Does using an intranet software boost employee engagement?
Sometimes when we’re looking for solutions to a complex problem, it becomes clear that there aren’t any available. We turn to vague aphorisms or questionable sources of information that tell us what we want to hear. We want solutions to be direct and easy—that’s human nature.
Take employee engagement, for example. Leaders everywhere want to know: how do I get my people more invested in their work? There’s so much information dedicated to understanding what people want and how organizations can encourage employees to be more active participants in their workplace.
There are no easy answers to the puzzle of employee engagement. Implementing an employee directory or management system to increase knowledge sharing will not immediately get people involved. Solving it requires a lot of work and time.
Working towards solving the engagement puzzle might be what led you to research intranets. Perhaps you think an intranet will be the magic key to kick-starting a more engaged workplace.
To be clear: an intranet is not by any means the be all end all solution to your employee engagement woes. But, it can be one of the ingredients that contribute to a more connected workplace.
In other words, an intranet won’t provide the simple fix you might be looking for. It may provide you with the tools for improving employee engagement, but if they're used incorrectly (or not all) it could end up making your engagement even worse.
Let's look at some of the ways you can use intranets to support your employee engagement efforts.
1. Spread stories to help strengthen company culture (which is effective, given you don’t spam your people)
People who share results and successes help shine a positive light on their colleagues. This helps maintain connection and ultimately increases psychological safety in the workplace.
Perhaps the most valuable way an intranet can boost employee engagement is to encourage employees to post engaging content. Good internal communication centers on individual stories that highlight people’s contributions, creating ‘buzz’. This is an excellent opportunity to build culture, given that your intranet (or an alternate solution) is designed purposefully.
People’s natural inclination is to share stories, whether positive or negative. Storytelling consequently plays a considerable role in shaping the perception of an organization’s culture.
Unfortunately, due to the way intranets are designed, content from different people or departments often compete with each other, just like the elusive algorithms you find on social media. You must promote your new content, or nobody’s going to see it.
This quickly leads to spamming of company news, creating unwanted noise and distraction. Not only is the onslaught of notifications annoying, but it also disrupts focus and attention. Simply blasting people with noise without effective targeting hinders productivity and engagement, and people miss what's relevant.
And what happens when a place to connect becomes unreliable and frustrating? People simply stop returning to the intranet—and any effort to get them back is futile.
2. Ensure that people are being recognized by leaders and peers
It's really common that the most engaged workers aren’t visible to anyone besides their manager or team. Their passion might be palpable to those they interact with daily, but it goes unnoticed in other parts of the workplace.
Some managers will find public ways of celebrating their people's dedication and good work—for instance, at an all-hands meeting or in an email to the rest of the organization. Although this is a thoughtful way to spread the word about top-performing employees, not every manager does this.
Employee intranets can help amplify wins with newsletters and announcements, creating a space for top-down, company-wide acknowledgments. But as mentioned above, you’ll find yourself spamming employees with ineffective notifications without guaranteeing that your content is being seen amongst a sea of other promoted, equally “important” content.
There’s much more opportunity when your platform enables peer-to-peer recognition. By allowing not just the top tier, but everyone in the company to recognize each other, the culture of success will be strengthened. Rewarding those that embody company values can help demonstrate the encouraged employee behaviors.
3. Make measuring engagement activity easier (if that’s even the right metric)
Accurately measuring your employees’ engagement levels is a challenging feat. That's because there’s no accepted definition of the term. For some businesses, it’s to do with happiness. For others, it can be about dedication or satisfaction, or even energy levels.
Many intranet providers will tell you that the more someone clicks and visits the platform, the more engaged they are. But is intranet activity the best way to measure engagement and, more importantly, how employees feel? Zoning in on these so-called engagement rates and vanity metrics can be a severe miscalculation, especially if you’re counting on this to keep turnover low and retention high.
Yes, an intranet increases the visibility of participation and contributions, and you can argue that it’s a space where employee engagement is made more tangible (especially in a digital workplace). But determining that James is more engaged than Sarah just because they post more on your intranet isn’t the correct approach.
Consider this. If someone clicks around 100 times to find what they’re looking for (and eventually gives up), is that really engagement? Wouldn’t you rather your employees get to what they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible?
Look closer, and there’s a high possibility that this “intranet engagement” is really due to poor design and people being forced to navigate through cluttered, outdated content, broken links, and lots of spam.
Which leads us to this.
4. Employee engagement is just a part of the equation
Yes, every HR associate knows sometimes it’s near impossible to get your people to attend the latest company socials. Especially in a remote setting, where connection is hard to build and everyone’s tired of video meetings.
Not to throw a curveball your way, but you might have been focused on the wrong thing all along.
When you’re engaged, you’re eager to contribute. But if you then run into roadblocks when you try to contribute, you become frustrated and disengage actively. That’s what we describe as hitting the ‘wall of frustration’. Sound familiar?
In fact, doubling down on employee engagement might have the opposite desired effect.
Leaders in any organization shouldn’t bet on an intranet to solve employee engagement and call it a day. Recognize that engagement is just one of the three ingredients to employee success.
If you want employees to succeed, you also need to pay equal attention to enablement and celebration.
Perhaps you want to implement an intranet for the sake of culture-building and engaging your workforce. While the intention is excellent, your ultimate goal should be to help your employees succeed.
Intranets often say they’ll solve underlying issues plaguing disengaged organizations and people.
Instead, take a holistic look at your employee experience and seek a platform that focuses on employee success, not just engagement. One that gets people excited to contribute, able to do so, and celebrated for their hard work. If done correctly, this can create a resonating, collective effect: achieving widespread engagement and increased productivity, retention, and joy.
There are 10 ways employee intranets clutter and break.