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Get ready for the rise of the social intranet

In any company, motivating and engaging staff is a priority. You want to attract the best talent, retain them and optimise their skills and contribution. The centrepiece of employee engagement strategy is the company intranet. This should be the hub of company communication and a fountain of knowledge for staff. It should be. But the reality is that many intranets are dull, underused and therefore not valued by employees. Intranet duty gets passed around the IT, marketing, internal comms and HR teams in the hope someone will take control of it and supply the content to make it work. Intranets tend to be dull and limiting, people are told to log on and find stuff. Employees barely use them.

Is the intranet dead? If your intranet doesn’t engage staff and is wasting valuable resource time, why bother at all? Research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that using social tools to boost communications can raise productivity by 20 to 25 per cent. There is a clear link between engagement and productivity, and an intranet should engage employees – making them feel part of something and recognised for their achievements. The business need to share news, inform staff, store resources and mobilise teams means companies often end up with a variety of different systems - Slack, Basecamp, LinkedIn and so on. This can be overwhelming for staff, not to mention the impact on budgets. How do you streamline processes and unite staff? How do you make your intranet work?

The rise of the social intranet Employees are more likely to be engaged on social networking tools than they are with their own company communication. Could a blend of modern and traditional communication methods finally solve the employee engagement problem? In today’s digital workplace, brands like Bluefin are replacing the traditional intranet with the social intranet and it’s easy to see why. The social intranet takes the core functionality of the traditional intranet (new starter information, contact directory, team charts etc) and incorporates the engagement features of social networking tools. This enables staff to form groups for particular projects, communicate online, share resources, ‘like’ and comment on articles and – crucially – contribute themselves. Providing employees with this kind of access automatically builds a community and, like Slack, Twitter or Facebook, boosts engagement because they become part of the conversation. Your intranet becomes a living community of people working towards the company objectives and sharing their experience. The best way to boost engagement and productivity, reducing staff turnover, is to make sure employees feel part of something; valued. The social intranet facilitates this and builds engagement fast.

What's in it for senior management? For CEOs and senior management, a social intranet with clever reporting and metrics offers the chance to see what employees respond to. You can see which projects and documents are generating buzz, who is contributing, and vitally – which areas of the business have gone quiet. Instead of waiting for line-managers to report problems at the end of the working month, senior staff can monitor problems as they develop, and intervene to remedy the situation. Video messaging and blogging can supplement senior management messaging. This personal touch is much more engaging than the traditional methods of email, or newsletters that take weeks to compile and endless resource to produce. An iphone video can be shot in a few minutes and uploaded straight to the intranet. A social intranet can display live company social feeds like Facebook and Twitter or business related news, incorporating industry information and company information in one space.

Who's using social intranets?

So which companies are using social intranets and what are the results? At Pancentric Digital, we recognised the need for a new type of intranet, and spent the past six years building and developing the Hub, a social intranet and flexible portal system used by FTSE-100 member RSA, as well as Ralph Lauren and Direct Line. The Hub can change the way companies perform, motivating employees and empowering them to engage. Bluefin’s Head of Marketing and Public Relations, Amy Smith, used the Hub to rebuild their intranet and says the main thing she notices is that employees really feel like it’s ‘their’ intranet, not just a marketing or HR tool. “One of the things that works best for us is that staff feel like it’s ‘their’ intranet. It’s constantly evolving; a lot of the content is generated by the individual departments. We have a small internal communications team so the ability to provide various levels of editorial control is key.” The benefits of empowering staff to contribute mean that the content is constantly changing, keeping people’s interest and sparking further engagement. Showcasing results and highlighting employee events, such as charity fundraisers, gives teams a boost and reinforces the community feel.

Secure, private portals Other clients use the Hub as a private portal to connect with external suppliers, reducing noise and solidifying partnerships. For Ralph Lauren, the Hub provides a secure platform for their European retail partners to access seasonal content. They saw an average increase of 34% in the number of partners accessing and downloading the content from Fall 2014 to Spring 2015.

Accessing the intranet on the move With the increase in flexible office working and home working, one of the key attractions of the Hub is that it doesn’t need any involvement from IT and is cloud-based, so employees can access it from anywhere. We wanted to make sure employees could access secure resources and collaborate on complex projects no matter where they’re located.

Empowering employees

A social intranet means there’s no need for a whole team to ‘run’ your intranet; you can share out the responsibility between departments and ensure everyone becomes a stakeholder. Different levels of editorial permission can be set in order to minimise risk. People are much more likely to engage if they feel part of something and can make genuine contributions. It also gives senior management the chance to see what employees are responding to, inspire and collate innovative ideas – plus identify any concerns and act quickly to address them. You can build polls and surveys quickly and easily. These can be serious, such as views on company strategy. Or fun – like a vote on Scotland’s chances at the Rugby World Cup. The results can be turned into charts, and shared. All these social features are part of what keeps staff logging in and up to date with their colleagues and company news.

Evolution and investment Gone are the days when teams of key stakeholders needed to attend endless planning sessions about the intranet. In today's low-code world, companies equipped with agile intranets empower employees to participate, enabling two-way communication that can offer real insight and build employee engagement fast. The Hub is constantly evolving, driven by feedback and ideas from the thousands of customers using it on a daily basis. This isn’t a static system, it’s agile – if our clients have bespoke requirements, we can often accommodate them. When new functionality is developed there’s no painful upgrading, no downloads and no extra cost. We also made sure that the branding is customisable, so the Hub looks and feels like the company it belongs to. If you need to make changes or even rework the whole homepage, it can be done quickly and easily with no interruption to business.

Final thoughts... So is the intranet dead? We believe the traditional intranet must merge with social networking tools in order to successfully engage employees, spark innovation and boost productivity. We’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss how this would work for your company, so call us on 0207 099 6370 or email and let’s talk.

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