After tuning into 'It's A Small World After All" webinar (sponsored by Igloo Software), Matt Wilson covered why NII developed a marketing program around its new intranet, as though it was promoting a new product to the public in his new article.
Nextel's Latin American arm created a campaign to tout its revamped intranets with as much vigor as if it were launching a new product to the public.
Rebooting your intranet isn't an event. It's a process.
That's something Ana Camargos, senior manager and Web strategist at NII Holdings, the branch of Nextel that operates in Mexico, Brazil, and several other Latin American countries, learned as she and her team rebuilt about a half-dozen intranets to make them more social.
Simply changing an intranet to something that's nicer to look at and has more features won't attract employees to lend their voices, Camargos told listeners in a webinar sponsored by Igloo Software, the company that developed the platform that NII now uses for its intranets. You've really got to pull them in, she said.
That's why NII developed a marketing program around its new intranet, as though it was promoting a new product to the public.
Employees received e-cards detailing new collaboration tools, how to get registered, and other pertinent information. They also got mousepads promoting the new intranet and had posters in their offices. Each item in the campaign was branded with a picture of a globe that had symbols marking the locations of various offices.
The company has also implemented a rewards system for participation on the intranet and, to drum up attention, has posted stories highlighting employee accomplishments. For example, an article about an employee who completed an Ironman competition was one of the most-visited pages in September.
"We are highlighting the cool stuff employees do," Camargos said.
She said it's been a challenge to bring employees back into the intranet fold, but the process is working, slowly but surely.
Why it's an uphill battle
In quite a few cases, employees have abandoned intranets that lack social elements because they resemble the "static, clunky websites of the mid-1990s," said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst of collaboration at MWD Advisors.
"Many intranets just fall by the wayside," she said. "They're unused, and they're often despised."
Content on those intranets is often long and wordy, as well as being skewed toward one viewpoint, Ashenden said. They also often make navigation unintuitive and have balky search functions.
"If you can't find anything, the intranet is basically useless," she said. "It's a black hole for information."
Camargos added that employees come to work expecting intranets that function similarly to sites they use every day on the Internet. If they don't meet that standard, they won't use them.
That's why switching from a traditional intranet to one with social features takes some work, in terms of bringing employees back to the fold.
"You're really looking at years for everybody to get on board with this," Ashenden said.
The 'extra work' problem
Ashenden said another way to bring employees onto the intranet is to lead by example. Get executives or other employees who might make good social ambassadors to use the intranet, and have them encourage other employees to do the same.
A listener asked how employers can change the perception that using the intranet is just extra work. Ashenden said those ambassadors can demonstrate how social tools can help with day-to-day responsibilities. They won't serve as an additional task; they'll replace or supplement other tools so that employees can get results more quickly.
She does warn managers not to mandate participation. That's the surest way to make employees feel that collaboration is a chore rather than a way to make their lives easier. Instead of requiring participation, Ashenden suggested, give employees incentives, as NII did.
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