Intranet

An Intranet’s Dual and Often Clashing Roles for HR, News

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

An intranet isn’t for every organization, but they are extremely useful for corporations and nonprofits with disparate, far-flung operations to build cohesion. Too often, organizations try to cram together a human resource portal with an internally focused news channel, which can be awkward and a source of friction. Both functions are important and work best when designed and managed separately like siblings.

Organizations with intranets often struggle with how to maintain a site that offers human resource information and news content aimed at employees. The lure of a one-click online employee information center can actually be a mirage.

Managing an online HR portal versus an internally aimed news channel is distinctly different. The content needs for both aren’t in conflict, but how they are packaged and promoted can be very different. More fundamentally, they serve different needs for employees – and management.

Intranets are critical for sprawling organizations. They can create cohesion among far-flung employee groups with different jobs, clientele and languages. HR portals are invaluable tools for onboarding and departing employees. Internal news channels are a proven way to keep employees in touch with company news, upcoming events and a response to a crisis.

The HR portal carries sensitive information, which usually involves legal review and variations for employees in different states or countries. For example, health insurance coverage can vary widely for an organization that operates nationally or transnationally. The news channel should center on timely information that is relevant to employees.

Employees will seek out the HR portal to clarify benefits, learn about policy changes and find out the steps involved in leaving. The test for the HR portal is providing up-to-date, accurate and accessible information. 

Employees will go to the news channel if it delivers real news, not just acts as a conduit for bland management messaging. The test for a news channel is to offer brightly written, inviting content about their organization and some form of interactivity. Without interactivity, readership will be perfunctory and engagement nil.

For organizations with bargaining units, the HR portal may need to be segmented for covered and exempt employees. For organizations with international operations, the news channel packages need to be customized for various markets.

Information on the HR portal is unlikely to change often enough to warrant an app. But an app that allows employees to check the internal news channel on mobile devices for breaking stories or timely information is a must. Keeping the internal news channel newsy is necessary to sustain interest and viewership.

Some content, such as a video of a top executive explaining a new organization-wide policy, can be shared on both online platforms. A video of an executive describing the steps being taken to address a major incident or announce a huge new customer are more appropriate for the news channel, which can be designed to accommodate breaking news.

The audiences for an HR portal and news channel are not completely coincident. The HR portal should be constructed to state as clearly as possible organizational policy on behavior and benefits for the employees for whom those benefits pertain. The news channel can be an outreach vehicle for a wider audience that can include key stakeholders as well as employees.

The design of an HR portal should feature access to key information employees might seek. The design of a news channel should appeal to employees and draw them in as viewers and even active participants. Organizations that encourage employees working at different locations to “congregate online” would prefer the congregation on a news channel rather than an HR portal.

When employees depart, they typically surrender company-provided laptops, tablets and smart phones and are denied access to the main HR portal. However, former employees may require some level of continuing contact to monitor unexpired benefits. Access by ex-employees to an internal news channel is usually not a good idea because at least some of the stories – and certainly the interactivity – will have a for-employees-only quality.

As you can see, the purpose, management and day-to-day activity of an HR portal and an internal news channel vary greatly. Their coexistence on a single website can be problematic and an unnecessary source of friction. For both online platforms to be successful, they need to perform their unique functions well. Their overall design and functionality can be coordinated and similar, reflecting the organization they both reflect. There are off-the-shelf designs that can make it easier to start or reinvent an intranet. But it is a smart choice to treat, manage and customize them as separate and valuable avenues to reach employees.

 

 

Going Mobile to Engage Employees

Employees, like everyone else, are constantly on their smartphones, so capitalize on their addiction to communicate important internal information.We complain people are constantly on their smartphones, even at work. Hint: This could be a channel worth considering to communicate to your own employees.

The rise of mobile communications is acknowledged in the marketing department, but too often overlooked in the internal communications department. If you can reach customers instantly, why not your own workers?

Mobile communications don't have to replace an effective intranet, but they could add vigor — and clicks — to your internal website. The email blast to employees could be as simple as a heads up to new content on the intranet.

However, there is no need to limit yourself to a mobile paging service. Your emails can be self-contained messages that include visual assets and links that attract employee interest.

Make Your Workers a Real Target Audience

Employees are one of the most neglected target audiences. Too often, information of relevance to them is dribbled out, posted on antiquated communications platforms or overlooked altogether.

And employers wonder why their workforce are not engaged or motivated.

Over time, poor internal communications can lead to an even deeper alienation. But the alienation also can be instantaneous if a major announcement is botched because of inadequate or insensitive internal communications.

Smart business owners and senior managers don't dismiss complaints about faulty worker communications. Instead, they view effective internal communications as a strategy to promote productivity, stay in touch with the front lines of their businesses and achieve an esprit de corps that is key to keeping an organization operating smoothly and on goal.

The trail of missteps by employers has been pretty well mapped — poorly handled layoffs, surprise rebranding, sudden and unexplained management changes and out-of-the-blue modifications to employee benefits. What isn't so clear is how employers can take steps to clean up their act and make employee communications a priority, not an afterthought. Here are some ideas:

Put a premium on and reward internal communication

If you want managers to communicate with employees, make it a part of their job, then evaluate them on how they perform. Reward good communication habits and discipline managers who slough off the assignment. Managerial engagement must be more than superficial. People can tell when you are just going through the motions and when you are actually paying attention.

Building an Intranet Workers Will Use

Large, spread out organizations should consider an intranet that is user-centric and provides reliably useful information employees need to do their jobs.Large, spread out organizations should consider an intranet that is user-centric and provides reliably useful information employees need to do their jobs.Much energy goes into designing an outward-facing website and generating compelling content. That same level of energy should be invested in building an intranet employees will use.

Larger businesses, nonprofits and public agencies with operations spread over multiple locations need a way to keep everyone in the organization informed and involved. Intranets are an efficient tool for the job.

However, intranets can take on the same liabilities of house organs, serving as a management mouthpiece as opposed to an online information hub. A good intranet is a place where workers want to go because it reliably provides up-to-date information they need to do their jobs.