Most employees use intranets to get things done during their working day. So when an intranet doesn’t do this well, it can be regarded as being ineffective and of little value, both by users and senior management. And if that is the case, then you’re on the slippery slope.
Users just want to get stuff done
One of the reasons so many intranets get stuck in this rut is because they focus far too much on content and news. Internal communications and content is important, but there usually ends up being a huge disconnect between the resources and effort spent in preparing content, and the value users actually get out of it at the end of the day.
A current antidote to this is “social”. It’s great that intranet ecosystems are evolving to become more participatory through commenting, micro-blogging , social networking and the integration of communities and collaboration. But social intranets, although good for locating experts, employee engagement and getting answers to questions, does not always help users get things done.
A different tack is to focus on key processes in the organisation, and then make sure the intranet contributes to improving them. This can happen in several ways, for example:
- Making it faster to do things, such as turning a paper-based form into an electronic one
- Making it easier for the user, for example surfacing data from different applications so the user no longer has to go into multiple systems to complete a task
- Reducing the amount of data that needs to be entered manually, improving accuracy
- Establishing one common data source or document, reducing the risk of multiple versions
- Improving a process so it is more likely to be done by users, for example using intranet-based forms and workflow rather than email where items get “lost” in the inbox causing bottlenecks
- Allowing users to complete a task themselves rather than asking a central function to do it, so that person can concentrate on more value-added work
The advantage of improving processes is that it is usually popular with users (once embedded) and also with senior management, especially if you can measure the improvement and put some value on the change.
Ultimately improving the usefulness of your intranet should also drive up the readership of content and news by bringing more and more users to your platform.
Why HR is important
It’s likely that your intranet may already improve processes here and there, but if you really want to make a significant impact with your intranet then an Intranet Direction you may want to take is HR Process Improvement.
HR is one of the cornerstones of any intranet. Several HR processes sit very well with intranets, including:
- The distribution for HR-related policy and information
- Employee self-service (ESS) and manager self-service (MSS) relating to pay and benefits, performance reviews and booking leave
- Booking training and e-learning
- Onboarding new employees
- Managing internal vacancies
Of the above points, ESS and MSS are perhaps the most key. This can cover:
- Updating key HR data such as bank and contact details (so the information goes straight into the HR system)
- Questions about HR process and policy
- Recording absence and booking holiday
- Pay and benefits, for example with the ability to view payslips
- The appraisal or performance management system, often giving feedback about others
- Course booking and other e-learning related processes
- Choices of flexible benefits
And for managers:
- Approving holiday, leave, travel and a million other tasks
- Resource planning
- Performance measurement and monitoring
- Managing the appraisal or performance management system
- Managing training (particularly where it is mandatory)
- Team compliance processes
Some of these processes such as viewing payslips are tasks which virtually everybody carries out, and can really help to drive user adoption of the intranet as a whole.
How accurate is your data?
Having complete and accurate HR data is also another vital ingredient for any successful intranet. You need good HR data to ensure:
- Effective identity management (e.g. data tapped from your HR system feeding into Active Directory)
- Personalisation or targeted content works (ensuring location, role-specific and different language content is delivered to the right people)
- A good employee directory that is accurate and complete (key for establishing trust in the intranet)
Because HR own the system which should provide that data, accuracy is often effectively their responsibility. A good intranet effectively shines a torch at the information contained within your HR system and when some of it is wrong, or where there are gaps, employees will notice. And they are also guaranteed to let you know about it.
And there’s more…
There are also some more engagement-led processes which can also be carried out within the intranet environment, although often the systems which power these systems are standalone and may not be integrated.
These include employee recognition systems which often involve peers leaving online feedback, either resulting in some kind of reward or acting as a reference point or data input into performance reviews.
There’s also the whole area of learning, either through the integration of Learning Management Systems (“Book your course!”) or even “social learning” with communities, blogs and other social tools supplementing more formal-based training.
So overall successfully weaving HR into the fabric of your intranet will leave you in a position of strength to move into various strategic intranet directions, and If HR policies, processes and data have no place in your current or planned intranet implementation then it’s time for a serious rethink.
It’s time for intranet managers and HR to work together
At the moment I’m predicting there are three immediate thoughts among people reading this blog:
- We already do this stuff
- There is a key problem: the HR department!
- There is a key problem: the intranet team!
Well if you do this stuff already and it rocks, good for you, and this post may not be all that helpful, although it may give you some additional ideas.
If it’s the second then you’re likely to be in internal communications or IT department. Many intranet managers report that the HR department takes only an occasional or peripheral interest in the intranet, despite their best efforts. This Intranet Direction requires close contact with the HR department, so be prepared to make the extra effort.
It it’s the third then you’re likely to be in HR. Many HR departments report that intranet teams only take an occasional interest in them, despite their best efforts. This Intranet Direction requires close contact with the intranet team, so be prepared to make the extra effort.
It’s true that traditionally ownership of intranets tends to fall between Internal Communications and IT and the HR function is a peripheral player with a tendency to do their own thing. But this issue can’t be sidestepped.
A successful intranet means working closely with HR folk. Having them as a full enthusiastic partner with ownership and input means the intranet is more likely to be aligned with HR strategy. Specifically you should aim for:
- HR representation within the intranet governance structure, the more senior the better
- HR owning, designing, managing and updating the HR-related areas of the intranet which need to be prominent in the navigation and evident from the homepage
- A commitment to ensure HR data is kept up-to-date from the HR-system AND a promise not to set up a sneaky rival HR portal that is completely unintegrated with the intranet
And if you’re in HR you can leverage:
- The potential possible process improvements provided by the intranet
- The online skills and experience of the digital or intranet team
OK, that all sounds great but I have absolutely no budget
If you have no budget at all, buddying up with HR is still worth pursuing. Although you may have no budget, you new pals in HR certainly might, particularly if it is going to spent on something that makes their lives easier.
Secondly there are plenty of opportunities to introduce relatively straight-forward measures which can improve HR processes. Focusing on content and navigation can be powerful in its own right or implementing out-of-the-box forms and workflow may be all it takes to really add value.
Thirdly even if you try and implement something light now, the seeds you sow of a new relationship with HR may fully paid dividends when the firm’s future employee self-service solution is fully integrated with the intranet.
Don’t use the “no budget” excuse to do nothing. Remember there are ways to Fix a broken intranet without any money and it requires making a stink.
OK, this is all great advice, but I’ve already done ESS and more…
Great, and good for you, but I bet there’s something more advanced you can do though. How about better personalised HR content relating to country, region and role. Perhaps ensuring the intranet and digital workplace is ready for a new policy on flexible working? Or bringing HR fully up-to-speed or bought in to your social network? Using metrics to make things better, measuring the time for task completion or level of effectiveness? Or perhaps HR are moving in an unexpected direction you didn’t know about and they haven’t told you yet?
- Get HR on board on the intranet by giving them a seat in the intranet governance structure, and forging close links on an operational level
- Work together to identify key HR processes and how the current intranet supports these, where possible using metrics to demonstrate issues (e.g. time spent on a task)
- Work on an intranet strategy which at least aligns with HR strategy and establishes a roadmap to improve the intranet, primarily focusing on employee self-service
- As part of the bargain to improve processes, get HR to make a commitment to safeguard and improve the quality of HR data
- Implement what you can: if you have no budget, focus on content and navigation; if you have bigger budget focus on the integration of systems.
- Measure the improvements and communicate to senior management
What does Chris think?
“Getting Human Resources to be your new bessie pal is a great idea for any intranet manager. Wrestling with a huge amorphous mass of rubbish applications is one hell of a task, particularly when most organisations made paper processes digital and then… left them there for ten years. I think HR is a great place to start thinking about bring these processes together and giving them new structure and renewed focus, but are we…. thinking too small? How about cracking the collective heads of Finance, Facilities and IT and shaking this up entirely. You could take on the entire application estate from the top-down. That gives me an idea for another Direction.”