I recently had a discussion with Andrew Wright of the Worldwide Intranet Challenge. We were chatting about our shared passion of intranets, and how both of us are seeing a very slow penetration of adoption in social intranets and social enterprise software, despite the huge buzz.

Moving towards a more social intranet may come down to small baby steps in shifting the corporate culture. Sure, the tools need to be there to help employees collaborate, contribute, and share. But the crux of it should be on facilitating and engaging.

Here are a few thoughts on how to get started.

Culture

Your intranet is the perfect place to start a slight shift in corporate culture to a more social framework and the best part – you can start small. If your intranet allows for content rating and comments, implement this feature and allow free access. Don’t put restrictions on comments by limiting who can comment. Accountability will naturally happen providing the employee’s name (and even better, their photo) is displayed alongside their comment.

Other ways to shift culture through the intranet:

  • Create an area on the intranet home page that always presents information about employees: who has joined the company, employee spotlights, announce achievements
  • Create a blog that talks about the company culture. Invite employees to comment and share their opinions and ideas
  • Create an award system based on employee engagement and participation within the company
  • Talk about team-building events and share photos from these events
  • Think of ways to make management, the CEO or the company owner more approachable through the intranet
  • Drop the professional tone and go with warm, friendly, inviting

The idea is to use the intranet to build upon your current culture and start to open channels of communication and sharing via the intranet.

Contribute

There are many ways to measure intranet success, but one of the big questions to ask: do your employees rely on the intranet daily to help them with their jobs and tasks?

Our customers who have very successful intranets have one common theme: their intranets are more open than closed and all employees have the opportunity to contribute. This doesn’t mean your entire intranet has to be one big mosh pit of content, but providing areas of open publishing and encouraging employees to participate and share knowledge will drive adoption. Immediate gratification is also important for building trust and adoption. If you allow all employees to contribute, don’t put their content into a long approval process before they see it on the intranet. They publish, they see it. It’s immediate. If this concept immediately puts sweat on your brow with the thought of losing control over what is published to the intranet; remember that transparency will help with self-moderation. If employees know their name is attached to the content, it is less likely they will publish anything offensive. They will most likely agonize more over what they say and how they say it than any moderator would.

Confidence

Many employees might feel shy and worry that their contributions and comments are not valid. It is definitely scary to consider posting your idea for the whole company to see on the intranet. I felt this way when I first started on Twitter. It took me a while to warm up and realize that I did have something of value to contribute and that other people liked what I had to share.

A big part of the job in getting employees to participate on the intranet is confidence.

  • Encourage employees to publish content in various areas of the site
  • Invite them to comment on content that is of interest to their department
  • Reinforce with positive feedback. “Great job on the article you posted today on the intranet”
  • Monitor comments and occasionally add your own to say that you liked their point on xyz
  • Thank employees individually for their content, comment, rating, blog post, idea
  • Positive reinforcement through the intranet, on a public scale, can be powerful

Positive reinforcement will help boost confidence and bring out thought leaders in the company through their contributions and involvement on the intranet. The potential for great things to happen far outweighs the potential that employees will abuse the privilege.

We would love to hear your experiences in shifting to a social culture through the use of the intranet. Feel free to comment if you care to share!

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