As we have written about a lot lately, the goals and motivations for your company intranet are changing. One traditional function, company news, may be in for an overhaul.
Social activity feeds, for many organizations, have become the centerpiece of the modern intranet. Their conversational nature and instantly consumable short format coupled with their capacity for immediacy, personal and contextual relevance cements their position as one of the more significant innovations to hit the intranet in years.
Does the pervasiveness of the activity feed mean the death of corporate news?
Despite the dramatic cries of industry pundits – “Yammer killed our intranet!” – for most, internally-facing corporate news hasn’t fallen at the hands of social. There is still an important role for carefully curated and edited news within the intranet.
Hitting the right notes: Leadership, loyalty and motivation in the age of the Millennial
A healthy corporate culture and loyal employee base can be shaped by quality intranet news. The year 2015 marks the first time that Millennials outnumber any other generation in the American workforce. A comprehensive international survey by Deloitte found that “today’s Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its products and profits.” This trend is further echoed in a Brookings Institution report asserting that “corporate leaders wishing to build employee loyalty will need to emphasize the company’s participation in the same world of causes and commitments that are the keys to successfully attracting Millennial customers.”
Further, the Deloitte survey found that a gulf exists between the priorities of the Millennial generation and what they believe to be the priorities of their leadership team. Millennials placed greater emphasis on:
- Employee well-being
- Employee growth and development
- Making a positive contribution to local communities/society
- Ensuring long term future of the organization
The group survey viewed today’s leaders as being predominantly focused on meeting short-term financial goals and their own personal reward.
Cultivating internal news stories that strongly reinforce these millennial-friendly themes should help to ensure a more compelling work environment and passionate workforce. Hoping that these themes will clearly emerge as part of an activity feed may be leaving a critical component of a healthy corporate culture too much to chance.
Balancing the power of the raging river and the clarity of the reflecting pool
While social activity feeds can be a powerful means of listening to the organizational heartbeat and promoting organization-shaping dialogue, sifting through the chatter is not an easy task. If frequently checking emails leads to workplace stress, then what is the impact of multiplying the volume of available information as employees plug-in to the corporate stream of consciousness offered by the activity feed?
Until this type of technology becomes truly ready for prime time within an intranet context, top-down news sources on the intranet still play an important role:
- highlighting important stories that emerge from the company feed
- offering balanced managerial perspectives, reactions, and direction
Consider the owner of the intranet
Our experience has shown that the budget for company-wide intranet projects still lies largely in the hands of corporate communications and, to a lesser extent, human resources or IT. Intranets funded and governed independently of an established corporate division are still – from what we’ve seen in the field – a rare breed. The owner of the intranet continues to fundamentally shape the nature of the solution. This is not to say that the manner in which this solution is crafted does not (or should not) take the needs of end-users into account… but the fundamental raison d’être for the intranet itself is most often set by the people who hold the purse strings.
Corporate communications teams generally bring an important corporate mandate to the table and see the intranet as a means of furthering this mandate. There may be an impetus to merge disparate parts of the business, to avoid a major threat to the industry or provide a unified sense of brand. While these matters can certainly be introduced and discussed in an activity feed, the conversation may stray and the mandate may be forgotten. While there are innumerable benefits of a collaborative, engaged workforce and a leadership team that listens, the intranet project may not see the light of day if the owner does not see a clear means of furthering their own objectives. As such, a balanced approach is advisable.
Better intranet news: recent findings from our usability research
Nonlinear’s Amy Yee offered a few insights from her recent research on intranet news:
- Globally, employees need to see targeted news; seeing only news driven by “head office” makes the remote worker disengage somewhat. Consider how to deliver greater relevance to readers through personalization
- Employees want news that is more visual; too much text can be dull and not very engaging. Feature stories enhanced with graphics and video should offset text feeds
- News can flow quickly off the homepage. For example: an important IT update may be of key relevance but may quickly be displaced by other news items. This could lead to frustrating bottlenecks at the IT Help Desk. Consider a design that allows some news to stick around longer than others