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2 min read

Intranets can break through isolation

A woman I know works part-time for a greeting card company. She does merchandising in local stores for them. She estimates that in this region there are 120 people doing the same job as she does. They’ve never met. They have absolutely no idea what the challenges and opportunities she meets in the field are. This is not uncommon.

A woman I know works part-time for a greeting card company. She does merchandising in local stores for them. She estimates that in this region there are 120 people doing the same job as she does. They’ve never met. They sometimes get emails from their manager. The manager sometimes adds photos of how a set up is supposed to look, etc. She has heard the name of the CEO of this company, but she’s never met him nor received even a sanitized bulk email from him. She has not the faintest idea what the priorities or cares of corporate are. They have absolutely no idea what the challenges and opportunities she meets in the field are.

This is not uncommon. These days it is rare that leadership reaches to the edges of the organization. The result is leadership that is isolated and ultimately clueless about what is going on in their enterprise, and employees who are clueless about the priorities and even the values of the company. These two groups are invisible to one another, so is it any wonder that they are not particularly valued or engaged?

It is similarly rare for groups of hundreds of employees to have the chance to share ideas, ask questions, or even just know about one another. Email can do some of this. But email is addressed to some, and excludes the rest. Email is gone in a couple of days. New people can’t see what’s going on, and more complex topics lose context and meaning pretty quickly, even for the veterans.

A great intranet addresses these problems. As the digital hub of the organization, it is a touch-stone, a home base for everyone – whether they sit at a desk or work in the field. No matter their role, skill or location. At a glance they can see what is going on at the center, in their region or department, and even in other areas. They can show their support, ask their questions, share what they’ve done, or find a working group of people to solve a problem.

These may or may not be what were once known as “knowledge workers”. The woman who works at the greeting card company would not traditionally be known as a knowledge worker – and yet, every day she needs to figure things out – how to set up the display in an area that can’t accommodate it, for example. How to talk to the store managers and clerks. How to create great displays in awkward spaces. How to do a good job. Knowledge workers – those whose job explicitly involves solving creative problems – engineers, designers, analysts and researchers may have an even greater need to share, but its not always easy.

What if she and her 120 regional peers could share photos of their set-ups? What if they had some quick fixes to common problems? What if they could train each other from afar? What about the other regions? What if the corporate offices could see and share in what’s happening on the front line of their company, directly through the eyes and iPhones of their employees? What if those employees could hear that there is a strategic initiative, or a re-commitment to a certain set of values, or even just that they’ve done a good job?

How much more valuable would that army of part-timers be? How much relief would that offer the middle managers whose job is to train them and ensure great performance across their regions?

How much faster would that company grow?

This is the true potential of the next generation intranet: organized, but interactive, beautiful, but efficient, mobile, social, yet structured so the right people find the right things.

Ye olde intranet of the ugly UI and usually outdated links, and the new fangled “everyone in the pool” social networks are each failing to help leadership or employees excel. Look for what’s next.

 

Read more by
Jessica Hollander

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