Why You Should Share Staff Photos

Home>Top 5 List>Why You Should Share Staff Photos

Why You Should Share Staff Photos

By | 2018-10-23T15:43:55+00:00 October 19, 2018|Top 5 List|

Summary: Bring your intranet to life by adding staff photos.

This is a guest blog post from a true intranet champion, Peter Barron. Peter is the Internet Services Manager at Rio Rancho Public Schools and two things stand out when you talk to Peter: he has an infectious passion for intranets and he is one smart guy. Peter has 10+ years under his belt with Intranet Connections. We recently had a conversation about his challenge to get buy-in for staff photos on their intranet, RioNet, and he graciously agreed to share his insights.

School districts are populated with staff that are not happy to be “out there” on the web, even if it is a secured intranet. This is for a variety of reasons, but foremost there is an instinct to shield identities, perhaps because as a school district our job is to protect children day in and day out. There is a concern that someone could take advantage of another staff member by having access to their photo through the intranet.

6 Reasons for Having Staff Photos on the Intranet

staff dinner

  1. It encourages familiarity and discourages cold responses: you are less likely to be cross with someone who has a face. When you just get an email or a mandate from someone that you don’t know, you deal with it in a more sterile fashion. Putting a face to a name adds the human touch
  2. It encourages community. So many of our schools and departments suffer from the silo effect. Becoming familiar with someone’s face breeds instant recognition at meetings, casual encounters (in and out of the workplace) and especially if you are swapping comments and conversations via the employee walls
  3. It provides a sense of identity to a department, group or school. If you see a group of faces when visiting the Facilities department, you see them as real people versus a list of names or positions. Knowing their faces takes you immediately to the level of “I know you” and changes the nature of your interactions. The department then has a visual identity through the intranet that is not easy to forget. This is true for staff-to-staff, but also staff-to-administration and administration-to-staff
  4. New or transferred staff can be highlighted on the intranet home page as a “Look Who Joined Us” widget. This builds community, a sense of belonging and enables the new person to more quickly become a part of the group
  5. For each person, their face on the intranet allows them to say to the organization “I am not just a name or a position, I have an identity and I am happy to share it with everyone”. That may sound pretty 60’s but that sort of effect raises staff value in a way that really can’t be measured, especially in a school district where it is easy to feel cut off by the very nature of being alone in a room with 30 kids every day
  6. When staff update their photos, they inform their colleagues about changes and the currency of their presence in the district

Subscribe for Intranet Tips

3 Options for How to Make it Happen

staff photos

I have discussed a variety of options with our leadership team (in IT) providing we can get clean JPG data for all our staff imported into our Active Directory. We could then use the Intranet Connection AD sync feature for all 2,500+ staff. There are a few deployment options that we are discussing.

  1. Add staff badge photos via Active Directory sync as a one-time import, and then enable staff to change their profile photo through the social directory (a lot of staff don’t like their badge photos – including me – so we need to give them the option of changing the photo)
  2. Add staff badge photos via Active Directory Sync but disable the option for staff to change their own photos. This is the hardest stance to take as staff who REALLY don’t like their badge photos would be resentful and we could see a negative usage effect from that. But this would have the effect of making sure EVERYONE on the intranet has a photo and over time hope that resistance fades as folks realize their initial fears of someone tampering with their identity are unfounded
  3. Don’t import anything but encourage folks to update their profiles with a photo of their choice. If we did this there would have to be an administrative expectation that the photo is a portrait – no jumping dogs or cartoon characters.  On the down-side we would not have 100% compliance so many staff profiles on the intranet would be incomplete, undermining the benefits of having photos

4 Action Tasks to Go Into Your Plan

staff photo scavenger hunt

My hope is that the benefits will outweigh the fears. Our plan moving forward is to:

  1. Use a test group to explore the use of photos and employee walls then share their experiences with folks who may be timid or fearful
  2. Allow staff to modify or delete their photo (real and sometimes legal reasons exist that mandate a person prevent the sharing of their photo)
  3. Discuss with leadership the pros and cons of this feature and allay their fears but also try to achieve a consensus about what administrative expectations are, keeping in mind company goals, culture, and security
  4. Extend training and news about these changes to staff, to allow time for feedback prior to a full-on deployment

Are you in the same boat? Let us know if Peter’s story helped and how you have (or plan to) get buy-in from employees and stakeholders on allowing staff photos on your intranets.

Editors note: This blog was originally posted in February 2012 and has been updated to include new features.

Related Posts

By | 2018-10-23T15:43:55+00:00 October 19, 2018|Top 5 List|

About the Author:

Founded in 1999, Intranet Connections has built simplicity and creativity into our intranet software from the beginning. Simplicity is ingrained in our core values, seen through our intranet software, our pricing model and our ongoing product development. Our customers aren't just another number or contract, they are truly a part of the Intranet Connections family. We connect, collaborate and create with them to improve our intranet software and services with every new release.


  1. Martin White February 15, 2012 at 5:27 am - Reply

    The advice given in the section on how to make it happen is not applicable to anyone working in the EU, and that (somewhat oddly) also applies to non-EU citizens working in the EU.

    There has been legislation on data privacy in the EU since 1995, and all 27 member countries now have equivalent legislation. Outside of the EU only a small number of countries have equivalent legislation, and this has some very important implications for the way in which personal information can be communicated both within the EU and between EU member countries and almost any other country in the world.

    One element of the legislation is the concept of ‘sensitive personal information’ which is information inter alia on ethic or racial background. Since a photograph will convey this information each employee has to be asked individually if they are willing to have their photograph on the intranet, and they have the absolute right to say no without needing to give a reason. They can also decide that it can only be seen within EU member states and not (for example) by colleagues in the USA which has no equivalent legal provisions. That has some interesting IT implications!

    Note that because employees have their photo on an identity badge this does not mean that the photo can automatically be added to the intranet. The badge photo is used for a different purpose (personal security is a defined exception to the legislation) and although it is stored digitially by security that does not mean it can be used for other purposes. At the heart of the legislation is the concept of ‘informed consent’ ofr sensitive personal information so that the employee has to be made aware of their rights under the legislation before signing any agreement. The agreement cannot be incorporated into a standard contract of employment.

    Any use of photographs on an intranet in the EU needs to be signed off by the Data Controller in the organisation. Every organisation has such a person, though because it is rarely a full time post it might take a while to find out who it is. The Data Controller is responsible for conformance to the legislation and is the person who will be taken to court for any failure to do so. In many circumstances a breach of the legislation is a criminal offence and the fines are unlimited.

  2. James Robertson February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm - Reply

    I say: go with option 1.

    Profile photos are important for all the reasons you outline, and they provide one of the foundations for more extensive social and collaborative functionality.

    What’s important is to have “social pressure” on your side. The best way to achieve this is to import all photos, and then have an opt-out. That way, 99% have a photo, and the 1% don’t (“why does this one person not have a photo, how odd!”). If there’s an opt-in, then 95% of people won’t have photos, and 5% will (“are they the type that likes to show off?”).

    Of course, Martin’s legislative considerations are all valid, and should be covered off before proceeding. But don’t let them stand in the way of doing what needs to be done!

  3. Carolyn Douglas February 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    James and Martin: thank you both for your thoughts and contributions to the conversation. It is a rich reminder that even the small struggles Intranet Managers face are not always so black and white, and there is much to consider. Hopefully the rewards of perserverance are realized: there is power in a picture that translates to trust, community, transparency, culture. Appreciate that you took the time to comment!

  4. Peter Barron February 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    @ Mr. White,

    Thank you for your informed and thoughtful response! There is no doubt things are not the same legislatively here in the states. As a school district, we have a web policy that requires staff permission for the use of their image, but that pertains to our outward-facing site (www.rrps.net), and honestly enforcement has been spotty at best. But for our intranet, for the reasons stated above, I think option 1 will go pretty much uncontested, but your comments about protection and permission are something we may have to look at. Thanks!

    @ Mr. Robertson,

    You’re exactly right about the percentage of folks that will take action to change/remove their profile picture. I think folks that are sufficiently motivated to change/remove the pic will do so, and if they have the ability, then I think we’re staying away from the “automatic” and letting peer pressure drive what that looks like. Thanks to both of you for your great comments/suggestions!

  5. Elyse Jenkins February 14, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    What a great piece, Thanks Peter and Intranet Connections for this piece. 6 years on after writing this piece organizations are still struggling to get profile photos up to date.

Leave A Comment