Nigel Danson: The rise of social networks in an organisation

Solving the employee engagement puzzle

There has never been a more exciting time to be in the HR profession, with highly mobilised workforces and increasingly flexible working patterns both requiring innovation and a solid strategy. The days of HR being seen simply as an administrative personnel department are thankfully long gone and to hear someone refer to HR this way seems out of touch.

Given the evolution of the sector, actively engaging employees and encouraging collaboration is a must. Yet so many organisations are either falling behind in this area or not doing it at all. How can organisations build communities which drive employee engagement and retention, whilst also reducing inefficiencies?

Understanding the pieces of the puzzle

Employee engagement is a complex beast with employee advocates and HR task teams constantly looking to solve the puzzle. At its simplest level, it is a cocktail of remuneration, career development, employee voice, recognition and job satisfaction, with a few other hidden ingredients. Meanwhile this must all be tackled in a cost and operationally effective manner.

In the past traditional intranets have offered basic document upload and storage capabilities without bringing the workforce together. This is where social intranets come into their own. Forward looking organisations are turning to intelligent tools which deliver value above and beyond basic storage. Bar remuneration, a truly social intranet can create communities generating both governed and user-generated knowledge in a central and easily accessible manner. 

When we look at the employee engagement landscape we can split HR approaches into three broad groups:

1) Industry leaders

Those who are doing this well, the likes of ASPCA, CrossCountry and The Dorchester Collection are winning engagement awards with their results. All of these organisations have highly effective social intranets.

An effective social intranet allows users to overcome barriers of location, language and time zone to get the best work outcomes. Engagement and collaboration objectives are met in an effective manner; users come in, effortlessly find information or complete a task and engage in the intranet via simple and familiar social tools such as sharing content or liking posts.

Ease of use means there is no training debt, the vast majority of users will recognise the features from social tools and websites they use every day. Intelligence engines actively promote content of interest, freeing up the HR team to focus on objectives rather than administration.

2) The effort intensives

Those who are trying to achieve great engagement but are doing so in a scatter gun manner. Rather than using one version of the truth in a centralised intranet, they will have a portfolio of tools brought in tactically to solve certain needs.

With the added risk of small user groups finding their own tools, this type of collaborative landscape risks becoming heavily fragmented, changing the way networks of comfort collaborate rather than creating hugely beneficial networks of need. While one group works together to quickly solve a problem on Yammer for example, another group might be trying to solve the same issue elsewhere. Where does this knowledge go? Who can find it? How do organisations identify these groups and get them working together?

3) The non starters

This group is likely to see an intranet as a place to just upload policies or push news out in a top-down culture. Information is often stored in the heads of employees. Whilst long established employees will accept “this is the way we have always done things”, the highly vocal millennials are likely to be quickly disengaged. Ideation is likely to be stagnant and attempts to initiate it will likely be dampened by lack of buy in from above.

Completing the puzzle

The key to becoming an industry leader in this field is first to understand the organisation’s objectives. What needs to happen and how can it be achieved?

Some key questions HR professionals should consider:

1) Do you want your intranet to be the go-to place for all employees, reducing repetitive questions?

Make it quick and simple for employees to engage in the intranet. Encourage users at all levels to contribute content, and provide familiar and easy-to-use social tools that support two-way communication.

2) Do you want to provide an engaging and effortless new starter experience?

Consider developing a separate new starter homepage. Make it easy for employees to start collaborating straight away, sign post key content and use mandatory read functionality to check critical content has been understood.

3) Do you want to make the training room virtual? 

Pushing training courses through the intranet allows employees to complete them at a time convenient to their working patterns, giving them the ability to see when trainers are online to answer questions.

Whatever the objectives, a social intranet, fostered by a culture of helping and sharing, will create purposeful collaboration. This actively helps to solve the employee engagement puzzle, positively impacting the HR mission.

About Nigel Danson

Nigel Danson PhD is CEO and Founder of Interact. He founded Interact with the aim of developing a simple enterprise collaboration solution that connects people to people, and people to content. After conceptualising the intelligent software over 10 years ago, Danson’s entrepreneurial spirit and scientific approach has taken it to the forefront of the social intranet space.

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