress. A related feature, space to share innovative ideas, was selected by 58 percent of the survey respondents.

Employee magazines are yet another way they can feel more connected to their peers. When asked which features they would be likely to read in a company magazine for and about employees. An employee spotlight was the leading favorite, at 68 percent. A best practices column to share insights and processes from other divisions of the company was selected by 63 percent. Location highlights, giving employees at one location a chance to learn about other locations, was selected by 51 percent of the respondents.

Write-in survey responses and interview comments included:

“Communication between divisions/locations can definitely help by switching up ideas and seeing what works for everyone.”

“I believe people like connecting on a personal level with peers in other locations.”

 “There is something humanizing about putting a face and a story to a name.”

“Sharing best practices would help us all do our jobs more efficiently.” 

“I would love to know more about other divisions.”

“There are many employees that I have never seen, yet speak to on a daily basis.”

 “I’d love to read more about other experiences from all the people who share the same job title as I do.”

“I want to know what (employees in other divisions or locations) are doing that is working and I want to share what I am doing.”

 “(I’d like our intranet to have) easy sharing from peer-to-peer or collaboration with a great number of employees.”

 “You do not have to be in the same location to collaborate.”

“(People) may even be more apt to collaborate with more people if they knew who they were in their minds.”

Interested in knowing more about this study? The full white paper on this research is now available on the Tribe website: http://www.tribeinc.com/pdfs/EmployeePreferences_TribeWP_Fall2013.pdf

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

White Paper Insight Three: Employees Want Vision And Values To Come From The Top

Employees want to hear the company vision and values directly from the CEO. In Tribe’s recent research,  68 percent of our respondents said they want this key information directly from corporate.

Even better if that information is delivered with a human touch. Tribe’s recent study “Employee Preferences in Internal Communications,” indicates employees prefer to hear from top management face to face, but are interested in seemingly any method that allows them to know the individual behind the vision better. When we asked about features they’d find most interesting in an employee magazine, 48 percent said they were likely to read a leadership forum or CEO interview. On the company intranet, 32 percent said they’d like to see blogs by corporate executives about the vision and values of the company.

These are some of the things they had to say:

 “How can I do my job well if I don’t know the goals of my organization?”

“Knowing executive management’s vision for the company is important because it helps me understand the company’s long-term and short-term goals and helps me identify my personal goals.”

“Articulate the vision!”

“Not knowing the vision will lead to working groups focusing on the wrong things.”

“As an engaged employee, it is vital to know what our company stands for and our goals.”

“Comforting and encouraging to know that we have a vision.”

“Understanding the corporate vision helps employees understand where they fit in the organization and how their actions contribute to the success of the company.”

Check back next Monday for the post on Insight Four on communicating through direct managers. The full white paper on this research will be available mid-October on the Tribe website at www.tribeinc.com/best-practices.

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Burns

Drupal Commons: An Intranet for Companies without the Budget for an Intranet

Now, there is an intranet for everyone.  Since the inception of Microsoft Sharepoint in 2001, intranets have been a crucial tool for connecting otherwise distant employees within large companies. New companies such as Yammer (recently acquired by Microsoft) and Jive have been built around this need and offer original solutions to the growing necessities of this infrastructure. The problem with these programs is cost. They range from $3-18 per user per month, not to mention the upfront programming and licensing fees, and that can all add up very quickly.

Building an interactive communication hub is important.  At Tribe, we recognize the growing need to connect employees in an efficient and effective manner. Social enterprise is the key to connecting your employees with each other in order to move ideas within your company at the same rate as information moves in the outside world. But not all companies, even Fortune 500 companies, have the budget to completely revamp or replace their old intranet.

Enter, Drupal Commons. Dries Buytaert, Founder and CEO of Drupal, prides himself and his company on the fact that they have no licensing or monthly user fees for their software. Commons is their open-source intranet and social enterprise software, a direct answer to companies like Jive and Yammer.  Even though it is only in version 3.0, companies like Twitter, eBay, and Mercedes are already using the program to great effect. Commons is written in PHP, so any programmer can learn to develop it, and it is infinitely customizable and brandable. Because you aren’t buying a program, you aren’t constricted to their templates or layout.

Making your brand a priority. No licensing or user fees means that your budget can be focused on creating an intranet that best represents your company. This allows Tribe to concentrate on the branding, design, and content of your new employee network. Drupal Commons creates a framework program to connect your company. Tribe can make it something that embodies your brand and helps your employees feel at home immediately.

You’re not alone. Don’t sweat. Just because Commons isn’t backed by a huge company like Microsoft doesn’t mean you are left completely to your own devices after you download the software. Drupal has been adopted by a parent company called Acquia, which offers training sessions and support when necessary at a nominal cost. But the biggest and most unique feature of the open-source Commons is the community behind it. Questions about everything from technical support to creating modules for the intranet can be fielded by experts in a forum environment. Solutions can found easily and, best of all, for free.

The new age of intranet has arrived. Commons is only the first of many open-source social business programs. They are pioneering a cost effective solution to employee connectivity issues, and allowing companies to focus on the design and branding of the intranets. At Tribe, we can imagine recommending it to clients of all sizes in the future.