An intranet must provide advantages for employees and the company alike. Only by doing this will the intranet be able to position itself as an essential production factor within the company. The advantages of a well established intranet are obvious:
- Communications processes become more efficient
- Company-wide digital communication enables a synergy effect
- Access to internal databases is made easier, while company information remains optimally protected
By way of intensive use by employees of all levels within the internal hierachy, the intranet can become a collective ideas pool by creating a space for the open and informal exchange on specialist and company-specific topics.
Yet despite this, many companies have the feeling that they have not really achieved these advantages. The key to this is intranet acceptance. It is only when the intranet is actively used by employees that it achieves the additional value which is so important for a long-term existence of the intranet.
Perhaps employees view this new form of communication sceptically, maybe part of the management is also standing in the way. In the course of our work and moderation of the intranet expert groups we have seen and accompanied numerous internet rollouts.
What did we learn? In order to achieve good intranet acceptance in a company, the roll-out must fulfil three essential criteria:
1. Training, Training, Training!
An intranet roll-out without intensive training is very lively to go nowhere fast. The company must train as much as possible. Open short trainings (walk-in training) where everyone can take place, and which may also be accessed online via screen sharing have proven themselves very suitable for this purpose.
Intranet fitness is not only important for the editors, platform and community managers. Professional trainings for this new medium should be offered to all employees. It makes sense to delegate some of the trainings to the editors who will work as the intranet’s ambassadors within the organization. They could, for example, run short intranet trainings within their own teams.
It is important not to pack the trainings with too much content. For a compact training session we would recommend a maximum of half a working day. Training should be given on the essential elements of the systems, for example the most typical scenarios where it would be used in the company – something which lends itself well for intranet trainings given by internal employees. Many companies outsource trainings to external agencies which then often run through every individual menu point in the content management system, with the result that the content of the training ends up being of very little meaning to the listening trainee.
2. Real Management Support
An active intranet requires real management support which does not end at providing the financial means for the implementation. Real support means that the management – including the top and middle management – also use the system themselves from the very beginning.
Management must recognise that the intranet is a possibility to communicate with employees more quickly and directly and must accept that this will change the structure of the company. A well-established intranet also means the possibility of barrier-free communication across the various levels of hierarchy, which can bring out positive employee motivation. This of course also poses a challenge for management, in particular for middle management.
In practice middle management often defend themselves against the introduction of an intranet – in our view out of fear that they will lose control, something that seems to be associated with it. Companies can counteract this with special trainings in which middle managers learn which advantages the system may also offer them. Via the intranet they can not only communicate with their own employees more quickly, but they may gain more control over their communication. Unlike with email, in the intranet managers can follow their employee’s communication life and also give their own input.
3. See the Intranet not as a Project, but as a Process
Projects have expiry dates – and this is exactly the problem. Often an intranet seems to go back to sleep again after the roll-out because there was no clear organisation for the time following the end of the project. A company must see the intranet as a constant process or an on-going program which requires not only materials but also staff resources. Intranet managers, editors and those responsible for content must be appointed and meet regularly, if possible with the participation of the senior management. Just as important are motivators in the company who promote the intranet and who look after its further development.
Your Experiences of Increasing Intranet Acceptance
What challenges did you face with your intranet roll-out and how did you solve them?