Encouraging Employees to Use a Social Intranet

The introduction of a social intranet provokes many different reactions within a company. A social intranet is no longer top-down, instead it provides a way to network across departments and silos.

A social intranet is about collaboration between colleagues and achieving results.  The technical challenges and requirements of an intranet are secondary to how the employees welcome or reject the changes to communication, collaboration and work processes.

The introduction of a social intranet must first and foremost consider the employees reactions to the changes.

So, how do you ensure that your employees (and managers!) embrace these changes?

Innovation adoption lifecycle

People accept changes at varying speeds. The innovation adoption lifecycle groups people by their acceptance, regardless of what type of change is planned.

Innovation Adoption Lifecycle (Pnautilus – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License)

Innovation Adoption Lifecycle (Pnautilus – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License)

People who are affected by change can be grouped into five categories:

  • Innovators: They are willing to take risks, are willing to experiment, and are well connected with other innovators.
  • Early Adopters: They are often thought-leaders and well-regarded, including outside their workplace, who enjoy learning and using new tools.
  • Early Majority: They are more conservative but open to new ideas, and are active and influential in their departments.
  • Late Majority: They are skeptical of risk and change. Only when others have demonstrated the benefits of the change will they accept it.
  • Laggards: They do not want any change or risk. You will find this group provides the greatest resistance when introducing an intranet.

Employees may have divided opinions based on their departments or functions. Introducing an intranet  is just as sensitive as restructuring the company, introducing new IT equipment, or changing the payment system.

Depending on the change, resistance can be overcome with traditional “Command and Control” approach, at least initially. For example, when an old time tracking system is replaced, the supervisors are encouraged to oversee and penalize laggards, the change is relatively quickly accepted (even with stragglers who try to avoid the change).

Planning for change

Social interaction plays the biggest role in a social intranet. For the introduction of an intranet, you should take advantage of the different groups in the innovation adoption lifecycle in development and promotion.

Make plans for how you will take advantage of each target group before you introduce the social intranet. Don’t waste resources on winning over laggards at the beginning. An innovator or early adopter will focus less on functionality and usability than a late adopter who sees the benefits for his department, but who wants to be able to use the intranet quickly and easily.

Find enthusiasts

Find employees and managers who are interested in social intranets, social media or social business. Even when the people are not directly involved in the project, they can give you valuable feedback or help in areas you may not have thought of.

  • Mention the introduction of the social intranet regularly in the existing intranet and company news, and encourage questions and feedback.
  • Talk to colleagues personally (especially if you find they are active on Twitter).
  • Run introductory sessions at lunch time and invite participants via email or through the existing intranet.

Target groups

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters

Present the potential platforms

As soon as you have defined your technical specifications, and have a selection of social intranet platforms to choose from, invite employees to evaluate them and provide feedback.

  • Explain the alternatives for the company’s social intranet and ask for participants and feedback.
  • Invite participants to a demonstration where they can compare and discuss the options.

Target groups

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority

Define goals and benefits

Clearly define the goals and benefits of the social intranet and communicate them to everyone in the company.

  • Demonstrate planned or implemented applications with helpful documentation in the existing intranet.
  • Present the goals and benefits to management and department leaders.

Target groups

  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • Laggards

Allow for freedom of use

Ensure that both project staff and enthusiasts have a degree of freedom that allows them to discover new ways of collaboration and communication with the social intranet.

  • Get clearance from management for employees to participate in the social intranet in addition to their daily tasks.

Target groups

  • Innovators
  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority

Ensure good usability

Make sure the social intranet is flexible, mobile and easy to use so that it seamlessly integrates with the existing IT systems (e.g. user management, mail, etc.)

  • Invite enthusiasts and critics to user acceptance tests of possible platforms and applications.

Target groups

  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority

Gather feedback

An agile approach to defining requirements (technical, collaborative, communicative) is achieved with a continual feedback cycle. Gradual refinements and improvements based on feedback reduce the burden on employees and enable timely countermeasures.

  • Round tables, or a regular coffee break discussion.
  • Regular surveys in the intranet.
  • Daily morning stand-up meetings in your project group.
  • Weekly stand-up meetings, open to all employees.

Target groups

  • All groups

Encourage mentorship

Ensure that your project team and all interested employees are encouraged to ask questions and are able to experiment. Include younger employees (Millennials) in the project team, as they are usually comfortable with the new technologies and the social web. Everyone can benefit from their knowledge.

Target groups

  • Early Adopters
  • Early Majority
  • Late Majority
  • Laggards

Involve executive management

From the start of the project, include all levels of management. Unlike traditional projects, it is important that management provides support not just in an official capacity (budget, presentations, etc.), but also in actively using the intranet.

When management act as role models, they encourage all levels of employees to adopt and use the intranet, so that even skeptical employees are motivated to accept the changes.

  • Encourage a high level leader to actively participate in the social intranet and publish reports about their experiences.
  • Engage a few leaders from the upper management to regularly post updates and comment on others’ updates.

Target groups

  • All groups

Your experience introducing a new intranet

What experience do you have with employee acceptance of a new social intranet? What have you done to increase employee acceptance and participation? Have you approached different groups of employees in different ways?

Leave a comment below with your experiences – we’d love to know!

This article is translated from the German article written by Frank Hamm.

Frank HammFrank Hamm is a consultant for communication and collaboration who supports companies in their digital transformation. He has written for INJELEA-Blog about social business, intranets, enterprise 2.0 and company communication practices since 2005. Frank is an avowed nexialist and writes about this at Der Schreibende.

You can find more articles by Frank Hamm in our intranet special.

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