One-Size-Fits-All Doesn't Work for Intranets

In the World of Digital Workplace, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The Pandemic Hit – You Rolled Out Microsoft Teams – Now What?

The push to enhance employee experience (EX), communication, collaboration and productivity was on many executives’ minds entering 2020 – but now, its the #1 thing on their mind. With recent world events, organizations are not just thinking and talking about EX; they’re outright scrambling, moving at lightspeed and dedicating budget to addressing the issue to improve their employees’ experience.

As the last 4 weeks have shown us, however, much work remains to be done in this area.  According to a recent Gallup poll, only 34 percent of U.S. workers report they are “engaged” – meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their workplace. This means that two-thirds of our workforce are not fully engaged – and, frankly, this was before the world as we know it went on lockdown and 92% of the world is suddenly working remotely.

A recent KPMG survey, pre coronavirus outbreak, found that 85 percent of Human Resources (HR) executives consider employee experience a valuable metric, but only 24 percent are prioritizing the quality of experience in the next couple of years. Let me tell you, that isn’t the story anymore.

This presents a clear and present challenge that medium companies and large enterprises need to tackle right away. The sense of urgency is even greater for any businesses looking to retain skills that are already in high demand and short supply.

Spending money on enhancing EX is certainly a good thing. Gartner Inc. points out that organizations are making significant investments in areas such as onboarding and workplace redesign. The key, however, is to spend wisely and to take the right approach to improving EX. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are not doing that. Specifically, when deploying and operating their intranets they are still taking a one-size-fits-all approach and recent events are causing executives to move ‘fast’ to try and solve EX deficiencies that suddenly have a massive spotlight on them. Fast is good – but ‘smart while aggressive’ is much better.

Implementing a cookie-cutter intranet or an “intranet in a box” that is aimed at a massive audience will not solve companies’ EX challenges. Leaders in technology, HR, and corporate communications instead need to treat every employee as an individual, and aim intranet content, features, and capabilities specifically at those individuals rather than at a large homogenous group with no differentiation. [Nearly] everyone’s world has been flipped upside down over the last 6 weeks – and it is critical to ensure you create the “right” employee experience for everyone in your workforce – not simply give them telephony tools that work from their homes or remote working locations.

ING Group Head of Global Employee Experience Sander de Brujin shares this mentality

“It really doesn’t make sense to look at EX from a siloed perspective. Our experience has shown that all of an employee’s experiences – from onboarding to picking up their company laptop to leaving – have a cumulative effect and shape their view of the organization. We focus not only on delivering exceptional ‘moments that matter’ but also on the day-to-day ‘effortless moments’ where workers’ problems are efficiently solved so they can be as productive as possible.”

In short, the intranet has to provide a hyper-personalized experience in order to improve the user’s experience. Think of it this way: the goal of a company with 50,000 employees should not be to build one digital workplace and one modern intranet. It should be to build 50,000 digital workplaces and 50,000 modern intranets, all governed under a broad EX strategy

It all comes down to taking an employee-centric view of EX. Companies often struggle with their EX strategies because they try to fit employee workflows into a digital workspace that works best for the organization, not the individual.

This strategy is doomed to fail, because it’s impossible to make a single repository of information that is relevant to every job role, language, background, and geography. Instead, organizations need to implement a strategy that delivers a personalized experience for each employee—whether they are part of the C-suite, in executive management, knowledge workers, customer support technicians, people on the assembly line, etc.

With this strategy, an executive in sales would get access to curated information, business applications, and confidential data related to sales. The same goes for someone who works in a specific discipline within IT, or marketing, or customer service.

Not only do the resources they access on the intranet need to be relevant, they need to be fresh and continually updated. If an employee logs onto the intranet on a regular basis and sees that there is no new information, chances are those visits will become fewer and fewer—and they might stop altogether before long.

Boston Red Sox CIO Brian Shield has extensive experience with this as the ball club has only 350 full-time employees and then over 2,000 additional deskless workers that come online during the baseball season.

“One of our biggest challenges is communicating timely, relevant information across our entire organization. Akumina’s Employee Experience Platform (EXP) allows us to personalize each employee’s EX by delivering the information they need to perform their job directly to a single dashboard that is accessible by any device. Millions of people visit Fenway Park for one of the more than 100 events we host every year and Akumina helps us deliver an exceptional fan experience.”

One of the keys to keeping information relevant and fresh is having an automated way to get the right information to the right people—quickly and effectively. Many companies struggle to do this, because they don’t have the technology solutions in place to take on that burden.

They need to be able to create pre-defined buckets for various categories of employees who have common interests. Then they need to drill down further to develop employee personas by leveraging integrated resources such as Microsoft Active Directory and SharePoint.

These subsystems need to be integrated in one place, and the personas should take into account factors such as the employee’s role in the company, how long the person has been employed at the company, language preference, geographic location, etc.

Cookie-cutter intranet platforms do not deliver these kinds of capabilities. They were designed for broad use by any type of organization, without taking into account the fact that each business has its own unique culture, employee needs, hierarchy, and business processes in place that should heavily influence the EX strategy.

Aside from the intranet platform, another key factor in enhancing EX is having strong, ongoing collaboration among the IT, HR, and corporate communications/marketing functions. In fact, EX can only be achieved through a coordinated effort by these departments. They each own a portion of EX.

For example, IT provides the technology components needed to allow people to do their jobs more easily and be more productive. HR is responsible for making sure the technology is merged with the digital and physical workplace, and creating a culture in that lets employees have a sense of self worth and realize they are making an impact on the business. And Communications is charged with making sure employees have the opportunity to collaborate and communicate better.

Technology, corporate culture, and communications come together to define what EX is, and if companies focus on all of these areas in a collaborative way, they can truly solve the EX challenge.

While intranets are a key part of EX, it’s important to note that these resources are just one step in the EX journey. By themselves, intranets provide marginal value. But delivering them within a larger, all-encompassing EX strategy can really make a positive impact on a company. Banner Health is an example of a company that wanted to conduct a simple intranet upgrade that morphed into a larger, much more impactful digital transformation thanks to the Akumina Employee Experience Platform (EXP).

Banner Health partnered with Akumina to build Banner Connect, a digital front door that provides a single point of access to corporate information for its 50,000 employees spread across 28 locations. Built on SharePoint online, in Office 365, Akumina’s EXP gave the company flexibility in how it wanted to build its digital workplace and didn’t force Banner Health into a bland template. The digital workplace team created a branded workspace with simplified, global navigation, improved enterprise search, LinkedIn-style profiles, and collaboration tools that enabled knowledge sharing among colleagues.

Tyson Henrie, Banner Health’s Digital Workforce Group Director, said the business impact of the initiative was much larger than initially anticipated.

“We used a great intranet metric from Nielsen Normal Group, a leading firm that’s done research and created KPIs that tie intranet performance to employee productivity. We plugged in our numbers before and after launching Banner Connect with Akumina and found that we saved the company more than $6.2 million annually by moving to a high-usability digital experience and improving basic tasks for our employees, such as enterprise search .”

In the end, CIOs, HR executives, corporate communications leaders, and other senior executives at large and mid-sized organizations need to ask themselves whether they are building modern workplaces and intranets for the company, or for the individual employees.

If they’re not doing these things for the employees, they are doomed to fail. If they’re doing them for the employees, then ultimately they are doing the right thing for the business because the business needs to put employees first. By doing that, organizations will be empowering people to be successful and to do their jobs better, which then delivers benefits for all.

You have taken all the steps in the last 4 weeks to scramble and make sure your employees can get online from anywhere; great. Now your employee experience journey can actually begin. Are you ready?

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