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Leading Cities is Hard. Can a Digital Workplace Help?

Local governments are one of the most challenging and rewarding places to be a leader. Having an effective corporate intranet can simplify these challenges.

Local government is one of the most rewarding places to be a leader. Yet municipalities present one of the most challenging environments for a leader:

  • Diverse employees, from lifeguards to lawyers, spanning many generations.
  • Dispersed workplace, with teams isolated across buildings and functions.
  • Disconnected people, with many lacking mobile phones or email.
  • Demanding groups, from politicians to unions to residents.
  • Complex structures, including committees, boards and commissions.

A digital platform, like a corporate intranet, can go a long way in helping glue a workplace together. Properly implemented, a digital platform provides a new kind of intranet (internal website) that provides an important foundation to great leadership.

“With almost 1200 staff spread out over 60 buildings, one of our biggest challenges was creating understanding across the organization,” says Brandy Calvert, Communications Officer for the City of Medicine Hat. “We had people who had been with the City for years yet had never met many of their coworkers. Implementing a digital platform allowed us to 'introduce' City employees to each other and clarify the many teams to working towards Council strategic priorities.”

An intranet needs to accomplish two important things for a municipality:

1) Connect and energize the workplace community, and

2) Make it easy for people to find the information and help they need to get their work done.

As Brandy observes “In this age of tightened budgets, shorter time lines and large infrastructure needs, it’s easier than ever to miss out on getting to what leaders need the most—a staff that works together. This comes about when everyone understands the why we need to do it, how we can get there together and who has the skills to help us accomplish it.” Done well, an intranet will:

  1. Drive culture. Energizing the workforce by communicating the big picture, sharing accomplishments in real time and providing an overall sense of shared values.
  2. Provide organizational clarity. Who is doing what? Where does help and expertise lie? Which staff are supporting which working groups and committees?
  3. Bridge silos. Providing ways to communicate and share information across locations and departments. This includes helping temporary and outside workers participate and get the information they need.
  4. Surface key information. Making it easy for people to find what they need to get their work done and help each other. Everything from making it easy to find the current copy of an often-revised policy, to finding an employee that has hidden knowledge about a project.

The City of Port Coquitlam just launched a new intranet to help improve internal communications. "We have employees working out of seven different locations across the City; including 16 hour and 24 hour a day operations. We need to find ways to share information and invite input from all our employees. By adopting a [turnkey platform], we were able to implement quickly and now have an engaging tool that really reflects who we are as an organization. I look forward to the possibilities this will bring to the City,” said John Leeburn, CAO. It is in the most challenging leadership environments that a digital platform can make the most difference, providing the clarity, ‘glue’ and org-centric communication tools that can give leaders the reach they need to truly engage their diverse and dispersed teams.

Brad Palmer

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