Late October in Vancouver is lovely.  I recently headed downtown, enjoying the fall colors as I drove over Lions Gate bridge and through the Stanley Park causeway, heading to the Four Seasons Hotel. The Four Seasons was hosting The 19th annual Intranets for Corporate Communications seminar, put on by Federated Press. My plan was to present on intranet design, stay for the rest of the morning and head back to the office for the afternoon, but after the first presentation I was glued to my seat.

An intimate and interactive group, there were approximately 25-30 Intranet Managers, Internal Communications Directors and consultants, all sharing how they have transformed intranets from a dumping ground of static and outdated content to a place where employees go to get work done and share their knowledge. We had one of our credit union customers at the table and it was great to give her a big hug and learn more about their intranet efforts and challenges.

When talking about challenges there was a big elephant in the room and its first name was “GOVERNANCE” and its last name was “SOCIAL”.  Back to that in a minute.

We also talked about content curation. Rahel Anne Baily (@rahelab), working with the City of Vancouver, put on a great session surrounding CMS systems and how we tend to load up our intranets with too much content, but also the wrong type of content.  Good content should have the following characteristics:

Relevant
Accurate
Interesting
Engaging
Performance based

Rahel also reminded us to review what the real purpose and use is for the intranet and to have your technology fit your need, and not the other way around. There is often a gap between what stakeholders expectations are, the intranet team, and your employees.

The common thread among speakers of the two-day seminar was definitely a shift in what employees want from their respective employers, and then how the intranet can play a part in driving that change in culture.

As the younger generations, growing up on the wave of social media, enter into the workforce their expectation is going to be one of a digital workplace where they have a sizeable degree of autonomy, with companies providing emphasis on trust, culture, and transparency. As the company offering this type of culture, your reward is a happy and productive talent pool that stays put, offering savings on staff turn-over and lost knowledge assets and an engaged workforce who affect and drive revenue upward.

The intranet starts to morph into a place where you go to get work done, and to benefit from the knowledge of others. Most of the intranet examples showed social tools being used as two primary vehicles:

Amplify Content
Social tools such as microblogging, status updates and message walls are being used to share content. The more a piece of content is shared, viewed, rated on and commented, the more valuable it becomes and the higher relevance it has in search results, visibility in feeds, weekly emailed newsletters showcasing intranet content.

Sharing Knowledge
Jack fires up the intranet when he gets in, and posts to his wall a question about anyone having experience with conducting a 10-15 question online survey with government council members. Because Jack has a list of colleagues following his wall activity, he gets 4 responses in 10 minutes and a link back to a policy on the intranet to help with procedures in dealing with council. He has used the collective company knowledge asset to find information, advice and knowledge. And he got what he needed quickly.

Sharing content and knowledge in a “public” arena (as opposed to email) also offers permanence.  Shared once and viewed many times, you can preserve the collective knowledge of your organization with these types of social tools offered through your intranet. Our upcoming intranet social profiles release will introduce this exact concept with employee message walls and the following of colleagues – available late November.

Governance was a hot topic and the general takeaway was that it really does vary based on your own requirements and just how carried away you want to get with governance.  An overused word by most admissions, but an important consideration when implementing, managing or re-designing your intranet and its use within the organization.

Before I wrap up, I want to mention the idea of presenting content in a storytelling fashion. This concept highlights a lower priority topic that rippled through the attendees of the Intranets for Corporate Communications seminar. While storytelling had nowhere near the relevance of social and governance – there were only two presenters who mentioned it (myself being one of them) – there is power in telling a story. Why? Because it puts people in the heart of the story. It’s interesting. We learn by example; we could share content by example too.

If you are interested in viewing the slides of my “Social Intranet Design Strategies” presentation from the Intranet for Internal Communications seminar, you can find it on slideshare.

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