“You mean it’s going to have instant messaging like Facebook?”

This is a demo for a new intranet and that question was accompanied by a horrified expression.

Yes it’s 2019, and yes I know, intranets have been social for a while now. However, there are many organisations out there where commenting on a post, relinquishing publishing to individual departments and “following” colleagues on the intranet is a step too far. The last one does sound a bit creepy to be fair.

It’s not a public sector thing although that’s where I’ve been spending my days helping to reinvent the way these organisations see the intranet. It’s not even an ‘age’ thing. I happen to fall into the demographic of people least likely to want to embrace new tech. No, it’s a culture change thing. Difficult to implement if you can’t communicate it properly, and scary to anyone who’s finally managed to colour code their Outlook folders.

The social intranet allows teams to speak with one another and collaborate more effectively.

“Social intranet” like “digital communications” is just another buzzword used to describe how something familiar has changed. Intranets have always been areas where employees can get information they need to do their work effectively, what’s changed is the way that information is made available and consumed.

The way we work has changed with emphasis on flexible and agile ways of working. It’s no surprise that the tools traditionally associated with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have found their way into the workplace because they provide a way to quickly share information, get feedback and work together on various projects. The social intranet allows teams to speak with one another and collaborate more effectively.

Why go social?

Improve internal communications

A social intranet helps organisations communicate with their staff in better ways. A blog from the head honcho is more effective than a faceless memo. It humanises the message and brings it to life. Giving staff the ability to comment also is a positive. Leadership get instant feedback and the assurance that their message is getting through. It provides additional voices that lend credibility and transparency to communications.

Employees are less likely to trust a “commsified”message than one written by one of their own.

Intranets like OakInteractUnily and Workplace to name a few, allow staff to self-publish. Write their own blogs and create internal news stories and events. I’ve sat in communications teams where such a prospect was greeted with horror.

“Think of what will happen to our brand and tone of voice”.

That right there is the problem. Employees are less likely to trust a “commsified”message than one written by one of their own.

Improve efficiency

I wonder how many hours a day are lost playing email ping pong? Someone sends an email with a “quick question” and the single line emails go back and forth. Wouldn’t be so bad if they get the answer they were looking for. Not so good if you now can’t find your important emails because the conversation has taken over half of your inbox. Not a problem if you’ve mastered the conversations view in Outlook or if you’re the type who colour-codes their Outlook folders.

Social intranets have instant messaging for the inner ping pong player in you and message boards for the ones that enjoy emailing the whole team. Imagine the hours you’ll get back.