A bland jumble of quarterly numbers. Rehashed press releases. The company history – part 9. Dr. Smith will be replacing Dr. Johnson on the board of directors. And every few weeks a board member will address the masses, either patting themselves on the back or with an imploring plea to their workforce. These are the nightmare of any intranet user.
When I speak to our customers about intranets, it usually doesn't take long for us to come to the subject of intranet news. It is one of the most important elements of an intranet relaunch, after all. However, in order to be effective and successful, an intranet requires a dedicated news concept. Simply flooding the intranet with news pieces like those mentioned above, swamping your poor employees, is a sign that you don't have one. Instead, you're simply repeating what your predecessors in corporate communications were already doing 20 years ago.
Sharing internal news was one of the very first use cases when intranets started to make their advance back in the 1990s. Classic intranet 1.0 – top-down communication. Management or corporate communications write and the employees consume. And there's nothing wrong with that in the first instance. Providing people with the information they need to do their jobs as well as they can is one of the core responsibilities in corporate management, and top-down news via an intranet can make a contribution towards that.
But times have changed and nevertheless, many companies are still taking this antiquated blanket approach, continuing to assume that one size fits all without any kind of differentiation (or making much of an effort either).
As an organization grows in size, it doesn't take long for issues with relevance to crop up, soon to be followed by problems with acceptance. After all, what do intranet users want? They don't go there because they're bored, but because they hope to find something useful there, because they want to complete a task. The intranet has to help with everyday work and be relevant to employees' tasks – relevant to each one, individually. This also applies to the right kinds of information.
There is often very little overlap between the daily tasks of different employee groups within a company. For this reason, each group has very different interests and requirements when it comes to content. Are new sales guidelines relevant to developers? Is the sales team really bothered by maintenance announcements for the integration server? These kinds of relevance issues become even greater in companies that are distributed geographically. Are employees in Germany really dying to find out that Spain has opened a fourth office? Are team members in Berlin really interested in a marketing campaign in Bavaria?
On a certain level, those responsible for corporate communications are often already aware of this problem. Then they try to please everybody – and end up achieving the exact opposite. By using a blanket approach, they leave out any specific information that applies to certain groups within the company. Instead, they publish news content that ends up being so general and tentative that no one is interested in reading it as it is relevant to no one. And so we are back in the nightmare.
Based on the indirect value for the company, if an employee spends five minutes scanning the news of the week, which is of no significance to them, then they could just as easily spend those five minutes scrolling through their Facebook feed. Both have no value for the company at all.
The information provided in intranet news has to be relevant. And modern intranet solutions such as Linchpin enable companies to limit the distribution of news to certain relevant user groups in a very granular way. Once you have these options – both technically and conceptually – you can develop a fitting news concept. Do you have a news article that should only be seen by English-speaking employees in IT and not the others? Is there an announcement that marketing team members in Bavaria need to hear? Do you have a message that is only to be seen by branch employees but not by headquarters? A modern intranet solution should be able to cater to such scenarios.
If you are looking for an intranet that is relevant and valuable to your employees, personalization is the key element you should be looking for. There will still be plenty of people that don't care about your news in the intranet – but your valuable employees certainly will!
The original version of this article was published in the German magazine "Wissensmanagement" (Issue 4/2018).