Today, we have more ways to communicate with each other than at any other time in history. I personally receive daily phone calls, text messages, tweets, blog post updates, emails, Facebook status updates and a post card every six months from my dentist. Why then, with so many options, is organizational collaboration still so difficult to get right? Aren’t intranets supposed to fix this?
This might sound strange coming from me, the Product Manager at Intranet Connections, but technology alone is not the answer. Intranet Connections provides a plethora of options for employees to communicate and collaborate, such as:
- And more…
1. Inherit Organizational Culture: Information Sharing or Hoarding
Companies are like people, each has its own unique personality. Interdepartmental rivalries, or friction between management and staff, foster a culture of information hoarding instead of sharing. No matter how great the tools are, there must be trust between parties before collaboration can occur.
2. Lack of Social Context for Collaboration
We all act differently around our friends and family versus our co-workers. Do you “friend” your boss on Facebook?
Staff can be hesitant to post their ideas on to the intranet because they are afraid that what they post may come back to haunt them. For example, if I post that I think meetings should be kept to 30 minutes or less, is that a helpful suggestion or a criticism of my boss?
Any collaborative space set up on the intranet should clearly define who is participating, and that conversations within the group will remain private. In addition, the use of images and color can help establish the correct tone for discussion. Alternatively, you can allow for anonymous submission of ideas through the use of an online suggestion box or idea share exchange.
3. Collaboration Needs Complements
While intranets do a great job at allowing communication between people separated by either geography or by scheduling conflicts, it’s important to realize its only one of multiple options. In many organizations collaboration happens organically at the water coolers, in hallways or over lunch.
These casual conversations are absolutely forms of collaboration and often spark ideas that can be further built upon on your intranet – either through setting up a Discussion Forum to further flesh out an idea, or putting out a Quick Poll to get feedback from other employees quickly on a decision or concept to see if it is something worth pursuing further.
4. Management’s Vision Differs from Front-Line Employees
CEOs view the intranet as a tool for managing organizational challenges. The intranet can help re-enforce the company culture, communicate leadership vision and foster cross boundary communication. Front-line employees view the intranet as a productivity tool: enforce established processes using forms and workflow, centralized repository for files, and tracking tasks.
An intranet can definitely be used to solve organizational challenges, but it must be done in a way that does not interfere with daily tasks. For instance, constantly re-arranging the placement of items on the home page to promote different events and blog posts can be frustrating to staff who just want to get in, find what they need and get out.
5. Lack of Metrics / Tangible Results
Have you ever come out of a marathon meeting with no actionable items? The same could be said of collaboration on the intranet that is unfocused. Collaboration works best when the group is trying to solve a problem, versus an open ended discussion. Create a dedicate Discussion Forum for a particular issue, and close it once a decision has been made. Also take the time to communicate the final decision to all parties to ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward – your intranet is ideal for these collaboration scenarios.
Top Tips to Avoid Collaboration Failure
- Mirror Existing Collaboration Groups: Understand the existing social groups in your organization, and set up the collaboration spaces in the intranet to mirror them. Once people have had a positive experience using the intranet, then you can try opening up cross boundary collaboration.
- Use Visuals for Stronger Collaboration: Use text, images and color to set the correction tone (formal or informal) for online discussion. People need “social cues” to overcome their initial hesitation to participate.
- Enhance Offline Collaboration: Don’t discount how people are already collaborating. If conversations are already happening find ways to enhance the conversations or collaboration on the intranet with tools that can help garner interest/feedback from new parties and/or assess if the initiative/concept is worthy of further investment/development.
- Make Collaboration Tangible/Results Oriented: Open ended discussions are fine for awhile, as long as one person is assigned responsibility to translate discussions into actionable items.
Have other tips or thoughts for avoiding collaboration pitfalls on the intranet? We’d love to hear about them. Please share them below.