Solving employee engagement is challenging and there are no easy fixes. This article explains how an intranet can help boost employee engagement by giving people the tools they need to build a more engaged workplace.
Sometimes when we’re looking for easy solutions to a difficult problem, and 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 desperately want solutions to be easy, and maybe that’s just human nature.
Take employee engagement, for example. People everywhere want to know: how do I get my people more engaged in their work? There’s a whole body of work out there, including on this very blog, dedicated to understanding what it is people want at work, and how organizations can encourage people to be more active participants in their workplace.
And the truth is, there are no easy answers to the conundrum of employee engagement. Solving it requires a whole lot of work and time. A team-building activity or consultant lecture series or training session isn’t going to immediately get people involved. Taken together, though, they might begin to have a long term positive impact.
To be clear: an intranet is not by any means the be all end all solution to your employee engagement woes. It’s merely a building block upon which organizations can start doing the real work of gradually nurturing engagement. In other words, an intranet won’t provide the simple fix you might be looking for, but it will give you the tools you need to build a more active and engaged workplace.
Let’s take a look at how an intranet can help.
1. An intranet provides a go-to place where people can connect
Getting all of your people to attend events, as every HR associate knows, is futile. Finding ways for them to connect with members of other departments, to be passionate about their work, and invested in the success of their organization can be equally futile. This is especially the case when your people only have one space in which to do so: their physical workplace.
An intranet helps by centralizing office activity and connecting all employees within a digital workplace. How does it do this? An intranet is simultaneously a discussion forum, a news feed, an org chart, an employee directory, an event calendar, and a document repository. In a lot of ways it’s the digital reflection of your workplace: a place to be seen and heard, where contributions are rewarded and engaged employees spread their passion. And if done correctly, it’s a place people will return to all the time.
On an intranet, employees can comment on news posts, share event invitations, hold group discussions, electronically “attend” events, collaborate on tasks together, and coordinate and lead projects. In other words, an intranet creates a virtual dimension in which people can interact with each other and directly shape what that workplace looks like. It's the springboard for a more engaged workforce.
2. An intranet makes measuring engagement easier
Accurately measuring your employees’ engagement levels is challenging because there’s isn’t a single accepted definition of the term. For some organizations, it’s to do with happiness. For others, it’s about dedication or satisfaction or even energy levels.
Whichever metric you use to determine how engaged your people are, you’re probably going to measure it in one of two ways: conducting an annual (or quarterly) survey, or collecting and analyzing data directly through interviews and (in)formal feedback sessions. Both of which aren’t really accurate or reliable (and frankly, employees often don’t take them seriously).
An intranet makes this infinitely easier because it’s a space where employee engagement is made more tangible. The ways in which people engage are made clear via their participation on and contributions to the organization’s intranet. Which isn’t to say that the ways in which people engage on the intranet ought to be the sole metric for determining who’s engaged and who isn’t (that’s definitely not the correct approach).
Rather, your intranet gives you a clearer indication of where your people are at. It’s helpful to think of your intranet as the heartbeat monitor of your organization. It makes problems and tensions glaringly obvious, but it also makes a thriving, engaged culture more self-evident, and inspires others to take part.
In order for this to work, leadership will need to learn to read their intranet the way they read between the lines of employee surveys and anonymous feedback. Participation rates are a good indicator of how things are going, but the whole intranet, including the ways in which your people participate on it, ought to be considered with equal weight.
3. An intranet gives you a way to recognize and reward your people
Often in organizations, the people who are most engaged in their work aren’t visible to anyone besides their manager or team. Their passion might be extremely palpable to those they interact with on a daily basis, but it goes unnoticed in other parts of the workplace. In other words, their status as a culture champion isn't really being harnessed.
Some managers will find ways of publicly recognizing the dedication and good work of their people, for instance at an All Hands meeting or in an email to the rest of organization. Although this is an extremely kind and thoughtful way to spread the word about engaged and top performing employees, the shout-out often remains unseen by the majority of the organization.
An intranet solves this by creating a venue for company-wide acknowledgments of work well done and above-and-beyond contributions. By posting a company-wide article or news feed shout-out that gives props to someone who’s shown commitment to the organization’s goals and values, you’re doing a few very important things:
You’re providing a meaningful example of how people put your company’s values into action
You’re showing people what it means to be engaged and dedicated to the mission at hand, whatever that may be
You’re cultivating a mindset of recognition and mutual respect across your organization, which is extremely valuable for aligning people and creating an engaged workplace culture
Bonus points if your intranet allows people to react to and comment on shout-out posts. An interactive and responsive intranet serves as a bulletin board on which people can collaborate and congratulate one another, where new hires can see what it takes to live the company values, and where your most engaged employees can shine.
4. An intranet uses stories to strengthen company culture
This one is perhaps the most valuable way an intranet can boost employee engagement—but it’s not immediate and it’ll take ongoing work and the utmost patience.
An intranet is not just a way to work more efficiently or store documents or figure out who works in which department. It’s also a way for people to connect and interact. And intranets that incorporate the right combination of features provide organizations with an excellent opportunity to build culture. More specifically, a culture that fosters engaged employees.
Recognizing contributions is one aspect of this, but so is storytelling. Good internal storytelling that centers individual employees and highlights their contributions to the organization creates ‘buzz’. People’s natural inclination is to share stories, whether they’re positive or negative, and storytelling consequently plays a huge role in shaping the perception of an organization’s culture.
People will share stories that shine a positive light on their colleagues. Not only that, they may even try to emulate the protagonist of those stories, or share their own stories of their colleagues’ success. A culture that brings this to the forefront, via a tool like an intranet, makes engagement a prominent piece of the puzzle.
I want to emphasize again that an intranet will not immediately solve underlying issues that are plaguing disengaged organizations and people. Nor will it be an instant success. Good intranets are built on a strong set of company values that are lived each day. If done right, an intranet can create a resonating effect on an organization: it can help you achieve widespread engagement as well as increased productivity, innovation, morale, and growth.