This week, I had the pleasure of attending The Communicating to the Public and Employees in the Age of Social Media conference hosted by Ragan Communicators and BC Public Service. While all the presentations were valuable, Monday’s session on SAS’s intranet struck a particular chord with me.

SAS was named Fortune Magazine’s number one company to work for in the US and it was eye opening to see what they were doing with their intranet. SAS, a leading provider of business analytics software and services and with over 11,000 employees spread worldwide, centralizes all employee communications through their corporate intranet.

SAS’s intranet has been designed as a completely collaborative environment promoting a culture of trust and employee engagement. The site plays a key role in making SAS’s workplace such a success by focusing on these important employee engagement strategies:

Allow users to comment on intranet content
Comments are a high impact, medium risk, no cost method of promoting employee collaboration on your intranet. They can be moderated by the Communications Team, but attaching employees’ names to their comments gives them a sense of responsibility over the feedback they’re giving.

Develop internal thought leaders by encouraging employees to blog
Provide users with an easy way to request a blog, allowing employees with specific expertise in their fields to share their knowledge with the rest of the organization. By making the content within the blogs searchable, other employees will be able to tap into that information to help them in their day to day tasks.

Set a positive, encouraging tone on your intranet
A positive tone will promote positive participation on your site. It is important to provide users with clear policies and guidelines so they feel comfortable engaging in web 2.0 activities but they can be framed in an optimistic light.

Get employees comfortable sharing on the intranet with low key interactive elements
Use simple tools such as You Tell Us surveys, polls, quizzes and contests to get users used to participating on your site. Start off small and then gradually build up to more collaborative interaction, such as blogging.

Allow employees to customize their intranet experience
Provide users with a way to select the corporate news that is most valuable to them so they can filter the information they don’t want or need to access. This cuts down on information overload to the end user and the news will be received more positively because users know that what they are getting is relevant to them.

The lessons from SAS’s intranet success are a departure from the traditional top-down intranet model but the benefits are impressive. By trusting your employees and allowing them to participate on your intranet, you can improve both employee satisfaction and the ability for staff to tap into each others’ expertise. Remember that a robust intranet implementation will always provide you the flexibility to disable the social features if they prove not to be valuable.

If you would like to see the Twitter feed from the conference, the hashtag is #socmedbc.

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