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Organisational Culture and the Intranet

Date Posted: Friday, 12 September 2014 13:53
Posted By: Kerry Butters

In large organisations, such as government, education and healthcare departments, the intranet is something that naturally produces and stores a lot of content. Whilst this can lead to issues surrounding ownership and politics, there’s little doubt that the department which allows the employees really get involved is the winner.

Collaboration

Not only do you have an increased sense of employee satisfaction, but you also benefit from improved investment of knowledge into the organisation. It’s for this reason that departments need to ensure the smooth running of the intranet and to take the opportunity to enable further communication and collaboration on the ‘shop floor’.

Ongoing Intranet Development

Unfortunately, the intranet can throw up quite a lot of office politics and it’s for this reason that many organisations now have an ‘intranet council’ which can oversee its ongoing development. These can come from IT, the HR department, marketing or a mix of departments that can ensure that their employees have a voice.

The idea that managing the intranet to promote collaboration and knowledge management is nothing particularly new. Despite us now really beginning to see more activity on the ‘social intranet’, research from 2001 by Cynthia P Ruppel and Susan J Harrington found that:

“[I]ntranet implementation is facilitated by a culture that emphasizes an atmosphere of trust and concern for other people (ethical culture), flexibility and innovation (developmental culture) and policies, procedures and information management (hierarchal culture). Management should ensure that the proper values are in place to optimize intranet implementation and facilitate knowledge sharing.”

The research paper, Sharing Knowledge Through Intranets: A Study of Organizational Culture and Intranet Implementation, highlights the need for large organisations to alter its culture in order to facilitate transformative business.

Productivity and Morale

Developing the intranet so that it allows employees a voice and to effectively collaborate means that important gains can be enjoyed. These include an increase in employee morale and as such, productivity, as the employee feels that they are essentially a part of the decision-making process.

They are engaged with the intranet and those on it, who may not necessarily be in the same department, so they can gather knowledge more easily, increasing the intellectual value of the organisation. This is something that is very difficult to mimic, and should be nurtured within the organisation in order to ensure that the intranet is being made the most of.

Social Intranets and the Modern Organisation

Many large organisations are reluctant to implement change due to the sheer size of the undertaking, a lot of the time. However, in the modern world, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the organisation is innovative and agile. Deploying additional aspects needn’t be something that’s all done at the same time, additional intranet components can be developed and deployed on an ongoing basis. This should mean little to no downtime and allow the employees to continue their normal working days without incident.

The benefits of adding social components to the intranet are now well documented, especially when it comes to organisations. However, the problem that many face is that of getting the employee to engage. This, it’s thought, is generally due to a lack of leadership when it comes to “Internal Social Media”.

A 2011 study by Gagen macDonald found that whilst 51% of companies said that they utilised social intranets, only 63% said that they thought they did it well. Further to this, employees generally agreed that they were happier at a workplace that used a social intranet, 60% said social equalled innovation, 58% said they would rather work in a place that used social and most agreed that they were more likely to be an advocate of the brand.

Innovation

It was also found that those organisations deploying a social intranet:

  • Enjoyed higher levels of engagement across the board
  • Had employees who were less likely to leave and more likely to encourage others to work there
  • Had employees who were more likely to give the employer the benefit of the doubt when it came to lawsuits or crises

Driving Engagement on the Social Intranet

With all of this in mind, it’s important for organisations to understand that in order to get the most from social, as well as employees, it’s necessary to take charge and ensure that it’s engaging.

The report suggests that the most important attributes then of a social intranet are:

  • High quality content (42% importance), which is easily accessible to the employee, relevant, up-to-date, accurate and reliable
  • Engagement and dialogue (37%) which encourages participation, solicits feedback and has an executive presence
  • Optimised (21%) pushes information out in a targeted manner, integrates information across platforms and tries new things

Organisations can use this as a means for designing and deploying the intranet and ideally, this should be supported with training delivered via the intranet’s LMS. This further engages the employee and allows them to feel that they have that all-important ‘voice’ in the company.

The Perfect Intranet

Modern technology is supporting business models and practices more than ever before and allowing for a high level of engagement on the intranet. Improved communications allows for even higher levels of collaboration, video and audio increase engagement with training materials and executive blogging and social activity allow employees to connect better with their seniors.

There are no real downsides to deploying a social intranet and improving the overall culture of the organisation to ensure that it’s one that it politic-free. This drives a happy workforce and that in turn drives higher productivity, less time off sick and further collaboration.

On a departmental level, it’s a good idea to elect one person from each to give all a voice on the ‘intranet council’. These voices can advise on how their department would gain from further improvements that drive engagement on the intranet.

All-in-all, intranets have undergone massive change over the course of the last decade and this means that organisations have to change with them. It means doing away with stuffy, corporate messages that disempower employees and ensuring that the intranet is used to its best possible advantage by adding social aspects that reinforce the idea that employers and employees are all in it together.

The organisations that get this right will see an increase in productivity and essentially, profit.


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